I am constantly amazed when doing my field research for historic houses through historic Bucharest by its endless chaos of cluttered houses of all shapes and sizes awkwardly positioned next to each other. These buildings show a contrasting diversity of European architectural styles rendered in a quaint provincial manner. It is an apparently senseless urban maze with its own mysterious interior order, hard to decipher by an outsider, and is what gives this city its unique personality.
Art Nouveau is one of the eye-catching styles of old Bucharest architecture. It is present in a variety of types: from early French Art Nouveau to the elegant, almost surrealist Central European variety.
I was pleasantly surprised to encounter an Art Nouveau house in the Mantuleasa area that uses in its decoration traditional Romanian ethnographic and church architectural ornaments, perhaps one of the few if not singular such example of syncretism in the whole Romania.
The house was built on a plot of land that had an awkward contour. The sharp angle of one of street corners, as can be seen in the picture above, is the pivotal element around which the house is designed and ingeniously used as a truly Art Nouveau feature by the architect who created this house sometime in the second or early third decade of the 20th century. The typical fluid, flowery shapes more typical to this style can be seen throughout the façade: from the window columns and door decoration to discrete embellishments of the eave drain trough.
The architect shows great skill in attenuating the disquiet sharp angle of the building corner by having it replicated in the rhomboidal profile of the tall window columns (see above), which in its turn is soothed by the curved plant leafs embellishing the column capitals that also flow almost imperceptibly into the window arches. Through this design solution the creator of the building achieved a wonderful harmony and continuity between its many apparently separated angular and round elements.
The rectangular silhouette of the doorway and some of the windows, together with the arched narrow windows, are reminiscent to the Neo-Romanian style and is a reference to the Gothic-Byzantine architectural syncretism typical of old Romanian churches.
Sadly the original Art Nouveaustreet door was recently replaced by the new owners (a restaurant business) with a non-descript and ugly modern door.
The doorway ornaments remind of the Romanian traditional ethnographic motifs, especially the solar symbol medallion, a hallmark of Romanian peasant art.
Interesting is also the inverted Gamma cross, another ancestral Romanian peasant art motif of primeval Indo-European origin, that appears within a rhomb located in an area above doorway. The rhomb is replicated within the same area by a decorative reticular network that is often encountered in the decoration of Romanian church columns.
Traditional Romanian church motifs are also alluded by the repeating intertwined decorative pattern of aches displayed in a continuous row immediately under the eaves. That type of decoration denotes the Byzantine arches that sustain the fabric of an Orthodox church building and thus their meaning in this case is that of espousing the ancestral spirituality embodied in this house.
However typical Art Nouveau decorations like the florid window pediment flanked by reversed profile columns are also abundantly on display.
In conclusion this is an extremely interesting and rare example of Art Nouveau house that successfully integrates Romanian ethnographic and church architectural decoration. It is a proof that previous generations of Bucharesters were intensely creative, highly educated and sophisticated, qualities that are largely missing to the contemporary inhabitants of this city, victims of the long period of communist brain wash and callous capitalist development of the last two decades. The building, into the right hands, would make the object of a wonderful restoration/ renovation project that without doubt would generate echoes on a wide scale. (©Valentin Mandache, All Rights Reserved, www.viapontica.wordpress.com, email@example.com)
If you are interested in acquiring a period property in Romania or start a renovation project, I would be delighted to advice you in locating the property, specialist research, planning permissions, restoration project management, etc. To discuss your particular plan please see my contact details in the Contact page of this weblog.