Unusual conical structure

Strange conical structure dating probably from the WWII period, Campina (©Valentin Mandache)

I encountered the unusual structure in the photograph above during my trip to Campina last autumn. It reminded me like a flashback from my childhood of similar structures which I seen in my very early years in some Romanian train stations: steep conical or ogee profile concrete roofs, a quite terrifying sight for a child, usually sitting next to the trains station main building. Most of them were demolished in the last two or three decades and probably only a handful still exists now. From what I remember, the locals there said that these unusual constructions were bomb shelters designed in such a way to repel the deadly blows and shrapnel of airplane launched bombs. Many Romanian cities, especially the oil towns such as Campina, have seen a great deal of bombing from the Allies as well as from the Luftwaffe during the Second World War and was not a real surprise the building of bomb shelters to alleviate somehow that menace. I am however not entirely convinced of their role as bomb-shelter, especially if you notice the large windows from the base of the example presented above. They look strangely similar with the overnight prisons, the “lock ups“, built in c18th and early c19th in small English towns before the establishment of the state police force. Could this structure from Romania have had the same role during the war time or the early Stalinist period? Perhaps some of my readers have more precise information about the role of that type of highly unusual structure!

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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 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 Contactpage of this weblog.

Campina Art Nouveau style round window

An Nouveau style round window rendered in a picturesque provincial manner, 1900s house, Campina, southern Romania (©Valentin Mandache)

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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 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.

Ethnographic identity veranda poles

Ethnographic veranda poles, mid-1930s Neo-Romanian house, Campina, southern Romania (©Valentin Mandache)

This is a well preserved example of veranda poles adorning a large mid 1930s Neo-Romanian style house in central Campina, southern Romania, inspired from the ethnographic motifs of Prahova county. The main particularity of this ethnographic province is that it features a mix of Carpathian and Ottoman Balkan (especially Bulgarian-like) ethnography. The Carpathian ethnographic motifs and artefacts are typically very geometric and angular, a sort of “peasant cubism” reflecting the artistic traditions of a population settled in the area since the first arrivals of the Indo-European populations more than five millennia ago, seen here in the shape and symbols of the capitals adoring the poles. The Ottoman Balkan ethnography is characterised by a more cursive, round geometry with floral motifs, reflecting the influence of the subsequent waves of populations that settled the area in the course of history from Slavs and especially Central Asian origin Turkish populations, seen here in the motifs embellishing the poles’ base. The veranda poles presented in this photograph, the creation of a talented and well informed inter-war Romanian architect, display excellently in their choice of motifs the ethnographic identity of the people of the area where the house was built; it is practically a statement of regional Prahova county identity.

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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 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 brick pattern

An elegant Art Deco brick pattern panel embellishing a late 1930s building in Campina, southern Romania. (©Valentin Mandache)

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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 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.

1970s Romanian Modernism

Romania has seen its last strokes of quality architecture during the 1970s, when many of the talented inter-war generation architects were approaching the end of their professional life and their pupils were worthy followers of their masters. The subsequent decade marked the heightening of Ceausescu’s personal dictatorship to Orwellian levels, when the country was saddled with megalomaniac industrial and public architecture projects like the infamous House of the People palace, which today houses the Romanian parliament, allegedly the second largest building in the world. That crass political expediency, very similar with that of the North Korea, at the expense of quality and professionalism marked a terrible deterioration of the architectural profession in Romania, a situation from which has not yet recoverd even now, two decade after the fall of the communist dictatorship. I sometime encounter architecturally notable post-war modernist buildings during my fieldwork assignments throughout the country, which generally fit the rule that were designed and built before 1980 – ’82 (when Ceausescu’s totalitarianism finally griped the society to all levels). One such encounter is the building presented bellow from the city of Campina in southern Romania, dating probably from the late 1970s. Its hallmark is the well designed doorway with a very bold concrete awning, like the ascending path of a jet aircraft. The edifice is now empty and left unmaintained, an indication sign that its future is grim. Many such good examples of post-war modernist architecture are now slowly disappearing from Romania’s built landscape, being replaced by coarsely designed architectural concoctions, products of the rapacious real estate speculation that has engulfed Romania in the recent.

Romanian 1970s modernist architecture, Campina (©Valentin Mandache)
Romanian 1970s modernist architecture, Campina (©Valentin Mandache)
Romanian 1970s modernist architecture, Campina (©Valentin Mandache)
Romanian 1970s modernist architecture, Campina (©Valentin Mandache)

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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 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.

The House with Griffins: oil wealth and Beaux Arts architecture in Romania

Campina is a prosperous oil town in the Prahova county, on the southern slopes of the Transylvanian Alps’ piedmont. The wealth generated by the oil business was responsible for a remarkable architecture ever since the inception of the oil industry in late c19th. Romania has been one of the first countries in late c19th to extract and export oil on an industrial scale, with some of the main oil fields located in the Prahova Valley, where Campina became one of the main extraction and refining centres. The images bellow document one of the first and most flamboyant houses built from oil fortunes at the beginning of the c20th, named the House with Griffins, which now hosts the local town hall and mayor’s offices.

