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154 years of CEC Palace | A Bucharest Landmark

publicat in: General // Publicata pe 02.11.2018

 

 

Discover...

 

1. Palace history | Location history

 

2. Architecture | Paul Gottereau

 

3. Palace Architecture | Landmark of art and styles

 

4. Interior Design | CEC Palace

 

5. Walking in Bucharest | Palace and CEC Museum

 

Since being dubbed "Little Paris", Bucharest remains an element of Romania’s beautiful history, with its impressive buildings and imposing architecture, as a reminder of monarchy, the symbol of modern Romania and a time of many transformations. Deemed a city of contrasts and scandals in the pre-war and interwar period, Bucharest has a unique image in the current European setting, defined by a melting pot of different cultures. However, this is an original creation by itself. Our legacy from the past times is resumed to buildings that turned into architectural symbols, streets and suburbs saturated with aroma of old bricks and written history.

 

All these "Little Paris" symbols turned into real tourist attractions these days, for both foreigners and us. It's like every time you walk on Calea Victoriei (Victory Avenue – a major avenue in central Bucharest, famous during the interwar period) you can still perceive the interwar atmosphere, still hiding in some isolated corners. Every palace, building and street have now become national symbols that preserve a unique history in every piece of stone laid for the foundation.

 

1. Palace history | Location history

 

The Palace of the Savings Bank – C.E.C. Bank, short for Casa de Economii si Consemnatiuni in Romanian is one of these landmarks from “Little Paris”, still valid in present Bucharest. The impressive architecture and eclectic design of this building seem explicit for 19th century Romania. Apart from this impressive building, this contradictory place has quite a story. It is precisely this location, currently occupied by a bank, that once accomodated one of the oldest and most popular churches of Wallachia, the Church of the Monastery "Saint John the Great", built in the 16th century, during the reign of Mihai Viteazul. A small church, made of wood like most churches from that period, which sadly started to degrade after a century. In 1703 this church is renovated by Constantin Brancoveanu. Built in Brancovenesc style, the new church was beautiful, displaying a porch with three arches, on four pillars carved with craftmanship. Surrouding the church from that time and having approximately the same size as the current CEC Palace, there was an inn, lodging the most famous merchants of the period. Besides its beauty, this church was famous for the miracles experienced by sick people. Of course, this Bucharest church has a sad history, because insufficient funding and disregard for the past, allowed it to enter a degradation stage. By 1875 its demolition was decided. A stone carver, Santalena, steals the columns, alongside the furniture, candles and icons. The only item saved from the period is an ancient royal baldachin chair preserved by the Belu family. Ienachita Vacarescu – author of the first grammar book of the Romanian language was buried in this church’s cemetery.

 

photo source: sanuuitam.blogspot.com

 

The events occurred on the location of this small church, lead to establishing the foundation of this Palace of the Savings Bank in 1894 and by 1897 working on the building began that would later turn into CEC Palace.

 

2. Architecture | Paul Gottereau

 

Plans for the elegant building from Calea Victoriei 13 were designed by architect Paul Gottereau, also responsible for the interior design, which were later implemented by the Romanian architect Ion Socolescu. The latter was a famous Romanian architect, founder and President of Romanian Architects' Society, also founder of the first school of Romanian architecture in 1892. Socolescu is one of the best representatives of the Romanian School of modern architecture, using the register of shapes from the French academy, with a defining part in the evolution of modern Romanian architecture not solely in terms of art, but also for creating a modern architectural production system and for developing this profession for the modern setting. This architectural style is defined by simplicity and massivity.

 

photo source: bucurestiulmeudrag.ro

 

Just like Socolescu, Paul Gottereau – French architect, is a follower of the French academism of Beaux – Arts, style that defines his work, often using neoclassical elements. The architectural phenomenon is fully dominated by the French model, as a solid proof of its huge influence on the evolution of modern Romanian society. Construction work for the building began in June 8, 1897, being carefully supervised by King Carol I of Romania and Queen Elizabeth, also responsible for laying the foundation stone.

