Small Art Deco Block of Flats in Bucharest

Small block of flats in the Art Deco style, dating from mid-1930s, Iancului area, Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)

I like the compact design of this Art Deco apartment block, a bit like a toy house, which manages to occupy a relatively small plot of land in the perennially crowded Bucharest. The architect had to play with volumes and decorative lines in such a way as to give the impression of an airy building throughout, a task excellently achieved as one can see from the design structure of the doorway and entrance hall (at the bottom of this photomontage). The spatiality effect for the doorway is obtained through a gradual increase in the length of the pediment ledges and the receding location of the door relative to the front walls. For the entrance that impression is accomplished through the hollow stepped pyramid shape of the ceiling and the play between the perpendicular lines of the floor’s decorative strips and stair’s steps. These are wonderful visual solutions found by the 1930s architects in the context of a city endowed with a limited and expensive space available for building, a problem which is again very acute in today Bucharest. In my opinion the contemporary planners and architects of this city would have a great deal to learn from the study of their predecessors in order to find solutions for actual travails, but sadly such an undertaking is not and has never been on the radar of  a majority among the professionals that populate these activities in nowadays Romania.

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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.

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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.

Getting Rid of One’s Own Heritage in Bucharest

Derelict, heritage listed, mid 1910s Neo-Romanian style house, fire gutted by squatters with the tacit approval of absentee proprietors- a common method in Bucharest for obtaining a demolition permit for historic houses, in order to develop the plot with a more profitable modern office building. Iancului area, Bucharest. (©Valentin Mandache)

The architecture of this mid 1910s house is extremely interesting, being a transition style between early Neo-Romanian, as was conceived by the architect Ion Mincu, its initiator in the 1880s, and the citadel like structure popular in the inter-war period. One can see here some of Mincu’s hallmarks in the pointed arch windows and airy veranda, together with the bastion tower structure borrowed from the fortified yeoman dwelling of Oltenia region, the “cula” (a word derived from Turkish meaning citadel) type house. Unfortunately the building has suffered during the wild Romanian property bubble of the last few years, eyed by greedy developers and irresponsible proprietors for the development of a more profitable modern building on the valuable plot of land occupied by this quite centrally located historic house. The building in this instance has probably changed hands in speculative transactions a number of times in the space of just a few years and was left to deteriorate, open to the elements and squatters, in order to secure the much coveted demolition permit. In the end the house was gutted by fire and although the authorities brick boarded its entrances, it looks that the fate of this magnificent house is sealed. That fact most probably makes its proprietors extremely hopeful of pocketing large profits from the development of the land (I very much doubt that as the Romanian property market is now the most inflated and least profitable in the entire European Union).

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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.

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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.

“Old and New in Bucharest Architecture. How to Preserve our Identity?”- Radio Programme

This was a radio broadcast programme by Radio Romania International on 16 March ’10, 20.00h-21.00h, on the subject of Bucharest’s old buildings and their plight in the last two decades of Romania’s painful transition from communism to democracy and market economy. The debate, entitled “Old and new in Bucharest architecture. How to preserve our identity?”, took place among blog authors specialised on the architectural heritage. The participants were the following: the author of this blog- Valentin Madache (Historic Houses of Romania), Cezar Buimaci (Orasul lui Bucur) and Dan Rosca (Bucurestii Vechi), moderator- Mara Popa. The language used is Romanian; apologises for the non-speakers of this language.

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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 locating 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.

Daily Picture 18-Mar-10: Art Nouveau and Property Bubble Hangover

A Bucharest variety of 1900s Art Nouveau style house that also displays rococo and early Neo-Romanian elements, in a very bad state of repair, next to a flashy stretch limo that gathers dust, among empty plastic bottles scattered on on a dirty unmaintained pavement. Maria Rosetti area. (©Valentin Mandache)

The photograph, which I took in late autumn last year, of a luxury limousine next to a deteriorated period house, inhabited by poor state tenants, is a telling metaphor of the hangover feeling that engulfed Bucharest after the bursting in 2009 of the Romanian property and financial bubble, which saw New York type prices for property and credit fuelled ‘new Russian’ style consumption excesses. The sky-high property prices are still lingering aroung, making the purchase of a period property in Bucharest one of the most expensive, riskiest and unprofitable investments anywhere in the European Union. My estimate is that although the prices are about 20% less than the exuberant levels of late 2008, they are still having a very long way to go (another 60% down from today prices) and reach a level that would reflect the undeveloped infrastructure and economic reality of Romania.

