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 17 March 2019, 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 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.

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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.

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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.

Video-invitation to tour in Domenii quarter

Historic Houses of Romania organises a walking tour on the subject of the Art Deco style architecture of the Domenii quarter of Bucharest, on Sunday, 15 February 2015, between the hours 11.30h – 13.30h. The guide is Valentin Mandache, expert in period buildings. Registrations at v.mandache@gmail.com

Tour video-call: the Little Paris architecture

Historic Houses of Romania organises an architectural walking tour on the theme of the Little Paris style architecture and character of old Bucharest, on Sunday 25 January 2015, between 11.30h – 13.30h. The guide is Valentin Mandache, expert in Romania’s historic houses. To register and Read more

Video-invitation to tour in Patriarchy See Hill area

Historic Houses of Romania organises an architectural walking tour in the Patriarchal See Hill area of Bucharest, on Saturday 24 January 2015, between 11.30h – 13.30h. The guide is Valentin Mandache, expert in Romania’s historic houses. To register and receive details about the location of the starting point of the Read more

Video-invitation: tour in Cotroceni quarter

Invitation to a Historic Houses of Romania – Case de Epoca architectural tour in Cotroceni quarter of Bucharest, scheduled to take place on Sunday 11 January 2015, between 11.30h – 13.30h. The guide is Valentin Mandache, expert in Romania’s historic houses. For details about the Read more

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.

De Stijl and Constructivist forms in the hallway of Frida Cohen House

Among the hidden architectural gems of Bucharest are the Modernist creations of Marcel Iancu (also spelt Janco or Janko), the culture polymath active on the architectural scene of Romania’s capital in the 1920s and the 1930s. Iancu’s buildings encompass his conceptions of art ranging from surrealism, as he was one of the foreruners of that current, Soviet inspired constructivism, functionalism to cubism, Bauhaus or expressionism. The Frida Cohen House, an apartment block, the amplest edifice designed by Iancu, exhibits many of those traits and for me is a delight to continuously discover new such elements with each visit I make there.

Frida Cohen House, arch. Marcel Iancu, 1935, Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)
Frida Cohen House, arch. Marcel Iancu, 1935, Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)

The constructivist and cubist features are obvious when analysing the exterior outlines and volumetry of Frida Cohen building, yet equally if not more fascinating patterns reveal themselves once one steps into the entrance hallway.

Frida Cohen House, arch. Marcel Iancu
Frida Cohen House, arch. Marcel Iancu, 1935, Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)

Remarkable in my opinion is the floor with its grey and black tiles, arranged in a modern painting like figure, in the vein of the De Stijl artistic movement, where the forms although lack simple symmetry, as one would expect in an architectural design, nevertheless achieve a sense of balance through their inner kinetics.

Frida Cohen House, arch. Marcel Iancu
Frida Cohen House, arch. Marcel Iancu, 1935, Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)

The main staircase of this noteworthy building is also a case in point, this time as an example of constructivist design, where the profile of the apparently utilitarian device is an equilateral triangle, a basic geometrical shape, seen, as other fundamental forms, within the Constructivist movement as a pure pattern. The staircase reminds me of one of Iancu’s celebrated affirmations that “the purpose of architecture was a “harmony of forms”, with designs as simplified as to resemble crystals” (Tom Sandqvist, p. 342). To me the crystal suggested by the stairwell contour is undoubtedly a diamond (the tetrahedron of Carbon atoms), which is a metafora for perfect harmony in itself.

Every single creation of Marcel Iancu is, as in the samples illustrated  above, brimful with meanings and symbols pertaining to the the emergence and maturation of the first Modern artistic currents, fostered by epoch making social and economic changes in the period that led up to the Great War and its aftermath decades, a fertile and effervescent period of which Bucharest benefited through the agency of such a hugely talented personality.