Tour: Kiseleff area & the late Neoromanian style

Dear readers,

I would like to invite you to a thematic walking tour this Sunday 2 September 2018, on the subject of the late phase of the Neo-Romanian architectural style, which unfurled mainly in the fourth and the fifth decades of the c20th, a period when this order peculiar to Romania reached a crisis in terms of expression, mitigated by a fascinating synthesis with the Art Deco, Mediterranean and Modernist styles. The tour takes two hours, between 11.30h – 13.30h, and it may be of interest to those of you visiting the city as a tourist or on business, looking to find out more about its enchanting historic architecture and identity.

The modern construction technologies that emerged in the roaring twenties affording the development of light, airy structures expressed in the Art Deco and Modernist architecture, were quite antithetical to the traditionally ornate, heavy-built Neo-Romanian style edifices, as typical to its early and mature phases. That led to a crisis within this indigenous architectural order, threatened also by the high popularity among the public of the international modern styles or Read more

Tour in central Cotroceni

Walking tour in Cotroceni - central partDear readers,

I would like to propose you an walking architectural tour in Cotroceni quarter, in its central part, encompassing the area between St Elefterie Str. and Dr. Lister Str. The tour is scheduled to take place this Sunday 26 August 2018, between 11.30h – 13.30h. This cultural excursion could be of interest to any of you visiting Romania’s capital as a tourist or on business, looking to understand the character of this metropolis through discovering its peculiar and fascinating old architecture.

The focus points of the central part of Cotroceni are its two parish churches, the Old St Elefterie, an edifice containing 18th c. Brancovan style architecture vestiges, serving now the deaf community, which sits on a former island in the marshes around the Dambovita river, before the quarter started to be developed in the second half of the 19th century, giving us an idea about the local environmental history, and the grand New St Elefterie church, designed by arch. Constantin Iotzu in the 1930s, in the Neoromanian style, its Byzantine persuasion variety, in a period of Romanian national triumphalism. The residential buildings date mostly from the Read more

Considerations on the Wallachian architectural style (aka Brancovan)

The Wallachian style, is a highly original architecture and decorative arts design, which developed within the confines of the Principality of Wallachia, a Christian protectorate of the Ottoman Empire, during the period of stability and prosperity of this great state between the late 17th c and throughout the 18th c. It is a synthesis between local Byzantine traditions, together with Islamic ones, at which is added European Baroque and Renaissance elements. The style is usually named Brancovan or Brancovenesc, which in my opinion is incorrect, not properly and precisely reflecting its geographical and civilisational locus in Wallachia. This video details for you this important chapter of the arts and architecture of the early modern southeast Europe, which has been crucial for the development of the the later Neo-Romanian style, the national style of Romania.

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

My aim, through this series of blog articles, is to inspire appreciation of the historic houses of Romania and Southeast Europe, a virtually undiscovered, but fascinating chapter of world’s architectural history and heritage.

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

If you have a historic house project in Romania or other country in Southeast Europe, I would be delighted to advise you in aspects pertaining to its architectural history and ways to preserve as much as possible from its period fabric and aesthetics in the course of restoration or renovation works, or to counsel you with specialist consultancy work related to that project. To discuss your particular plan please see my contact details in the Contact page of this website.

Building inauguration years rendered architecturally

Building inauguration year in architectural renderings
Building inauguration year in architectural renderings (©Valentin Mandache, Historic Houses of Romania – Case de Epoca)

The photo-collage above is composed by building inauguration year panels rendered architecturally, encountered by the author of this blog on edifices dating from a multitude of historical epochs in Bucharest and other locations in Romania. I used the illustrations as cover photographs for the Historic Houses of Romania – Case de Epoca’s Facebook page. I usually present to the readers a cover photo per week, and the ones here are those scheduled for the first ten weeks of 2014. To find out details about the significance of those years and the buildings hosting them, you can click the links listed below. The links are arranged in the same scheme as the architecturally rendered years mentioned in the collage.

1900 : 1569

1894 : 1666

1724 : 1857

1908 : 1889

1898 : 1879

Art Deco apartment doors

Although today in Bucharest the temperatures were hovering around -12 centigrades, being freezing cold and blowy, my spirit, at least, was warmed up by a visit to an Art Deco style apartment that in part evoked much warmer climates and sunnier lands, a theme often encountered in this town’s Art Deco architecture.

The interior of the dwelling does not have much left from its original features, except the doors. The original wall and ceiling mouldings, the 1930s windows, bathroom and kitchen tiles and fittings, were replaced in the last few years by the owner, a “young artist”, who judging from the results of her misguided effort, is in fact is a typical Romanian period house proprietor, nurturing arrogant dreams about the money value of their real estate, but completely oblivious regarding its artistic and heritage worth. The doors remained in place, presumably because the owner ran out of money, splashed on the other “improvements”, otherwise I would have seen plastic made portals bought triumphantly from a DIY shop.

Art Deco apartment doors
Art Deco apartment doors, arch. B. Zilberman, 1935, Matei Basarab area (©Valentin Mandache)

The main door, pictured above, is a composition of panels displaying at its centre the rule of three, typical of the Art Deco, with the others arranged around in a gamma cross array, a cosmic motif that I encountered quite frequently in the ornamentation pertaining to this design in the Bucharest of the fourth decade of the c20th, associated usually with the nazi movement, which I believe was not the case here, as the block where this apartment belongs, was inhabited by Jewish families. The door’s lower register contains two overlapping semicircles, signifying the rising and setting sun of the southern seas.

Art Deco apartment doors
Name plate of arch. B. Zilberman on apartment block built in the early 1930s, Matei Basarab area, Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)

The apartment block dates from the mid-1930s and is located in Matei Basarab area, the architect being B. Zilberman, a designer with numerous commissions in that quarter, which in that period had a large Jewish population. His name and the fact that he is a graduate of the architectural school in Milan are proudly displayed in a name tablet on one of the exterior walls of the building.

Art Deco apartment doors
Art Deco apartment doors, arch. B. Zilberman, 1935, Matei Basarab area (©Valentin Mandache)

The bedroom door, seen in the third photograph, was narrower, but of wonderful proportions, preserving the gamma cross motif made from panels radiating a central window made from six openings. The lower register in this instance was embellished with three horizontal bars, according to the rule of three mentioned above.

Art Deco apartment doors
Art Deco apartment doors, arch. B. Zilberman, 1935, Matei Basarab area (©Valentin Mandache)

I like the three steps motif decorating the panel overhead the dressing room door, clearly enlivening the rest of the bedroom and diminishing the sense of weight generated by the unfortunate choice of wall colour by the contemporary owner.

These doors, survivors from happier times in the brave new world of Romania’s post-communist society, are important for the local architectural identity and also worth some money, even if the locals do not realise that yet. My hope is that the citizens of Bucharest and the country will start recovering through those witnesses their civic pride and appreciate the creations of their forebearers, who were certainly more sophisticated than their descendants.