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

Daily Picture 21-Feb-10: Art Nouveau Style Property Defaced by Ignorant Owner

One of the countless examples of defacement and destruction of historic houses in Bucharest by ignorant nouveau riche owners. (©Valentin Mandache)

I made the montage above from photographs taken at a distance of one year from each other (autumn 2008 – ’09) of the doorway of a superb 1907 Art Nouveau style house in Cismigiu-north area of Bucharest. The owner has replaced the original and valuable Art Nouveau glass and wood door with an unsightly mass produced, modern metallic one, which does not have anything to do with the style of the house. The owner is from among the class of nouveaux riches that emerged in post-communist Romania and have started to acquire historic property in central areas of Bucharest. The lot, as a rule, is very arrogant and ignorant in cultural and historic matters, with devastating consequences for the properties which fall into their hands. In a majority of cases they abusively demolish the historic buildings in order to have them replaced with modern characterless houses or in ‘best instances’ deface the period property replacing the original artefacts with modern mass production equivalents, perceived as more prestigious and valuable. In the instance pictured above, the owner is most probably convinced that the market value and aesthetics the house were greatly enhanced by replacing the despised old ‘strange looking’ door. The phenomenon has reached dangerous proportions in Romania, threatening the integrity of the built heritage and identity of the local communities.

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

Daily Picture 8-Feb-10: Art Deco Furniture Find

Walnut veneer Art Deco style furniture made in mid-1930s, preserved in a very good state, placed in the best room of a peasant house located in Dolj county, south-west Romania. (©Valentin Mandache)

I found the fine Art Deco style bedroom furniture in the image above during my fieldwork as a buying agent for a client interested in purchasing a peasant house in the villages that dot the wine producing areas of Oltenia province in SW Romania. In the inter-war period, the peasants from the wine producing regions of Romania got relatively prosperous and started to acquire modern furniture and durable household items. These were destined, as was the Art Deco style bedroom furniture set shown here, for the best room of the house, well looked after and preserved as family heirlooms. The furniture in this case could be sold with the house or separately, making it an interesting and affordable acquisition for anyone interested in Art Deco antique artefacts.

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

From Country Mansion to Village Hall and Back Again

An old country mansion dating from early c20th, built by the local aristocrat/ landlord, in what was perhaps initially a neo-classical style, for use as his residence and farm administrative headquarters. Olt county. (©Valentin Mandache)

The mansion in the image above was confiscated by the communist regime in late 1940s as part of the communist takeover of the private property in Romania, subsequently used as a village hall until early 1990s, then given back to the descendants of the pre-communist owners and now as the result of a lingering property bubble that affects the country, is on the market for huge price tag, much higher than better quality period property from Southern France or Tuscany, left to deteriorate and out of reach of anyone willing to properly restore or renovate it. This is the usual sad trajectory followed by many of the historic houses that dot Romania.

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

Daily Image 4-Feb-10: “Little Paris” House as Potential Renovation Project

One of the abundant Bucharest examples of a picturesque "Little Paris" style house (Romania provincially interpreted French c19th architecture), provided with a little front garden, dating from 1900s. In my view that type of house would constitute one of the most rewarding renovation projects, in terms of heritage conservation and resale/ rent revenue, for anyone willing to undertake such an effort. Romana area. (©Valentin Mandache)

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I endeavor through this daily image series to inspire appreciation of the historic houses of Romania, a virtually undiscovered, but fascinating chapter of European architectural 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 locating 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 Style House in Early 1900s Photograph

Photograph taken in early 1900s of a newly built Neo-Romanian style house, Pitesti, Arges county.

The above old photograph shows a magnificent Neo-Romanian style house located in Arges county, today much altered and in bad repair, put on the market by its owners (presumably property flippers) and advertised by estate agents as “Austrian baroque” building, with a huge price tag, characteristic of the property bubble mentality that still lingers around in Romania. Old photographs of period houses, from the public archives or private sources, are among the most important resources for a restoration/ renovation project. With the passing of time many of those houses were altered and in some cases modified beyond recognition. The problem is even more acute in the particular cases of countries that have suffered wars and social upheavals as in Eastern Europe.  Ironically, in Romania, the most destructive period for historic houses is in the last twenty years since the fall of communism, when imperfect property and heritage legislation, coupled with the ignorance of many among the locals about their own history and heritage resulted in a veritable massacre of the country’s valuable old architecture. There are however some individuals and organisations that have gone in the right direction and put great effort an money in restoring and renovating historic houses. Unfortunately in many instances those projects are done by ear, without proper expert documentation and advice. Consulting archives, photographs from the family of the former owners, old newspapers or interviewing local historians is seen in many instances as a distracting and time consuming pernickety. I am afraid that what remains today from the beautiful house in the photograph above will share the unfortunate fate of countless many other period properties in Romania.

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I endeavor through this daily image series 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 locating 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 Shops and Flats Building

A harmonious, reduced to essence design of a late 1920s Neo-Romanian style building, purpose built for use as shops on the ground level and residential apartments on the upper floor. The central gateway gives access to a small interior courtyard. Natiunile Unite area, Bucharest. (©Valentin Mandache)

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I endeavor through this daily image series 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 locating 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.