AHRC/M3C scholar and PhD researcher Cosmin Minea has published part of his past research as an article in the book Ephemeral Architecture in Central and Eastern Europe in the 19th and 20th Centuries (Miklós Székely ed.) that has appeared with the French publisher l’Harmattan. In this work he describes the meanings of the pavilions and other constructions displayed by the three newly independent countries from the Balkan Peninsula, Greece, Serbia, and Romania, at the 1889 Parisian Universal Exhibition.
Cosmin lays the stake of the article at the very beginning that: “For the young Balkan countries, 19th century Universal Exhibitions were priceless opportunities to show off the unique characteristics that defined them as a nation, and architecture played a key role in a place of competing nationalisms, where visual displays where meant to be as attractive as possible.”
He then approaches the topic in three stages. First he describes how paradoxically French architects were those who designed “national” architecture to represent the Balkan countries. Then he takes a closer look at what exactly were the “national” architectural elements to discover yet another paradox: that some of the architecture taken to be national and thus specific for one country can actually be seen and have the same meaning as other countries. An example is the colourful glazed ceramic tiles that are taken to be “national” both by Serbia and Romania. Finally Cosmin analyses the importance of French views that played down the “national” specificities the Balkan countries wanted to promoted and rather associated them with the Oriental and exotic part of the Exhibition. In the end Cosmin concludes that the participation at the Paris 1889 Universal Exhibition proved to be an important step for newly independent countries form the Balkans to define artistic styles representative for the national state.
The article is part of a book that deals with a variety of constructions designed for national and international exhibitions in the 19th and 20th centuries and follows a conference held in Budapest in 2013. From very diverse geographical areas, these temporary buildings of the modern period stand for the latest trends in architecture and express contemporary ideas of nationalism, power, entertainment and art.
The book with the article (including lots of photos!) will be available soon by request. Meanwhile Cosmin’s former MA thesis that is the basis for the article and includes even more photos is free to download here.