Ocean liner theme Art Deco house

Art Deco style house dating from first half of the 1930s, Matei Basarab area, Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)

The Art Deco house presented in these photographs is at first sight a unassuming Bucharest 1930s dwelling, but at a closer look it reveals a few interesting traits that give it personality. The design theme is that of the ocean liner, popular on the architectural scene of Romania’s capital of that era, among a public lusting to travel to exotic places in the southern seas, far away from their dull environment in the middle of the  Lower Danube Prairie, in winter exposed to frigid Siberian weather-fronts. The house sits on a small plot of land in a high density habitation area, a situation that no doubt impedes the full appreciation of its design theme.

What drew my attention, was the two more unusual motifs associated with the ocean liner theme, seen in the pictorial signs on its street and courtyard façades, which I marked in the above photograph with red encirclings for better visibility. The street one signifies a boat passenger sitting atop the bow of a liner crossing the ocean waves, while the lateral pictogram symbolises a traveller resting on a coach or getting up from a bed, marking the cabins’ area of the port side of the boat.

Art Deco style house dating from first half of the 1930s, Matei Basarab area, Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)

Other obvious elements making up the ocean liner theme are the well proportioned staircase tower symbolising the command deck of the ship, embellished with a tall and narrow window where one can detect the motif of sunrise and sunset in its ironwork decoration. There is also a porthole window, unusually positioned at the base of the tower, because of the constricted available space. The assembly is crowned by a flag pole, another important motif of the ocean liner theme panoply.

On the whole, the house, is in my opinion a telling example of how omnipresent the Art Deco style and its themes were among the Bucharest people of those times, and a testimony of the imaginative ways through which the local architects expressesed their clients aspirations.

Art Deco style house dating from first half of the 1930s, Matei Basarab area, Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)
Art Deco style house dating from first half of the 1930s, Matei Basarab area, Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)

Art Deco rainwater head and drain

The rainwater drainage installation, as many other visible constituent parts of a building, is often a place for rich architectural and ornamental expression, as is the case of the flamboyant c19th historicist architecture of rainwater heads, drains, troughs or drain heads. Those elements are also wonderfully articulated in the coordinates of the more modern Art Deco style of the c20th. I recently photographed two such interesting components that embellishing Bucharest buildings dating from the mid-1930s. The first picture presents a rainwater head ornamented with delightful short vertical bars, suggesting, in my opinion, a vehicle’s caterpillar track or even role bearings, facts that point out the origins of the Art Deco style in the post-Great War machine era design aesthetics, while the second photograph shows a balcony rainwater drain placed at the centre of an ornamental three stepped triangular base pyramid, thus epitomising the Art Deco’s rule of three, which is inspired from Egyptian mythology.

Art Deco rainwater head, mid-1930s building, Icoanei area, Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)
Art Deco rainwater drain, mid-1930s building, Cotroceni area, Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)

Bucharest 1930s skyline

The two images presented here are typical examples of Bucharest 1930s modernist and Art Deco apartment building tops, that in many aspects defined the skyline of the city for decades, until the huge communist building programme of the 1980s turned Romania’s capital, including its skyline, into a North Korean dictatorship inspired eyesore. The photographs also show how a renovation would work wonders on those edifices. In the instances shown here, I like the ziggurat composition, which gives an impression of svelteness and confidence typical of a skyscraper, which the design subtly suggests. The first image shows how attractive a newly cleaned and painted façade can be. The building in the second photograph is still waiting a sprucing up, which I am sure would greatly bring back its former beauty and remind the locals about the good quality architecture of yesteryars of this city.

Bucharest 1930s skyline, Modernist - Art Deco apartment block in Piata Romana area (©Valentin Mandache)
Bucharest 1930s skyline, Modernist - Art Deco apartment bloc, Mosilor area (©Valentin Mandache)

Staircase well

The staircase well of a mid-1930s Art Deco house, Matei Basarab area, Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)

The staircase well pictured above is from a derelict Art Deco style building, inhabited by poor state tenants (housed there since the 1950s when the house was confiscated from its owners by the communist regime). It is unlit, the natural illumination at its top coming through porthole shape windows.

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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.

