Ottoman Balkan and Neo-Romanian type house

The quaint looking Ottoman Balkan and early Neo-Romanian type house, presented in the photographs bellow, dating probably from the last two decades of the c19th, sits in the backyard of the Military Topography Department of Romania’s Ministry of Defence, in the Ion Mihalache boulevard area. The building is probably one of this army branch’s first headquarters, left as a piece of heritage, as more modern edifices were erected in its vicinity in the subsequent decades.

Ottoman Balkan and Neo-Romanian type house, late c19th, Ion Mihalache area, Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)

The structure is typical for the domestic architecture in the region of northern Ottoman Balkans, where similar buildings, dating from the mid c18th until late c19th, are encountered nowadays also in Bulgaria or European Turkey. The house has a symmetric arrangement, sits atop a “half buried” basement, with a big protruding veranda adorned with wooden ethnographic poles that sustain large decorative column pediments adorned with floral motifs in stucco, forming three-lobed (a references to the Christian trinity) broken arches between columns.

Ottoman Balkan and Neo-Romanian type house, late c19th, Ion Mihalache area, Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)

The pediments are also sometimes crowned by a rich frieze of wooden fretwork (as can be seen in the above image). This genre of house was typically built by Christian small traders or or small landowners of the late Ottoman era.

Ottoman Balkan and Neo-Romanian type house, late c19th, Ion Mihalache area, Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)

What is unusual in this example is the presence of early Neo-Romanian style elements, seen in the decoration of the doorway (see the second photograph), the window pediments or the wall frieze, which were probably added as this patriotic style became popular in the last decade of the c19th, fusioning with local consecrated styles such as the Little Paris in urban areas or Ottoman Balkan in countryside or provincial towns as we can see here (the Ion Mihalache area was in that period a good few kilometres away from Bucharest).

Ottoman Balkan and Neo-Romanian type house, late c19th, Ion Mihalache area, Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)

The window pediments and the wall frieze as seen in the above and bellow photographs are picturesque references to the late medieval church architecture of Wallachia (Curtea de Arges cathedral inspired motifs).

Ottoman Balkan and Neo-Romanian type house, late c19th, Ion Mihalache area, Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)

The building has most probably endured many renovations and transformations in the last century of its existence, but it is still conserving quite accurately its transitional architectural character from an Ottoman Balkan design to timid, but eloquent early Neo-Romanian style elements, making it an excellent sampler of the cultural atmosphere of that era of intense transformations in Romania.

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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 Contact page of this weblog.

Potlogi Palace: imagination & restoration

The Neo-Romanian architectural style is based on a multiplicity of sources from throughout the regions of Romania, chiefly among them churches and palaces built during a period centred on the reign of the Wallachian prince Constantin Brancoveanu (1688 – 1714). The architecture developed throughout that era is usually termed as Brancovan (other terms are Wallachian or Romanian Renaissance), representing a very peculiar, flamboyant mix of southern Romanian and Ottoman Islamic motifs together with European Renaissance (northern Italian) and baroque elements. Unfortunately, not many of those extraordinary buildings are still around, due to wars, frequent invasions by armies of the neighbouring empires, earthquakes or devastating great fires. Also an important proportion of the remaining edifices were in the course of time heavily altered.

The relative scarcity of such archetype structures, was something about which even Ion Mincu, the initiator of the Neo-Romanian style, complained about at the end of the c19th. Consequently many of the old Brancovan buildings had to be reconstructed in the modern era on the basis of disparate surviving fragments, using a a great deal of imagination in putting them together.

A case in point is that of Potlogi Palace, presented in images bellow, built by the prince Constantin Brancoveanu at the height of his power and during the flourishing of the Brancovan style in Wallachian arts and architecture.

Potlogi Palace, late c17th, southern Romania

The edifice, completed in 1698 – ’99, was destroyed by an invading Ottoman force just a decade and a half later, in 1714, as part of the reprisals for prince’s supposed collaboration with Peter the Great of Russia, and left in a Read more

Neo-Romanian style columns

Neo-Romanian style columns adorning 1920s and '30s houses, Dorobanti area, Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)

One year ago I published on this blog a photomontage of gracious Neo-Romanian style colums that embellish private and public buildings throughout Bucharest. The new collage presented above contains again just a small sample from the great diversity of such artefacts that I found during a simple architectural photography outing last Sunday in the Dorobanti quarter of Bucharest. Often the Neo-Romanian columns are short and quite chunky, reflecting their origin in the Byzantine and Ottoman church architecture, at which is added a hint of Baroque influences, found in late medieval examples of ecclesiastical edifices in Wallachia (a combination of traits called the Brancovan style or Romanian Renaissance in specialist literature). That is the typology reflected by the columns in the above example with the exception of the upper right one, which is an interesting composition that leans toward what I usually call the Inter-war Venetian style version of the Neo-Romanian order, displaying an exuberance of grapevine motifs from leaves to grape fruit arranged together in three delicate design registers on the shaft and capital.

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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.

Little Paris style roof eave

Little Paris style roof eave, 1890s house, Filaret area, Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)

This image is a telling example of what Bucharest’s Little Paris style is about- a Romanian provincial manner interpretation, during Fin de Siècle period, of French c19th historicist style fashionable at that time in the country and in a somehow lesser degree throughout the former Ottoman domains of the Balkan peninsula (ie the neo-Rococo elements  seen in this instance in the pediment and classical-like pilasters and capitals) combined with Ottoman – Balkan motifs (the flowery cassettes making up the frieze, the rope motif on its base, the intricate wooden roof eave support arms, the elongated wrought iron ornaments decorating the trough on the roof edge, etc.)

