Saturday, March 19, 2022

Priceless architectural masterpieces in Ukraine

Fighting in the cities of Ukraine is causing many to fear for the fate of cultural marvels that have stood for hundreds of years.

Museum of Local Lore, Poltava

This regional museum, one of the oldest in Ukraine, could be considered the country’s first modernist building: a gorgeous, light-filled art nouveau edifice, ornamented with traditional motifs and local coats of arms. Its designer, Vasyl Krychevsky, is a national hero and a foundation stone of Ukrainian cultural identity. As well as an architect, he was a prolific painter, set designer, graphic designer and educator. He also designed Ukraine’s national coat of arms and banknotes.

Photograph: E Fesenko/Alamy

House With Chimaeras, Kiev

On the second day of the Russian assault, President Zelenskiy filmed a defiant address on his smartphone standing in front of this much-loved icon, which is just across the street from his office. It is a building of phantasmagoric brilliance: a grand art nouveau mansion that seems to have been overrun by fantastic beasts: dolphins, eagles, crocodiles, mermaids, lizards, frogs, elephants, all of which crawl across its rooftops and down its facades. No wonder its Polish-born architect, Wladyslaw Horodecki, is sometimes called the Gaudi of Kyiv.
Photograph: Zoonar GmbH/Alamy

Pysanka Museum, Kolomyia, Pokuttya

A pysanka is a traditional decorated Easter egg, particularly associated with Ukraine. They were banned during Soviet times, and post-independence have become a symbol of national identity. All of which makes this colourful pysanka-shaped museum – the only one of its kind in the world – just about the most Ukrainian building ever. Opened in 2000, its egg structure – designed by local artists Vasyl Andrushko and Myroslav Yasinskyi – contains a collection of over 12,000 pysanky from around the world. What better symbol for the fragility of cultural heritage?
Photograph: Witold Skrypczak/Alamy

St George’s Church, Drohobych

There are nearly 2,000 wooden churches in Ukraine, and their survival is miraculous given the region’s turbulent history and their inherent flammability. The tsverkas (churches) of the Carpathians, close to the Polish border, have Unesco World Heritage status, and the 16th-century St George’s is one of the oldest and best preserved. A formidable timber edifice topped by three onion domes, it is a breathtaking fusion of sophisticated local carpentry and Orthodox church design. In contrast to the plain exterior, the interior has painted frescoes and decoration.
Photograph: Beibaoke/Alamy

Derzhprom, Kharkiv

At the time of its opening in 1928, this sprawling government complex was one the largest single structure in the world, and contained the first Soviet skyscrapers (a whopping 13 storeys high). It still looks like a set from a sci-fi movie, perhaps Fritz Lang’s Metropolis: unadorned blocks of glass and concrete connected by audacious horizontal ‘sky bridges’. Built in just three years, it is a monument of constructivist design, as much influenced by US cities as the Bauhaus. The recent Russian bombing of Freedom Square, just up the road, underlines its precariousness.
Photograph: Mariana Ianovska/Alamy

Hotel Salyut, Kiev

Kyiv still bears the architectural scars of Soviet occupation, not least some outlandish hotels that must have once seemed dignified and heroic, but now look comically kitsch. Taking the biscuit is the Salyut, completed in 1984, a spiky, seven-storey drum of concrete with a jaunty cap on top, which appears to have sheared off its solid base to an alarming degree. It was apparently supposed to be twice as tall, but local bureaucracy cut it down to size, which is probably just as well since its bold structure almost defeated the engineers.
Photograph: Sirio Carnevalino/Alamy

The Fortress, Kamianets-Podilskyi

Legend has it this medieval fortress has only fallen to enemies twice, once to the Lithuanians in the 14th century and once to the Ottoman Turks in the 17th century. It’s easy to see why: built on a limestone outcrop surrounded by the Smotrych River on three sides, accessible only by a bridge. The design is almost picture-book: a large courtyard ringed by thick walls with seven round towers (originally there were 12). The castle has been added to and rebuilt innumerable times over the centuries, making it almost a diary of the region’s history.
Photograph: Alamy

Potemkin Steps, Odessa

As immortalised by Sergei Eisenstein’s landmark 1925 film Battleship Potemkin, where they became the backdrop to tsarist soldiers’ massacre of civilians supporting the historic mutiny – a scene that never happened in real life. The 142-metre long flight was built in 1873 to connect the harbour to the elevated city centre. As well as a pilgrimage site for cinephiles, the steps – officially the Primorsky Steps – are a piece of architectural theatre: the lowest step is nearly 10 metres wider than the top one, the forced perspective makes them seem even more imposing.
Photograph: ED Torial/Alamy

Monastery of the Caves (Pechersk Lavra), Kyiv

Built on top of a complex of caves overlooking the Dnieper, this sprawling monastery dates back to the 11th century – when Moscow was a mere backwater – although on the surface it’s largely a showcase of 17th-century Ukrainian baroque, dripping with gold leaf inside and out. The 18th-century Great Lavra Bell Tower is a local landmark. The Dormition Cathedral, the main church of the complex, was destroyed by the Nazis during the second world war, and left as a ruin during the Soviet era, but was rebuilt and re-consecrated in 2000.
Photograph: Alamy

Residence of Bukovinian and Dalmatian Metropolitans, Chernivtsi

Chernivtsi has variously been part of Romania, Moldova and the Austro-Hungarian empire, and its cosmopolitan history is reflected in its mix of architectural styles (it was once known as ‘little Vienna’). This huge 19th-century courtyard complex is now part of Chernivtsi University campus but it was originally the palace of the local bishop. Designed by Czech architect Josef Hlavka, it is a masterful fusion of historical styles. The Red Hall is described by Unesco as ‘an extraordinary beautiful wooden jewel box’.
Photograph: Leisa Tyler/LightRocket/Getty Images

Source: theguardian

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