Prominent Romanian architects in early 20th century

prominent romanian architects in early 20th century Architect Paul Smarandescu

Paul Smarandescu was one of the most prolific Romanian architects. 75 years since his death were commemorated on January 11, 2020. In his work, Smarandescu greatly favored the neo-Romanian style, whose initiator was architect Ion Mincu in the late 19th century. As for Paul Smarandescu, he provided innovative elements of his own for that iconic style which blends elements of Brancoveanu architectural style into Romanian traditional art. Paul Smarandescu designed architectural projects, yet apart from that, he was also commissioned to do expertise work and evaluate buildings, to design furniture and exterior decoration. Paul Smarandescu was born on June 26, 1881. The three houses, property of the Smarandescu family, are still standing on Mantuleasa Street, which can be found in a neighborhood of middle-class Bucharest. Mantuleasa Street has become part of the mythology of the city as it is a relevant element of the fictional world in the fantastic prose written by Mircea Eliade, who also spent his childhood on that street. Art historian Oana Marinache did some research on Paul Smarandescu's biography. 

Oana Marinache:

"In the Smarandescu family, apart from the architect, two more children were born, there were two sisters, Constanta and Elena. Constanta's descendants would take up an architectural and construction engineering profession since she espoused engineer Teodor Savulescu and their son would become an architect as well. The family's three homes stand proof of the fact that the father wanted all his three children to live close by. The houses in the Mantuleasa neighborhood were relatively modest, yet they lay quite close to the old segment of the Mosi Road, Calea Mosilor, since on the maternal side, the Smarandescus were related to the famous Solacolu family of merchants. So what we have here is a middle-class family who could afford sending the boy, Paul, first to the boys School on Mantuleasa street, a school Eliade also went to, and then to high-school. After graduation, Paul would gain his admission to the Higher School of Architecture in Bucharest in 1889, with the highest grade. He may not have been that happy with what he got in Bucharest, in terms f education, so he dropped himself out and registered straight into the 2nd curricular class in Paris. There, he was a brilliant student and his track record between 1899 and 1902 includes success with his exams but also the winning of medals in student competitions. He traveled for a while afterwards, and during his journeys he made sketches and drawings of several ancient buildings, also having a closer look at all sorts of architectural landmarks from the French, German or Italian world. All that definitely played a significant part in the training of the young architect."

Upon his return to Bucharest, Paul Smarandscu became the disciple of Dimitrie Maimarolu, the architect who designed today's Palace of Patriarchy, which in the past was the headquarters of Romania's Parliament. Then for three years, he had a stint as an architect of the Ministry of Culture and Religious Denominations. From 1912 and until the end of his career, in 1939, Paul Smarandescu was the chief architect of the Ministry of the Interior. Smarandescu had a rich public activity, but he also had a private studio, where he designed more than a hundred projects that would subsequently be completed, given that 200 of his projects did not go beyond the schematic design phase. 

Art historian Oana Marinache: 

"He was lucky enough not necessarily to design school buildings, but to revise and check the financial estimates and supervise some of the construction sites countrywide. However, what came as a surprise for those who have done recent archive research is the discovery of the fact that it was him who designed one of the buildings housing the Central School for Girls in Bucharest. We know this school building is an important work in Ion Mincu's career, the architect who was the first one to design the neo-Romanian style. However, early into the 20th century, Smarandescu designed a new building, purpose-built, initially, as 'a gym hall and a boarding school'. It was an outhouse. It can still be seen today, but it has undergone a significant makeover. It would be reshaped by his much younger colleague, Horia Creanga in the late 1930s. And today, it is home to a performance hall belonging to the famous Bulandra Theater. "

The Universul Palace is another heritage-listed building. Its initial purpose was to serve as headquarters for the famous Universul daily. In time, several newspaper offices could be found there, and the building has been recently refurbished. For the Interior Ministry, Paul Smarandescu designed several standard buildings, which served as lodgings for the civil servants of the Ministry. They were placed in the eastern part of Bucharest, an area which actually made the outskirts of the city, in the past. At the initiative of King Carol II, it was also Paul Smarandescu who began the design for a new headquarters of the Interior Ministry. However, he did not get round to working on that project very much, because he retired and he was getting old. However, other architects continued the works, so much so that the projects materialized in the monumental building lying next to the former Royal Palace, today housing the National Museum of Art, the former headquarters of the Romanian Communist Party's Central Committee, and the former Senate building. Paul Smarandescu is mainly known as an advocate of the neo-Romanian style, yet his career had been going through several style phases throughout the years. 

Oana Marinache:

"Before World War One, he adapted to the private works he was commissioned to deliver. He also designed buildings in the French eclectic style, since he had been fresh from the art schools in France, where all the famous magnificent private residences could be found. However, he would not be in the grip of that influence for long, and would focus on the neo-Romanian style. Actually, the buildings he designed are included in the so-called "Smarandescu trend" of the neo-Romanian style. Part of that are massive buildings, magnificent one or two-storey residences, richly decorated, stone reliefs with vegetal ornaments, with wood being lavishly used for the interior. In the inter-war period, a change could be noticed, not necessarily a change in style but given the city's need to transform itself and the demarcation of larger plots of land, taller buildings were favored, those tenement buildings with a twofold function, commercial or residential, and he succeeded to design buildings of this kind for insurance companies located at the heart of Bucharest. "

It was not only Romania's capital city Bucharest that benefitted from Paul Smarandescu's talent, but there were also other cities, countrywide. For instance, ten villas designed by Paul Smarandescu are still standing in the mountain resort of Sinaia, where the architect had a holiday home.

(Translation by Eugen Nasta)



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Publicat: 2020-02-09 14:00:00
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