The House with Griffins, Campina, southern Romania (©Valentin Mandache)

The building is a very eye pleasing and well proportioned Beaux Arts style edifice with a symmetrical structure erected in 1901 – ’02 by Gheorghe Stefanescu, a wealthy local businessman active in the oil industry. I have not yet been able to find the name of the architect who designed this house, but my inkling is for an Italian architect, from among the pleiad of Italian architects and builders active in that period in Romania, who built numerous Beaux Arts style public and Read more

Lilac leaf shaped Art Nouveau windows

During my recent trip to Campina, an oil town 90km north of Bucharest, on the Prahova Valley, I encountered a recurrent Art Nouveau style lilac leaf motif in the window design of a number of local houses. What made it more interesting, was its popularity well beyond the Art Nouveau era, being also displayed by houses from the inter-war and WWII period. The lilac leaf motif was popular in Art Nouveau representations, being a pattern borrowed from Oriental visual arts, originating in Persian representations and also adopted throughout the Ottoman realm, of which the Romanians were an integral part for several centuries. That could explain the unusual preference for this design in a provincial town like Campina. In the photographs bellow I tried to convey a bit from the enduring favour of lilac leaf shaped windows in this corner of Romania, with meritorious examples dating from the 1900s, the Art Nouveau age, to the 1920s and the early 1940s.

Lilac leaf shaped Art Nouveau window, 1900s, Campina, southern Romania (©Valentin Mandache)
Lilac leaf shaped Art Nouveau window, 1920s, Campina, southern Romania (©Valentin Mandache)
Lilac leaf shaped Art Nouveau window, 1940s, Campina, southern Romania (©Valentin Mandache)

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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 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 Contactpage of this weblog.

Mock Half-Timbered Neo-Romanian Style House

Mock half-timbered Neo-Romanian style house, dating from mid-1930s, Sinaia, the Transylvanian Alps. (©Valentin Mandache)

The architecture of the mountain resort of Sinaia in the Transylvanian Alps, 120km north of Bucharest, is a colourful and interesting gathering of period styles ranging from the historicist orders of the late c19th to the Neo-Romanian, Art Deco and modernism of the inter-war period. Some of the imposing chalets of Sinaia display unusual combinations of architectural orders, such as is the case shown in the photograph above, which I managed to shoot during a downpour on one of many mountain slopes criss-crossing the town. The main features of this house are in the vein of the Neo-Romanian style from the arches of the corner tower veranda, flanked by Byzantine type columns, to the finial crowning its spire or the aspect of the chimney stack, etc. The odd presence here is the mock half timber façade decoration and the steep angle of the tower spire, elements inspired from German historicist architectural models. Responsible for that interesting juxtaposition is the fierce local competition, if I can put it that way, between the architectural models fashionable in Sinaia during the inter-war period. There was much prestige attached to the patriotic Neo-Romanian style, which was also exercised by the Bavarian renaissance style of the Royal Pelesh Castle, one of the country’s most prestigious edifices, hosted within the town’s confines. The architect in the case of this particular chalet seems to have solved the conundrum faced by the owner in that regard, by combining elements of the two architectural orders. The results are quite attractive in my opinion and constitute another proof of the effervescent creative atmosphere of that era in 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 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.

Mizil: from mail coach station to town

From mail coach and horses station to post office: the story of the emergence of Mizil, a town in southern Romania. (engraving & old postcard: Valentin Mandache collection)

Mizil is a small town in the province of Wallachia in southern Romania, which owes its existence to the once extensive Ottoman mail coach station and inn network that functioned in the Danubian Principalities since mid-c18th. Even the name of the town- “Mizil” derives from the Turkish word for coach station- “menzil”. The settlement’s location was wonderfully propitious for the emplacement of a stagecoach inn (in Turkish: menzilkhan) and relay for mail carriage horses, being on the old highway that once linked the capitals of the Ottoman protectorate principalities of Moldavia and Wallachia, at an equal distance of about 20 miles (35 km) in between the local county towns of Ploiesti and Buzau. That distance was generally considered as optimal for a team of coach horses to travel continuously at speed before being relayed by a fresh team of equines. The town thus witnessed, until the advent of the railways, the traffic of impressive horse drawn coaches as can be seen in the drawing form the lower part of the montage above, depicting such a scene from the lower Danube prairie of Wallachia, where Mizil is situated. The engraving is from my collection, made after a drawing by Denis Auguste Marie Raffet, a distinguished French illustrator famous for his lithographs of the Napoleonic wars. Raffet made the drawing in the 1830s while he travelled through the region in the service of the Russian aristocrat Anatole de Demidoff. The horses, their handlers and the battered coach rushing through the prairie, excellently convey the air of wild frontier of that region at the periphery of the Ottoman Empire. That image could not contrast more with the peaceful, near placid atmosphere of the Mizil post and telegraph office depicted in the the 1920s postcard in the upper half of the above collage, photographed less than a century after the “wild east” engraving was produced. That juxtaposition conveys the tremendous process of modernisation, which was going on in the whole of Romania within that time interval. The post office is built in Neo-Romanian architectural style, and I believe that is still in use nowadays (it was certainly there when I was for two years a high school pupil in Mizil at the end of the 1970s). The picturesque elements which remind of the old coach station are the petrol lamp in the courtyard together with the well and the horse watering trough carved from a block of local Istrita stone.

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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 Contactpage of this weblog.