Ion Voicu House

4 Ion Voicu St., district 2, Bucharest

Ioanid Park and Ioanid lot represented a turning point in Bucharest’s architectural and urban evolution, the traditional way of living the city’s interior and exterior just about to embrace (Western) modernity.

Back in the 19th century, long before the plans to improve living conditions, parcs and public gardens included, “those with the habit of living after the Oriental, lazy and poetic fashion” as Nicolae Filimon says in his novel Ciocoii vechi și noi [Old and New Arrivistes], would spend holidays of simply summers days in the private gardens, essentially orchards and vineyards, that their owners opened to the public. Such a space once belonged to librarian Gheorghe Ioanid, who, in 1856, bought a piece of bogland on the Bucureștioara brook and turned it into an orchard with exotic trees, grapevines, and seedlings.

During 1909-1914, it was the site of the Ioanid lot, that is, of the first, Western-inspired neighbourhood composed of villas disposed around an inner park/public garden. The large green nucleus was enclosed by houses and delimitated by their back façades, like a public cloister.

The villas were owned by members of the Bucharest bourgeoisie and elite, their inner spaces a conglomerate of music, literary, artistic salons that turned the entire area into a permanent cultural rush. Although each house is customized, there is a unifying trait: the mainly eclectic, French architecture-inspired façades, conforming to the wishes of the owners who, at the turn of the 20th century, designed their house after the Western fashion. It is the style followed also by the house at 4 Intrarea Ioanid [Ioanid Impasse], currently Intrarea Ion Voicu [Ion Voicu impasse], the creation of architect Ernest Doneaud, graduate of the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris. The building first belonged to Aspasia Dănescu, who bought the land from Carlo della Torre. In the inter-war period, it was sold to the family of engineer Crețu, father to Ion Voicu’s wife Madeleine.

Composed of a main body and one accessory to accommodate the various offices, the house talks about these two distinctions through its façades. The decoration catalogue is essentialized in the interior design of the main rooms: stucco works, rocaille ornaments, scrolls, volutes, festoons, arabesque, brackets and floral ironwork. Openings too are a place to express ornamental extasy: the basket handle-shaped windows on the ground floor, the rectangular French windows on the upper floor, the rectangular oculus skylights, decorated with renaissance pediments, of the attic. The entrance on the yard is covered by a spectacular glass and cast-iron marquee. The connection between the façade on Ioanid (currently Ion Voicu) Alley and the one on the park is circular, consisting of a Romantic-looking body, most likely a petit jardin d’hiver.

There is something else, something more important, that adds to the charm of the building, its incontestably value, exuberant exterior, and equally rich interior aside: the bond with the Ioanid Park. The living space is thus not restricted to the (generous) inner spaces and the private yard, but expands into the large inner court, public but protected, a privilege enjoyed to the full by the children of the house when they would steal out on the door on the park to go out and play.

Andreea Mihaela Chircă