Argeș is a county that lays between the south-western and the central part of the country. Technically, it borders Transylvania, traditionally being the gate through which the goods of Wallachia, the southern part of the country, would enter Transylvania by crossing the arch of the Carpathian mountains. Its advantageous position was already known to the Romans who built walls of clay and stone all around the area. In the medieval period, the Saxons got established in the region, as they sought to defend the entrance to Transylvania. In fact, one of the oldest testimonies in Latin of the existence of the Saxons amassed in urban clusters in this central-southern area of present-day Romania is related to an administrative leader, Laurencius, who was buried in 1300 in an urban settlement located in the sub-Carpathian region, just at the foothill of the mountain corridor. As it was common during that time, this Laurencius, as the Latin tombstone names him, took as topographic name the place where he was active, so he became Laurencius de Longo Campo. This way, Longo Campo (Câmpulung in Romanian) became one of the first attested urban settlements on the southern Romanian territory. Later, once the Ottoman influence in the south became stronger and stronger, the Saxons retreated to Transylvania itself, where the southernmost point-the border-became Brașov area, in German called Burzenland. 

Yet, throughout history, cities like Câmpulung and nearby villages like Dragoslavele and Rucăr (located upper, in the mountains) continued to exert influence, mostly to the southern part. During the era of national activism, given the county’s proximity to Transylvania (the latter being a principality in the Hungarian Kingdom, later a province in the Austrian-Hungarian Monarchy), it became the stage of nationalist propaganda. The traditions, the peasant costume of the area were displayed almost obsessively by the elite (including the two queens, Elisabeth who reigned in what we call Belle Epoque, whereas Maria reigned in interwar time) at public events throughout the southern part of the Romanian Kingdom. During WWI, these settlements were the stage of bloody battles between the army of the Romanian Kingdom (the state made of the ex Principalities of Wallachia, in the south, and Moldova in the north) and the one of the Central Powers. The Romanian Kingdom wanted to occupy and obtain Transylvania, so the response of Austria-Hungary was fierce. Today, monuments to commemorate these events, and the people who died, are all over the place. 

It is therefore not surprising that, in contrast to the peasant costume that presents clear Transylvanian influences (1), given the proximity to the region, the houses were meant to re-affirm the power of the southern political and cultural establishment. Today, Câmpulung and the nearby villages still abound in ex-public buildings and private residences that belonged to local prominent writers, politicians, lawyers, and artists. As you will notice in the pictures, with little exception,  most of the constructions were inspired by the peasant houses of the southern area of Romania.   The most notable features are the wood pillars and porches. In the case of the public buildings,  aimed to host economic-administrative offices (and other functions of representation) the vernacular style was enriched with Moorish influences, but especially with post-Byzantine stylised floral or geometric designs. The religious motif of the `three` can be noticed on most of the buildings, doors and windows with their three lobe frames. In other words, the vernacular trace is stronger than the modernist as well as religious ones, therefore we can consider the construction as representatives of the so-called Neo-Romanian style (for details about this style and its nationalist ambitions, see the article Power Architecture, https://rgolesta.wordpress.com/2018/03/05/power-architecture/ ). 

Most of the public buildings and residences we are referring to were built in the early twentieth century and in interwar time. Some of the architects like Statie Ciortan who built several public buildings that would host finance offices throughout the south, including Bucharest, or his student, D. Ionescu-Berechet who planned and designed many public and private residences in Câmpulung and around, were students of Ion Mincu, the promoter of a national Romanian style in architecture. 

(1) A very good material that describes the regional influences and motifs on the peasant costumes can be accessed here: http://www.folkwearsociety.com/knowledge/ethnographic-zones (see the relevant information under the title: Muscel and Argeș-Muntenia). Link accessed on 5th September 2018.

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