Art Deco doorway displaying “Apple’s design philosophy”

I photographed this beautiful Art Deco doorway during yesterday’s architectural walking tour in Dacia area of Bucharest. I like its pleasant to the eye proportions and reduced to essence decoration: the window has a simple reverberating diamond motif, pointed underneath by four small letter box openings that are also marked by label holders. These details are embraced by an ample handlebar, which bends horizontally in the lower half of the doorway, thus balancing the concentration of detail in the upper half. The excellent composition brings to my mind Apple computer company’s philosophical approach in designing its products, which is to be found “at the intersection of the technology and the humanities”, with the difference that the Bucharest example was designed about eight decades ago!

Art Deco style doorway, mid-1930s apartment house, Dacia area, Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)

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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.

Art Deco glass etching – mountain goddess subject

Art Deco style glass etching, part of a staircase tower window of a late 1930s apartment house in Mantuleasa quarter, Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)

This glass etching is a nice discovery made during last Sunday’s walking architectural tour in Mantuleasa quarter of Bucharest, when I entered, together with the participants, the hallway of a small and well designed Art Deco apartment house (in the shape of an abstract ocean liner). My intention was to show the tour party how a typical Art Deco stair spiral looks and how the light is filtered through the patterns of the large window that usually embellishes the staircase tower of such edifices. The etching, spotted first by Gabriela, one of the participants, was not part of the main window, but placed on another side of the tower at the staircase base, probably to increase the amount of natural light available in that confined space. The subject of this piece of art, signed by Studio N.I.C.O., as seen on the lower right hand corner, and its rendering are just wonderful, depicting a mountain landscape having at its centre a human shape forest deity (perhaps Diana, the goddess of wild animals and woodlands) flanked by two delicate hinds, all surrounded by an alpine landscape (perhaps that of the Transylvanian Alps to the north of Bucharest) with the sky dominated by a few glowing solar motifs and round clouds. The manner of representation, especially that of the human-like personage, reminds me of how Henri Matisse designed his subjects, as is most tellingly seen in The Dance, one of his most well known painting. Matisse was of course widely admired in Romania of that era, even more so after he produced the painting La Blouse Roumaine, a young female wearing an embroidered  Romanian peasant shirt. I am just amazed how this fragile etching, that is still in excellent condition, has survived so many vicissitudes that befell the city in the last eighty years, from wars, devastating earthquakes to dictatorships.

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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.

Transparent staircase windows

One the most conspicuous features of Bucharest’s Art Deco style edifices is the staircase tower. It is often embellished with ample windows unfurling along the length of the tower, which is sometimes also decorated with portholes and flag poles, symbolising the ocean liner and the idea of voyages to the southern seas, a the recurrent and much loved architectural theme by the 1930s Bucharest people. In most cases the staircase windows are densely decorated, glazed with opaque or coloured panes, not allowing any meaningful glimpse inside the tower, to see the design of the stair spiral. Bellow are a couple of the relatively rare transparent staircase windows, which I photographed in the Dacia and Calea Mosilor area of Bucharest. The glass transparency enhances the impression of lightness and slenderness of the overall Art Deco design and allows a glance inside these interesting buildings. It is however quite possible that their initial glazing was non-transparent and later replaced with what we see today, as a result of damages that might have occurred during the strong earthquakes, wars or revolutions, which have plagued the city in the last eight decades.

Art Deco transparent staircase window, apartment block dating from the late 1930s, Dacia area, Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)
Art Deco transparent staircase window, apartment block dating from the mid-1930s, Calea Mosilor area, Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)

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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.

Modernist Serliana window

Definition: a Serliana window is a “window with three openings, the central one arched and wider than the others: so called because it was first illustrated in Serlio‘s Architecture (1537)” [from The Penguin Dictionary of Architecture & Landscape Architecture, Penguin Books, 1999]. It is also known as a Palladian or Venetian window.

The Serliana structure is a quite a common occurrence in Renaissance, Baroque or Rococo inspired architectural settings. I have therefore been pleasantly surprised to discover in Bucharest a Serliana-like window, with a suggested arch, within a modernist setting, presented in the photographs bellow:

Modernist Serliana window, late 1930s house, Dorobanti quarter, Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)

The design is reduced to essence, even the pillars dividing the openings displaying just outlines of Renaissance columns.

Modernist Serliana window, late 1930s house, Dorobanti quarter, Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)

The building dates just before the Second World War, located in the Dorobanti area, also known as the “embassy quarter” of Romania’s capital.