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I endeavour 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.

Neo-Romanian – Art Deco syncretism style doorway

A magnificent Neo-Romanian - Art Deco syncretism style doorway, early 1930s house, Domenii area, Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)

I found the doorway in the image above as marvellously expressing in a flamboyant manner the syncretism between the Neo-Romanian and Art Deco styles that characterised the Romanian architectural scene of the 1930s. The Islamic motif ornaments originating in the Ottoman and Persian art from which the Neo-Romanian style draws a great deal of inspiration, with their angular geometry, represent the background on which the Art Deco outlines can develop in a natural manner. That can can be seen here in the mihrab like outlines of the small courtyard gate, the doorway windows ironwork or the resplendent group of three plaster ogee arches of the door pediment.

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I endeavour 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 Contact page of this weblog.

Ethnographic identity veranda poles

Ethnographic veranda poles, mid-1930s Neo-Romanian house, Campina, southern Romania (©Valentin Mandache)

This is a well preserved example of veranda poles adorning a large mid 1930s Neo-Romanian style house in central Campina, southern Romania, inspired from the ethnographic motifs of Prahova county. The main particularity of this ethnographic province is that it features a mix of Carpathian and Ottoman Balkan (especially Bulgarian-like) ethnography. The Carpathian ethnographic motifs and artefacts are typically very geometric and angular, a sort of “peasant cubism” reflecting the artistic traditions of a population settled in the area since the first arrivals of the Indo-European populations more than five millennia ago, seen here in the shape and symbols of the capitals adoring the poles. The Ottoman Balkan ethnography is characterised by a more cursive, round geometry with floral motifs, reflecting the influence of the subsequent waves of populations that settled the area in the course of history from Slavs and especially Central Asian origin Turkish populations, seen here in the motifs embellishing the poles’ base. The veranda poles presented in this photograph, the creation of a talented and well informed inter-war Romanian architect, display excellently in their choice of motifs the ethnographic identity of the people of the area where the house was built; it is practically a statement of regional Prahova county identity.

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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 Contact page of this weblog.

Early Neo-Romanian style pattern

Early Neo-Romanian style pattern decorating the exterior walls of a late 1890s house in the St Joseph's Cathedral area, Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)

The pattern contains the representation of the lilac leaf motif, popular in the Art Nouveau and also early Neo-Romanian style (itself, at that stage, one of the many national-romantic styles that developed within the general Art Nouveau movement coordinates). I encountered, during my fieldwork in the city, a number of such exquisite early Neo-Romanian houses that display this peculiar pattern, as is the window example documented in this article, a decorative pattern that seemingly was popular among the craftsmen, architects and house owners of Fin de Siecle Bucharest.

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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.

Balkan region corner shop house

1900s corner shop house, Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)

The building above is one of the innumerable end of c19th corner shop establishments (it could have been at one time or another during its existence a grocery, a pub or a restaurant or all of these functions together), provided with living quarters on the first floor, that sprang up in towns throughout the Old Kingdom (how Romania before the Great War territorial changes is often called by the Romanians themselves). The architecture is what I call the Little Paris style, a mixture of provincially interpreted French c19th styles grafted on an Ottoman building fabric. This type of corner shop, where the owner’s family and sometime even the employees were living on the premises has been common throughout the Balkan Peninsula, as far as Anatolia in Turkey and is a reflection of the architectural fashions of the late Victorian Era throughout the region. Today the old Balkan type corner shop is an endangered species, being one of the prime targets for demolition or radical renovation in order to make way for new, more profitable buildings. They constitute, in my opinion, a very picturesque type of edifice, specific to the Balkans and Turkey from an era of interesting Western and Ottoman reciprocal influences. These building can easily find new uses in the today economy, especially in the tourism industry owning to their usually central location and architectural character reflecting the intricate economic and cultural history of this region of Europe, formerly part of the erstwhile Ottoman ream.

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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 Contact page of this weblog.

Early Neo-Romanian style window

Early Neo-Romanian style window, dating from the 1890s, Armeneasca area, Bucharest. (©Valentin Mandache)

The window and the building which it adorns date from the last decade of the c19th, a period when the Neo-Romanian architectural style was still in its infancy. I documented in previous blog articles a number of such exquisite houses, which display decorative and structural features from that fascinating formative period, click here or here to access some examples. This particular window displays an interesting transition between between elements peculiar to the Little Paris style (French c19th historicist styles interpreted in a provincial manner in the late c19th Romania), such as the two classical like columns or the flower garland rim, and Wallachian church and Ottoman decorative elements, where most conspicuous are the type of the broken arch crowning the top of the window and the repeating leaf motif decorating the pediment.

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I endeavor through this 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 Contact page of this weblog.

Rare Arabic inscription on church pediment

Arabic votive inscription on Romanian church doorway, dating from 1747, Old St Spiridon Church, Bucharest. (©Valentin Mandache)

Most of what is now Romania has been for centuries a part of the Ottoman Empire. The principalities of Wallachia and Moldova, and also at a later date Transylvania, where the only autonomous Christian protectorates of this empire, governed by Christian princes, where permanent places of Muslim worship or settlement where not allowed, following special c15th autonomy treaties with the Porte. For about one hundred years, from the beginning of the c18th, Wallachia and Moldova where governed by princes from the great Istanbul Greek families, loyal subjects of the Read more