The wooden veranda of a Neo-Romanian style house

The wooden first floor veranda of an early 1930s Neo-Romanian style house, TVR area, Bucharest. (©Valentin Mandache)

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I endeavor through this series of daily 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 a historic property in Romania or start a renovation project, I would be delighted to advice you in sourcing 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.

Art Deco windows frames with Romanian ethnographic carvings

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One of delightful aspects of the Art Deco architectural style in Bucharest is its assimilation and recycling of indigenous decorative motifs, resulting in surprising adaptations of this decorative order to the local cultural environment. I found that fact nicely reflected in the window frames, which adorn Bucharest houses built in the mid-1930s, shown in the above slide show. The frames are carved with Romanian ethnographic motifs, typical of the peasant art of rural Romania, representing examples of the creative artistic fusions that give a strong local flavour to an international architectural order.

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I endeavor through this series of daily 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 a historic property in Romania or start a renovation project, I would be delighted to advice you in sourcing 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.

Bruegel-Like Scenes in Romanian Villages

Bruegel-like scenes in Romanian vilages (photographs by ethnographic research team led by Prof. Ioana Fruntelata and Mr. Horia Nitescu, 2006-07, Bucovina & Arges regions).

Anyone from the Western world, who plans buying a traditional country house in Romania must beforehand realise the considerable cultural differences between the host communities and the newcomers. The rural communities of  Romania are still pursuing an ancestral way of life governed by highly particular religious beliefs and mythology typical of the Carpathian Mountains region, a sort of rural Europe before the Enlightenment and Industrial Revolution. It is a world even more primeval that that described by Anthony Hope in his classic fiction book ‘The Prisoner of Zenda’ as the imaginary kingdom of Ruritania, which in the western mind is associated with the old Eastern Europe. The Romanian rural communities still conserve in many aspects an ancestral mental universe and way of interpreting religion, typical of their c16th or c17th counterparts from western Europe, as is seen in the paintings of Bruegel the Elder. The excellent and very evocative photographs arranged in the above montage and slide show bellow the text depict such a Bruegel-esque  atmosphere in Romanian villages in the AD 2006 – ’07. The photographs were realised during ethnography fieldwork in villages from Romania’s north-east (Bucovina) and south (Arges) by students from the Department of Ethnology and Folklore/ Faculty of Literature from the University of Bucharest, led by Prof. Ioana Fruntelata and Mr. Horia Nitescu, a fervent reader of my blog, who most kindly provided these images for publication.

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

***********************************************

If you plan acquiring a historic property in Romania or start a renovation project, I would be delighted to advice you in sourcing 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.

Manichean Symbolism on Neo-Romanian Style Panels

Neo-Romanian style circular decorative panels with Manichean representations: the battle between good (eagle) and evil (reptiles) adorning the street wall of an early 1930s house in Stirbey Voda area, Bucharest. (©Valentin Mandache)

The Romanian folklore and traditional peasant beliefs, as well as the indigenous brand of Christianity (officially denominated as “Greek Christianity”, in reality very much blended with local ancient pagan beliefs) contain many references to epic Manichean battles between the good and evil forces. One of the usual representations in the Romanian visual arts of the good forces is that of the protector eagle, while the evil forces are symbolised by reptiles- snakes or dragon like lizards. I found two very telling such representations in the form of the circular architectural panels presented in the photographs above, which adorn the street wall of a grand Neo-Romanian style house in one of the central quarters of Bucharest. I am just overwhelmed by the dynamism and drama of these two well rendered scenes, in which the protagonists are clutched in a deadly fight, with no clear winner in sight. These two panels are some of the finest Neo-Romanian style Manichean symbolism representations that I encountered so far in my architectural photography work in Bucharest; another similar theme panel can be seen here, about which I wrote a post in June this year.

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I endeavor through this series of daily 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 a historic property in Romania or start a renovation project, I would be delighted to advice you in sourcing 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.

