Cultural and architectural heritage of Lviv attracts thousands of tourists each year. Lviv’s urban daily life is visible mostly to its residents.
Young architects and designers of the Urban Ideas initiative are reshaping Lviv’s public space and community centers through a series of projects. They share their vision of the city’s development and tell how Lviv’s residents see the future of their city.
EMPR meets architects Olha Kryvoruchko and Valentyn Sharovatov of the Urban Ideas project at Kvartyra 35 café being part of Dzyga – Lviv’s long-standing artistic venue. Urban Ideas is a group of young professionals – Lviv-based architects and designers. According to Olha and Valentyn the group involves three to ten active members, others join on a project basis. Olha who is also teaching architecture at the Lviv Polytechnic University says her students eagerly take part in the initiative’s projects that are of interest to them. The architects also say they usually launch a call on Facebook as they start a new project so that more professionals can join.
Kvartyra 35 is just 15-minute walk away from Saint Theodor’s square, one of the city’s oldest parts. It is also the place where the architects implemented one of their projects set to revitalize Lviv’s public space. “We wanted to make a workshop to revitalize neglected squares,” explains Olha. “We discovered 30 of them. Then we introduced the voting, so that the people would say what their biggest need was,” she adds. St. Theodor’s square got into the list of top places that people wanted to see changed along with Mytna and Stary Rynok squares. Saint Theodor’s square got in focus of the architects’ attention in the framework of the “Maysternya mista” (City workshop) project that took place in 2015 and was supported by GIZ (German Society for International Cooperation).
The square bears its name from Saint Theodor’s wooden church that used to be located on this spot. “We have studied old city maps,” explains Olha adding that the church dates back to the times before the city’s Polish and Austrian eras. The historic square is currently hosting a bus stop, a busy spot with people constantly coming and going. “All the people waiting for their buses were standing,” Olha and Valentyn share their observations that preceded the public space intervention. “We saw that there was a need to have a place where they could sit,” the architects add.
The architects’ observations were re-confirmed by the research they made. In a series of quick interviews that the Urban Ideas professionals conducted the residents and the area’s visitors spoke about the problems and expectations of their neighbourhood. The architects decided to introduce a new furniture piece set to change the way people act and interact in the public space. “In order to make people feel that something was changing indeed we decided to make these street furniture pieces.” Architects produced and installed a wooden construction – a bench on the square and painted it in olive colour. Moreover, according to Olha and Valentyn, in the framework of the project a workshop on wood-working was conducted right on the square so that all willing could join.
Revitalized Saint Theodor’s square
The project not only revitalized Saint Theodor’s square but also consolidated people around it and helped build new interaction between them. Other participants of the workshop included a Kharkiv-based team of architects and school children who were on vacations and eagerly joined the developments. “As we were constructing them [the furniture items – EMPR], when there was already a carcass, half covered, half not, people already started sitting and laying on them,” says Olha with a smile. “An elderly lady brought us mastic, she said she saw we were working and she was passing by anyway. We were not planning to cover the furniture but as she brought it we did it,” she adds. According to Urban Ideas team the feedback from local residents was mostly positive, they were also asking when something next is to be done and emphasized the need to carry on. Among the suggestions the architects made as possible next steps of transforming the square’s public space was the idea to mark the shape of the church’s foundation on the pavement of the square.
The role of the local authorities in course of the square’s transformation was next to neutral. They neither criticized or impeded the project nor supported it. Representatives of the city authorities and of the municipal architecture authorities were present at the meeting with the architects and project organizers, says Olha.
Answering the question on why they have chosen public space as the focus of their work the architects say: “We are travelling abroad and see that everything [in the urban space – EMPR] there is more beautiful,” said Olha. “Here everything looks terrible, we keep forgetting about public space.” The Urban ideas team members say they draw their inspiration from ways public spaces are organized and handled in Vienna, London and Berlin. Commenting on why they find it important to re-arrange public space Olha and Valentyn said: “People live in public space. In a coffee shop you can spend one-two hours maximum. Not everyone gets to parks,” Olha said. “If the space around is beautiful people start behaving themselves better, beautiful space makes people better,” she added. Valentyn noted that attractive public spaces immediately accumulate visitors, people strive to spend more of their time there.
