Polish architect of Modern Alexander Rzhepyshevsky
Walking along the central streets of Kharkiv is ideal for exploring the history and nature of our city. Silent stone structures help to get into the spirit of Kharkiv and its “inner climate”. At the same time, contemplating the beauty of these buildings, we often don’t think about those who created them… Among the developers of the central part of our city, the Polish Modernist architect Alexander Rzhepyshevsky (1879-1930) occupies an outstanding place.
Alexander Ivanovich Rzhepyshevsky was born in 1879 in the town of Akkerman (now Bilhorod-Dnistrovskyi) in the province of Bessarabia in a large family of an officer of the border troops. He graduated from the Institute of Civil Engineering in St. Petersburg in 1903 with a gold medal. During 1904-1906, he sharpened his skills at the School of Fine Arts at the Sorbonne in Paris. After returning to the Russian Empire, A. Rzhepyshevsky earned money participating in architectural contests independently and in co-authorship with architect M. Vasiliev. One of those projects is the Merchant Bank with the Hotel Astoria which was chosen by a merchant guild of Kharkiv. And in 1910 the Polish architect accepted the proposal to move to our city to supervise the progress of construction work.
It is believed that A. Rzhepyshevsky renovated the architectural ensemble of the central part of Kharkiv, having decorated it with buildings in the style of the Northern modern. An amazing evidence of this is the mentioned building of the Merchant Bank and the Hotel Astoria, which was erected during the 1910-1913 on Merchant Square (now Pavlivska Square 10). Following the architectural traditions of St. Petersburg, the building was the first construction in the city, which had a monolithic reinforced concrete frame. The latter provided the flexibility of internal space planning. The face of the building is decorated with sculptures of atlantes and various decorative elements made of granite, metal and clay shingles executed by the St. Petersburg’s company “Kozlov and Dietrich”. The roof of the building was decorated with red tile (now it is replaced with metal lamination). One of the oldest banks of the Russian Empire, the Merchant Bank, was located on the ground floor of the skyscraper of those days, the first and second floors were occupied by different office facilities, and the three upper floors were occupied be the Hotel Astoria. The correspondent of the local newspaper South Region described the new hotel enthusiastically: “with all possible amenities and enhancements, it has 87 suites of different sizes; a small restaurant only for residents, a library, … ,two elevators working day and night. The atmosphere of Astoria impresses indeed with decency and good style. Many generations of Kharkiv citizens know this building as a Melody Store. In Soviet times, musical instruments and gramophone platters were sold in it. However, it doesn’t function anymore. Today, there are shops, offices and a banking center.
Interestingly, in the process of implementing of the project of the Merchant Bank and the Hotel Astoria, a conflict broke out between its authors that got leaked to the press. On the pages of the Southern Region, we can find the direction of M. Vasiliev, who had remained in St. Petersburg, to divest a companion O. Rzhepyshevsky of an authorization to build the house and a refutation of this direction by Rzhepyshevsky.
The construction of the Merchant Bank and the Hotel Astoria was not the end of the Kharkiv period of the work of A. Rzhepyshevsky. He worked in our city in 1910-1920, and this time became the most fruitful for him. On the wave of the architectural uprise, he received a lot of orders from various organizations and individuals, opened his own workshop, and performed duties of a non-staff urban architect. A. Rzhepyshevsky left a rich architectural heritage in our city – 27 buildings, most of which are considered to be advertising cards of Kharkov and recognized as heritage-listed buildings. In addition, he took an active part in the public life of the city.
A special place among the commercial buildings of Kharkiv is occupied by the projects of A. Rzhepyshevsky – buildings of textile factories built in 1910: the Mindovsky’s manufactory (Rizdviana Street 6) and the Bakakin’s manufactory (Rizdviana Street 19, now one of the buildings of the Kharkiv Petro Vasylenko National Technical University of Agriculture). The general composition of buildings carries the features of a Constructive modern. Let’s also note that in the manufactory of Mindowsky architect decided to make a foreside full-size vitrification of the building instead of a solid wall.
Designing a mansion for a theatre worker, actor and director Nikolai Sinelnikov, A. Rzhepyshevsky enriched the principles of Modern with medieval architecture traditions. So, it is not surprising that the building resembles the one of medieval European cities. Its owner is considered a reformer of the provincial theatre, and the house attracted theatre enthusiasts from around the city. It is located on Sadovo-Kulikovska Street (now Darwin Street 29, built in 1913-1914).
