George Matei Cantacuzino, Romania’s Forgotten Modernist

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George Matei Cantacuzino, Romania's Forgotten Modernist
The Romanian pavilion at the 1939 New York World's Fair was designed by George Matei Cantacuzino. The structure illustrates how Cantacuzino's work hybridized elements of modernist architecture with traditional flourishes

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George Matei Cantacuzino, Romania's Forgotten Modernist
The Romanian pavilion at the 1939 New York World’s Fair was designed by George Matei Cantacuzino. The structure illustrates how Cantacuzino’s work hybridized elements of modernist architecture with traditional flourishes

Every article on the Balkans seems obliged to start with a commentary on the region’s tangled past. Dan Teodorovici’s George Matei Cantacuzino: A Hybrid Modernist (Wasmuth, 2014) is no exception. As Teodorovici states in his introduction, “The linguistic complexity of East-Central Europe is no more mappable than the stylistic plurality of its architecture; happily, some are now endeavoring to try.” Tedorovici’s subject is George Matei Cantacuzino, an architect of great consequence in Bucharest but of little note elsewhere. He is also an overdue beneficiary of a revived interest in that jumbled set of states and histories.

The architecture of the Balkans received, until recently, little attention beyond its national boundaries. Even expansive critics like Jean-Louis Cohen devoted but a few paragraphs to the region in his encompassing primer The Future of Architecture Since 1889. In fact, there are only a handful of English-language accounts of modern Balkan architecture, and those there are—discounting studies like Romanian Modernism: The Architecture of Bucharest 1920-1940, Modernism in Serbia:The Elusive Margins of Belgrade Architecture, 1919–1941, and, more recently, Modernism In-Between: The Mediatory Architectures of Socialist Yugoslavia—are often of a general, even cursory nature.

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