“Mission” style balcony

"Mission" style balcony, late 1930s Mediterranean style houses, Dacia area, Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)

The economic prosperity of the mid and late 1930s in Romania, when the country was one of the world’s big oil exporters and an important agricultural producer, had also beneficial consequences for the architectural scene. Innumerable buildings in the Art Deco and Modernist styles were erected and the Neo-Romanian style was at the peak of its its late phase of development through unique syntheses with the Art Deco. One of most interesting evolution of the local architecture was the increased preference among the public for Mediterranean inspired designs. It was an escapist architecture, fulfilling the similar aspirations as the Art Deco ocean liner theme popular in the same period, expressing the desire of the inhabitants of this corner of Europe, bestowed with a harsh winter climate, to escape to the sunnier and balmier places of the Mediterranean. The architecture on this theme developed in a series of sub-currents, spanning from Venetian and Florentine forms to Spanish and Moroccan ones or even fantasy fairy tale castle interpretations. A somehow more minor branch was what I would call the “mission” style, which to me is evocative more of California than of the Mediterranean. An interesting example which I would put in that category is the balcony presented here, located in Dacia area of Bucharest. The wooden elements are exquisite, of pleasant to the eye proportions and still in an excellent state of preservation, now nearly eight decades since their creation.

Regular Neo-Romanian style house

Neo-Romanian style house dating from the late 1920s, Domenii area, Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)

This is a run of the mill type of Neo-Romanian style house dating from the late 1920s, during the mature phase of development of Romania’s national style, just before the Art Deco and Modernist designs and building technologies made their triumphal entrance of the local architectural scene. The house is located in Domenii quarter in north west of Bucharest, a residential quarter developed mostly in the inter-war and wartime years by the upper middle classes. The edifice contains the essential Neo-Romanian features like the aparent cula tower (inspired from the c17h – c19th fortified yeoman houses in Oltenia in south western Romania) that makes up the corner (on the left hand side of the above photograph).

Neo-Romanian style house built in the late 1920s, Domenii area, Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)

Another Neo-Romanian feature is seen in the triptych like windows and veranda, making allusion to the Christian trinity, inspired in their turn from the c18th Wallachian renaissance architecture (known as the Brancovan style).

Neo-Romanian style house dating from the late 1920s, Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)

The doorway awning is also inspired from Brancovan designs encountered at monasteries in Oltenia region.

The house has a heavy aspect due to the use of brick and wood in its structure and not much concrete and steel. It would represent a superb potential renovation and restoration project, which would probably consider the addition of another, more airy, floor in the same style and a new roof in the same manner, using ceramic tiles reminding the wooden shingle that from time immemorial covered the peasant houses in this part of the world.

1900s decorative tiles for birthday celebration

1900s decorative tiles, Ana Aslan Institute, Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)

Today is my birthday and I would like to celebrate it with a photographic array of decorative tiles dating from the 1900s, embellishing the façade of Ana Aslan Institute in Bucharest. The tiles display characteristics peculiar to the Art Nouveau style, one of my favourites. Bellow is a photograph of Diana and me taken yesterday, Sunday, in the near evening hours, after we had a nice celebratory dinner, followed by a walk in the beautiful Icoanei Garden area, surrounded by spring flowers and the soothing sunlight so characteristic of this season and latitude.

Birthday celebration, Bucharest, Icoanei Garden, April 2012

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Bucharest 1870s mascaron

Bucharest 1870s mascaron (©Valentin Mandache)

This is a window apron mascaron, from among a dozen or so that embellish the street façade of painter Gheroghe Tattarescu’s museum in central Bucharest, close to Lipscani, the commercial quarter of the city. Tattarescu is one of the best painters of the first “European” generation of Romanian artists in the mid 1850s, when this region was slowly escaping from the obit of the Ottoman Empire and its cultural models. The painter renovated the house in the late 1850s, resulting in an interesting transition phase between Ottoman and early Little Paris style edifice. My supposition is that this set of mascarons are a later addition, dating from the 1870s, perhaps even later in the 1880s, as I encountered similar types on other Bucharest houses built in that period. This ornament is ceramic (probably terracotta) made and not a stucco application as one might expect. It is also well preserved, on account that the city had throughout the last century and a half much less industrial pollution than other European capitals. Another dating clue could be the hairstyle and pearl necklace of the woman represented at its centre, which to me looks somehow Second Empire style (between 1865 – 1880). In all, the mascaron, is an interesting and beautiful sight on the historic façades of Romania’s capital.

Looking through Victorian era tinted glass

Victorian era (1880s) tinted glass panes, Negustori church, Mantuleasa area, Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)

I experienced some of my most serene moments when looking through the clear and crisp tinted glass panes produced in the Victorian era. In Bucharest there is just a handful of those examples of true industrial art, and most of them are of small dimensions, found as decorations of gazed doorway entrances and some conservatories. A number of local orthodox rite churches also contain basic compositions of Victorian tinted glass. One of those examples is presented in the photographs of this post, which I found decorating the glazed entrance of Negustori church in Bucharest, a quaint edifice in a mixture of c18th Brancovan and c19th European historicist architectural styles and mural paintings. The fresh moss green shade is among the rarest encountered in Bucharest, where more frequent are the ruby ones, followed by purple, dark blue and citrus yellow tinted panes. The second photograph, bellow, shows an image shot through the tinted glass pane, acting as a photographic filter. I believe it conveys something from the beautiful placidity and peace of those times nearly one and a half century ago, here in Bucharest, at the gates of the Orient, a sort of Alice in Wonderland, vision typical of the years when this glass was produced.

Victorian era (1880s) tinted glass panes, Negustori church, Bucharest, Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)

Bucharest old street nameplates

Bucharest old street nameplate (©Valentin Mandache)

I enjoy doing, apart from examining the architectural styles of period houses, what I call “urban archaeology” and discover traces of the old fabric of a city. Illustrated here are two such findings, examples of street name plates still surviving in hidden corners of contemporary Bucharest. The photograph above indicates a street and house number, carved on a marble plate, in the centre of the city, in the lettering style of the the 1900s, while the second photograph is from what in the late 1920s were the new suburbs to the north east of Basarab train station. That date is also betrayed by the lettering style typical of that period and by the vernacular Neo-Romanian style of the house which bears this quaint plate.

Bucharest old street nameplate (©Valentin Mandache)
Bucharest old street nameplate (©Valentin Mandache)