Fin de Siècle Romanian royal wedding and architecture

Because the whole planet seems now captivated by the recent wedding of Prince William and Catherine Middleton, now Duchess of Cambridge, I thought it would be a good idea to post an article touching the subject of historic Romanian architecture in the context of another wedding, more than a century ago, involving Romanian royals. Bellow is a very rare old postcard depicting the official cavalcade accompanying Marie, the Princess of Edinburgh, freshly made a Princess of Romania through the marriage with Crown Prince Ferdinand, when she first arrived, after the marriage ceremony and honeymoon, in her adopted country on the 24 January (4 Feb.- Julian calendar) 1893. Marie’s coach is seen acclaimed by Bucharest’s citizens, passing by two of the city’s architectural landmarks of the late Victorian era: the Unirii Market Hall (in the background), a large and beautiful iron frame structure similar with the ubiquitous Les Halles Centrales found in many of the late c19th French towns and the majestic Beaux Arts style building of the Brancovensc Hospital Establishment (in the foreground). Both these wonderful edifices, so important for Bucharest’s identity, were savagely demolished by the communist authorities in the mid-1980s, during dictator Ceausescu’s infamous vast and architecturally coarse remodelling of large areas of central Bucharest for his infamous “Victory of Socialism” project. That area is today full of ugly and badly maintained massive communist apartment blocks, which are also among the most expensive properties in Romania’s capital- a measure of the dismal level of culture and confused identity of the post-communist inhabitants of this city.

The arrival of Princess Marie of Edinburgh/ Romania in Bucharest, in Feb (Julian calendar) 1893, passing by the Brancovenesc Hospital building and Unirii Market Hall (old postcard dated 1901, undivided back, Diana & Valentin Mandache collection)

For more information on Queen Marie of Romania see “Marie of Romania. Images of a Queen” by Diana Mandache, Rosvall Royal Books, 2007.

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I endeavour through this series of periodic 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 or selling a historic property in Romania or start a renovation project, I would be delighted to advice you in sourcing and transacting the property, specialist research, etc. To discuss your particular plan please see my contact details in the Contact page of this weblog.

Bucharest Art Deco apparent heights II

I recently found and photographed another interesting instance of what I call “Art Deco apparent heights”, a beautiful optical impression of svelteness and stature achieved by the gifted inter-war Bucharest architects in their designs, despite the frequent unpromising limitations imposed by the diminutive plots of land available for construction in this perennially crowded city. That visual effect can be seen in the excellently designed round corner (streamline) balconies shown in the images bellow, the creation of the architect Jean Stefan Burcus, embellishing a small mid-1930s apartment block from the Dorobanti area of Bucharest. In September 2010 I documented on this blog another such interesting “apparent heights” case (click here to access the image) in a building designed by the Zilberman architectural bureau in 1935. I like the clever use of the “rule of three” peculiar to the Art Deco style, visible here in the number of balconies, their three stepped bottoms and the strips adorning the balcony fence. The first photograph is a black and white image, while the second one bellow is seen through a violet-green-orange gradient filter, resulting in a beautiful, in my opinion, modernist-like poster of the commercial advert of the 1930s era.

Bucharest Art Deco apparent heights, black & white filter (©Valentin Mandache)
Bucharest Art Deco apparent heights, gradient violet-green-orange filter (©Valentin Mandache)

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I endeavour through this series of periodic 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 or selling a historic property in Romania or start a renovation project, I would be delighted to advice you in sourcing and transacting the property, specialist research, etc. To discuss your particular plan please see my contact details in the Contactpage of this weblog.

Art Deco “ocean liner” façade

The Art Deco style house presented bellow dates from the early 1930s and is an interesting rendering of the ocean liner theme within its generous street façade. The ocean liner allusions are  seen in the upper row of three porthole windows or the semicircular round profile, boat stern like, of the stairs tower on the left hand side of the building, crowned by an upper deck like veranda, next to a prominent chimney stack in the fashion of a ship funnel. The small balcony reminds me of the emergency boats hanging on the side of seagoing ships. I like the triangular profile bay windows on the right hand side of the house, which very intelligently suggest the bow of the boat. The short columns delineating the first floor windows are also a stylistic delight, being endowed with rich leaf motif capitals, suggesting the luxuriant vegetation of the southern seas, where the inter-war Bucharest people were longing to escape, if not for real, then in an imaginary way, transporting themselves there in their magnificent Art Deco ocean liner-like houses…

Art Deco façade, early 1930s house, Aviatorilor Square area, Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)
Art Deco house dating from the early 1930s, Aviatorilor Square area, Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)
Art Deco column with leaf motif capital, early 1903s house, Aviatorilor Square area, Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)

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I endeavour through this series of periodic 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 or selling a historic property in Romania or start a renovation project, I would be delighted to advice you in sourcing and transacting the property, specialist research, etc. To discuss your particular plan please see my contact details in the Contactpage of this weblog.