Modernist Serliana window, late 1930s house, Dorobanti quarter, Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)

The architecture is an inter-war Modernist interpretation of Renaissance Italianate models, seen in the veranda column capital or its beamed ceiling, the Serliana window of course, and the wooden corbels supporting the protruding structure (Oriel type) containing the Serliana.

Modernist Serliana window, late 1930s house, Dorobanti quarter, Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)

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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.

Decorative tiles and stone from the Art Deco Era

I photographed, during my last architectural tour in  Gara de Nord area, a few interesting examples of decorative ceramic tiles and stone embellishing exterior and interior areas of Art Deco style buildings from the 1930s. Those elements are quite rare sights nowadays, as the usually aggressive renovations and damages sustained through wars or earthquakes in the intervening eight decades have erased them in great proportion from the architectural landscape of the city.

Decorative tiles from the Art Deco era, apartment block from Gara de Nord area, Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)

Above is a wall base decorated with high quality black and white bands of ceramic tiles, which I documented in an earlier post, speculating that it represents an architectural metaphor of the tuxedo suit and spectaor/ wingtip shoes so popular in the jazz age.

Decorative stone from the Art Deco era, apartment block from Gara de Nord area, Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)

The image above and the three following bellow are from the entrance hall of a mid-1930s apartment block, where the designer used good quality decorative stone, from marble to various colours and textures of calcareous rock such as lime and travertine, combining them with great visual effect.

Decorative stone from the Art Deco era, apartment block from Gara de Nord area, Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)
Decorative stone from the Art Deco era, apartment block from Gara de Nord area, Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)
Decorative stone from the Art Deco era, entrance hall pavement of an apartment block from Gara de Nord area, Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)
Decorative tiles from the Art Deco era, apartment block from Gara de Nord area, Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)

The above and bellow photographs present the ceramic tile floor of a modest apartment block from the early 1930s. The tiles are of very good quality, being in excellent shape after so many years of intensive wear; of hexagonal shape, arranged in a plain three colour floral “mosaic” pattern, which reminds quite poignantly the atmosphere of the inter-war period.

Decorative tiles from the Art Deco era, apartment block from Gara de Nord area, Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)

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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.

Design elements of a Bucharest Art Deco house

I encountered in one a my architectural tours, a few months ago in Foisorul de Foc (Fire Watchtower) area of Bucharest, an Art Deco era house of a distinguished design, of which the most remarkable was the ironwork of its gate and staircase window. The building also contained other design elements worthy of attention, such as its general volumetric set up, concierge window shape or the rusticated façade base pattern reminding of geometric, Mondrianesque, style paintings of the 1920s and ’30s. The images bellow detail those interesting Art Deco elements.

Art Deco style gate, late 1930s house, Foisorul de Foc area, Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)

I like the pleasant to the eye proportions of this gate and how its general rectangular pattern is broken by diagonal wave and solar disk motifs wonderfully distributed throughout the design field. It is perhaps an abstraction of a modern city (the rectangular pattern) on an ocean shore bathed by undulating sea waves in its daily life cycle from dawn till dusk and over again (the full and outlined solar disks), etc.

Art Deco style house dating from the late 1930s, Foisorul de Foc area, Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)

The house has good volumetric proportions adapted to the small plot of land available for construction, an ubiquitous and age old problem in Bucharest. The rule of three typical of the Art Deco style is detectable in many of the design elements of the façade. Interesting is also the wall rendering, which reproduces the coral motif of the Southern seas, a theme popular in those years among Bucharesters, aspiring to visit exotic places so different from their continental European landscape and climate.

Art Deco style house dating from the late 1930s, Foisorul de Foc area, Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)

The staircase window is also embellished with a high quality ironwork which shares the design theme of the gate. There is also a porthole window, an echo of the ocean liner theme so fashionable in those happy years after the Great Economic Depression and before the conflagration of the Second World War.

Staircase tower window (©VM)

The staircase window design is indeed remarkable, a cubist-like painting rendered in ironwork.

Concierge window, late 1930s Art Deco style house, Foisorul de Foc area, Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)

The 1930s architect was obviously a talented professional who paid attention to minutiae details, such as the concierge window seen in this photograph, cut within the rusticated pattern of the façade base, itself resembling a marvellous avant-garde composition.

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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.