Art Deco garage door masterpiece

I discovered during the last Sunday architectural history and photography tour in Calea Calarasi area of Bucharest a tantalizingly beautiful Art Deco style garage doorway, presented in the photographs bellow (the same image processed in three different sequences in order to better outline various parts of its delicate design). I am very impressed by its quality and excellent proportions that please the eye, and also by its good state of preservation. The design reminds me of paintings typical of the Bauhaus school, something like a cross between Mondrian and Paul Klee. The theme is a 1930s era factory with clerestory roof windows (the sawtooth-like elements), chimney stacks from which smoke billows out, clouds and Suns in different positions, at dawn- on the left, midday- in the centre and dusk- on the right, signifying a working day at the factory. The wall surrounding the door opening also contains a similar theme Art Deco design, which unfortunately is now quite obscured by a layer of whitewash. On the whole, I believe, this garage door is quite an work of art and a testimony of the quality of Bucharest’s Art Deco era architecture.

Art Deco garage door, Calea Calarasi area, Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)
Art Deco garage door, Calea Calarasi area, Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)
Art Deco garage door, Calea Calarasi 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 Contactpage of this weblog.

Domenii – Casa Scanteii area: images from last Sunday’s architectural history & photo tour

Domenii - Casa Scanteii area Sunday architectual tour (©Valentin Mandache)

We had, last Sunday in the Domenii – Casa Scanteii area of Bucharest, an extensive and in my view mind-blowing viewing and examination of two major genres of 1930s architecture: Art Deco and “Stalinist Gothic”. Again, I was very fortunate to have enthusiastic and well informed participants from a variety of backgrounds. Domenii quarter has been developed mainly in the 1930s and ’40s and hosts a myriad of equisite Art Deco and peerless Neo-Romanian – Art Deco amalgam style dwellings, built for the inter-war Bucharest’s elite. Nowadays the area is in a rapid process of being taken over by the new class of post-communist Romanian moneyed people who unfortunately are not cultured or sophisticated enough to understand the importance of conserving that heritage and, as a result, a large part of those buildings were demolished, replaced with characterless massive new structures or in the best case aggressively renovated. Casa Scanteii – the former headquarters of the communist central press, located close by Domenii quarter, is the second largest building of this country, second after Ceausescu’s enormous House of the People, itself one of the largest in the world. It was designed by a group of architects led by Horia Maicu and built in 1950 – 51, following the model of the 1930s Muscovite buildings known as the “seven sisters”, a species of grandiose communist era Art Deco style structures erected in the 1930s Stalinist Soviet Union. The building was intended to stamp on the Soviet domination of Romania and herald the dawn of a new era and society in this corner of the world. While Casa Scanteii looks from afar similar with its Soviet counterparts, at a closer examination its architectural details are very indigenous- inspired from the late medieval Wallachian church architecture (Brancovan style) and using a multitude of Neo-Romanian style motifs. Even its monumental doorways look like a Wallachian church entrance. These absolutely particular aspects of this Stalinist era building, which are today forgotten by the locals specialists and laypersons alike, were closely examined and discussed by the participants at the tour. I trust that those who took part in the tour had thus a fulfilling cultural Sunday out and now are the privileged keepers of some of the most interesting and esoteric architectural history information about this corner of Bucharest! 🙂

Domenii - Casa Scanteii area architectural tour
Domenii - Casa Scanteii area architectural tour

!!! The next Sunday (21 August ’11) architectural history and photography tour will take place in Campina and Comarnic, OUTSIDE Bucharest, on the Prahova Valley (1h 15min hour by train), see a map at this link; meeting point: Gara de Nord train station, in front of McDonald’s restaurant, inside the station. I look forward to seeing you there !!!

Valentin Mandache, expert in Romania’s historic houses

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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 Contactpage of this weblog.

Road utilities and Art Deco style house

During the “roaring ’20s” and in the second part of the 1930s, after the Great Depression, Bucharest went through a process of rapid urban. That was the period when the first proper urban development masterplan of the city was elaborated and approved, which in large part is still followed today. The architecture of the new dwellings and public edifices erected in those years was usually Art Deco and Neo-Romanian.

I found in one of my field day in Kiseleff area an interesting side street developed in that period, where I was able to discern its evolution, from first having in place the road utilities, followed in the subsequent years by houses built on plots lining up the road. The photograph bellow shows a canal lid dating from 1927, inscribed with the name of Bucharest’s sewerage works board and produced by a factory in Sibiu, Transylvania, the new province of then Romania acquired after the Great War. That indicates with a fair degree of accuracy the period when the road was built and its utilities infrastructure put in place.

