Architecture

House with Chimaeras: An Art Nouveau Building in Kyiv That Became a Symbol of Ukrainian Resistance

Nataliia Pecherska 24 February 2023 min Read

House with Chimaeras (or Horodecki House) is one of the most known Art Nouveau buildings in Kyiv, a city decorated with many architectural treasures. It also serves as President’s Residence. On 26 February 2022, two days after Russia launched a brutal invasion of Ukraine, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy made his famous video message to Ukrainians, standing in front of the House with Chimaeras. “Our weapon is truth” – said the President confronting misinformation about the government losing control over the capital. Truth and knowledge is indeed a powerful weapon, and the history of this building tells a lot about the Ukrainian past and present.

The History of the Building

The famous Polish-Ukrainian architect Wladyslaw Horodecki (Владисла́в Городе́цький) built the House with Chimaeras and, given the complexity of the project, its construction was quick, starting in 1901 and finished in 1903.

In those days, the house was stunning not only in terms of its appearance but also through its use of innovative technologies. Its construction demanded unusual solutions, not least due to its location. The building is asymmetrical because it stands on a steep slope. It has three floors on the Bankova Street side and six on the Ivan Franko Square side. Also, it was built on concrete piles, and the finishing material was cement, something which had hardly been used before.

The House with Chimaeras : Wladyslav Horodetskyi, The House with Chimaeras (or The Horodetskyi House), 1901-1903, Kiev, Ukraine.
Wladyslaw Horodecki, House with Chimaeras (Horodecki House), front façade, 1901-1903, Kyiv, Ukraine. Photo by the author.

On the facade, you can see whatever you want, both four-legged and two-legged creatures – rhinos, frogs, elephants, lizards, deer, eagles, etc. Anything, but not chimeras. A chimera is a creature with the head of a lion, the body of a goat, and the tail of a dragon. And you will not find them there. All animals and underwater inhabitants depicted in the sculptures are real. Apparently, the name clung to the building because of its gloomy atmosphere.

House with Chimaeras: Wladyslaw Horodetskyi, 1901-1903, Kiev, Ukraine. Architectonic detail.
Wladyslaw Horodecki, House with Chimaeras, 1901-1903, Kyiv, Ukraine. Photo by the author. Detail.

House with Chimaeras: Wladyslaw Horodecki, House with Chimaeras, 1901-1903, Kyiv, Ukraine.
Wladyslaw Horodecki, House with Chimaeras, 1901-1903, Kyiv, Ukraine. Photos by the author. Detail.

The amusing sculptures are indeed a visit card of the building as they create an obscure impression of something you could see on the facades of gothic churches. They were created by Milanese sculptor Elio Salia.

Inside the House

The house inside is even more impressive than the outside. Each floor was considered to be a separate apartment. Each apartment had 8-10 rooms though this does not take into account another 2-3 rooms for servants. Although the price of rent was quite high, rich people have always wanted to live in the House with Chimaeras. By the way, Horodecki was one of them. He and his family occupied a luxurious apartment on the third floor.

House with Chimaeras: Wladyslaw Horodecki, House with Chimaeras, interior, 1901-1903, Kyiv, Ukraine
Wladyslaw Horodecki, House with Chimaeras, interior, 1901-1903, Kyiv, Ukraine. Photos by the author. Detail.
House with Chimaeras: Wladyslaw Horodecki, House with Chimaeras, interior, 1901-1903, Kyiv, Ukraine
Wladyslaw Horodecki, House with Chimaeras, interior, 1901-1903, Kyiv, Ukraine. Photos by the author. Detail.

House with Chimaeras: Wladyslaw Horodecki, House with Chimaeras, interior, 1901-1903
Wladyslaw Horodecki, House with Chimaeras, interior, 1901-1903, Kyiv, Ukraine. Photo by the author. Detail.

Horodecki the Hunter

An interesting fact. Horodecki was so obsessed with hunting that he planned a safari trip for years. This “pleasure” was not cheap, but the architect did not want to abandon his plan. So, in 1911, less than ten years after the construction of the House with Chimeras ended Horodecki pledged it, and with the proceeds went hunting on a safari for six months. Upon his return, he described his adventures in the book In the Jungle of Africa, illustrating it himself. However, the architect had no money to disburse a loan, so he had to say goodbye to his architectural creation and sell the house.

