About Jean MONDA
Born on January 22nd of 1900 (January 20th according to some bibliographical sources) in Ploieşti, Jean (Ionel) MONDA leaves to study at the Polytechnic School of Milan, graduating in 1924. Although we don’t yet know the name of his teachers, we can deduce from the style in which he would later design, that the Italian school infuses him an esthetic contemporary to those years, within the lines of an austere Art Deco or of a moderate Modernism.
Returned to the country, MONDA settles in Bucharest, where he begins to receive more and more commissions, most of them for real estate investments. The connections to the Jewish community, of which he was a part, insures the contact to a multitude of beneficiaries with refined tastes, in step with the spirit of western architecture. The professional connections were also undoubtedly influenced by this community, among his colleagues being, for example, engineer J. BERMAN. He certainly also knew architect Marcel IANCU (1895-1984), who would design a building in 1934 for Solly GOLD on Hristo Botev Street, two years after MONDA had designed for the same beneficiary another building on Armeneasca Street.
The second half of the ’30s finds Jean MONDA in a teaching position. Once with the hardening of the treatment of Jewish people due to the political climate before World War II, Jewish students found themselves in the impossibility to continue their studies in Romania, so a number of intellectuals founded The Jewish College. Among the teachers that supported the Architecture Department within The Jewish College were Jean MONDA and his younger colleague, Hermann (Harry) STERN (1909-1954).
The esthetic used by Jean MONDA is, from what we presently know, a coherent and consequent one throughout his entire career: the Art Deco language, a true ‘well-tempered Modernism’1 intersects in different proportions with the Modernist esthetics throughout the architects’ entire work. The modern approach of architects could have earned Jean MONDA a safe spot in the architecture of the 20th century, alongside illustrious names such as Horia CREANGĂ (1893-1843), Duiliu MARCU (1885-1966), Marcel IANCU, Tiberiu NIGA (1906-1979) and others. In reality, however, the name Jean MONDA is close to forgotten. The main cause for this, we believe is tightly connected to the communist regime instituted after the War. After 1947 Jean MONDA does not seem to have designed anything else, after, in less than two decades he had designed and built over 30 elegant buildings, with valid esthetics, obvious results of a good professionals, of a gifted man. Following the seizing of his properties (including the apartment in the Frascati building, in which he lived), Jean MONDA moves in another apartment building designed by him, on Tudor Arghezi Street, at apartment 2. The postal box of this apartment still bears his name. We don’t know for certain if he was not allowed to design anymore or if he refused to work in the design institutes, but it seems that Jean MONDA didn’t sign any other buildings. There are two causes that prevented his absolute erasing from the collective memory: the fact that in 1940 he published his own portfolio and the fact that more than half of his buildings bear even today plates with his name and the build year. If he had not had the inspiration to take these two measures, today, quite certainly, we would not have been able to talk about Art Deco – Modernist architect Jean MONDA.
In the communist period Jean MONDA becomes a fine connoisseur, critic and author of text regarding architecture, publishing a series of articles and five volumes about this field. Two of these volumes received prizes from the Uniunea Arhitecţilor din R.S.R. during that period.
On September 11th 1987 Jean MONDA passes away in Bucharest, and architect Simon JULMAN writes a few words about him in the magazine Arhitectura, issue number 5 of 1987:
‘Without pathos, without useless exaggerations, with elegance and a sense for authentic values, with an open heart and mind to everything new, watched, appreciated and gifted with the profound intellectual judgment linked to the artistic and social significance of the built gesture.’
1. Term quoted from ‘Art Deco sau Modernismul Bine Temperat’, author Mihaela CRITICOS, Editura Simetria, 2010, Bucureşti. We find that this term fits the work of Jean MONDA.