Road infrastructure and Art Deco style house, Kiseleff area, Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)

The year on the canal lid corresponds with the beginnings of the Art Deco era architecture in Bucharest, a style clearly reflected in that of many houses built in subsequent stages on that road, as is the interesting example shown in the following photographs.

Road infrastructure and Art Deco style house, Kiseleff area, Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)

This ample Art Deco style house was probably built roundabout the year 1930, judging by it typology, building technology and type of ornaments.

Road infrastructure and Art Deco style house, Kiseleff area, Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)

The house is embellished with a beautiful Art Deco panel containing luxuriant flowers and vegetation, sunburst and rainbow motifs. I like how the rainbows are marked by thunderbolts, suggesting the storms of the southern seas, a world that enthralled the Romanians of that era, dwellers of a latitude with harsh, Siberia-like, winters.

Road infrastructure and Art Deco style house, Kiseleff area, Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)

The house also boasts a beautiful ethnographic solar eight ray disc, inspired from the Neo-Romanian architecture, rendered in this case in an alluring Art Deco manner.

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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 Contactpage of this weblog.

Mosilor area: images from last Sunday’s architectural history & photo tour

Mosilor area: images from last Sunday’s architectural history and photography tour (©Valentin Mandache)

The tour which I organised last Sunday, 7 August ’11, the tenth such end of the week cultural excursion 🙂, in Mosilor area of Bucharest has been very popular, attended by professionals and students alike, in majority Romanians, as well as people from Ireland or the US, settled or working here. Mosilor is one of the most picturesque and evocative quarters of old Bucharest, being a mostly residential district with a strong identity expressed in its people’s sense of community and delightful historic architecture. The quarter grew around the famous Mosilor fair, which since the c18th, when was first mentioned in documents, took place outside the walls of the old city, on the road that went to Moldova, also known as “Drumul Mare” (the Highway). The fair and quarter around it grew spectacularly once the principalities of Wallachia and Moldova got united, forming Romania, in the aftermath of the Crimea War. Mosilor area, as a consequence, has a relatively high density of exquisite late c19th houses rendered in the “Little Paris style” architecture, what I name the French and other western historicist styles of that period interpreted in a provincial manner in Romania. Another well represented architectural style is the Neo-Romanian, ranging from early examples dating from the last years of the c19th, to hybrids with the Art Deco, erected in the 1930s. There is also a multitude of other styles from different periods- from a late c18th Balkan Ottoman dwelling, to Beaux Arts, Art Deco and Modernist edifices dotting the quaint and leafy streets of Mosilor. I thus trust that the participants enjoyed a good cultural Sunday morning out, full of discoveries and revelations about one of the most loved and enchanting quarters of old Bucharest. 🙂

Mosilor area: participants and guide during the last Sunday’s architectural history and photography tour (photo: Ioana Novac)
Mosilor area: participants and guide during the last Sunday’s architectural history and photography tour (photo: Ioana Novac)

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!!! The next Sunday (14 August ’11, 9am-12.00) architectural history and photography tour will take place in Domenii hisoric quarter – Casa Scanteii building, north-west-central Bucharest (see a map at this link); meeting point: in the Arch of Triumph square at the Herastrau park entrance in front of the big black public clock. I look forward to seeing you there !!!

Valentin Mandache, expert in Romania’s historic houses

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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 Contactpage of this weblog.

Art Deco staircase tower window

Art Deco staircase tower window, mid-1930s house, Matei Basarb area, Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)

I like the svelte lines of this staircase tower window from an Art Deco house in east-central Bucharest, which is excellently preserved despite the inauspicious conditions that prevailed in the country ever since the beginning of the WWII. Its quite austere lines remind me of the high tech factories of that era (e.g. automobile or aircraft industry), a main source of inspiration for the Art Deco 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.

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

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 Contactpage of this weblog.

Art Deco style semi-detached houses in Ploiesti

I would like to present you another magnificent period building photographed during my trip last week to Ploiesti, the oil town 60km north of Bucharest. The previous house I wrote about was a La Belle Époque period Little Paris town mansion; that article can be read at this link. This one is a well designed mid-1930s Art Deco example of semi-detached houses, which has an extraordinary personality. The edifice is located on Independentei Street, not far from the city’s main train station. It had escaped, by a miracle in my opinion, the epic 1943 American Air Forces bomber attack that devastated the area, which although was aimed at the destruction of the oil refining industry from around Ploiesti, many stray bombs fell on the city itself. That operation against those oil fields that in the Second World War supplied the German war machine, is known in the military annals as Operation Tidal Wave, one the costliest actions in terms of pilot and aircraft losses of the US Air Forces in Europe.

