Why Zelensky gave his non-surrender message in front of this art nouveau building?
The morning after Russian missiles rained down on Kyiv, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy addressed the nation in a selfie video recorded in front of a curious building, not known by the majority of the audience, but of great interest. The “House with Chimeras” is an Art Nouveau landmark built between 1901 and 1903 and covered in otherworldly animal figures.
Why Zelensky gave his non-surrender and defiant message to Ukraine, Russia and the entire place from that place?
- To proof that he was in Kyiv and did not leave the country, as some Russian press had suggested. There is only one house like this in the world, the building is unique, and it is at the center of the capital.
- He also employed the building as a symbolic backdrop pointing to the cultural heritage that is at stake. In addition to taking lives, the destruction of cultural patrimony is a way of eliminating a culture’s narratives, as it proved Russian troops burning down a museum of Ukrainian folk art in Ivankiv, a city northwest of the capital, some days after
- House of Chimareas is an official government building used for diplomatic gatherings situated just in front of the Presidential office in Kyiv.
The House with Chimaeras
Also called Gorodetsky House or House of Mad Architect, this is very special Art Nouveau building and a prominent architectural symbol of Kyiv, the Ukrainian capital.
Originally an upmarket apartment building, the building was built in the period of 1901–1902 by noted architect Vladislav Gorodetsky, a Polish-born architect dubbed “the Gaudi of Ukraine, a creative mind”. His namesake building fuses Beaux-Arts and Art Nouveau styles with a roofline and facade bearing a truly bizarre menagerie of grotesqueries: Rows of frogs patrol the roofline, an elephant bulges from the building’s skin, heads of deer and rhinoceros emerge from atop Corinthian columns. And, on the roof, mermaids ride writhing fish.
This is the first house built in Kiev using of cement. At the time it was a great advertising for the use of cement as a new material for the construction of houses. It is a work of the architect Vladislav Gorodetsky put the finishing touches on a apartment building in the center of the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv.
Built from 1901 to 1903, the building began life as a luxurious apartment building — and among its dwellers was its flamboyant architect. Gorodetsky was “a bon vivant, ladies man, crack shot, big-game hunter, watercolorist, jewelry designer and lover of airplanes.” According to legend, much of which may very well may have been self-invented, the architect liked to motor around town in his automobile — reportedly one of the first in Kyiv — in the company of a monkey. Death caught up with him in Tehran, Iran, where Gorodetsky got himself a commission designing railway buildings for the Shah. Also according to the legend, Gorodetsky built this house while in mourning following his daughter’s suicide.
The building derives its popular name from the ornate decorations depicting exotic animals and hunting scenes, which were sculpted by Italian architect Emilio Sala since Gorodetsky was an avid hunter. The name does not refer to the chimaera of mythology, but to an architectural style known as chimaera decoration in which animal figures are applied as decorative elements to a building..
In the early 2000s it was occupied by an official Communist Party polyclinic. Situated across the street from the President of Ukraine’s office at No. 10, Bankova Street, the building has been used as a presidential residence for official and diplomatic ceremonies since 2005.
The building has been so far an unlikely survivor of 20th century turmoil. After the Russian Revolution in 1917, its grand apartments were chopped up and turned into communal dwellings. And the neighborhood that surrounds it saw the rise of self-serious Soviet-style government buildings redolent of bureaucrats and Neoclassicism (such as the Ukrainian Presidential Administration Building, which sits just across the street). Around the time of World War II, Gorodetsky House changed hands repeatedly. After the war, it was turned into a medical clinic for Communist Party brass.
After a needed renovation in 2004, the House with Chimeras was transformed into an official government building. This fanciful, rather unreal structure is now used for diplomatic gatherings. May Zelensky and Gorodetsky House survive the onslaught — and add a chapter of 21st century history to this extraordinary building’s storied halls.
Heartbreaking images from the war in Ukraine have been dominating the news. Near the beginning of the war, the country’s leader, President Zelensky, made a video in front of a stunning historic building in Kiev. As compelling as his message was, I couldn’t help but notice the majestic structures behind him. So, I did some research and found an interesting Italian angle.
One of the official presidential residences, the building is called the House of Chimaeras, and is a masterpiece of Art Nouveau architecture. It was built in the early 1900s by Polish architect Władysław Horodecki for his own use as an upscale apartment building.
The ornate decorations that grace the top of the building were sculpted by the Italian-born artist Emilio Sala. Made of cement, the exterior figures include mermaids, dolphins, rhinoceros, elephants and frogs. The interior décor features chandeliers with oversized catfish strangled in the stems of lotus flowers. Horodecki chose the animal depictions to reflect his interest in hunting. The name of the building references to the architectural style known as Chimaera, which features animals as decorative objects on buildings.
Born in Poland, Horodecki settled in Kiev after finishing school in Saint Petersburg. He was a well-known architect and designed many buildings in Kiev, including the National Art Museum of Ukraine. Due to his personal financial issues, he wasn’t able to keep the House of Chimaera for very long, and ended up selling it. In the early 2000s, after it was evacuated by the Communist Party of Ukraine, it was fully restored and has been one of the official presidential residences since 2005.
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