Work in progress on Mytna square
Two more squares of Lviv became subject to rearrangement by the Urban Ideas. Mytna square in the city center was transformed in a way similar to Saint Theodor’s square. Historical background was researched and local residents were asked to indicate most daunting problems of the area. In such a way the architects learnt that very little number of people knew about the Clarise Monastery and the museum of wooden sculptures by artist Ivan Pinzel located nearby. Locals also complained about the lack of facilities especially in summer when it gets very hot. So the architects decided to introduce street furniture elements, some of which would allow people to sit next to the fountain on the square and even put their feet in the water. Mytna square is currently being reconstructed by the city authorities. Architects say that the reconstruction is being made based on the project suggested by the Urban Ideas.
Revitalized Mytna square
Another square that the team is set to transform is Dvirtseva square, located in proximity to the railway station. It is one of the oldest trade squares in Lviv, Olha and Valentyn explain. Multi-level parking facility is now planned to be constructed on the square which according to the team is not the best location. They found an alternative suggestion by means of research and a dialogue with local people. Two young architects who joined the project were interviewing locals at home. There is an old transportation company in the neighbourhood the premises of which would best serve the purpose of the parking, the architects are convinced. As to the chaotic illegal trade the square is suffering from – most “entrepreneurs” are pensioners whose pension benefits are too small to cover their needs, the architects suggest arranging legal spaces on the square where the traders would be able to accommodate themselves rather them forcing them out. Project implementation is yet to come.
Urban Ideas also worked out a project for Pohulyanka – suburban area where the center hosting a variety of activities and classes for children is located. The architects suggested a new system of roads to revitalize the nearly abandoned territory. The project got financing from the city and is to be implemented. When working over a project for the Park of Culture commissioned by the park’s new administration the team managed to invite a German expert in landscape architecture. German chamber of trade and industry supported the initiative. Base on people’s feedback the team has also developed the map of the city’s problems.
Urban Ideas also worked out an indoor project – Urban Library. According to the project idea a public district library is to be gradually turned into a modern multi-media center. The idea is to breath in new life into the network of old-style libraries, attract people and offer them a space where they can work together, explains Olha. The project was immediately supported by the deputy head of culture department at the state city council. Transformation of the library in practice is yet to come. Architects say negotiations to get the support from GIZ for this project are underway.
Urban Library. Project design by Urban Ideas
When asked about their take on Lviv’s development the architects say the city first of all has to develop for the residents not for tourists. “We are slightly turning into Venice,” continues Olha emphasizing the boom of tourist-oriented facilities, venues and services in the city over the past years. Continuing the comparison Valentyn notes that each café owner in Venice makes sure that the territory around his/her café is clean, in Lviv they wait until others clean it for them. “I would like to see Lviv developing in the cultural direction,” the architect continues. “We do not necessarily have to see the city’s history in a literary way or we do not need a guide ‘putting it’ inside our brain. Instead we can discover the city by walking on our own, touching and perceiving it our way”. Much is still to be done, she adds.
Mytna square. Project design by Urban Ideas
According to the architects Lviv lacks artistic galleries as opposed to many souvenir shops. “Lviv needs to be the city of arts, more cultural events need to happen here,” says Olha. “It is moving in this direction, but may be not as fast as we want it to”. Lviv needs to have and show more authentic things – the city’s traditional local crafts include blacksmithing, stained glass and lighting. These traditions need to be revived, the Urban Ideas team is convinced.
To learn more about the projects of Urban Ideas visit the initiative’s web site and Facebook page.
Cover photo: Afisha Lviv