Located at the foothills of Bucegi Mountains (e.g. the southern group of the Carpathian Mountains), the small town of Bușteni has traditionally been the transit point to the majestic peaks overlooking the area called Prahova Valley, and the gate between the southern (e.g. Wallachia) and the central part of the country (e.g. Transylvania). Boasting picturesque views and enjoying a strategic position, as it was located where the Ottoman Empire met the Habsburg Empire, Bușteni was an unassuming village, and, afterwards, town, growing in the shadow of the neighbouring Sinaia, the place that hosted the summer residence of the royal family of the Romanian Kingdom, (e.g. members of Hohenzollern dynasty) as well as the elegant villas that belonged to those that were well-seen by the royal court like representatives of upper bourgeoisie, industrialists, musicians, and writers. Today, the cultural mix and the air of a second rate mountain resort are still visible in Bușteni. The syncretism of house styles translates an inventive mishmash of archaic details of folk and Byzantine resonances coated in Ottoman, German, and French architecture; the pleasant combination of wood and stone visible on façades that blended peasant and religious symbols, or features taken from French or Bavarian chalets with hints of Hungarian folk motives surprises the passer-by and creates a dazzling contrast to French eclectic roofs, Art-Nouveau or even modernist fences. Yet, the chaotic development of the town after 1990 undermine the view of these houses. The present visitor needs to trudge through narrow and full of holes streets, and peek through the density of electricity cables in order to grasp the trace of old buildings which are quite numerous. Indeed, the lack of imagination, if not blatant bad taste, of the town administration and of the inhabitants themselves (e.g. it is not rare to see a crafted wood façade that still maintains a pleasant colour combination compromised by later additions made of cheap plastic) emphasizes and deepens the historical humble status of Bușteni.
One of the richest aristocrats of the Romanian Belle Époque, Gheorghe Grigore Cantacuzino, owned important estates in the area of Bușteni. Cantacuzino, as his name suggests, was related to the family that gave in the old times heads to the Byzantine Empire, hence he held royal ambitions to the Romanian throne as well. Accordingly, he built his own summer residence in Bușteni, a castle that featured marked elements of original Byzantine style, but also blended with folk and Mourish design as expressed in a local Renaissance style, the so-called Brâncoveanu style, named this way after the seventeenth century Wallachian political leader that encouraged the construction of public buildings in this style. Cantacuzino Castle was meant to represent the political power coated in local artistic expression in contrast to the Western influences as illustrated by the castle in Sinaia, built by a Hohenzollern who was a German, hence promoter of Gothic, Baroque, and Neo-Classicism. Cantacuzino Castle echoed many houses built in Bușteni at the turn of the twentieth century, which, as mentioned above, exhibited a plethora of styles, mostly originating in the local trends, folk, Byzantine, or Balkan. These together with the central European influences (e.g. Transylvania was close, hence Hungarian and Saxon folk motives were well represented too) give life to a vernacular architectural style which we invite you to see in the photo material below. The design of Bușteni houses, which had the ambition of translating the so-called local or regional dynamics, would find heated supporters in the interwar time when Romanian nationalism was eager to find purism, in ethnical and aesthetic sense.

One thought on “Vernacular Architecture in the Southern Corridor of the Carpathian Mountains

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s