This is the third instalment of my article on the iron balconies of Bucharest’s period buildings. In Part 1 I presented considerations on the large scale adoption in this city, starting with the third quarter of the 19th century, of the iron balcony as a functional and decorative architectural element and detailed its typology using examples that adorn buildings in Bucharest’s historic quarters. In Part 2 of the article I discussed the pear shaped wrought iron balcony, the most spectacular and conspicuous balcony type in Bucharest, that had its heydays during the last decade of the 19th and first decade of the 20th centuries, beautifying the Little Paris style buildings erected in Bucharest and all over Romania during that period.
In this post I present in an approximately chronological order examples of UPRIGHT-FENCE iron balconies as they emerged in late 19th century Bucharest to the 4th decade of the 20th century.
I found in my research for the article that for Bucharest the oldest type of iron balcony is the cast iron one. A number houses in Lipscani historic quarter, that architecturally are among the oldest in that area, their facades dating from 1870s, perhaps earlier, have such cast iron balconies. The chunkiness of cast iron ornaments gives them a special charm and because the rarity of this balcony type in Bucharest, it adds to the value of a period property.
However, the wrought iron balcony emerges as the most popular type in Bucharest because of the versatility of that material, enabling the designer to create flamboyant and intricate decorations. Also a wrought iron balcony is easier to adapt to the building facade limitations or particularities, an important aspect in a labyrinthine city such as old Bucharest; see the following example of a wrought iron balcony on a round street corner facade.
In other instances the balcony consisted of corner pillars linked by decorative fences as seen in the following example from Lipscani.
As with their pear shaped counterparts, the upright-fence balconies displayed a wealth of imaginative patterns and in many instances had the monogram of the house owner displayed at the centre of the front panel.
In other examples, the decorative theme of the balcony is used throughout the whole facade of the period building as a key integrative architectural solution.
The Art Deco balconies, represent the third generation of such architectural artefacts in Bucharest, succeeding the cast and wrought iron Little Paris style ones. Bucharest contains many such hidden gems, as in the following images:
The last generation of iron balconies in period Bucharest is that that adorns the Neo-Romanian style buildings, the only grass root architectural order that emerged in Romania (see my guide explaining the origins and feature of this remarkable style). The iron balconies were imaginatively adapted to the proportions and decorative themes of the Neo-Romanian style and became part of Bucharest architectural landscape especially in the third and fourth decade of the 20th century.
The Second World War and the subsequent communist takeover put an end to the evolution and emergence of new exquisite types of iron balconies in Bucharest and the rest of Romania. The architecture became utilitarian, concerned with satisfying the huge need of social housing for the masses of people that moved from countryside to towns, employed in the communist sponsored heavy industry. The fine architecture for domestic buildings became a thing of the past, with Bucharest’s skyline now dominated by vast quarters of unsightly grey apartment blocks.
The iron balconies represent an architectural treasure unfortunately not much prized by the actual inhabitants of this city. They and also the Bucharest authorities have little time and understanding for historical architecture and period properties, the main priorities being to erect non-descript, modern buildings that further damage Bucharest’s heritage and its urban landscape. To properly prize that heritage requires a deeper cultural understanding, which at this point in time is in short supply among a majority of Bucharest’s citizens, victims of the decades long communist cultural brain-wash. However, hope is not lost as there is a nascent gradual realisation, seen in a series of notable recent renovation and restoration works in Bucharest, that the period buildings together with their old iron balconies should be valued in their multiple role as heritage edifices, fine artistic and architectural statements and precious real estate assets that can also increase the attraction and tourist potential of the city. ©Valentin Mandache
If you are interested in acquiring a period property in Romania or start a renovation project, I would be delighted to assist 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.