The Great Fire of Bucharest: archaeological finds

Bucharest has been beset by many tragedies throughout its five centuries of recorded history, from invasions of the Ottoman, Russian and Austrian armies, to plagues or destructive earthquakes and floods. The most devastating such event, in the context of its time, has been the Great Fire of Bucharest that occurred on 23 March 1847. It was a huge conflagration that swept though most of the mid-c19th the commercial and residential areas of old Bucharest. There are many accounts in the press, letters or private diaries of that era, but to date no proper research has been produced or published on the subject of this catastrophe, a symptom of the low quality level of historical scholarship in contemporary Romania. From an architectural point of view, the Great Fire is important because by wiping out most of the Ottoman Balkan central built area of the city, it freed ground for the erection of new buildings inspired from the French c19th historicist styles, that gave rise to what I call the Little Paris style. That architecture, which had its first green shoots in the aftermath of that devastating blaze, won Bucharest in the following decades its nickname on the “Little Paris of the Balkans” and will constitute one its hallmarks for the next one and a half century.

In early 2011, the mayoralty has started works for a large underground car park in the University area, which lays on the northern fringes of the zone reached by the Great Fire. The digs, now investigated by archaeologists, as required by the urban planning laws, are clearly revealing the stratum of burned out material generated by the conflagration, also yielding a diversity of artefacts that bear traces of intense fire. Bellow are a series of old engravings depicting the Great Fire of 1847 interlaced with photographs which I recently made there.

Old engraving depicting the Great Fire of Bucharest, 1847 (source: Adevarul newspaper)

The Great Fire was started by a teenage boy firing a handgun into a loft full of dry hay, a fact that gives you an image of Bucharest as a true frontier city on the wild fringes of Europe, in the Balkans, similar in many aspects with the rapidly developing cities of the US mid-West or of Russian East of that era.

The Great Fire of Bucharest, 1847; traces in the University area as seen in April 2011 (©Valentin Mandache)

The photograph above shows the archaeological investigations into the current digs for an underground car park in the University area. Note the thick black stratum of burned out material dating from the time of the conflagration. It was chronicled that the conflagration lasted for many days, some accounts mention even weeks, but I doubt their accuracy.

Old engraving depicting the Great Fire of Bucharest, 1847 (source: Adevarul newspaper)

A very illustrative image of the great scale conflagration, engulfing most of old Bucharest, about a square kilometre area of extremely high density habitation and commercial activity, as seen in those March 1847 days from atop the Patriarchy Hill, one of the few remaining safe corners of the city.

Soot traces on pottery from the Great Fire of Bucharest, 1847; traces in the University area as seen in April 2011 (©Valentin Mandache)

The photograph above shows mid c19th pottery bearing traces of intense fire, unearthed by the current archaeological investigations that take place at site of the underground car park works in the University area.

The ash and burned out material generated by the Great Fire of Bucharest, 1847; traces in the University area as seen in April 2011 (©Valentin Mandache)

The extensive stratum of burned out material generated by the Great Fire of 1847, revealed by the car park works in the University area, is marked on the photograph above with red broken lines.

Old engraving depicting the Great Fire of Bucharest, 1847 (source: Adevarul newspaper)

A very telling old engraving of drama suffered by the inhabitants of Bucharest during the conflagration of March 1947: the burning out of the New Saint George’s church.

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I endeavour through this series of periodic 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 or selling a historic property in Romania or start a renovation project, I would be delighted to advice you in sourcing and transacting the property, specialist research, etc. To discuss your particular plan please see my contact details in the Contact page of this weblog.

Flamboyant Art Deco floral theme doorway

Flamboyant Art Deco floral theme doorway, early 1930s house, Gara de Nord area, Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)

We are enjoying an excellent sunny April weather today in Bucharest and to be in tone with this beautiful atmosphere, I would like to share with you this delicious rich floral theme doorway from one of the Bucharest quarters around Gara de Nord (the Northern Train Station) developed in the inter-war period. It it to my knowledge one the most flamboyant such creations in the entire town!

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I endeavour through this series of periodic 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 or selling a historic property in Romania or start a renovation project, I would be delighted to advice you in sourcing and transacting the property, specialist research, etc. To discuss your particular plan please see my contact details in the Contactpage of this weblog.

