The most prominent figure among the Romanian architects who had a predilection for the Neo-Romanian style was undoubtedly Petre Antonescu.
While a student at the Faculty of Law in the capital, he came in contact with the progressive artistic world that was seeking to find the specificity of our national art, and he simply fell in love with architecture, so he went to study at the famous School of Fine Arts in Paris, abandoning law.
When he returned to the country, as a graduate of the Paris school, Romanian architecture was at a crossroads: on the one hand, the French academic style, and on the other hand, the new trend inspired by local art. Petre Antonescu opted for the latter, proving to be the "carrier of the message of his generation, which was that of asserting the existence of a Romanian architecture" in no less than three areas: education, preservation of historical monuments and, of course, architecture.
Although Petre Antonescu’s interests were particularly important, they were always secondary to architecture, for which he always had a great passion.
Petre Antonescu is the most prolific architect of the Neo-Romanian style, designing many buildings, mostly monumental, that reveal a strong artistic personality. In Antonescu’s work, the detail and ensemble show his familiarity with old architecture, rigorosity and boldness in interpreting traditional motifs. In fact, to make the transition from the French academic style to the national style, Antonescu conducted a difficult and painstaking documentation work, studying in depth the resources of architecture in the Romanian Principalities during the Middle Ages.
Throughout his career, Antonescu showed intelligence and flexibility, which is why he managed to build his own particular way, emphasizing the implementation of the new Romanian style, based on the traditions of old architecture, yet without completely abandoning the eclecticism of French inspiration.
To this end, at the beginning of his career as an architect, before World War I, there was an obvious trend to update and adapt the classical tradition to the new living conditions specific at the time. The buildings he designed reflect this trend to a great extent, and few new elements were subordinated to the old construction means and techniques.
The remarkable character, and the sophistication and thoroughness of the elements transposed from old Romanian architecture typical of the public buildings designed by Antonescu, is also found in individual houses, which reproduce the proportions of boyar residences, designed in Bucharest and not only, just before World War I.
Petre Antonescu's prolific career included the completion of several large public buildings, but also of numerous individual houses. In each of them, the architect tried to imprint his own, original interpretation of forms and elements of folk inspiration. (Mariana Croitoru, 2015)
(Râmnicu Sărat, June 29, 1873 - Bucharest, April 22, 1965)
Academic /specialized studies:
1893-1899 - He studied at the School of Fine Arts in Paris; teachers: Julien Guadet and Edmond Jean Baptiste Paulin.
Teaching (including disciples and influence)
1900 - Antonescu began his work as a professor of architectural history since 1900, shortly after returning to the country. In 1903, he became full professor of architectural history. In this way, the architect felt he could share his own experience with those who shared his aspirations.
Professional Activity (affiliations, administrative positions, committees):
? - Member of the Historical Monuments Committee; Antonescu was heavily involved in protecting the architectural heritage of our country (along with architect Nicolae Ghica-Budești and engineer George Balș). This committee provided significant support for the architects who established a sound scientific tradition in restoration.
Other relevant information:
However, just like Ion Mincu, Petre Antonescu was disappointed that, unfortunately, in our country there was a penchant, sometimes irrational, for any Western import, displayed by the bourgeoisie educated in its great majority in France, for imitating any architectural achievement, including those of poor quality, without applying a selective filter of crucial importance. Instead of continuously exploiting the apparently forever young classicism, with its indisputable renewing virtues, Romanian architecture was subordinated to this frenzy of the newly enriched classes who wanted to possess something that could easily be labeled as "Western". In this process, the traditions of folk architecture were completely ignored, despite the wealth of this source inspiration.
Architectural Projects designed between 1900-1918:
I. ECLECTIC STYLE
1. Public Buildings
1900 - State Monopolies Pavilion at the Exhibition in Paris;
1905-1908 - The Palace of Justice in Botoşani;
1906-1914 - Administrative Palace in Botoșani (now the Museum of Botoșani).
2. Private Residences
1903 - Elena Kretzulescu Palace, 39 Ştirbei Vodă Street, Bucharest (now UNESCO);
1909 - Constantin (Dinu) I. C. Brătianu Houses, 16 Calea Dorobanților, Bucharest;
1912 - Villa Geblescu, 8 Polonă Street, Bucharest;
1905-1910 - Grigore Puiu Pleșa House, Karl Marx Street (now Frații Buzești Street), Craiova;
? - The houses on Batiştei Street, intersecting Vasile Lascăr, Bucharest (demolished);
? - The houses on 11 Schitu Măgureanu Street, Bucharest;
? - D. Enescu Houses, 1 Cobălcescu Street, Bucharest;
? - The houses in Bucharest, G-ral Berthelot Street, intersecting Luterană Street, Bucharest (demolate);
? - Marghiloman Houses, General Magheru Blvd., intersecting Pictor Verona Street (demolished).
II. ROMANIAN STYLE
1. Public Buildings
1900-1916 - State Archives, Bucharest (with Cristofi Cerchez, now demolished);
1906 - Communal Theatre in Râmnicu Sărat (demolished in 1948);
1906-1910 - Ministry of Public Works (MLP), Bucharest (now City Hall);
1911-1912 - Palace Hotel in Sinaia;
1904-1909 and 1912-1915 - silos in Constanţa (in collaboration with eng. Anghel Saligny);
1909-1912 - Palace of Justice in Buzău
1910-1911 - River Station (Navigation Palace) in Galati;
1912 - Department of maintenance, C.F.R. Sinaia, former M.L.P. canton;
1912-1913 - Administrative Palace (County Council) in Craiova;
1915-1923 - Bank Marmorosch-Blank, 2-4 Doamnei Street, Bucharest;
? - The spa building ensemble in Mamaia (demolished);
? - Belceşti and Cotnari Stations on the Hârlău-Podul Iloaiei route;
? - Buciumeni Station on Pucioasa-Petroşiţa route.
