Art Deco and Modernism in the Balkan capitals

The architecture of the 1930s, and the to a lesser extent of the 1940s, was characterised by an exuberance of Art Deco and Modernist style buildings in the capitals of the Balkan countries. Although the Balkans is a geographical unit, it is very fragmented as regards the national states, cultural and political traditions and rivalries. That is also reflected in the global architectural styles of the inter-war period, which had important local variations, depending of the political orientation and traditional links with the West of each capital. Bucharest was very much influenced by the French and Italian Art Deco and Modernism, while Sofia by the Italian and German ones, while Belgrade by the French and Central European ones, etc. This video charts those differences and approaches, giving an overall view to the architectural phenomenon in those tumultuous decades in the Balkan capitals.

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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.

One thought on “Art Deco and Modernism in the Balkan capitals

  • I think the Art Deco as practiced in Romania and especially Bucharest is quite unique ! Its different from the much more classically inspired Modernism of fascist Italy or the curving sinuous or decorative patterned Deco of Paris, or the severe functional Modernism of Germany or Austria or even the less severe, usually streamlined “New Objectivity’ Modernism of Germany, or the highly decorative Art Deco of the United States skyscrapers. I dont know where it comes from exactly, but the Art Deco of Bucharest is very particular I think, and falls into two streams.

    The smaller house and apartment buildings are usually cubic / rectilinear, sometimes with projecting semicircular balconies, often with extra scoring emphasising the vertical or horizontal or even both ! They also have great patterned gates and doors, the most decorative elements, which you have called cubist, and I think that might be where they came from. These are mostly no doubt not by architects or by architects who designed in what became a popular style, so they are all variations on each other, they are all great, and they are only found in Romania / Bucharest.

    Then there are the larger buildings, like the hotels and offices on Bulevardul Gheorghe Magheru. They are often more severe, a bit closer to German modernism, perhaps mainly horizontal streamlined eg the Lido, and generally without the scored lines, but often with elaborate upper floors, or a tower that steps back in quite a rectilinear, sculptural way – nearly every 1930s building along Bulevardul Gheorghe Magheru has or had them.

    I expect if you trace their development from the first few around 1930, that you would find a variety of approaches at first, and then all the architects tended to coalesce into what became a very distinctive Bucharest Art Deco.

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