Tour: Bucharest as the Little Paris of the Balkans – Sunday 22 October

Dear readers,

I would like to invite you to a thematic walking tour, to take place on Sunday 22 October 2017, between the hours 11.30h – 13.30h, on the subject of the late c19th – early c20th French and western historicist inspired architecture of Bucharest, which made the city known to the rest of world as the “Little Paris of the Balkans”, a phenomenon that imprinted the personality of Romania’s capital ever since. The tour may be of interest to any of you visiting the city as a tourist or on business, looking to find out more about its fascinating historic architecture and character.

The first building boom of modern era Bucharest happened during the period aptly named La Belle Époque, which corresponds with the late Victorian and early Edwardian epochs for the English speaking world (or Gilded Age in the US). It was characterised by a charming architecture inspired especially from the flamboyant neo-baroque, neo-rococo and also neo-gothic forms fashionable in France, a country seen by the Romanians of that time as a beacon of culture worthy to emulate, and from other west European states held in high regard by the then young Balkan nation. The local architecture thus acquired a personality of its own, combining the new forms with the indigenous and Ottoman traditional motifs and construction methods, resulting in what I call, as an umbrella term, the “Little Paris style”. This is a type of architecture peculiar to the Fin de Siècle urban Romania and also to a lesser extent to the rest of the Balkans, reflecting the modernisation of the society and fusion in architecture of the western fashions together with ancestral forms. Bucharest is the best place in the entire south-east of Europe to view and study that peculiar type of architecture, which because of its still high density of buildings in various states of preservation, continues to be an important component of the local architectural heritage and identity. In the course of this tour I endeavour to show you some of the representative Little Paris style buildings found in central Bucharest, explain their architectural intricacies and the economic and social history contained within and without their walls, and thus convey how amazing the Little Paris style is.

The tour costs Lei 60 (Romanian currency) per person, book by emailing v.mandache@gmail.com or using the comments section of this post. You will be informed of meeting place on booking.

I look forward to seeing you at the tour,

Valentin Mandache/ Historic Houses of Romania – Case de Epoca (tel: 0040 (0)728323272)

Architectural walking tour – Bucharest as the Little Paris of the Balkans with Valentin Mandache
Architectural walking tour: Bucharest as the Little Paris of the Balkans

***********************************************

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 Contact page of this weblog.

Tour in Berthelot area

Historic Houses of Romania tour in Berthelot areaDear readers,

I would like to invite you to a Historic Houses of Romania walking tour, in the area centered on Mathias Berthelot Street, just north of Cismigiu Park, which is a repository of some of the most representative period architecture imprinting the personality of Romania’s capital, akin to an open air museum of its built heritage.

The tour is scheduled to take place this Sunday 20 August 2017, between the hours 11.30h – 13.30h. This cultural excursion could be of interest to any of you visiting Romania’s capital as a tourist or on business, looking to understand the character of this metropolis through discovering its peculiar and fascinating old architecture.

Mathias Berthelot, whose name is given to the main street in the area, was a French general of the Great War era, who in 1916 became the commander of the Allied mission tasked with reorganising and equipping Romania’s Royal Army, thus enabling it to effectively oppose the Central Powers and hinder their plans to occupy the country. For his achievements he was made a honorary citizen of Romania and is considered a hero of both countries. The French influence is also prevalent in the architecture of Berthelot urban space, seen in an array containing quaint Little Paris style residences, displaying Art Nouveau decorations besides, palazzos, and the best of them all, the French Renaissance inspired Kretzulescu Palace, one of the town’s iconic buildings, erected in the Read more

The structural entrails of a Bucharest Little Paris style house

Examination of structural details exposed on a Little Paris style house in ruin, in Berthelot area of Bucharest. Although this is a tragedy for the local heritage, at least among the complete indifference of most of the local public, the few of us who care about the built heritage can examine at close quarter how those houses were built and what type of material were used more than a century ago during the La Belle Epoque period. This knowledge can prove useful when the tide of public opinion will turn into the favour of preserving such buildings.

***********************************************

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 advise 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.

What is the Little Paris style? – an example

The architecture of Bucharest between the 1870s until the country entered the Great War in 1916, is characterised by what is called the Little Paris style, a provincial imitation of historicist styles fashionably especially in France of the La Belle Epoque period. It is one of the reason why the town is known as the “Little Paris of the Balkans”. An example from that architecture, a former shop from the 1890s decade, in Lipscani area, is given as a telling example in this video.

***********************************************

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 advise 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.

Let’s go and see a “wagon” type house

Wagon type house spotting in Bucharest.

***********************************************

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 advise 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.

Heralding a new century

The old houses of a town like Bucharest offer interesting clues about the social history, architecture, expectations and aspirations of those who built those houses, all of those decades and centuries ago. In this video I will discuss how the rendering of the inauguration year of a Little Paris style house encompasses those feelings at the passing between the c19th to the c20th.

Garden colours in October

The side garden of a Little Paris style house in Icoanei area of Bucharest
The side garden of a Little Paris style house in Icoanei area of Bucharest

Bucharest is a large town deficient in parks, which are in constant threat to be concreted over, and houses with small yards, more frequently used as storage space or garage, rather than garden. Those yards are commonly much smaller than the plot occupied by the house, a consequence of the urban high density living in historic quarters, and in general are treated as a sort of Cinderella, the owner being focused chiefly on the brick and mortar part of the property.

What makes that situation palatable, is the human dimension of many of Bucharest’s historic houses, and the fact that through their decorative details and building materials, a good degree of integration with the local natural environment is achieved. The houses expounding eloquently that context are the ones from the Read more

The stair spur

Due to mud and dust prevalent on the streets of Bucharest and other towns of Romania of the La Belle Epoque period (the last quarter of the c19th, until the Great War), people, especially those from the richer strata of the population had to find ways to keep their clothes clean and look smart. One of those devices was the stair spur, helping ladies in elaborate long skirts , and also some gentlemen with expensive shoes, to step down from horse drawn carriages straight onto the stairs of a house and then enter it without having any contact with the dirt on the street or courtyard. This video shows some of those still surviving stair spurs of central Bucharest.

Bucharest early wrought iron doorway awning

Bucharest doorway wrought iron and cast lead doorway awning dating from the early 1890s. (Valentin Mandache)
Bucharest doorway awning made from wrought iron and cast lead, dating from the early 1890s, Patriarchy Hill area. (©Valentin Mandache)

This is an early type of Little Paris style doorway awning, dating from the early 1890s, being a precursor of the clamshell one, which was typical of the Art Nouveau fashions. Most of these examples, now rare, are in a bad state of repair, and despite the fact that they are important markers of Bucharest’s architectural identity and history, remain uncared and unloved, ignored or even sold for scrap iron, a reflection how the local citizens, after the decades of communism and shallow post-communist transition, value their heritage.