A happy new year for 2015!

2015
Phoenix bird raising from burning flames, adorning the facade of a late phase Neoromanian style house, dating from the late 1930s in Kiseleff area of Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)

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I endeavour through this series of periodic articles to inspire appreciation of Romania’s historic houses and its region in South East Europe, 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 advise you with specialist research, sourcing and marketing the property. To discuss your particular plan please see my contact details in the Contact page of this weblog.

Spanish inspired architecture in inter-war Bucharest

Spanish inspired architecture in inter-war Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)

The image, shown in true (above) and inverse (bellow) colours, depicts an entrance corridor giving access from the street gate to the garden of a late 1930s grand house in Icoanei area of Bucharest, in one of the many Mediterranean inspired styles developed in those very prosperous  years for the economy of Romania, after the Great Depression and before the conflagration of the Second World War. The particular design of this edifice, designed by architect George Damian, models that of a Spanish medieval mansion, imagined under the Iberian burning sun, which is very fitting for the Romanian high summer climate, when temperatures can get close to 40 centigrades for weeks long, as is the case in this July 2012.

Spanish inspired architecture in inter-war Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)
Spanish inspired architecture in inter-war Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)

“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.

Dragon lamp

Image from last Sunday’s walking tour which I organised in Gradina Icoanei area of Bucharest. It is a wall lamp representing a fearsome dragon, which through the fire flames billowing out of its mouth suggest its role as a light appliance, acting also as the symbolic protector of the family living in that house. The artefact and the building are designed in what I term as the fairytale castle style architecture, popular in Bucharest and other large Romanian towns during the prosperous period of the late 1930s.

Dragon wall lamp, late 1930s fairytale castle style architecture, Icoanei area, Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)

Phoenix bird rainsing from fire

Phoenix bird raising from fire flames motif, late 1930s Art Deco and Neo-Romanian style house, Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)

I photographed the above Art Deco – Neo-Romanian fusion style Phoenix bird during a bitter cold day last January, and found it intensely expressive, conveying an upbeat sense of positiveness amid the winter gloom and cold. The design is remarkable in my opinion, being an work of art beautifully sculpted in a soft yellow sandstone. I like how the bird looks at the passers by, communicating its enigmatic message by eye contact with those who care to raise their head above the street level and look at the panel; at least that is my impression. I remember a similar such eye contact with and work of art when I encountered the extraordinary gaze of the ancient Constantinople bronze horses from the Saint Mark’s Cathedral in Venice when I visited the place more than a decade ago…

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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.

Exquisitely carved wooden columns

An exquisite example of composite style (Inter-war Venetian, Ottoman Balkan, Iberian) wooden columns embellishing the veranda of a late 1930s house, Icoanei area, Bucharest. (©Valentin Mandache)

The carving of the wooden columns in the photograph above must have been the work of a master carver of a rare talent. The design is a seamless blend of styles that were popular in the 1930s Bucharest, such as what I call the Inter-war Venetian, Ottoman Balkan outlines and even echoes of Spanish Neo-Renaissance.

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I endeavor through this daily series of daily 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 a historic property in Romania or start a renovation project, I would be delighted to advice you in sourcing the property, specialist research, planning permissions, restoration project management, etc. To discuss your particular plan please see my contact details in the Contact page of this weblog.

Neo-Romanian monkey

Neo-Romanian style Garden of Eden as jungle scene representation, late 1930s house, Kiseleff area, Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)

The Neo-Romanian style decorative panels depict most usually themes from the Romanian peasant mythology or Byzantine church imagery. These are expressed in decorative motifs containing animal and plant symbols inspired from the local flora and fauna found in this area of south east Europe at 45 degree north latitude. Among those representations is the omnipresent grapevine plant associated with the tree of life motif or peacocks and doves that express the beauty and serenity of the Garden of Eden. Other typical representations are those of oak leaves, berries, wolves or even bears and squirrels.

The panel above is most unusual and probably unique among the Neo-Romanian style depictions, in the sense that it contains a jungle motif panoply centred on the image of a monkey. That is a portrayal of the Garden of Eden, pointed out by the two gracious peacocks and the two orchids springing up from a flower pot. The sense of abundance is given by the pineapple-like fruit grabbed and eaten by the monkey. I very much like how the monkey sits with its legs on the slender necks of the peacocks.

I believe that the primate species in this panel resembles the macaque monkey, a sacred animal in India and the question that renders itself is: who would have decorated his or her house in this corner of the Balkans with symbols inspired and adapted from the remote Indian environment and creeds? That should be a person notably linked trough profession or travels to that country. The house which sports the panel is a hybrid 1930s inter-war Venetian and Art Deco modernist Italian palazzo inspired edifice.

