Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Barren Property Speculation Versus Urban Renaissance: Our Own Nation's Capital Today Versus Historic, 19th Century Lemberg (Lviv), Austro-Hungary

"In the 1830s, the Austrian geographer and statistician W. Blumenbach wrote: "Lviv's population grew more than twofold, totaling 75,000; and the city's beauty was enhanced. The number of buildings, built in a new style, mostly beautiful, is 2,612; of which 425 are civic, mainly churches and cathedrals. There are 77 named streets, with 11,718 families living there. The streets are maintained out of the Magistrate's profits; all of them are covered with cobblestones and are lit; apart from a few which are lit by the moon. Good water systems provide the city with water, and the romantic outskirts serve as a place to rest".

The "burgher house" type of building prevailed within the city's boundaries: a typical house of the Galician middle class was a two- or three-storied rectangular building, often with an inner courtyard. The logical system of room arrangements can be traced on the facades: in the horizontal division, in the rhythm of windows, and in the accents of the main entrances. Balconies carry consoles shaped as a lion's head or acanthus leaves. Smooth surfaces are covered with sculptural relief portraying traditional mythological characters or, more often, with the traditional emblems of the Galician merchants: Mercury, dolphins, and cornucopias as a way of wishing success to the owner-trader; in the niches are patron saints. Peace and welfare were symbolized by such popular motifs as doves, flowers, and sometimes seasons of the year: spring is ploughing; summer is harvesting; autumn is bleaching linen; winter is the time for weddings. Parts of such buildings have been preserved until the present day, continuing to amaze us with the simplicity and skill of their planning.

In Lviv with its numerous institutions, besides craftsmen (about 60% of the city population), many officials, students, merchants and representatives of so-called free occupations also lived: doctors, barristers, painters, architects and plasterers. Families of priests constituted a special section where national traditions were preserved.

It was common to come across people from all over the world in the streets of our city; and everybody, whatever language he spoke, could find his own language there. Lviv's special aura was an inspiration; for many-outstanding artists, actors, singers, and men of letters the city was a muse.

Architectural masterpieces were created by Paul of Rome, Gartman Witwer, Petro Viytovych and others." ...

Lviv : A Journey Through The Centuries from

Lviv, Ukraine celebrates its 750th Anniversary this year! It is an "Unofficial Cultural Capital City of Europe 2006"! [Under the currently divided Europe, only E.U. Member States are eligible for "official" 'European Cultural Capital City' designation].

However, the historic central core of Lviv, Ukraine is on the UNESCO World Heritage Site list.

Stare Selo Castle near Lviv, Ukraine, Europe. Part of Western Ukraine's "Golden Horseshoe" of Medieval, Renaissance, and Enlightenment-era Castles and Palaces. Some of these Castles and Palaces are now restored as Museums, while others -- including those used as Soviet-era prisons and mental hospitals -- will require at least another generation before they are fully restored, and redeveloped, to their Central and Eastern European splendor.

Photo credit: (c) Vladyslav "Slav" Tsarynnyk and Lviv Ecotour. With thanks.


See also Barry Zwick "A liberated Lion City is roaring:
Westerners have discovered Lviv, a place of fine dining, Baroque and Rococo treasures and excellent prices" Los Angeles Times, May 28, 2006


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