2. Private Residences
1900-1916 - Nicolae Malaxa Houses, 38 Aleea Alexandru, Bucharest (now the Romanian Cultural Institute);
1904 - The houses on 8 Orlando Street, Bucharest (this is the first attempt of Romanian architecture);
1905 - Ciru Iliescu Houses, Ioanid Park, Bucharest;
1905 - Oprea Soare Houses, 1 Apolodor Street, Bucureşti;
1909 - Vintilă I. C. Bratianu Houses, 19 Aurel Vlaicu Street, Bucharest;
1912-1915 - Florica Mansion (Ionel Bratianu), Ştefăneşti-Pitesti;
? - Villas in Eforie-Sud;
? - Housing complex for customs clerks in Predeal.
3. Religious Architecture
1906-1917 - The Cathedral in Galati (with arch. Stefan Burcuş).
III. "ART NOUVEAU" influence ARCHITECTURE
1902 - "Dinu Lipatti" House, 12 Lascăr Catargiu Blvd., Bucharest;
1912-1913 - The Casino in Sinaia.
? - Projects of churches and cathedrals;
1908 - Standard cantons, M.L.P .;
? - The Casino in Constanta *;
? - Project for the Ministry of Internal Affairs;
? - Project for the Senate;
? - Project for Municipal Palace (projects 1 and 2);
? - Project for Madona Dudu church in Craiova.
? - Church of Tâncăbeşti church (19th century), Bucharest region;
? - for the Brătianu family, Petre Antonescu worked on the restoration of (today Ștefănești, Argeș county), their mansion and annexes on their estate, in the town of Florica **;
- Restoration of the facade and the boardroom, former Romanian Bank.
? - The Cathedral in Galati - the furniture was entirely designed by Antonescu and made of walnut and oak, "with all the decorations carved in solid wood";
? - Marmorosch Blank Bank - over the years the interior has undergone many changes, especially during the communist totalitarian regime, due to the change in function from private bank to state bank. These changes were aimed at enclosing the halls with French windows and functional rearrangement of the offices upstairs. As for the interior decoration, the skylights, main staircase and wall finishes - both the stone and the wood ones, the marble floors and decorative paintings created by Cecilia Cuţescu-Storck. In fact, the interior was restored at the beginning of the previous decade. However, much of the furniture disappeared, yet some pieces from the offices on the first floor are still preserved.
Participation in Competitions:
1904 - Project competition for the Cathedral in Galati; with a jury consisting of architects Grigore Cerchez, George Sterian, Nicolae Gabrielescu, and Ion Mincu as chairman. The winners were Petre Antonescu and Ștefan Burcuş. The theme of the competition mentions the requirement to build a cathedral in Byzantine style, inspired by the old churches. Elements of the old Romanian art of the Middle Ages were supposed to be included both in the interior decoration and the planimetric approach. These specifications were fully complied with. In this sense, Petre Antonescu mentioned: "The plan of the Cathedral in Galati is based on the idea of a single central dome, supported by four arches, at the height of which, through the transition of four diagonal squinches, we elevate the drum supporting the hemispherical crown, forming the dome. The narthex, shallow, but wide open towards the space of the nave-Pantokrator is studied in such a way as to provide a complete unity of the vaulted central volume, so that at first glance, the eye may embrace the entire interior of the monument. [...] In general, the plan mirrors traditional Wallachian churches, with a single dome and without lateral apses."
ANTONESCU, Petre, Clădiri și studii. Case, biserici, monumente, palate. Încercări de arhitectură românească și clasică. Album, monografie, vol. I, Tipografia Guttenberg, București, 1913.
ANTONESCU, Petre, Clădiri, construcţii, proiecte şi studii, monografie, Editura Tehnică, Bucureşti, 1963.
* The construction of a large building with similar features to great European casinos began around 1904. Initially, the plans were designed by architect Petre Antonescu, who designs a building whose architectural style was inspired by the traditions of Romanian art. But after the completion of the foundations, the plans were changed, as the City Hall entrusted the modification to an architect of French (or Swiss) origin, Daniel Renard, who abandoned the principle of Romanian style in favor of a mix of motifs that emphasized the cumbersome appearance of the ensemble even more. Built (since 1908) in Art Nouveau style under the influence ...
** They had been built in the 18th century. Describing the mansion, Antonescu calls it the "big houses". "Under their current appearance, they are the result of the restoration of old houses and reconstruction of the building in front of them. [...] The ensemble of the annexes was restored and elevated with a partial floor. Also, another building was erected as part of the ensemble. Following these changes, an enclosed plan disposition resulted, a sort of household atrium, reminiscent [of] some very old peasant settlements from Transylvania, as well as [of] many other annexes around our monastery yard. Architectural expression maintains the very simple appearance typical of the folk art in the region."
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ANTONESCU, Petre, Clădiri, construcţii, proiecte şi studii, Editura Tehnică, Bucureşti, 1963