Bucharest Little Paris style house interior

Bucharest is known as the Little Paris of the Balkans on account of its La Belle Époque period French inspired architecture. A large number of those edifices, in various states of decay, are still surviving, imprinting a picturesque character to the city. I use the designation Little Paris style to characterise that particular architectural phenomenon, which is an umbrella term encompassing the European historicist styles popular in c19th Europe, of which the French inspired ones had preponderance, adopted in a provincial manner in Romania. The country was then going through a rapid westernisation process, having just escaped from the orbit of the Ottoman world, after over four centuries within that civilization. The architecture emerging in that process was in large part a grafting of  western motifs and ornaments of what were basically Ottoman Balkan structures and building technologies. There are of course exceptions from that trend and some of those edifices were built in the same manner as their western counterparts. One of those examples is illustrated in the photographs of the interior presented bellow of a house built in 1902 in Mantuleasa area of Bucharest, which I visited during last week’s tour on the subject of the Little Paris style architecture of the city. The house has been restored and also renovated at great expense in the last few years and it looks as the proprietors did a good job at least for some of its interiors, as the ones presented here. The style of this house is a cross between rococo and Empire, with some Art Nouveau elements, such as the wood stove hatch presented in the image bellow. This magnificent interior gives us a better portrait of the tastes and aspirations of Bucharest and Romanian elites in general in that historical period, their desire to Europeanise in a fast mode adopting and internalising the architecture of the Enlightenment in the decades that spanned the end of the c19th and start of the c20th.

Bucharest Little Paris style house interior, 1902 house, Mantuleasa area, Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)
Bucharest Little Paris style house interior, 1902 house, Mantuleasa area, Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)
Bucharest Little Paris style house interior, 1902 house, Mantuleasa area, Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)
Bucharest Little Paris style house interior, 1902 house, Mantuleasa area, Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)
Bucharest Little Paris style house interior, 1902 house, Mantuleasa area, Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)
Bucharest Little Paris style house interior, 1902 house, Mantuleasa area, Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)

Grand Art Nouveau style remodelling project in Chisinau

Chisinau (Kishinev), the capital of the Republic of Moldova, is blessed with a fascinating mix of period architecture dating mostly from the second part of c19th and the first half of the c20th, reflecting the evolution of architectural tastes of the Russian Empire, Romania and the Stalinist Soviet Union. The city contains a number of attractive Art Nouveau style edifices, the most spectacular being a recent remodelling of a Fin de Siècle house, which I encountered during my recent Chisinau trip. The edifice is mentioned on the well documented website “Centrul Istoric al Chisinaului“, which is a comprehensive database of architecturally valuable buildings in the historical centre of the Republic of Moldova’s capital. At the entry detailing the house, which was compiled before the start of the remodelling project, is mentioned that the façade used to be Art Nouveau (named “modern” in the terminology of the Moldovan architects), but completely erased of its decoration during the vicious 1990s post-Soviet property boom. It seems that in the intervening time an enlightened proprietor has decided to bring something back from the edifice’s former glory, as the photographs, which I was able to take from the street, amply testify. In my opinion is a tasteful remodelling and it might also be in the spirit of the original decoration that adorned the house, as I believe the owner had access to old plans and photographs from which the contemporary designer could guide him/her/self. It reminds me of another Art Nouveau project from scratches which takes place in Bucharest, which I documented in 2010 on this blog. I believe that this particular instance is a positive development for Chisinau, and the post-Soviet world, in raising the awareness and appreciation about the local architectural heritage that suffered so much during the two world conflagrations of the c20th, the Soviet era or the most devastating for heritage last two decade since the Soviet empire fell.

