Tour: The Neo-Romanian style at its peak

Dear readers,

I will organise an architectural tour this Sunday 10 November 2019, between the hours 11.30h – 13.30h, on the subject of the mature phase of the Neo-Romanian architectural style, when it reached a peak in terms of expression and development. That represents an extraordinary creative period, unfurled throughout the first three decades of the c20th, which produced the most iconic and accomplished edifices in this manner of architectural design specific to Romania and neighbouring regions where the country had influence. The Neo-Romanian style had thus became the most visible identity marker of this nation and is now considered its chief contribution to the world’s built heritage. Bucharest is the best endowed place with edifices in that architecture, with a great selection of buildings from the period when the Neo-Romanian reach its magnificence. The tour may be of interest to any of you working as expatriates here or visiting the town, looking to find out more about its fascinating historic architecture and identity.

The mature phase of the Neo-Romanian style was initiated with the Great Royal Jubilee Exhibition of 1906 in Bucharest, when the pavilions of that venue were designed according to rigorous tenets, and the style was thus first properly and eloquently presented to the wider public of that epoch, and went on until the end of the third decade of the c20th, when it reached a certain crisis of expression under the impact of new, international, architectural fashions such as Read more

Tour in Bellu Cemetery

Dear readers,

I am organising a thematic two hours walking tour (between 11.30h – 14.00h) this Saturday 9 November 2019, on the less conventional subject of funerary architecture found within the confines of Bellu Cemetery, the most famous and exquisitely embellished necropolis of Romania, the equivalent in these parts of Europe of Paris’ Père Lachaise or London’s Highgate cemetery. It may be of interest to any of you visiting the town as a tourist or on business, looking to find out more about its fascinating historic architecture and identity.

Bellu Cemetery is considered the National Pantheon of this country, containing the graves and remarkable funerary monuments of important personalities that built the modern Romanian nation, people such as Mihai Eminescu, the national poet, Ion Mincu, the initiator of the Neo-Romanian architectural style or general Christian Tell, one of the heroes of 1848 Revolution. It was opened in 1858 as a public burial ground, part of the city’s advanced urban planning developments of the Read more

Tour in Mantuleasa

Dear Readers,

This is an invitation to an architectural history tour in Mantuleasa quarter of Bucharest, open to all of you who would like to accompany me, the author of the Historic Houses of Romania blog, this Sunday 3 November 2019, between the hours 11.30h – 13.30h.

I will be your guide in this fabled part of the old city, much talked about in the novels of Mircea Eliade, one of the brightest writers and historians ever produced by Romania, who spent there his childhood and early formative years. The quarter used to be one of the most ethnically mixed areas of Bucharest, endowed with a very diverse and exuberant period architecture ranging from beautiful Read more

Tour: the Ottoman Bucharest & the Wallachian style

Dear readers,

I would like to invite you to a walking tour on the subject of the unique to Romania, Wallachian architecture, also known as Brancovan, an enthralling artistic current of fusion between local Byzantine traditions, Islamic ones of the Ottoman Empire, together with European Renaissance and Baroque elements, an expression of this land being at the juncture of the European and the Oriental civilisations. It emerged in the Principality of Wallachia, chiefly in the 18th century, in an age of stability and prosperity for this frontier province of the Sublime Porte. Bucharest became firmly established as its capital in that period, and, as a result, is endowed with a great assembly of architectural monuments displaying this singular style.

The tour is scheduled to take place on Saturday 2 November 2019, between 11.30h – 13.30h. This cultural excursion could be of interest to any of you visiting Romania’s capital as a tourist or on business, looking to understand the character of this metropolis, through discovering its peculiar and fascinating old architecture, and the social and economic processes underlying it.

Although Bucharest is now a national capital within the European Union, linked primarily with Central and Western Europe, for most of its history, until the last quarter of the 19th century, the town was part of the Ottoman world, of the same mighty empire as Mecca, Damascus, Baghdad, Cairo or Tunis. That will give you a perspective of the enormous influence of the Turkish sultanate in this corner of Europe. Add to those geopolitical and cultural coordinates, the remarkable situation of Wallachia, together with neighbouring Moldavia, as the only Christian protectorates of the Islamic empire of the Porte, with their own Christian princes and aristocracy, not colonised with Muslim populations. The mix constituted a civilisational Petri dish inside which the Wallachian (Brancovan) art and architecture got crystallised and evolved. Its European Renaissance and Baroque inputs came via the circuitous route of Istanbul too, through the absorption of Enlightenment ideas by the cosmopolitan Ottoman capital, fanned over to its provinces, and not how one would expect, from the next door Austrian Empire, present over the Carpathian mountains, in Transylvania, where their rugged crest was not only a geographical obstacle with Europe, but also a cultural barrier.