At the beginning of the 20th century, the urgent question about the renovation of the Red Cross Hospital building arose – the old one could not serve the large number of patients, which become extremely obvious during the epidemic of cholera in 1910. Money were found with delay, but, eventually, a two-story clinic upon the project of A. Rzhepyshevsky was built at the expense of Head Department of the Red Cross, as well as due to the donations collected in Kharkiv (in particular, from the sale of the summer residence of a professor in Yalta, which he bequeathed to the Red Cross). The Red Cross hospital had large, bright wards, reception, and apothecary and was equipped with modern technical and medical accessories. It is located on Voznesenska Square (now Feuerbach Square 5, Clinical hospital for road workers).
The most common form of housing of those times was so-called commercial apartment building – multi-apartment building; the apartments were rented out by homeowners. Tenants could not change anything in such apartments and had to adapt their needs to an existing infrastructure. An example of such a construction upon the project of A. Rzhepyshevsky is a commercial apartment building on Chernoglazkivska Street (now Marshal Bazhanov Street 14, 1913-1914). It belonged to the Society of Gelferich-Sade, which was engaged in the production and sale of agricultural machinery. It was designed in Modern style, and now it serves as a residential building. In the same way, commercial apartment buildings of those times became typical residential in the modern sense buildings on Pushkinska Street 3 (1914) and on Tchaikovska Street 17 (1914).
At the same time, A. Rzhepyshevsky distinguished himself as one of the initiators of creating of so-called “company houses” in our city – a prototype of building cooperatives. In such houses, future residents took part in construction expenses, and apartments were designed according to individual requests – in accordance with the needs and desires of tenants (unheard innovation for those times). In addition to the definitive convenience of such premises for their inhabitants, the Polish architect emphasized in a letter to his elder brother, dated 1911, their economic expedience: “an apartment of five rooms, for which a tenant has to pay the owner of a commercial apartment building 1600 rubles per year, will cost the owner of this apartment only 300-400 rubles per year”. The fact is that even for A. Rzhepyshevsky, successful and acknowledged architect of his time, was difficult to pay for a rented apartment.
Already in 1912, such “company house” appeared on Rymarska Street 6. The owners of apartments were free-lance workers engaged in private practice at home: doctors, lawyers, businessmen, architects. The nature of their job required prestigious housing in the central part of the city, but their finances did not allow a purchase of a mansion. The problem was resolved by A. Rzhepyshevsky who designed four- or six-room apartments with a receiving room and a cabinet. In one of those apartments, our architect settled with his family. The antechamber and stairs of the building were decorated with fountains and wall paintings, the latter did not preserve. A similar project was implemented in 1912-1914 on Rymarska Street 19. The author used for the first time sliding separation walls, which allowed to create rooms up to 50 m2. Extraordinary talent and skill helped the architect to find most appropriate solutions for the interior decoration of the premises. In particular, a small private hospital was equipped on the ground floor, and artistic studios with natural overhead lighting – in the attic. Subsequently A. Rzhepyshevsky moved to this house. His family occupied two apartments: a dwelling one with a personal workroom of the architect in the attic on the upper floor and the office with the receiving room, a cabinet for meetings with clients and contractors, as well as working rooms of the staff on the first floor.
In 1914 A. Rzhepyshevsky organized the “Pushkin society for the construction of houses with private apartments,” which had ambitious intentions regarding the development of such housing. Big “company house” on Pushkinsky Vyizd 6 is the result of this activity. Unfortunately, the Revolution of 1917 interrupted started projects, already built private apartments were nationalized and were turned into shared apartments.
