Ukrainian architectural modern - a distinctive child of the 20th century

Ukrainian architecture is original and lively, "warm" and plastic, formed in difficult and always saturated historical realities. Its sound - subtle and confident, we hear from modern architectural ensembles of Ukrainian cities. Today, Ukrainian architecture is undoubtedly going through a Renaissance era - reborn like a phoenix from the Stalinist Empire style and Khrushchev's replication. We were fortunate enough to witness a completely new time, the birth of a new era. But no less important is our architectural heritage - a striking representative of which is Ukrainian architectural modern.

We can consider 1903 as the date of birth of Ukrainian architectural modern - it was then that the architect Krichevsky presented the project of the Poltava Provincial Zemstvo. The style, which had no name at that time and differed from current architectural trends, was called pseudo-Moorish. But with the light hand of the Ukrainian artist Athanasius Slastion, got it`s name - the Ukrainian style, and then the Ukrainian modern. Krichevsky laid the foundations of the UAM - the architecture is based on folk traditions of home and church building - which greatly annoyed the ruling emperor Nicholas II. The building has an W-shape, its facades are decorated with the coats of arms of the county towns of the province. Today the local lore museum is located in the premises of the zemstvo.

The real diamond of Ukrainian culture - Ukrainian architecture - for centuries existed separately from the architecture of cities. But already in the XIX century architects are beginning to draw inspiration from it, transferring folk art to urban architecture. The result of a rationalistic search in folk architecture was the school named in I. P. Kotlyarevsky, built in Poltava in 1906. Designed by architects E. N. Serdyuk and M. F. Stasyukov. This is the first memorial school in Ukraine dedicated to the outstanding figure of Ukrainian culture. The building was L-shaped, the first floor was made of bricks, the second was made of wood, lined with bricks. The building burned down during the Second World War, and after it was dismantled.

Almost simultaneously with the building of the zemstvo and the school, a church was erected in the village of Plishivtsi, designed by the architect Kuznetsov. All nine chapters of the church pass from rectangles into octahedrons and taper upwards proportionally, while the walls are laid with a slope inward. The Church of the Intercession is the progenitor of the Ukrainian neo-baroque, an artistic reproduction of Ukrainian folk architecture.

Since 1903, UAN has been gaining momentum at the same time in almost all regions. Slastion formulates its basic principles and contributes to the spread of the style on the territory of Ukraine. The Ukrainian creative intelligentsia and student elite organize communities for the study of Ukrainian folk architecture, including illegal ones - the imperialist government was categorically not satisfied with any manifestations of nationalism. Students go to villages and make sketches of houses, churches and sheds. In Kharkiv, the Ukrainian Art and Architecture Department is being formed - the purpose of which is not only to preserve the monuments of Ukraine and the restoration of folk architecture, but also to spread the Ukrainian architectural style. Ilya Repin became the honorary chairman of the circle.

Afanasy Slastion
Ilya Repin
Vasily Krichevsky

The Ukrainian style is becoming more and more confidently established in mass culture - a large number of publications appear in not only thematic but also entertainment magazines. UAFM is the answer of architecture to modern demands, to the new rhythm of life of the new century. Before the revolution, UAFM was gaining momentum - intense and picturesque decor, folk motives and a bright imprint of architecture.

In 1911, in Kharkov, the architect Serdyuk designs the building of an agricultural selection station - one of the few buildings that have survived to this day. Today it houses the Institute of Plant Industry. V. Ya. Yuriev National Academy of Agrarian Sciences of Ukraine.

Designing the building of the Central Railway Station in Kiev, the architect Verbitsky tried to make it a prominent representative of the UAM and the Ukrainian baroque. But in the process of construction, the project changed a lot under the influence of the doctrines of the Soviet system, and as a result, the elements of the UAM were used only partially. The building was erected in the period 1928-1932.

In Kharkov, the cradle of Ukrainian Art Nouveau, the unique building of the Art School, built in 1912 by the project of the architect Zhukov, has survived to this day. Its first director was Repin's student, Alexander Lyubimov.

One of the most valuable gems of Ukrainian Art Nouveau is the Khrennikov House, built in the Dnieper by architects Fetisov and Khoinovsky. The building was reconstructed after the fire, but now it has retained the distinctive features of the original Ukrainian architectural style.

A breakdown occurred after the Revolution - many leaders ended up either in exile or repressed. UAFM goes into the "underground" - hiding its catchiness under the face of rationalism and constructivism. 1941 can be considered the official year of completion of this distinctive architectural style, although some architects continue to use its elements in their works. The Soviet government made a lot of efforts to erase the trace of Ukrainian modernism from the pages of history, but many architectural monuments are still preserved.

If we talk about the distinctive features of the UAFM, its "markers" and "anchors" among similar styles of Modernism and Ukrainian Baroque, the following can be distinguished:

  • Volumetric composition - as a response to folk traditions of home and church building. Houses are U-shaped, L-shaped, W-shaped.
  • Wall Composition - Many ways to solve a wall. Smooth walls were used along with tiered walls.
  • Composition of the window - the use of hexagonal, trapezoidal windows (especially in the Western Ukrainian currents of the UAM). Rectangular windows, arched windows with a semicircular or eleptic top. Twin trapezoidal windows, windows with niches.
  • Portals - as the main compositional element.
  • Pincers and pediments - their shapes testified to belonging to the UAF movement or reflected the influence of other styles.
  • Roofs - high, with a steep slope and complex plastic, as well as hipped roofs.

The legacy of the UAFM is not only in history textbooks, but also in its influence on modern architecture. Much was destroyed by the war, Soviet power and improper restoration, but much remained as a gift to future generations. Ukrainian Art Nouveau is the architectural response of its time, the music of the beginning of the century frozen in stone and wood, it is a cultural trace and a milestone in the development of Ukrainian architecture. Our task is not only to make a new history, but also to preserve these historical monuments for future generations.