Town House with Peasant Style Veranda

The veranda of a late 1890s house from Targoviste, southern Romania, inspired from similar structures adorning local peasant dwellings. (©Valentin Mandache)

I very much like the balanced proportions of the wooden veranda presented above, where the most interesting feature is represented by the three identical ornaments carved with ethnographic motifs that come together at right angles within upper centre level of the structure. Their shape has a vague Art Nouveau slant, which is probably in tone with the increasing popularity of that style in Romania of that period. The house featuring the veranda, shown in the photograph bellow, is mainly a Little Paris style edifice (what I call the French c19th historicist styles provincially interpreted in Romania), with this unusual peasant inspired component grafted on it. The whole assembly dates from a period of “battle of the styles”, if I can put it that way, when the national romantic architecture embodied by the then nascent Neo-Romanian style developed within the Art Nouveau current, started to make important forays all over the country. This particular house is a timid, but delightful provincial experiment with those  new trends and ideas.

1890s town house with peasant style veranda, Targoviste (©Valentin Mandache)

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

***********************************************

If you plan acquiring a historic property in Romania or start a renovation project, I would be delighted to advice you in sourcing 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.

Ornamental Neo-Romanian Style Roof Ridge Crests: Photomontage & Slide Show

Ornamental Neo-Romanian style roof ridge crests - photomontage (©Valentin Mandache)

The Neo-Romanian architectural style is as a rule an ornate order with motifs imagined by the architects from the period between the late c19th and the interwar period, when this style was popular, as a coalescence of sources that during the previous centuries made an impact on the architecture and decorative art of the Romanian communities. These sources range from late Medieval Wallachian church architecture, peasant art to Ottoman Balkan ingredients and even old Venetian Renaissance style components. The roof is an important locus for unfurling that splendid and highly particular decorative panoply, where the most important constituents are the roof finials, the ornamental ridges, the tiles, the eaves, the drain pipes and the decorative elements embellishing the roof opening (air, vents, attic windows, etc.) The ridges are among the most spectacular such artifacts, just as flamboyant as the finials that accompany them on the very top of the roof, together crowning the building as an architectural apotheosis. They are meant to draw attention from a long distance and make an impression on the visitor. I wrote a post, a few months ago, about a particular example of roof ridge (click here for access) and detailed its filiation from equivalent ornaments found on peasant dwellings and some old Wallachian churches. I have gathered, during my fieldwork, a small collection of photographs of such beautiful ornaments, and put together a representative sample for your edification in the form of the above photomontage. Those images can also be seen in greater detail in the slide show bellow. I like how these ornaments convey in a concentrated space a great deal from the very nature and personality of this remarkable national-romantic era architectural style, peculiar to Romania.

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

***********************************************

If you plan acquiring a historic property in Romania or start a renovation project, I would be delighted to advice you in sourcing 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.

Neo-Romanian Architecture During the Great War

A sketchy life scale model suggesting a Neo-Romanian style house, exhibition at the Petit Palais, Paris 1917. (old postcard, Valentin Mandache collection)

Romania entered the war in August 1916 on the side of the Entente and after initial successes, was quickly overran by the Central Power armies, which forced the government to conclude a humiliating armistice in December 1917. France and Britain had little to offer in terms of consistent assistance to their ally in the Balkans, and consequently the country had to endure the enemy occupation of most of its territory and an attrition war in the refugee crowded eastern half of the province of Moldavia, which remained under the Romanian army control, helped by a Bolshevik infested Russian army. The postal card above presents a scene from an exhibition of solidarity with the Romanians, organised in Paris during those dark days, showing to the Parisian public, itself war weary, how a house in Romania would have looked like. The architect G. Sterian, had tried to suggest a Neo-Romanian style dwelling using makeshift materials and papier mache mouldings. This life scale model, which is more like a theatre stage setting, surrounded by palm tree plants alien to the Romanian climate and landscape, convey very aptly the tenebrous and unsettling war time atmosphere during one of the most difficult phases of the Great War for both Romania and France.