Among other works of the Polish architect:
– a residential house on Oleksandrivska Street (now Evghen Kotlyar Street 4, 1911);
– complex of warehouses and administrative buildings on Kotsarska Street 18 (in collaboration with I. Tenne, already existing project of Yu. Zaune was enlarged, 1912);
– a mansion on Sadovo-Kulikovskaya Street (on Darwin Street 15, 1912);
– a residential house on Sadova Street 6a (1913);
– a residential house on Basseyna Street (now Yaroslav Mudriy Street 33, 1913);
– a residential house on Pushkinsky Vyizd 3 (1913);
– a private hospital on Basseyna Street (now Yaroslav Mudriy Street 23, 1914);
– a mansion on Myronosytska Street 21 (reconstruction, 1915);
– a mansion on Sadovo-Kulikovskaya Street (on Darwin Street 4, 1915);
– a residential house on Zaikivska Street (now Goldbergivska Street 98, 1910s);
– a mansion on Moskalivska Street 20 (1910s);
– residential houses on Chyhyryn Yuriy Street 7 and 8 (1910s);
– a residential house on Tchaikovska Street 8 (1910s).
After the revolutionary events of 1917 A. Rzhepyshevsky left Kharkiv and moved to Crimea, from where he planned to emigrate with his family. In Yalta, the health resort “Dolossi” was built upon his project. However, the architect decided to go to Moscow, probably because of a new love. There he continued his architectural activity and built several houses. The architect died in Moscow in 1930, having spent six months in prison as a “bourgeois element” before death.
The daughter of A. Rzhepyshevsky, Galina Shakhovska, a famous Soviet choreographer, left the following memories of her father: “He was a cheerful man. Art was the meaning of his life. He woke up usually at 5 o’clock in the morning, about 6 turned his hands to work – he designed and painted. Then he moved around the city observing construction sites, managed the work precisely. He admired sports – tennis, ice skating, fencing. After dinner he loved to play music. And in the evening in the architectural studio he gathered talented youth and masters, devoting this time to drawing and painting. ”
Another daughter of the architect – Natalya Glan – became known as a Soviet actress, choreographer and dancer.
In the end, we should note that A. Rzhepyshevsky’s “gray architecture” in Kharkiv destroyed the stereotypes of gray color as a sign of everyday routine. The buildings of the talented master of Modern style still decorate our city and attract attention with their unique appearance.
Sources of information:
1. Александр Ржепишевский – архитектор, сыгравший для Харькова «мелодию серого модерна». – Access mode: http://faqindecor.com/ru/aleksandr-rzhepishevskij-arhitektor-sygravshij-dlya-harkova-melodiyu-serogo-moderna/
2. Архитектор Ржепишевский. – Access mode: https://old-akkerman.livejournal.com/10731.html
3. Дома с собственными квартирами. – Access mode: https://ngeorgij.livejournal.com/50289.html
4. Лейбфрейд А., Полякова Ю. Харьков. От крепости до столицы: Заметки о старом городе. – Харьков, 2004.
5. Полякова Ю. Ю. Архитекторы Харькова польского происхождения // Польська діаспора у Харкові: історія та сучасність. – Харків, 2004.
6. Постройка лечебницы Красного Креста. – Access mode: https://ngeorgij.livejournal.com/147225.html
7. Тимофієнко В. І. Зодчі України кінця XVIII – початку XX століть. – К., 1999.
8. Южный край. – 18.03. 1913.
Prepared by Tetyana Kovalenko
- Rzhepyshevsky-South Region-1
- Rzhepyshevsky-South Region-2
- Rzhepyshevsky- Rizdviana Street 6- Manufactory -1
- Rzhepyshevsky- Rizdviana Street 6- Manufactory -2
- Rzhepyshevsky- Rizdviana Street 19- Manufactory
- Rzhepyshevsky- Sinelnikov’s mansion-Darwin Street 29
- Rzhepyshevsky-Red Cross Hospital-1
- Rzhepyshevsky- Red Cross Hospital-2
- Rzhepyshevsky- Society of Gelferich-Sade -Marshal Bazhanov 14
- Rzhepyshevsky-Rymarska Street 6-1
- Rzhepyshevsky-Rymarska Street 6-2
- Rzhepyshevsky-Rymarska Street 19-1
- Rzhepyshevsky-Rymarska Street 19-2
- Rzhepyshevsky-Rymarska Street 19-3
- Rzhepyshevsky-Rymarska Street 19-4
- Rzhepyshevsky-Darwin Street 4
- Rzhepyshevsky-Darwin Street 15
- Rzhepyshevsky- Pushkinsky Vyizd 3
- Rzhepyshevsky-Chyhyryn Street 7
- Rzhepyshevsky- Chyhyryn Street 8
- Rzhepyshevsky- Goldbergivska Street 98