Grand Art Nouveau style remodelling project, Pushkin Street, Chisinau (©Valentin Mandache)
Grand Art Nouveau style remodelling project, Pushkin Street, Chisinau: first floor balcony decoration (©Valentin Mandache)
Grand Art Nouveau style remodelling, Pushkin Street, Chisinau: detail of the pediment decoration, 1st floor balcony (©Valentin Mandache)
Grand Art Nouveau style remodelling, Pushkin Street, Chisinau:  detail of the pediment decoration, 1st floor balcony (©Valentin Mandache)
Grand Art Nouveau style remodelling, Pushkin Street, Chisinau: window pediment decoration (©Valentin Mandache)
Grand Art Nouveau style remodelling, Pushkin Street, Chisinau: pilaster capital (©Valentin Mandache)
Grand Art Nouveau style remodelling, Pushkin Street, Chisinau: detail of doorway pediment decoration (©Valentin Mandache)

Art Deco era ceramic tile supplier tablet

Art Deco era ceramic tile supplier tablet (©Valentin Mandache)

During a recent Art Deco and Modernist walking tour in the central area of the Bucharest I photographed the above rare instance of  a well preserved 1930s tablet containing the name and address of a local ceramic tile (“Rako” make) supplier (someone called “B. Ungureanu”). It is part of the tile pavement flooring at the entrance of the famous Modernist building ARO (“The Romanian Insurance”) Building by arch. Horia Creanga (1938) on Calea Victoriei boulevard. I like the lettering style of the tablet, in the Art Deco vein, seen especially in the shape of the letters “S” or “A” and also its modernity- it can well be a nowadays name tablet, with only the web address missing. The tilling and the tablet make up a good quality Art Deco style flooring design, which seems to be a characteristic of the period seen in other examples that I documented on this blog, such as the case of a kitchen ground and that of a hallway floor.

Bucharest 1870s mascaron

Bucharest 1870s mascaron (©Valentin Mandache)

This is a window apron mascaron, from among a dozen or so that embellish the street façade of painter Gheroghe Tattarescu’s museum in central Bucharest, close to Lipscani, the commercial quarter of the city. Tattarescu is one of the best painters of the first “European” generation of Romanian artists in the mid 1850s, when this region was slowly escaping from the obit of the Ottoman Empire and its cultural models. The painter renovated the house in the late 1850s, resulting in an interesting transition phase between Ottoman and early Little Paris style edifice. My supposition is that this set of mascarons are a later addition, dating from the 1870s, perhaps even later in the 1880s, as I encountered similar types on other Bucharest houses built in that period. This ornament is ceramic (probably terracotta) made and not a stucco application as one might expect. It is also well preserved, on account that the city had throughout the last century and a half much less industrial pollution than other European capitals. Another dating clue could be the hairstyle and pearl necklace of the woman represented at its centre, which to me looks somehow Second Empire style (between 1865 – 1880). In all, the mascaron, is an interesting and beautiful sight on the historic façades of Romania’s capital.

Exquisite villa from the apogee of the Neo-Romanian style

I first published this article in November 2010, but took it offline after a short while, due to a series of Romanian blogging sites which were using the photographs and ideas presented here, without giving any credit to my work, a blatant arrogant behaviour typical of the many so-called specialists that currently infest the post-communist cultural scene, including the history of architecture, of Romania. Many among those mediocrities misappropriate and habitually plagiarise other authors’ work, as I also remember a case a year or so ago when someone from the teaching staff at the Bucharest University of Architecture “Ion Mincu”, a lady named Mihaela Criticos, published a book about the Art Deco style, with a multitude of illustrations pulled out from the web, including from my site, without any necessary acknowledgement being made.

Neo-Romanian style villa, designed by the architect Toma T Socolescu, 1934, Campina, southern Romania (©Valentin Mandache)

In the period between the mid-1920s and the mid-1930s, the Neo-Romanian architectural style has reached its apogee. One of the leading architects who has marked that intensely creative decade, was Toma T Socolescu, the most brilliant scion of a famous family of Romanian architects. The house above, although not very sizeable, represents in my opinion one of his finest creations, which is also excellently preserved. It is located in Campina, a prosperous oil town 90km north of Bucharest, close by another house that I documented in an earlier post (an excellent modernist design, which I hypothesized, correlated with information from the locals, that it was designed by a Wehrmacht architect in the 1940s). Remarkable in this example is the highly elaborated and decorated doorway assembly (the door, the wall dressing and the awning). Also noticeable is the ground-floor balcony terrace overlooking a beautiful small garden. The terrace is overlooked by a decorative shield containing the family monogram, “NP”, decorating the door arch keystone. I would also like to mention here the charming first floor veranda, decorated with interesting wood carved pillars that sustain an interesting bell shaped tiled roof, which was modelled by the architect from roof examples that endow many late medieval Wallachian churches. The roof is crowned by a large Neo-Romanian type finial. I had the opportunity to discuss with the proprietor of this architectural jewel, a senior lady, who gave an abundance of information about the designer and year of construction (1934). She also mentioned the struggle to save and maintain it during the long decades of the communist dictatorship, when part of the property was used by the army as housing for its personnel. The proprietor also mentioned the recent restoration and renovation works, which were undertaken with great care and under her close supervision in order to preserve as much as possible from the old building details and fabric. In my opinion she has managed to do that with excellent competence, the house being now, in my opinion, one of the best restored Neo-Romanian style houses in the entire country. The photomontage above and slide show bellow the text are just a few glimpses of this exquisite house designed and built at the zenith of the Neo-Romanian style.

