I first published this article in November 2010, but took it offline after a short while, due to a series of Romanian blogging sites which were using the photographs and ideas presented here, without giving any credit to my work, a blatant arrogant behaviour typical of the many so-called specialists that currently infest the post-communist cultural scene, including the history of architecture, of Romania. Many among those mediocrities misappropriate and habitually plagiarise other authors’ work, as I also remember a case a year or so ago when someone from the teaching staff at the Bucharest University of Architecture “Ion Mincu”, a lady named Mihaela Criticos, published a book about the Art Deco style, with a multitude of illustrations pulled out from the web, including from my site, without any necessary acknowledgement being made.
In the period between the mid-1920s and the mid-1930s, the Neo-Romanian architectural style has reached its apogee. One of the leading architects who has marked that intensely creative decade, was Toma T Socolescu, the most brilliant scion of a famous family of Romanian architects. The house above, although not very sizeable, represents in my opinion one of his finest creations, which is also excellently preserved. It is located in Campina, a prosperous oil town 90km north of Bucharest, close by another house that I documented in an earlier post (an excellent modernist design, which I hypothesized, correlated with information from the locals, that it was designed by a Wehrmacht architect in the 1940s). Remarkable in this example is the highly elaborated and decorated doorway assembly (the door, the wall dressing and the awning). Also noticeable is the ground-floor balcony terrace overlooking a beautiful small garden. The terrace is overlooked by a decorative shield containing the family monogram, “NP”, decorating the door arch keystone. I would also like to mention here the charming first floor veranda, decorated with interesting wood carved pillars that sustain an interesting bell shaped tiled roof, which was modelled by the architect from roof examples that endow many late medieval Wallachian churches. The roof is crowned by a large Neo-Romanian type finial. I had the opportunity to discuss with the proprietor of this architectural jewel, a senior lady, who gave an abundance of information about the designer and year of construction (1934). She also mentioned the struggle to save and maintain it during the long decades of the communist dictatorship, when part of the property was used by the army as housing for its personnel. The proprietor also mentioned the recent restoration and renovation works, which were undertaken with great care and under her close supervision in order to preserve as much as possible from the old building details and fabric. In my opinion she has managed to do that with excellent competence, the house being now, in my opinion, one of the best restored Neo-Romanian style houses in the entire country. The photomontage above and slide show bellow the text are just a few glimpses of this exquisite house designed and built at the zenith of the Neo-Romanian style.
*********************************************** Prin aceasta serie de articole zilnice intentionez sa inspir in randul publicului aprecierea valorii si importantei caselor de epoca din Romania – un capitol fascinant din patrimoniul arhitectural european si o componenta vitala, deseori ignorata, a identitatii comunitatilor din tara.
Daca intentionati sa cumparati o proprietate de epoca sau sa incepeti un proiect de renovare, m-as bucura sa va pot oferi consultanta in localizarea proprietatii, efectuarea unor investigatii de specialitate pentru casele istorice, coordonarea unui proiect de renovare sau restaurare etc. Pentru eventuale discuţii legate de proiectul dvs., va invit sa ma contactati prin intermediul datelor din pagina mea de Contact, din acest blog.
The Art Deco house presented in these photographs is at first sight a unassuming Bucharest 1930s dwelling, but at a closer look it reveals a few interesting traits that give it personality. The design theme is that of the ocean liner, popular on the architectural scene of Romania’s capital of that era, among a public lusting to travel to exotic places in the southern seas, far away from their dull environment in the middle of the Lower Danube Prairie, in winter exposed to frigid Siberian weather-fronts. The house sits on a small plot of land in a high density habitation area, a situation that no doubt impedes the full appreciation of its design theme.
What drew my attention, was the two more unusual motifs associated with the ocean liner theme, seen in the pictorial signs on its street and courtyard façades, which I marked in the above photograph with red encirclings for better visibility. The street one signifies a boat passenger sitting atop the bow of a liner crossing the ocean waves, while the lateral pictogram symbolises a traveller resting on a coach or getting up from a bed, marking the cabins’ area of the port side of the boat.
Other obvious elements making up the ocean liner theme are the well proportioned staircase tower symbolising the command deck of the ship, embellished with a tall and narrow window where one can detect the motif of sunrise and sunset in its ironwork decoration. There is also a porthole window, unusually positioned at the base of the tower, because of the constricted available space. The assembly is crowned by a flag pole, another important motif of the ocean liner theme panoply.
On the whole, the house, is in my opinion a telling example of how omnipresent the Art Deco style and its themes were among the Bucharest people of those times, and a testimony of the imaginative ways through which the local architects expressesed their clients aspirations.
The Neo-Romanian architectural style is an all encompassing architectural order, which was meant to reflect the way of life, history, traditions and art of the ethnic Romanian communities. Among its more peculiar manifestations is the design of chimney stacks, about which I wrote on this blog another article last year. The ones illustrated here are from the city of Targoviste, the erstwhile capital of the principality of Wallachia, about 80 km north-west on Bucharest, in the foothills of the Transylvanian Alps. They model the medieval fortress towers of which Targoviste is famous through a large citadel keep built about five and a half centuries ago by Vlad the Impaler. The fortress tower motif is also used in the design of Neo-Romanian street fence poles, also epitomising the war torn history of these lands located on the fault-line between Islam and Christianity.
The Neo-Romanian style garden architecture is a bit of a Cinderella among the various design branches in which this order is expressed, although in my opinion is one of the most interesting offshoots of the Romanian national style. A good example in that regard is the garden bench presented in the image above, which I photographed in Cotroceni historic quarter of Bucharest during one of my recent architectural walking tours there. It is practically part of the building, enlivening its garden façade, linking seamlessly edifice and nature. The outlines of the bench are inspired from the shape of princely thrones found in the medieval Ottoman Balkan world. It is quite possible that the garden was also provided with a gazebo in the past decades, such as the one which I documented at this link, which presumably made that space a splendid green corner, so much in tone with the identity of old Bucharest.
I shot this photograph today, late afternoon, in Lipscani quarter of Bucharest, finding it evocative for the city’s atmosphere in wintertime. I like the contrast between the grey sky, fluffy-feathered pigeons, and suggestion of a forthcoming torrid summer conveyed by the two classical mythology personages that adorn the great cupola finial of an old shopping arcade, which dates from the La Belle Époque period.