That kind of a quite opulent building decorated with this combination of symbols should have belonged to a rich person from the Romanian aristocracy or high bourgeoisie, who would have experienced life threatening events and travelled to those sort of exotic places. The person which springs to my mind and fits somehow the bill is the aviator Prince Valentin Bibescu, who has been one of the first and most famous Romanian pilots, an early graduate of Louis Blériot’s school and who in 1931 undertook a famous long distance airplane ride from Paris to Calcutta. The airplane pilot in that era was in most aspects a dangerous profession and Bibescu, for sure, had his fair share of life threatening experiences, which would explain the Phoenix Bird panel. That air-raid to Calcutta would on the other hand explain the Indian flora and fauna inspired panel in a Neo-Romanian guise on that house. Of course that is only a supposition, which has to be further verified and documented, but nevertheless is a starting point of a very intriguing quest. I am looking forward to hearing suggestions from my readers, which would unravel the mistery of that fascinating panel!

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I endeavor through this daily series of daily 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 a historic property in Romania or start a renovation project, I would be delighted to advice you in sourcing the property, specialist research, planning permissions, restoration project management, etc. To discuss your particular plan please see my contact details in the Contactpage of this weblog.

Masonic, Phoenician?… inscription on doorway pediment

The doorway assembly of a house in Spanish Mission style dating from 1932, with a unusual pediment inscription. Kiseleff area, Bucharest. (©Valentin Mandache)

I found in one of my research days in Bucharest in one of the most well-heeled areas of the city an inscription decorating the pediment of an inter-war Spanish Mission style house (one of the very few such design buildings from Romania’s capital) rendered in an unknown script. I tried to identify the letters in various online and paper printed sources, but to no avail. My impression is that the inscription is rendered in a medieval European alphabet revived and used by the Freemasons, who were vigorously active in Romania before the communist take over. I have already identified and published in the recent past photographs and considerations on a couple of long forgotten Masonic signs rendered as architectural decorations in another upmarket area of Bucharest, articles which can be accessed here and at this link. Another theory would be that the writing is Phoenician, the letters resembling somehow that script, my reasoning being that the house should have belonged to someone with Spanish connections (Romania used to have a sizeable Jewish Ladino community before the Holocaust and postwar emigration), as the architectural style would  imply, a land so much linked with the ancient Carthaginian civilisation. Anyway, I very much hope that someone from among my readers would be able to help in identifying the meaning of this peculiar piece of architectural history,.

Masonic or Phoenician inscription? on the doorway pediment of a Spanish Mission style hosue (1932) from the Kiseleff area of Bucharest. (©Valentin Mandache)

PS In February 2011 I received an email from one of my readers, Mr. Ion Musceleanu, who conveyed to me an interesting interpretation of this inscription, made by a specialist in ancient Indo-European linguistics, known to the online community under the nickname Teofil. He considers that the text is in Sanskrit Devanagari, a script derived from the Gupta type, encountered in northern India and Nepal; the first row is a numa (“Gold”, “Golden”, which seems to be slightly misspelt), while the second row means “Fortune”/ “Chance”, again slightly misspelt. I would like to thank Teofil for this interpretation, which hopefully would help deciphering this architectural enigma of Bucharest.

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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.

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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.

A Nice Pile of Bricks

Synthetic style (Bucharest inter-war Venetian and Art Deco) brick columns adorning the access stairway of a mid 1930s house in Cotroceni area of Bucharest. (©Valentin Mandache)

I like the ingenuity of the architect who used simple bricks in order to suggest elaborate columns sustaining ogee arches, pertaining to what I call the inter-war Venetian style, a peculiar architectural design popular in 1930s Bucharest. The house also contains Art Deco motifs and the brick columns display, in my opinion, a synthesis between the inter-war Venetian and Art Deco styles.

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I endeavor through this daily series of daily articles to inspire appreciation of the historic houses of Romania, a virtually undiscovered, but fascinating chapter of European architectural heritage.

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

If you plan acquiring a historic property in Romania or start a renovation project, I would be delighted to advice you in sourcing the property, specialist research, planning permissions, restoration project management, etc. To discuss your particular plan please see my contact details in the Contact page of this weblog.

Venetian Echoes in Inter-war Bucharest Architecture

A house displaying well defined and balanced Venetian style motifs, a decorative order popular in 1930s Bucharest; Vasile Lascar area. (©Valentin Mandache)

The assorted mix of architectural styles of inter-war Bucharest contains, apart from its main components, the Neo-Romanian, Art Deco and Modernist orders, a series of interesting architectural trends and creations of a more peculiar expression, such as what I call the “inter-war Venetian style”. It became popular in the 1930s at a time of intense cultural links with Italy (Romania even maintained a research institute in Venice, set up in 1930) and evolved from the Venetian Renaissance component of the stylistic background on which the Neo-Romanian architecture was initially based. A good example is the house in the photograph above, that displays crisp, well balanced Venetian style details such as thin columns, Venetian type capitals, balcony’s latticework decoration, etc. I especially like the way how the slender column of the balcony, supporting an airy pergola, breaks the monotony of the façade and smoothens the contrast between the group of tall columns in the background and the short height of the balcony fence, an excellent visual solution that highlights the talent of the local inter-war architects.

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I endeavor through this daily image series to inspire appreciation of the historic houses of Romania, a virtually undiscovered, but fascinating chapter of European architectural heritage.

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

If you plan acquiring a historic property in Romania or start a renovation project, I would be delighted to advice you in locating the property, specialist research, planning permissions, restoration project management, etc. To discuss your particular plan please see my contact details in the Contact page of this weblog.