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Prin aceasta serie de articole zilnice intentionez sa inspir in randul publicului aprecierea valorii si importantei caselor de epoca din Romania – un capitol fascinant din patrimoniul arhitectural european si o componenta vitala, deseori ignorata, a identitatii comunitatilor din tara.

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Daca intentionati sa cumparati o proprietate de epoca sau sa incepeti un proiect de renovare, m-as bucura sa va pot oferi consultanta in localizarea proprietatii, efectuarea unor investigatii de specialitate pentru casele istorice, coordonarea unui proiect de renovare sau restaurare etc. Pentru eventuale discuţii legate de proiectul dvs., va invit sa ma contactati prin intermediul datelor din pagina mea de Contact, din acest blog.

Bucharest 1900s architectural ironwork

The Fin de Siècle period was a time when the architectural ironwork, expressed largely in wrought iron designs, became affordable as a construction material and architectural embellishing, adopted throughout the globalised world of the late Victorian era. The tone was given by the famous Eiffel Tower built for the 1889 Exposition Universelle in Paris, which represented a climax for ironwork structures, traced back to the Crystal Palace pavilion of the 1851 Great Exhibition in London.

Bucharest was a rapidly developing city in those years before the Great War, with many buildings being erected in the then fashionable historicist styles, which I collectively call the “Little Paris” style, inspired mostly from French c19th architecture. Many of those buildings were embellished with exquisite wrought iron elements, from balconies, doorway assemblies, gates and street fences, conservatories, etc., which constitute now a definitory parameter of Bucharest’s historic built landscape.

I would like to present in the following photographs just a tiny part from the multitude of those architectural ironwork structures, dating in this instance mostly from the 1900s, found now throughout Romania’s capital. In my view they are quite well preserved when taking into account the upheavals experienced by the city in the last century since they were put in place and the general lack of maintenance of the last few decades. It is not hard to imagine how a basic restoration of these structures would notably increase the aesthetics of this metropolis and emphasise in a very positive way its identity; unfortunately there is still a long way for its post-communist inhabitants to learn and understand that.

Bucharest 1900s architectural ironwork: gate and clam shell doorway awning structures, Icoanei area (©Valentin Mandache)
Bucharest 1900s architectural ironwork: gate and clam shell doorway awning structures, Dacia area (©Valentin Mandache)
Bucharest 1900s architectural ironwork (detail of the above): clam shell door awning structure, Dacia area (©Valentin Mandache)
Bucharest 1900s architectural ironwork: ornamental doorhandle in the shape of a sphinx, Mantuleasa area (©Valentin Mandache)
Bucharest 1900s architectural ironwork: doorway awnings and gate, Mosilor area (©Valentin Mandache)
Bucharest 1900s architectural ironwork: conservatory structure, Mosilor area (©Valentin Mandache)
Bucharest 1900s architectural ironwork: clam shell awning structure, Mosilor area (©Valentin Mandache)
Bucharest 1900s architectural ironwork: floral ornaments of a street fence structure, Piata Romana area(©Valentin Mandache)
Bucharest 1900s architectural ironwork: balcony structure embellished with the house owner's monogram, Gara de Nord area (©Valentin Mandache)
Bucharest 1900s architectural ironwork: entrance conservatory structure, Gara de Nord area (©Valentin Mandache)
Bucharest 1900s architectural ironwork: gate, street fence and doorway assembly structures, Patriarchy Hill area (©Valentin Mandache)

