The city of Oradea in NW Romania is known mainly for its sumptuous, eclectic buildings
The city of Oradea in North western Romania is known mainly for its sumptuous, eclectic and Baroque style buildings. However, Oradea was also open to other architectural styles, less common in their early stages. One such example is the art Nouveau style, which can be traced in Oradea especially in its Viennese version, the Secession style.
As of late, one of the Secession style buildings has been partially refurbished and opened to the public: the Darvas-La Roche House, which bears the name of its initial owner, Imre Darvas, a famous entrepreneur in the wood processing industry. His company was known as the ‘La Roche and Darvas Forestry Enterprise’, as the Swiss banker Alfred La Roche was a shareholder in the company. Actually the ground floor of the house hosted the offices of the company. Built between 1911 and 1912, after plans drawn out by two brothers, architects Vágó József and László, the Darvas la Roche House had many owners and went through many tribulations, especially after World War Two, when the communist regime seized the building. Subsequently, the house was neglected and even devastated by the tenants whom the state relocated on the premises. Furthermore, most of the last owners’ families ended up in the Auschwitz concentration camp.
More details from the happy period of the Darvas-La Roche House are now provided by art critic Ramona Novicov:
Ramona Novicov: “The house was commissioned by a rich Jewish business man, Imre Darvas, who wanted it to be a sort of duplex. The ground floor hosted the offices. Upstairs was the domestic area, tailored for the wife and kids. That was in the year 1910. Back then, the geometric spirit of the house was quite obvious in the decorative patterns of the ceiling and the windows. Everything was designed according to the high standards of pure forms typical of avant-garde Vienna. The Vago brothers were disciples of that Viennese school. Imre Vargas died in 1913, so he enjoyed that beautiful house for just one year. The house was sold to another family of rich Jews, that of lawyer Sor. The elder daughter married one of the two Simon brothers in Cluj. As a result, the brothers settled in Oradea, and the second one betrothed another Jewish woman. In the end, all members of that extended family died in Auschwitz, save for one of the Simon brothers who got married for the second time. Their daughter Judith lived in that house and she wanted it to be included in the town’s heritage. Even if she was made a more generous offer, she favored the municipality.”
All throughout the communist period, many of the original furniture and decoration pieces disappeared or were destroyed. Other were retrieved from other areas of the house, such as the cellar. A typical element of the building were the stained glass windows which have been recently installed back in their original places, where the Vago brothers wanted them to be. Here is Ramona Novicov once again, this time describing a stained glass window as well as other decorative patterns, typical for the Darvas - La Roche House.
Ramona Novicov: ” The Vago brothers’ repertoire was very beautiful, with its birds and all birth and germination-related symbolism, and that feeling of irrepressible life. We found a stained glass window in the basement, but other such windows were stolen, or, let’s say, disappeared, so we made a canvass facsimile, for the public to be able to see what they looked like. Also the radiator guards are very beautiful. In the kitchen, the original floor was preserved with that playful pattern of rhombs and floral elements. Also, the stove is genuine.”
The Oradea Municipality bought the house from Judith Simon, a descendant of the last owners, so refurbishment works will continue. The Darvas – La Roche House is intended to host a museum dedicated to the Art Nouveau style.