Art Deco style semi-detached houses dating from the mid-1930s, Ploiesti (©Valentin Mandache)

The main feature of the building is embodied by its monumental twin staircase towers around which a multitude of Art Deco design elements get unfurled, from extraordinarily attractive doorways, streamline-like balconies with eyebrow awnings, a well proportioned street fence or ample rooftop verandas.

One of the doorways embellishing the Art Deco style semi-detached houses dating from the mid-1930s, Ploiesti (©Valentin Mandache)

The door displays sunbursts among motifs that look like clouds, while the doorway opening is decorated with a “fleshy” Art Deco floral motif, in the manner of the local Brancovan and Neo-Romanian styles, which reminds me of some of architect’s Toma T. Socolescu‘s designs. He was extremelly influential in Ploiesti and Prahova county during the inter-war period and there could be a possibility that he might be the designer of this building too.

The staircase towers: Art Deco style semi-detached houses dating from the mid-1930s, Ploiesti (©Valentin Mandache)

The twin staircase towers are embellished with a ziggurat motif, very characteristic of the Art Deco style.

Art Deco style semi-detached houses dating from the mid-1930s, Ploiesti (©Valentin Mandache)

The structure, through its wonderful proportions and high design qualities, stands out among the built landscape surrounding it. I hope that the current renovation works, which seem to take place, would bring something back from its former glory.

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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 Contactpage of this weblog.

Images from last Sunday’s architectural history & photography tour in Carol Park area

Architectural history and photography tour of Carol Park area, 19 June '11, Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)

The third architectural history and photography tour took place last Sunday, 19 June ’11, in Carol Park area of south central Bucharest. The park hosted in 1906 the great National Royal Exhibition, held to celebrate King Carol I’s jubilee of 40 years of glorious reign, during which he modernised and Europeanised the country, won its independence from the Ottoman Empire on the battlefield and extended its territory to the shores of the Black Sea. The exhibition has also been intended as a showcase for the new national architectural style, known today as Neo-Romanian. Anyone intending to properly understand this architectural order, needs to study the designs used for the buildings making up that exhibition, the problem being that nowadays, more than one century later, there are just a few surviving remnants of those edifices and artistic creations. I aimed in my tour to chart and mentally reconstruct as much as possible from the old Royal Exhibition, and I believe that I was quite successful in that endeavour, judging from the feedback received from some of the participants. We viewed, for example, a reinforced concrete bridge, a technical rarity for that era, adorned with Neo-Romanian motifs or admired a great sculptural assembly in the Neo-Romanian style. Apart from the park, we visited the surrounding area, where the local architecture was visible influenced by the archetypes showcased at the exhibition. A highlight of the tour was Filaret train station, the first railway terminus of Bucharest, dating from 1869, about which I wrote an article yesterday, click the link here for access. The photomontage above presents some of the interesting buildings from different historical eras encountered during the tour and bellow is a selection of photographs with the wonderful tour participants, together with a slide show encompassing those images.  I trust that the participants had a beautiful day out, shot attractive architectural photographs and enhanced their knowledge about the remarkable architectural history of this corner of Bucharest!

The next Sunday (26 June ’11, 9am-12.00) architectural history and photography tour will take place in Cismigiu historic quarter, west central Bucharest (see a map at this link); meeting point: Izvor tube station (outside eastern exit, toward the fast food restaurant). I look forward to seeing you there!

Architectural history and photography tour in Carol Park area, Bucharest, 19 June '11 (photo: arch. Daniela Puia)
Architectural history and photography tour in Carol Park area, Bucharest, 19 June '11 (photo: arch. Daniela Puia)
Architectural history and photography tour in Carol Park area, Bucharest, 19 June '11 (photo: arch. Daniela Puia)

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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 Contactpage of this weblog.