In essence the Wallachian architecture looks like the coalescence between a church and a mosque. To the fresh eye of the visitor, it resembles a puzzling kaleidoscope of Byzantine, Central Asian, Russian – Tatar, or Spanish Moorish facetes, a place where East meets West. The Wallachian style is thus a Christian artistic expression within the reality of the political, economic and cultural primacy of the Muslim dominion of the Ottoman realm. With its keel arches, sustained by Byzantine columns, mocarabes, rich floral decorations of Persian inspiration, Baroque pilasters and Renaissance window and doorway surrounds, the Wallachian design is an unique expression of artistic genius, which in the subsequent modern era of the national state became the main source of inspiration for the national architecture, the Neo-Romanian style, another vital component of the local built landscape.

The tour covers parts of Bucharest old town in Lipscani area, and adjacent stretches, where we will analyse the Wallachian architecture in the context of the contemporary town, in order to make sense of its message. The focus is on ecclesiastical edifices, like Coltea, Stavropoleos or the New Saint George’s churches, displaying most comprehensively and flamboyantly the elements of the Wallachian style. We will also examine and discuss some of the extant or reconstructed Ottoman buildings, providing us an image of the town as it was between the late 17th century and the early 19th century, when the Wallachian design emerged and thrived, such as the Lime Tree Grove Han (inn), Manuc Han, or remnants of the Old Princely Court. We will revisit the times of Serban Cantacuzino and Constantin Brancoveanu, princes of Wallachia, during whom the style has reached its zenith, and then chart its evolution amid the long 18th century, of the Phanariot regime, in this principality.

All of that alluring collection of quality Bucharest architectural heritage is awaiting for you to discover as part of this Historic Houses of Romania cultural experience.

Book by emailing v.mandache@gmail.com or using the comments section of this post. You will be informed of the meeting place after I receive the booking.

I look forward to seeing you at the tour,

Valentin Mandache, architectural historian, tel: 0040 (0)728323272

Tour: the Ottoman Bucharest and the Wallachian (Brancovan) architectural style
Tour: the Ottoman Bucharest and the Wallachian (Brancovan) architectural style

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I endeavour through this series of periodic articles to inspire appreciation of the historic houses of Romania, a virtually undiscovered, but fascinating chapter of European architectural history and heritage.

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If you plan acquiring or selling a historic property in Romania or start a renovation project, I would be delighted to advice you in sourcing and transacting the property, specialist research, etc. To discuss your particular plan please see my contact details in the Contact page of this weblog.

Tour in Cismigiu area

Dear Readers,

I would like to invite you, in my quality as the author of Historic Houses or Romania – Case de Epoca blog, to an architectural history tour in Cismigiu area of Bucharest. This cultural excursion, open to all interested in Romania’s capital history and identity, is scheduled to take place this Sunday 20 October 2019, for two hours, between 11.30h – 13.30h.

I will be your guide throughout this beautiful expanse of Bucharest, which borders and includes the Cismigiu Gardens, the “Central Park” of this town, which is also its oldest surviving landscaped garden. The quarter boasts a balanced mix of architectures ranging from Little Paris, Art Nouveau, Neoromanian to Art Deco and interwar Modernism, and also representative church buildings, various species of neo-Gothic and Mediterranean styles. Cismigiu is packed with the remarkable creations of Read more

Tour: Bucharest as the Little Paris of the Balkans

Dear readers,

I would like to invite you to a thematic walking tour, to take place on Saturday 19 October 2019, between the hours 11.30h – 13.30h, on the subject of the late c19th – early c20th French and western historicist inspired architecture of Bucharest, which made the city known to the rest of world as the “Little Paris of the Balkans”, a phenomenon that imprinted the personality of Romania’s capital ever since. The tour may be of interest to any of you visiting the city as a tourist or on business, looking to find out more about its fascinating historic architecture and character.

