CRITICAL REVIEW


    Despite his short life - he was only 39 when he died- Alexander Clavel designed numerous buildings between 1900 and 1916.  He passed away in a sanatorium in Bucharest because of consumption, in the year when the Kingdom of Romania entered World War I, and he was an exponent of the neo-Romanian style.
    Even though he is rarely mentioned among the outstanding personalities of the style, the value his works cannot be questioned. The works carried out on his own by Clavel are few and include mainly postal branches throughout the country and private houses. All postal buildings share particular elements, such as brick facades, pedestals, the heads of the buttresses, the door and window girdles and frames, made of natural stone, or the dented furniture of rustic inspiration. Of these, the most outstanding was justly the Post Palace in Târgoviște. It is a gem of Neo-Romanian style, with a well-kept exterior. Inside, changes in finishes are fairly minor, that is the wooden ceiling and original woodwork were preserved, as well as the floors and the public lobby. Unfortunately, the latter was painted inappropriately.
    Most of his works were designed in Neo-Romanian style, which proves that Clavel harbored a great love for Romanian medieval art and its undeniable virtues. All his works derive their strength from our folk art that he studied thoroughly and with great passion.
    One of Clavel’s reference works is Cuţescu-Storck house, designed in the 1900 modern art style. It had the privilege (or luck) to become a museum in 1910, so the interior is entirely the original one. The house was designed for two famous artists of the time: painter Cecilia Cuţescu, author of several frescoes (one in the throne hall of the Royal Palace or the one in the auditorium of the Commercial Academy, an edifice built by Edmond Van Saanen Algy and Grigore Cerchez), and sculptor Frederic Storck, author of sculptures exhibited in public spaces of utmost importance in the capital (the University, the Faculty of Medicine, etc.). Incidentally, in the garden of the house, which could be reached through the living room, and Storck's studio, we can see even today a series of sculptures belonging to the sculptor’s family.
    Perhaps the reason why Clavel was not appreciated by his contemporaries as he would have deserved was that he did not have a degree in architecture. However, one should not forget that during the late 19th century and the beginning of the following century, a lot of architects who graduated the School of Fine Arts in Paris worked in Romania, yet they did not equal Clavel. (Mariana Croitoru, 2015)
 


BIOGRAPHY


(Iași, 1877 - Bucharest, 1916)

Academic/specialized studies:
    Clavel got the taste of "great" architecture from an early age because he worked as a sort of apprentice in the workshop of the French architect Albert Galeron, exactly at the time when the latter was in charge of the Romanian Athenaeum project (1886-1888). Here he learned to draw and "render", reproducing the style of school projects. After several experiences as a designer and a brief time in Munich, where he could not remain long enough to get a degree, Clavel collaborated with Italian architect Giulio Magni, from whom he borrowed a very keen sense of fine and clear detail, as well as the ability to combine in a harmonious way a wide variety of decorative elements.
    Subsequently, Clavel also started working in the studio of "master" Ion Mincu. As a true self-taught man, he learnt from the great masters of architecture he had worked with, but he did not admire anybody’s works (and not only) more than Mincu’s.

Professional Activity (affiliations, administrative positions, committees):

? - Chief Architect of Bucharest's Central Post (appointed in this position by Grigore Cerchez, former general manager of the institution).

Other relevant information:
In his career, he made drawings, watercolors, and graphics projects (jubilee stamps - 1906).
He was a friend of artistic personalities of the time:
- Sculptor Oscar Spaethe, together with whom he designed the cross of  Mihai Viteazul from Călugăreni, between 1912 and 1913;
- Sculptor Dimitrie Paciurea, together with whom he designed the vault of the Stolojan family vault in the cemetery Bellu;
- Engraver Gabriel Popescu, whose house and workshop he designed;
- Painter Stefan Luchian, together with whom he decorated villa Matilda.
 


PROJECTS


Completed Projects

Architectural projects:

1. Public Buildings:
1900 - Civil Servants Palace in Piata Victoriei, Bucharest, with the architect Nicholas Mihăescu (demolished in 1946);
? - 12 post buildings (Târgoviște - 1906, Curtea de Argeș, Craiova, Roman etc.);
1909-1912 - Palace of Justice in Focșani (now the General Court), together with architect Constantin Băicoianu;
1910 - Romanian Primary School, Cața commune, Transylvania;
1912 - School of Architecture (facades - in collaboration with Grigore Cerchez).

2. Private Residences:
1897 - Villa Matilda, 2 Oțetari Street, Bucharest (interior painted by Luchian);
1905 - "Gabriel Popescu" House (first engraver with a degree in the field), Vulcana-Pandele, Dâmbovița county;
1906-1911 - Lawyer Porojan’s House, Târgoviște;
1912-1913 - "Cuţescu-Storck" House, Bucharest;
? - Dr. Marinescu, N. Săveanu Houses, Bucharest.

3. Religious Architecture:
? - Bellu cemetery vaults - Gheorghieff (with Ion Mincu), Cazzavilan and Stolojan.

Restoration Projects:
1905-1906 - Alexander Vlahuţă’s mansion, Dragosloveni (currently Dumbrăveni), Vrancea County;
1910-1912 - Clavel worked on the restoration of Dissescu House, conducted, on paper only, by Grigore Cerchez; the concept, inspired by the old mansions of the medieval period, belonged almost entirely to the architect of French origin;
1911 - Collaboration with Pompilian gave Clavel the opportunity to show his craftsmanship during the restoration of Caraiman Hotel, which he turned into a veritable Neo-Romanian hotel, especially considering the highly original details he designed.

Interior Projects:
1900-1903 - He worked on the new church of Sinaia Monastery built by George Mandrea and Jean Pompilian; he designed the furniture, of an artistic value comparable to the one in Constanta, designed by Mincu, or the one at Argeș Monastery by Lecomte de Nouy;
1910-1912 - Clavel’s style is recognizable in the interior of the Dissescu house; he decorated the wooden staircase and the furniture in the house; he used the same wooden ceilings that can be found in the Post Palace in Târgoviște;
1908-1910 - He designed the iconostasis of the cathedral in Calafat, a completely original piece inspired by folk sculpture, which used indentations. Because of its uniqueness, the iconostasis was displayed at the Romanian Athenaeum for a while;
1909-1912 - The furniture in the Palace of Justice in Focsani shows the perspective of the architect-decorator on folk art and its virtues.

Participation in Competitions:
? - Competition for Civil Servants Palace, together with N. Mihăescu - 1st prize;
? - The competition for the Senate Building;
1907 - International competition for the Stock Exchange Palace in Bucharest, together with Giulio Magni.
 


BIBLIOGRAPHY


Books:
CONSTANTIN, Paul, Dicționar universal al arhitecților, Editura Științifică și Enciclopedică, București, 1986.
IONESCU, Grigore, Arhitectura pe teritoriul României de-a lungul veacurilor, Editura Academiei R.S.R., București, 1982.
LUPU, Mircea, Școli naționale în arhitectură, Editura Tehnică, București, 1977.
SOCOLESCU, Toma T., Fresca arhitecților care au lucrat în România în epoca modernă: 1800-1925, Editura Caligraf Design, București, 2004.
TABACU, Gabriela, Revista „Arhitectura” - studiu monografic și indici 1905-1944, Editura Humanitas, București, 2008.