Exquisite Comarnic wood fretwork for birthday celebration

Today is my birthday and I would like to celebrate it in style🙂 with the photomontage of samples from the extraordinarily flamboyant wood fretwork decorations that adorn the gables, balconies, verandas, columns and often most of the façade of the end c19th houses that line up the main street of the city of Comarnic on the Prahova Valley, north of Bucharest. These are jewels of vernacular architecture created at a time of economic well being in the late Victorian period, when the region greatly benefited from the opening of the first direct railway link between Bucharest and Brasov in Transylvania and from there to the rest of Europe. I recommend anyone visiting this beautiful place, only 90 minutes by train from Bucharest. Unfortunately the Romanian heritage authorities do not promote it in any way and the Comarnic fretwork houses suffer damage and some are even demolished as a result of Romania’s amateurish and misguided tourism industry development policies.

Wood fretwork (end c19th) decorating the high street houses in Comarnic, Prahova Valley (©Valentin Mandache)

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I endeavour through this series of periodic 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 or selling a historic property in Romania or start a renovation project, I would be delighted to advice you in sourcing and transacting the property, specialist research, etc. To discuss your particular plan please see my contact details in the Contactpage of this weblog.

Round-like profile Art Nouveau doorway

Art Nouveau style doorway, Casa Dinu Lipatti (cca 1900s), Catargiu Blvd, Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)

Presented above is the well proportioned round-like profile Art Nouveau style doorway, crowned by an ample and expressive mascaron in the same style, adorning the Dinu Lipatti house in Bucharest. The building is a mixture of styles, including neo-rococo and even some Neo-Romanian elements, in which the Art Nouveau features predominate. The edifice is an early creation of architect Petre Antonescu, one of the most seminal Romanian architects, known especially for his grand Neo-Romanian style edifices. This particular building shows Antonescu’s versatility in many design genres at an early stage in his career.

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I endeavour through this series of periodic 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 or selling a historic property in Romania or start a renovation project, I would be delighted to advice you in sourcing and transacting the property, specialist research, etc. To discuss your particular plan please see my contact details in the Contactpage of this weblog.

Art Deco pavement sign

Art Deco era pavement/ street sign, Ion Campineanu Street, Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)

The photograph presents a stoically surviving street sign, indicating the offices of an inter-war company, carved in marble on the pavement, at the entrance of an Art Deco style apartment building in central Bucharest. I have been always impressed how this very visible sign, in the heart of the city, survived during the communist times, with their vicious ethos against the pre-war free enterprise culture.

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I endeavour through this series of periodic 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 or selling a historic property in Romania or start a renovation project, I would be delighted to advice you in sourcing and transacting the property, specialist research, etc. To discuss your particular plan please see my contact details in the Contactpage of this weblog.

Happy spring 2011 from Diana & Valentin Mandache!

"Historic Houses of Romania" blog, http://www.historo.wordpress.com - internet's most comprehensive resource on Romania's historic architecture

Greetings with the occasion of the spring holidays from Diana and Valentin Mandache! The image presents a freshly blossoming wild bush photographed last Sunday in the Cotroceni historic quarter of Bucharest.

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I endeavour through this series of periodic 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 or selling a historic property in Romania or start a renovation project, I would be delighted to advice you in sourcing and transacting the property, specialist research, etc. To discuss your particular plan please see my contact details in the Contactpage of this weblog.

Art Deco era builder name tablet

The name tablets of architects and builders are a conspicuous and enchanting feature on many of Bucharest’s inter-war public and private edifices. There is a great variety of lettering designs, with the most attractive ones adorning the Art Deco era buildings. The images bellow (grey scale and inverse colour copies of the same photograph) present a builder’s name tablet dating from the second part of the 1930s, which I found during my architectural photography outing yesterday in the Cotroceni area of the city. The name “G. Davys” indicates a person of west European descent, possibly Welsh, working as a developer on the lucrative Romanian property market of that era. I like the highly schematic design of the letters and their excellent inner proportion. The inverse colour filter image (second bellow) excellently conveys the three-dimensionality of these letters evidenced by the strong late afternoon sunshade of that day.

Art Deco era builders name tablet (grey scale filter), Cotroceni area, Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)
Art Deco era builders name tablet (inverse colour filter), Cotroceni area, Bucharest ©Valentin Mandache

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I endeavour through this series of periodic 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 or selling a historic property in Romania or start a renovation project, I would be delighted to advice you in sourcing and transacting the property, specialist research, etc. To discuss your particular plan please see my contact details in the Contactpage of this weblog.