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Five unusual brutalist buildings in Ukraine

The brutalist style of architecture spread widely across post-Soviet countries, matching perfectly with communist ideology. A whole lot of truly iconic buildings of brutalist style were built there in the late 1970s and 1980s, perpetuating the dreams of utopian socialists.

Soviet postwar administrative buildings and monuments in Ukraine are among most bizarre ones. Every admirer of modernism must have heard about “Tarilka”, a flying saucer that communists “landed” next to the Lybidska metro station in Kyiv.


Hands down, Kyiv is a treasury of history, and one of the most beautiful cities in the world. Soviet Era also left its concrete mark in it. We’ve put together a tourist guide through the most notable brutalist landmarks recommended for visiting.


However, there are also many remarkable brutalist spots far beyond the capital. Here is a pick of most extraordinary ones.


Summer theater in Lazar Globa Park, Dnipro (1978)


Architect: O. Petrov


A summer theater designed for 1,100 seats in the central park of Dnipro City. Does it remind you of a big futuristic shell? A robot’s head with a cap on it? Perhaps, a wave?


No matter what it reminds you, just notice that people called it “hyperbolic paraboloid” or just “hypar”. Not so romantic, but well, it’s Soviet modernism we’re talking about.


The construction consists of the tent for the tribune, stage, and the ventilation system of a really weird design. All those elements together created an impressive picture: the concrete monster protruding from the water that is not fully understood, but still quite attractive.


Current condition: Neglected. The walls are crumbling, blackening, and overwhelmed by plant life.


Dniprospetsstal Palace of Culture (“Oktyabrsky”), Zaporizhzhya, (1969—1970)

Architects: M. Bubnov, V. Davidenko, I.Bylinkin, G.Gorlyshkov, N.Shebalina, N.Rogacheva. Engineer: M. Klushkin


Completed in 1977, the Palace became a major venue for concerts and shows as well as for seminars and meetings.


Opened in 1977 to the 60th anniversary of October Revolution, it was called “Oktyabrsky Palace of Culture” and later renamed to the “Dneprospetsstal Palace of Culture”.


The palace has a large concert hall for 1000 seats and a small one for 270 seats. Still working today, it is considered one of Zaporizhzhya’s key architectural icons.


Current condition: a technically equipped concert venue.


Palace of Children and Youth Creativity, Lviv (1984)


Architects: O. Vashak, M.Smetana, Z.Podlesnoi

This huge palace was built in Lviv with a total area of ​​14.5 thousand square meters, called “Palace of Pioneers”. In 1991 it was renamed to the “Center for Creativity of Children and Youth of Galicia”.


Remarkable for its monolithic bold walls, large-scale bulky forms that raw concrete naturally facilitates, it represents a bright (figuratively speaking) example of Soviet brutalism.


Today it’s called “Pohulianka”, or literally, a place for walking.


Current condition: still operating and became one of the largest centers of creativity for children in West Ukraine.


Download for free: 10 most striking brutalist landmarks in Kyiv


Mykola Ostrovsky Khmelnitsky Regional Literary Memorial Museum, Shepetivka (1974—1979)


Architect: A. Ignashchenko. Artists: a group of around 80 artists led by A. Haidamaka


The museum was dedicated to Nikolay Ostrovsky, Soviet socialist realist writer, the author of “How the Steel Was Tempered”. Located in the center of the small city Shepetivka, with five huge gray pillars holding a concrete ring, it represents a striking example of brutalist architecture.


Grey pillars stand for the hands of writer’s fans. The “fierce ring” at the top symbolized a wreath, wrapped by a soviet banner with red and black smalt on it.


With its characteristically ponderous form, barn red roof, and heavy appearance, it stood out even at Soviet times.


Current condition: Open to the public.


Sanatorium “Druzhba”, Kurpaty (1981—1985)


Architects: I. Vasilevsky, Y. Stefanchuk, R. Tevosian. Constructor: N. Kancheli. Artist: R. Tsuzmer


An architectural highlight on the Crimean shore, Sanatorium “Druzhba” was a heaven place for relaxation and recuperation for Soviet citizens.


For those who grew up in the USSR, trips to sanatoriums like this one were a regular part of the year. Spa-like treatments, alleviation of the mind and body let you return to work with reviewed diligence and productivity. Thus, sanatorium buildings were designed in much lighter colors, staying aloof from the rest of brutalist buildings while still meeting the style requirements.


“Druzhba” combines two Soviet brutalist architectural trends: UFO-like shape and construction off the ground. Lifting a building was guided by the intention to let nature flow freely under it. “This issue goes deeper and is more serious – it’s about the relationship of building to the environment”, tells Igor Valilevsky, the lead architect of the project.


The Sanatorium shape was largely associated with the flying saucer, that spun around and then froze, or later — with wave patterns made by a drop falling into a surface of water.


Current condition: operates under the name ‘Pension Friendship’.


Massive, bizarre, imposing, these constructions impress us today, reflecting political aspirations of their time. Today they provide a symbolic battleground for admirers and haters. Those who fell in a deep fascination with Soviet-era architecture, call for preserving these mysterious structures as historical relics.


Alex Bykov, the author of the pictures above, is one of the young enthusiasts fighting for saving Soviet modernist heritage. He spent one year traveling around Ukraine in search of brutalist gems and founded the most thrilling ones. The photographs along with findings of his journey went in a book called Soviet Modernism, Brutalism, Postmodernism – Buildings and Structures in Ukraine 1956-1991, written in collaboration with Ievgeniia Gubkina, Ukrainian architect and researcher.


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