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

***********************************************

If you plan acquiring a historic property in Romania or start a renovation project, I would be delighted to advice you in sourcing 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.

The Weathervanes of Bucharest

Weathervanes- a very uncommon architectural detail for the Bucharest cityscape, almost always peculiar to fin de siècle buildings. (©Valentin Mandache)

The Romanian population descends probably from the ancient indigenous stock of inhabitants of the Carpathian region, settled there since the first westward Indo-European migrations about five millennia ago. A consequence of that spatial immovability, coupled with the lack of seafaring activities, throughout most of their history, has made the natives of what is now Romania, quite oblivious to conventional geographical directions such as the cardinal points, which by contrast are part of the usual vocabulary for the populations inhabiting the European coastal areas or those dwelling in the forested regions of north-eastern Europe. Traditionally the Romanians point the geographical directions according to the Sunrise (“Rasarit”) for East, Sunset (“Apus”) for West, Middle of the Day (“Miazazi”- position of the Sun in the afternoon) for the South and Middle of the Night (“Miazanoapte” reffering to the North Star on the sky at night)  for the North. Another common way of indicating geographical bearings is according to the prevailing regional wind directions: Crivat (the winter seasonal wind that blows from the NE, from Siberia; a word of Slavic origin meaning “bender”/ “one who bends trees or houses”) and Austrul (the spring season wind that blows from the SW, from the Mediterranean; a word of Latin origin meaning the “south” or the “southerner”). Those peculiar circumstances of geographical awareness development made the Romanians to largely ignore the weathervanes, the architectural details that point the geographical directions, in their historic architecture. These are rare artefacts that I was so far able to encounter in Bucharest only on Fin de Siècle buildings. They seem to be just standard additions to the architectural design package typical to the French historicist styles fashionable at that period in Romania and do not have the practical role of indicating from where the wind blows. I gathered in the above photomontage and slide show immediately after text, what I believe is a large proportion of the Bucharest weathervanes. The most spectacular one is in the middle of the upper row of the collage and adorns the embassy of Finland in Bucharest, a building in a Scandinavian baroque style, which speaks volumes about the paucity of this architectural ornament in this city and Romania in general.

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

***********************************************

If you plan acquiring a historic property in Romania or start a renovation project, I would be delighted to advice you in sourcing 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.

Fin de siècle villa in Campulung Arges: architect identification controversy – Video-analysis

In this video I analyse whether or not the architect Ion Mincu, the initiator of the Neo-Romanian style, is the designer of Villa Mirea in the town of Campulung Arges, southern Romania. I discuss the characteristics of Mincu’s architectural design by analysing two of his most important creations- Lahovary House and the Causeway Buffet in Bucharest and conclude that Mincu could in fact be the designer of anther edifice in Campulung, namely Villa Apostol Mirea (notice the similarities between the names of the two buildings, a fact which possibly led to the actual confusion in identifying the architect). The photograph is by Daniel Bobe, a native of Campulung; the old postcards- private collection.

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

***********************************************

If you plan acquiring a historic property in Romania or start a renovation project, I would be delighted to advice you in sourcing 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.

Neo-Romanian Ethnographic Verandas

Neo-Romanian ethnographic wooden verandas photomontage; examples dating mainly from 1920s, Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)

A main source of inspiration for the Neo-Romanian architectural style is the rich ethnographic art of the Romanian peasants. The geometric pattern wood carvings that adorn the peasant houses in the vast Romanian countryside are some of the most exquisite expressions of this art. The trend to include these decorative elements in the urban setting of the Neo-Romanian started in the early part of the inter-war period as a vivacious Arts and Crafts current inspired from the abundant local sources. It was promoted by many architects, such as the remarkable Henriette Delavrancea-Gibory. The six examples of verandas, which I selected for the photomontage presented here (see also the slide show bellow), is just a small sample from the multitude of such artefacts adorning the Neo-Romanian houses of Bucharest.

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

***********************************************

If you plan acquiring a historic property in Romania or start a renovation project, I would be delighted to advice you in sourcing 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.