Chronicle of the architectural tour in Bellu Cemetery

Case de Epoca - Historic Houses of Romania blog author at the grave of architect Ion Mincu (1852 - 1912); photo - 7 Jan. '12

I am pleased to report that the architectural tour, which took place last Saturday, in Bellu Cemetery, considered in many aspects as the National Pantheon of Romania, was well attended, despite the sleety weather that we had to face that afternoon. That followed a stormy night, which caused mayhem in Bucharest. In fact we encountered, within the cemetery itself, torn away tree branches blocking the alleys and even an uprooted old tree that has fallen over some of the gravestone, fortunately without causing much damage, facts that all concurred to producing, of what one might say, a perfect cemetery visit atmosphere. The place is really vast, over 28 ha, if we just take into account its main Christian Orthodox denomination section. We were thus able to encounter a multitude of fine architecture monuments hosting the earthly remains of important personalities of this country. The funerary structures display in general the three main historical styles that characterise the local urban architecture from Little Paris, Neo-Romanian to Art Deco and Modernist designs. There are also monuments in ethnographic and composite styles. An important objective of the tour was the viewing and examination of monuments designed by the architect Ion Mincu (1852 – 1912), the initiator of the Neo-Romanian style, which are among the finest in the entire cemetery, for example the sepulchers of G. Gr. Cantacuzino, M. Ghica, or the Gheorghieff brothers. I also brought the participants to Mincu’s grave, where the photograph presented above was taken. To our astonishment, the grave was without a cross or other more apparent funerary monument, except a name plate on a small pedestal outside the grave area itself, a sure sign of neglect from the public and authorities regarding the memory of this important figure in the history of Romanian visual arts. The parcel was in the past embellished with a beautiful Romanian peasant wooden cross, as can be seen in a photograph from the 1920s, in the image bellow, depicting a remembrance gathering of Mincu’s students at his burial place. It is amazing and shocking that now, in 2012, when we commemorate one hundred years since the great man’s death, that there is nothing put in place to properly mark his grave, not even by the Architecture University “Ion Mincu” in Bucharest, which bears his name, and is the chief higher education institution in that field of this country. I just hope that something is in the making, now at the centenary of his death, by the university or other institution, to right that tragic anomaly!

Former students of architect Ion Mincu at his grave in Bellu Cemetery in the early 1920s (photo in "Ioan Mincu" by N. Petrascu, Cultura Nationala, Bucharest 1928)

The blog author in Balcic on the Black Sea coast

Balcic - Queen Marie of Romania's Palace gardens on Bulgaria's Black Sea Coast

Historic Houses of Romania blog author enjoying, in the summer of 2009, the magnificent gardens of Queen Marie of Romania’s Palace in Balcic, Bulgaria, on the Black Sea coast. The palace complex and gardens are one of the finest and most representative pieces of architecture produced in inter-war Romania. Balcic and the southerly facing coast around it is a place reminding more of the Mediterranean than the Balkans and Central Europe that in general characterise Romania’s geographic and man-made landscape, which made it a sort of local Riviera for the Romanian elite in those happy days before the conflagration of the Second World War and what followed after. The place is teeming with Romanian villa architecture of the golden 1930s decade, which will constitute, together with the Palace, the subject of two Historic Houses of Romania tours in the late spring and early autumn in 2012. Watch this space! 🙂

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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.

The 10 most popular Historic Houses of Romania articles in October 2011

  1. Art Deco Building Interior Elements
  2. The DOORWAYS of Bucharest
  3. Superlative Bucharest Art Deco House
  4. HM King Michael of Romania’s 90th birthday anniversary
  5. Art Nouveau garden gate
  6. Art Deco Style Greek God Bass-Reliefs: Photomontage & Slide Show
  7. The NEO-ROMANIAN ARCHITECTURAL STYLE: a brief guide on its origins and features
  8. Art Deco houses from Bucharest’s Domenii quarter
  9. Bucharest Neo-Romanian style windows
  10. Art Deco style school

The Historic Houses of Romania – Case de Epoca blog (both English and Romanian language versions) was read during October ’11 by over 14,000 unique visitors. Most of those readers came from locations in Romania, United States, United Kingdom Australia, India and the Republic of Moldova.

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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.

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

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.