Filaret – the first train station of Bucharest

Yesterday I organised another architectural history and photography tour, the third one so far, which took place in Carol Park area. One of the landmarks viewed was Filaret train station, the first such public transport facility of Bucharest, a terminus of the first railway on the territory of the then Romania, inaugurated in 1869, linking the capital with the Danube port of Giurgiu. This railway line was vitally important for Bucharest, a city on the threshold of an explosive development after it recently became the capital of the newly established state of Romania, one of the fortuitous geopolitical consequences of the Crimean war, among multiple other factors, of that period. The then Prince Carol I, the future monarch of the country, a meticulous military man, well trained in the management methods typical of the industrial revolution in his native Germany, was personally involved in this essential project for Bucharest’s infrastructure. The locals were thus able to travel and do business much faster, by quickly going to the Danube and embark on steamboats that went all the way to the Black Sea and Istanbul or to Vienna and from there by train to Paris. Also the railway was a lifeline for the city, which was now able to easily bring or send goods to and from most of Europe and the Mediterranean. The flamboyant Little Paris architecture (what I call the French c19th historicist styles provincially interpreted in Romania) emerged in a fulminant manner after the railway came into use. The station functioned until 1960 when it was transformed in a coach station and its rails dismantled. Today is still functioning as a coach station and the building with much of its old early Victorian infrastructure deteriorated and much abused. There are discussions to transform it in a railway museum, but as most such type of public projects in Romania, it will probably take another one or even two decades until something will emerge from that proposal. Until then, Filaret train station, an important industrial architecture identity marker of Bucharest, will continue to face indifference from both public and authorities, abuse and decay. Bellow are some image of how the building looks nowadays, covered with modern paint and plaster and a myriad of billboards and other injuries brought about by the Romanian wild capitalism of the post-communist era.

Filaret - the first train station of Bucharest, front façade (©Valentin Mandache)
Filaret - the first train station of Bucharest, unkempt commemorative plaque mentioning its inauguration year (©Valentin Mandache)
Filaret - the first train station of Bucharest, the station's hall, with its glazed roof missing and interior left open to the elements (©Valentin Mandache)
Filaret - the first train station of Bucharest, front façade, ornate cast iron corbels dating from the mid c19th (©Valentin Mandache)
Filaret - the first train station of Bucharest, the front end of the former waiting platforms (©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 Contactpage of this weblog.

Freshly repaired Art Deco house façade

Bellow is a fairly good example of a freshly repaired and painted Art Deco house façade, a rare occurrence within the generally run down and much abused built landscape of Bucharest. Those improvement works were most probably performed by a developer, which erected a large commercial building just across the road from that house (in fact there is a row of Art Deco houses, all Art Deco and freshly painted) and was part of a deal by which the developer got the local house owners approval to build a taller and therefore more profitable edifice, although that would have impeded the quality of life in the area. That is a commonplace understanding encountered all over the place in Romania, where the property developers can bring to their side the local inhabitants promising them free repair works or infrastructure improvements. The case presented here is one of the happier such instances, which I hope will get more widespread as both the house owners and developers get more educated about the preservation of the local built heritage.

Art Deco style house, mid-1930s, Calea Victoriei area, Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)

However, I have some criticism regarding this repair: the choice of window frames, white plastic, is tacky and does not follow the scheme of the original ones, which were probably designed in three vertical panes, according to the Art Deco style’s rule of three. Also, the profile of the rainwater drainpipes should have been square or rectangular in tone with the shape of the balcony or other rectangular shapes found within the façade, the new pipes being just ordinary DIY shop stock artefacts.

Art Deco style house, mid-1930s, Calea Victoriei area, Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)

The doorway is well preserved and necessitated only palliative paint touches to bring it back to life. I believe that repairing the façade of those houses was quite a cheap job for the developer, with maximum results regarding its higher objectives.

Art Deco style house, mid-1930s, Calea Victoriei area, Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)

The above picture presents the side of the dwelling, again quite well spruced up. The recently erected tall and large commercial building, from which this Art Deco house and its neighbours benefited in this auspicious way, is discernible in the background .

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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 Contactpage of this weblog.

Art Nouveau pavilion in Ocna Sibiului spa town

Ocna Sibiului (German: Salzburg; Hungarian: Vizakna) is a small spa town in historic Saxon Transylvania developed especially during the Victorian era, when the region was part of the Austrian-Hungarian Empire. Many of its hotels, restaurants and baths were designed in the Art Nouveau style, as is shown in the old postcard below (published in the early 1910s). I have not visited yet the place, but I understand that a number of those wonderful Art Nouveau edifices and decorations are still around and even “restored”, which in the context of today Romania should in fact mean aggressive renovation. I like the sight of the Saxon church bell-tower, pictured in the background of the postcard, rising over the old village and spa pavilion.

Art Nouveau style pavilion in Ocna Sibiului (old postcard, Valentin Mandache collection)

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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 Contactpage of this weblog.