 

photo source: bucurestiulmeudrag.ro

 

3. Palace Architecture | Landmark of art and styles

 

The architectural style defining this building is eclectism – a style that blends elements of many styles into a single work. This is a term that defined perfectly the expressive diversity from the 19th century architecture. Besides this well-defined style, some Renaissance influences have been used. Among these Renaissance elements we can talk about the clear geometric shapes used for interior decoration with natural stone mosaic – and the perfect circle shape, defining for the massive main dome – the largest in the country for a large period of time. You have also Renaissance style columns as a building element, besides white marble stairs with gray veins, massive chandeliers and mural paintings. Mainly, the palace is made with local materials – massive stone and Dobrogea marble. The main dome is made of glass and metal and it is the latest achievement of this impressive building. Impressive by proportions and elegance, the building has a monumental entrance, defined by a half circle fronton, supported by those columns of composite style. The 4 corner volumes, decorated with frontons and coats, are covered by Renaissance-style domes. For the upper part it was created a sculpture group consisting of two deities from the Greek mythology, natural stone statues, laid left and right next to a clock. The left statues depict Mercury, the God of Trade, and Demeter, the Goddess of harvest and fertility on the right. The sculptor Athanasius Constantinescu was in charge of this sculpture group.

 

photo source: upload.wikimedia.org

 

4. Interior Design | CEC Palace

 

It was also imagined by architect Paul Gottereau – the large lobby was decorated with a mural painting depicting the Goddess Fortuna distributing goods after the independence, the work of Mihail Simonidi. He is also responsible for ceiling painting in the festive hall upstairs. Until the year 1948, the side walls featured portraits of King Carol I and Queen Elizabeth – also painted by Mihail Simonidi, besides portraits of King Ferdinand I and Queen Maria – painted by Costin Petrescu. As soon as Communist Party assumed power, the portraits were covered with paint, only to be subsequently recreated by the contemporary plastic artist Valentin Tanase, after a meticulous work of documenting and research. Perhaps the most imposing room of the palace is the “Council Hall”, still in use these days, with the same purpose.

 

photo source: Pinterest.com

 

Decorated with wainscoting panels from walnut and sculpted cherry wood, but also green silk panels with vegetal motifs in the fabric, this Council Hall is 8 m height. The fence and paving around the building were completed between 1899-1900 years by the contractor V.M. Halaceanu.

 

photo source: Pinterest.com

 

The construction was completed in 1900 and since then CEC operated in this building without any other notable adjustements. Besides its monumental beauty, this building is also durable. It was not affected by any earthquake, only minor damage of the main dome in 1977, nor was it touched by the terrible bombings experienced by Bucharest during the Second World War.

 

5. Walking in Bucharest | Palace and CEC Museum

 

Calea Victoriei in absolutely one of the most beautiful areas of Bucharest, still preserving the memory of past times. By October the 8th, 1878, when the Romanian Army makes its triumphal entrance to the capital, following the victory in the Romanian War of Independence, this avenue already inspired by the Parisian contrasts, is simply named Calea Victoriei. The buildings of this avenue are uneven in size and have different architectural syles, thus creating an increasingly less happy urban and ahitectonic point of view, but it has turned into an important street for Bucharest and its history. The different buildings from that period of time, turned into tourist attractions now. And although we feel that we are accustomed to them, the Bucharest residents at least, we become more surprised every time by their beauty and their imposing character. Such buildings, such as the CEC Palace, became symbols of a common Romanian awareness that went through enormous changes and managed to integrate even today, in a modern but chaotic setting. These are nothing but testimonies of an evolution that laid the basis for developing a modern state.

 

Photo source: pierdutiinvacanta.ro

 

On June 12, 2003, the official opening of the permanent exhibition with Heritage objects CEC – The CEC Museum, occurred in the Great Hall. Museum displays objects, witnesses of the historical and economic evolution of the Savings Bank – original documents of the financial-banking reports in the early years of the bank, financial and civil documents from the Treasury collection of CEC, banking products from the years 1880, piggy banks, banks vaults from the interwar period, as well as materials to promote the bank’s image over time: stamps, commemorative medals, badges, illustrations. Simultaneoulsy with museum opening, there was an exhibition of photographs and postcards "Bucharest between 1850-1914”, containing 30 original photos and 100 postcards belonging to the Romanian Academy Library , The Engravings Department.

 

You can only enjoy the beauty of this historic building from the exterior, because is not open for public. However, the elegance and the magnificence of this Romanian symbol are beyond its durable natural stone walls. This year maerks the 154 years anniversary since the CEC Palace took the place of the small wooden church, as part of the Romanian history. There is nothing more wrong than living with the idea of Bucharest not having imposing buildings or works of art. A walking in Bucharest makes you discover a city filled with historical and cultural meaning, “The Little Paris" that borrowed some architectural elements from the West, then mastered everything in an original way.

154 years of CEC Palace | A Bucharest Landmark
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