Carrying a last name with Dutch tones, Edmond van Saanen-Algi appeared to several Romanian architecture historians, even to Grigore Ionescu and to Gheorghe Curinschi-Vorona, who did not even mention him in their monumental Romanian architecture histories, as a meteoric figure of a foreign architect, in passing trough Romania.
Born into a cosmopolitan bourgeois family, with a technical and artistic education, Edmond Van Saanen-Algi presented all the advantages to achieve greatness in architecture. Although in his time he enjoyed a series of countless orders, he had the misfortune of not being understood, of not being given the opportunity to assert himself professionally, his failures being greater than his accomplishments. Today, his connection to the two great works, The Economic Studies Academy and the Telephone Palace, is barely mentionable.
Edmond Van Saanen lived for a while in Paris, where he was a frequent visitor of museums, of concert and theatre halls, of the Avant-garde shows of the Russian Ballets. He drew those dancers with passion, dedicating several exhibitions to them. His first Paris exhibition, at Isadora Duncan’s initiative, took place between March 31st – April 14th 1914, at the Devambez Gallery and it was entitled "Exposition de Dessins de M. E. van Saanen-Algi, Danseurs". This first period of his career would have consequences in Romania, through the collaboration with Constantin Tanase at the construction of Carabus Theatre, as well as for costumes and decors.
In regards to his architectural activity, in the correspondence found among his drawings, most of his projects are currently hard or even impossible to identify, most of them probably being left unrealized. The defining elements for his career, related to the interior design of some dwellings, are almost absent from the materials kept in our country, his proposals being transmitted to the creditors, which currently deems their identification impossible. The multitude of architectural projects covers a large stylistic palette, from neo-classicism and the Beaux-Arts academism to Art Deco and modernism. Misunderstood, forgotten, difficult to rediscover, Edmond Van Saanen-Algi remains a mystery for Romanian historiography. (Oana Marinache, 2015)
(Bucharest, October 21st - November 5th 1882 - Bucharest, May 2nd 1938; buried in Bellu Cemetery)
? - The Schewitz-Thierrin Boarding School in Bucharest;
1900 - The "C. Negruzzi" Boarding High School in Iasi;
1901-1902 - Architectural studies at the Polytechnic School in München, Germany;
1905-1914 - Architectural studies at the School of Fine Arts in Paris, France.
Professional activity (affiliations, administrative positions, committees):
1916-1918 - He worked at the Hutments’ Directive, at the Construction of the Sanitary and Military Barracks, and he realized the sanitary works during World War I.
1927 - Chief-architect cl. I., interim, at the Technical Department of the Ministry of Education.
Other relevant information:
1930 - He supported the organization of the "Exhibition of Architecture, Art Industry and Applied Industries for Czech-Slovakian Architecture", The Road Arts Pavilion, Bucharest.
1919 - He refurbished the former "Ambasador" garden for Constantin Tanase and he built from the very beginning a summer theatre which would be known by the name of Carabus Garden, in Str. Academiei, Bucharest (burnt down);
1923-1938 - The Academy for High Industrial and Commercial Studies, different wings of the building, together with arch. Grigore P. Cerkez and arch. Arghir Culina, Bucharest;
1924 - Antiquarian House, at the initiative of Nicolae Iorga and the Association for Romanian Antiquarians, Bucharest, (demolished);
1925 - T. Antic Villa, Belgrad.
1928 - He arried out a project to transform professor Istrate Micescu’s villa, formerly known as Arion, with engineer-entrepreneur C. Corani, Intrarea Zalomit 8-10, Bucharest;
1928/1935 - Istrate Micescu’s mansion at Ciumesti, Arges.
1931-1933 - The Telephone Palace together with arch. L. Weeks and entrepreneur W. Troy, Bucharest;
1934 – According to archival documents he worked on an unidentified house for Princess Alexandrina Cantacuzino;
1935 - Alice Demetriade noted in a letter that she was building herself a villa following Van Saanen’s plans, unknown location;
1938 - House project for the Koslinsky Family, today on Eroii Sanitari Blvd. 25, Bucharest (Source: Claudiu Hategan).
1922 - Project for a stadium for ONEF, not carried out;
1923-1930 - Several projects for a house for eng. Vaideanu in str. Basarab 65;
1926 - It can be deduced from a letter the fact about a house project for Maria V. Thohaet-Antilals;
1927-1928 - Started a project for the Abandoned Children Asylum which was to be carried out on Soseaua Kiseleff, Bucharest;
1928 - Façade an ensemble sketch for The Green Sector City Hall, not carried out;
1928 - Project for a new Palace of Justice in str. G. Cantacuzino 11-13, Bucharest;
1929 - He suggested the rearrangement of the Egyptian Legation in the E. Arion villa in Lascar Catargiu Blvd, project not carried out.
1930 - Margarita Miller-Verghi (1865-1953) requests on behalf of Princess Elisabeta projects for four royal pavilions at Ecrene, Bulgaria, not carried out;
1934 - He designs the projects for the trustees of St. Spiridon’ Establishments from Slanic, not carried out;
1934 - Refurbishing project of the Yugoslavian Legation, not carried out.
1914-1915 - After a period spent in Paris and travelling throughout Europe and America he returned to the country, beginning several artistic collaborations in the domain of architecture;
1915 - Carries out refurbishing works at the Chrissoveloni family mansion in Ghidigeni, Galati: transformations upon the administrative pavilion (arcades), the grand concert/tennis hall, the hunting pavilion, the administrator’s house, pergolas, the colonnade, and the tennis field;
1915 - Refurbishing the Manole Diamandi House in str. Columb 5, Bucharest;
1916 - Refurbishing the Greek Legation in Bucharest;
1926 - Refurbishing project for the students’ foyer/home – National Office for Physical Education;
1926-1927 - Iron Factories and Resita Domains: interior refurbishing for the palace;
1929 - He verified the interior design elements (carpentry) for House Lucaciu in str. Romana (today M. Eminescu) by str. Polona, property of the Romanian Academy;
1935-1936 - The architect rated the real estate properties which were about to be bought by the Romanian Legations in Vienna, Prague and Rome;
1938 - Carries out restoring plans for the French Legation garden; some exterior and interior works at the Legation at str. Piata Amzei, Bucharest.
Projects for funerary monuments:
1927-1929 – Executed the architectural side of the Lens/de Linche family funerary monument at Bellu Cemetery, following arch. A. Galeron’s project.
1926 - Project for the Palace of the League of Nations in Geneva, only nominated;
1930 - He received an honourable mention in the sketch contest for the Dalles Foundation, organised by the Romanian Academy;
1936-1937 - Romanian Pavilion Project for the Universal Exhibition in Paris, only nominated.
Paul Constantin, Dictionarul universal al arhitectilor, Bucuresti, Editura Stiintifica si Enciclopedica, Bucuresti, 1986.
Oana Marinache, TheTraseu urban Edmond Van Saanen-Algi Brochure, Editura Istoria Artei, Bucuresti, 2014.
Oana Marinache, Gabriel Badea-Paun, Edmond Van Saanen-Algi, de la baletele rusesti la Palatul Telefoanelor, Editura Istoria Artei, Bucuresti, 2015.
Nicolae Noica, Palatul Academiei de Inalte Studii Comerciale şi Industriale si personalitati din lumea constructorilor, Editura Vremea, Bucuresti, 2014.
Articles in periodicals:
Georgeta Filitti, "Arhive bucurestene - Edmond van Saanen", in: "Biblioteca Bucurestilor", Anul VIII, nr. 4, pp. 4-7.
"Ilustratiunea romana", 1937.