The first building boom of modern era Bucharest happened during the period aptly named La Belle Époque, which corresponds with the late Victorian and early Edwardian epochs for the English speaking world (or Gilded Age in the US). It was characterised by a charming architecture inspired especially from the flamboyant neo-baroque, neo-rococo and also neo-gothic forms fashionable in France, a country seen by the Romanians of that time as a beacon of culture worthy to emulate, and from other west European states held in high regard by the then young Balkan nation. The local architecture thus acquired a personality of its own, combining the new forms with the indigenous and Ottoman traditional motifs and methods, resulting in what I call, as an umbrella term, the “Little Paris style”. This is a type o Read more

Tour in Batistei area

Walking tour in Batistei area of BucharestBatistei area – a fragment of the old Little Paris

Dear readers,

I would like to invite you to an architectural tour focused on Batistei area, one of the most charming old corners of central Bucharest, with many of its buildings dating from from the La Belle Époque period, in a wonderful Little Paris architecture, which is still imprinting this town’s identity, a place where one can also admire other brilliant designs such as Neoromanian, Art Deco and inter-war Modernism. The walk is scheduled to take place this Sunday 6 October 2019, between 11.30h – 13.30h. This cultural excursion could be of interest to any of you visiting Romania’s capital as a tourist or on business, looking to understand the character of this metropolis through discovering its peculiar and fascinating old architecture.

The Batistei area stretches east from the National Theatre neighbourhood to the confines of the Mosilor, constituting an important part of historic Bucharest. Its name comes from that of the church around which the parish has crystalised in medieval times, which in its turn is a place name meaning in old Romanian language a “swampy lake,” a testimony of the former local natural environment that has been taken over by the town’s inexorable development. The church is also one of the very few survivors there of the original Brancovan style architecture that embellished Bucharest during the times of the Ottoman rule, until the Read more

Tour: the early Neo-Romanian style

scf-003The early Neoromanian architecture as seen in Gradina Icoanei area of Bucharest.

Dear readers,

I would like to invite you to a walking architectural tour on Sunday 22 September 2019, between the hours 11.30h – 13.30h, in Gradina Icoanei area, on the theme of the exceedingly important for this country’s heritage Neo-Romanian architectural style, in its early phase, how this design peculiar to Romania has been initiated and defined, a period of cultural upheavals and economic prosperity from the 1880s until the mid 1900s. This cultural excursion may be of interest to any of you visiting the town as a tourist or on business looking to find out more about its fascinating historic architecture and identity.

The Neoromanian architectural style is the most visible and amplest body of heritage that this country has bestowed on the world’s culture. Gradina Icoanei area of Bucharest has the highest concentration of buildings featuring this architectural design in its inaugural stages, what I term as the early phase of Romania’s national architecture. The style was initiated by the architect Ion Mincu in 1886 with the Lahovary House, an edifice viewed at  this tour, continued with a series of iconic edifices, such as the Central School for Girls, another objective of the tour, or the Causeway Buffet. The then new national architecture quickly gained popularity and featured in the works of other known architects of that period, such as Giulio Magni, who Read more

Tour in west Cotroceni

Cotroceni west-004
Medical Sciences University, west Cotroceni

Dear readers,

I would like to propose you an architectural history tour, in the western part of the picturesque Cotroceni quarter, which contains the grandiose edifices of the Medical Sciences University and the Palace of the President of Romania. The tour completes my series of distinct walks (east, central and west) covering this architecturally valuable area of Bucharest.

The event is scheduled to take place this Saturday 21 September 2019, between 11.30h – 13.30h. This cultural excursion could be of interest to any of you visiting Romania’s capital as a tourist or on business, looking to understand the character of this metropolis through discovering its peculiar and fascinating old architecture.

The most beautiful baroque revival style palace of Bucharest is the Medical Sciences University, the best such school in southeast Europe, designed by the Swiss architect Louis Blanc, and built in 1902, which is at the centre of west Cotroceni. Its aesthetics is auspiciously put into light by the the surrounding elegant built environment, one of the finest in the capital. You are thus going to sample, under my guidance, many of those examples, displaying a dazzling array of symbolism and messages, typical of the Neoromanian, the national architecture of this country, or the international Art DecoModernist and Mediterranean styles. The creators of many of those buildings were part of the golden generations of Romanian architects, people active mostly in the interwar period, when this part of Cotroceni was endowed with the bulk of its houses. Some of them are still being mentioned in Read more