Sunday, February 19, 2017

France, Loire Valley - Château de Chaumont-sur-Loire I

The Château de Chaumont-sur-Loire is a castle in Loir-et-Cher, France. 

Chaumont was constructed from 1468 to 1510 on the site of a much older 10th century fortress, 
that had been burned down in 1465 by Louis XI in a reprisal for the actions of its owner Pierre d'Amboise, 
who had been involved in the anti-Royal revolt known as the 'Ligue du bien public'. 
After Pierre had his properties reinstated, he started (and his son Charles I completed) the construction of the current chateau.

The design is interesting in that, when work started, it had many elements of a defensive castle, 
but as time progressed, the parts added are much more in the style of a Renaissance chateau, 
with a decorative Renaissance design, much more typical of the castles of the Loire Valley, rather than protective.

A century later, in 1550, the castle was bought by the notorious Catherine de Medici, 
although she soon exchanged it for the grander Chateau Chenonceau by applying pressure on its owner, Diane de Poitiers, 
who had previously been the mistress of Henry II, Catherine de Medicis late husband.

The castle has three sides around a central courtyard, which has fine views out across the river and countryside - 
originally there were four sides, but one was destroyed in 1739 to make good use of the views
At the same time the castle was altered to become less fortified.

Unusually for a castle in France, Chaumont escaped significant damage during the revolution, 
due to its technically American ownership at that point. 
Chaumont remained occupied and cared for until 1938, by a succession of rich industrialists and gentry. 
The interior decoration especially reflects that of the Broglie family who owned the castle from 1875 to 1938, 
although there are earlier period recreations in several of the rooms.

Since 1938, when the Broglies fell on hard times, the castle has been owned by the French state.
It's protected as a monument historique since 1840, and it is now open to the public. 

Saturday, February 11, 2017

MySpot: A Light Exists in Spring

"She turned to the sunlight
    And shook her yellow head,
And whispered to her neighbor:
    'Winter is dead'. "

A.A. Milne - When We Were Very Young

Bucharest, Romania - The Romanian Athenaeum

The Romanian Athenaeum (Ateneul Român) is a concert hall in the center of Bucharest 
and a landmark of the Romanian capital city. 
Opened in 1888, the ornate, domed, circular building is the city's main concert hall 
and home of the George Enescu Philharmonic Orchestra and of the George Enescu annual international music festival.

The Romanian Athenaeum is an architectural jewel, 
the uniqueness and merits of which have been acknowledged by the fact 
the building was classified a historical monument in 2004 and as part of the European patrimony in 2007. 
Located on the Victory Avenue, the Romanian Athenaeum is a tourist sight, 
the importance of which does not come down exclusively to 
its being one of the most eye-catching architectural marvels of the capital, 
but also to the fact it is home to one of the oldest and most important cultural institutions in Bucharest, 
a major contributor to the artistic scene of Bucharest: the George Enescu Philharmonic Orchestra. 

The Romanian Athenaeum was built between 1886 and 1888, 
designed to accommodate the specific activities carried out by the back then called the Romanian Philharmonic Society
The saying “Daţi un leu pentru Ateneu” (Give one leu for the Athenaeum) dates back to those times
since the building was erected at the initiative of Constantin Esarcu 
who made a public appeal for the raising of the necessary funds. 
The athenaeum was built on the already existing foundations of the riding school laid by the Romanian Equestrian Society.

The chief architect was a Frenchmen, Albert Galleron, 
who designed the building by following the useful guidelines provided by a team of Romanian architects. 
The circular shape of the structure is owed to the already laid out foundations,
but, instead of being a drawback, this feature ensures the originality and singularity of the edifice. 
The facade is guarded, so to say, by 6 monumental 12 meters high columns, 
and the entire structure is over-topped by a monumental dome which rises to 41 meters above the ground level.
Five medallions, each of them rendering the figure of a historical prince of the Romanian Principalities, decorate the peristyle.

The Romanian Athenaeum used to accommodate in the course of history a wide range of cultural activities, 
including exhibitions of paintings and sculptures, 
but given the fact the structure excels by its extraordinary acoustics, 
it became obvious the venue should be put to use chiefly to capitalize this wholesome feature. 
In time, the athenaeum was the launching and affirmation platform for countless figures 
who have contributed to the history of the Romanian music, 
and it was included in the concert tours of numerous international artists. 

At present time, the Romanian Athenaeum is one of the chief venues 
involved in organizing the celebrated George Enescu International Festival. 
It is, furthermore, opened to tourist visits. 

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Bucharest, Romania - The Kretzulescu Palace

The Kretzulescu Palace (also spelled Cretulescu Palace) is a historic building next to the Cismigiu Gardens. 

It was built in the early 20th century (1902) under the supervision of Romanian architect Petre Antonescu, 
commissioned by Elena Crețulescu. 
The palace was built on the foundations of an older palace, which dates from the reign of Constantin Brâncoveanu. 
There are no traces of the old former structures, 
since the restoration works carried out by Antonescu have screened or completely removed the previous architectural elements. 
The new palace was built in the French Renaissance style and had Baroque influences. 

It originally functioned as the new Cretulescu family residence.

The palace was a Cretulescu family property until 1927, when Town Hall bought it from its owners. 
Since then, the palace has functioned as headquarter of various cultural and administrative institutions. 
Since 1972 it has been accommodating the headquarters of UNESCO-CEPES 
(UNESCO European Center of Higher Education - Centre Europeen pour l'enseignement superieur). 

Despite the fact the Kretzulescu Palace is not accessible to the visiting public, 
it does, however, stand as an architectural reference point in Bucharest.

Saturday, February 4, 2017

France, Loire Valley - Château de Chambord III (Leonardo da Vinci Staircase and The Trophy Room)

Château de Chambord bears spectacular testimony to the King François I two passions: architecture and hunting. 

The double-helix staircase is undoubtedly the most distinctive architectural feature of the château. 
Located in the middle of the château’s keep, it is made up of two intertwined sets of stairs. 
It is a construction of marvelous ingenuity based on Leonardo da Vinci sketches. 
This staircase, where two people can ascend in sight of one another but without ever meeting, 
continues to fascinate visitors today as it has since its construction.

On the second storey of the keep, the cross-shaped room lies under immense relief vaulted ceilings, 
decorated with the symbols of François I - 
the letter F, salamanders spitting water to damp evil fires, salamanders swallowing good fire and knotted rope motifs. 
Repeated hundreds of times, these emblems in high-relief communicate the king’s desire 
to leave his mark on even the farthest corners of the keep. 

Within the château there's a corridor with hunting trophies hanging on the walls.
They came from various countries (even from Romania) and some go way back to the 16th century.