House with Chimaeras: Wladyslaw Horodetskyi, The House with Chimaeras (or The Horodetskyi House), 1901-1903, Kiev, Ukraine.
Wladyslaw Horodecki, House with Chimaeras, interior, 1901-1903, Kyiv, Ukraine. Photo by the author. Detail.

The House Today

The house has very bright rooms with typical Modernist floral ornaments.

House with Chimaeras: Wladyslaw Horodecki, House with Chimaeras, interior, 1901-1903, Kyiv, Ukraine
Wladyslaw Horodecki, House with Chimaeras, interior, 1901-1903, Kyiv, Ukraine. Photos by the author. Detail.
House with Chimaeras: Wladyslaw Horodecki, House with Chimaeras, interior, 1901-1903, Kyiv, Ukraine
Wladyslaw Horodecki, House with Chimaeras, interior, 1901-1903, Kyiv, Ukraine. Photos by the author. Detail.
House with Chimaeras: Wladyslaw Horodecki, House with Chimeras, interior, 1901-1903, Kyiv, Ukraine
Wladyslaw Horodecki, House with Chimeras, interior, 1901-1903, Kyiv, Ukraine. Photos by the author. Details.
House with Chimaeras: Wladyslaw Horodecki, House with Chimaeras, interior, 1901-1903, Kyiv, Ukraine
Wladyslaw Horodecki, House with Chimaeras, interior, 1901-1903, Kyiv, Ukraine. Photos by the author. Details.

 House with Chimaeras: Wladyslav Horodetskyi, The House with Chimaeras (or The Horodetskyi House), 1901-1903, Kiev, Ukraine.
Vladyslav Horodetskyi, The House with Chimaeras, interior, 1901-1903, Kyiv, Ukraine. Photo by the author. Detail.

Legends of the House with Chimaeras

Rumors and legends, of course, are in the air of the unusual building with a gloomy atmosphere. It seems that people did everything to make the building even more mysterious. One of the most famous rumors – Horodecki built a “terrible house” as a sign of grief over the loss of his daughter, who drowned in the Dnipro River from unrequited love. Hence the motifs of the seabed in the interior of the house. However, the rumors turned out to be just rumors. The biographers of the architect found out that his daughter was alive and in good health. In fact, she lived much longer than her father.

House with Chimaeras: Wladyslaw Horodetskyi, The House with Chimaeras (or The Horodetskyi House), 1901-1903, Kiev, Ukraine.
Wladyslaw Horodecki, House with Chimaeras, interior, 1901-1903, Kyiv, Ukraine. Photo by the author. Detail.

According to another legend, when Horodecki was evicted from the house, he cursed it such that none of the inhabitants would get along with the creatures of the house, except his own descendants.

Some people are also convinced that Horodecki built a house because he fought for a bet. Others claim that the architect erected a grand building for his mistress, and the third party is convinced that the actual creator was not Horodecki at all.

How to Get Inside

Since 2005, the House with Chimaeras has been the Small Residence of the President of Ukraine. Here four of Ukrainian Presidents have held negotiations and official meetings with high-ranking guests from other countries. Currently, you can not visit the building. Before the war, The Museum of Kyiv History used to offer tours of the building on Saturdays and Sundays for 400 hryvnias (around 10 euros). We hope that soon enough this devastating war will end and all of us will be able again to enjoy all the unique sites of Kyiv in peace.

House with Chimaeras:T his article’s author in The House with Chimaeras (or The Horodetskyi House), Kyiv, Ukraine.
This article’s author in The House with Chimaeras (or The Horodetskyi House), Kyiv, Ukraine.

 

Get your daily dose of art

Click and follow us on Google News to stay updated all the time

Recommended

Architecture

10 Most Beautiful Libraries in the World

Here’s a message for the art-and-book lovers among us: We, DailyArt Magazine, love libraries! Especially those with rich history, spectacular...

Magda Michalska, Nicole Ganbold 11 December 2023

Architecture

Red Porphyry: Symbol of Imperial Power

Red porphyry is a rare dense stone from a remote quarry in the Egyptian desert. It bears a striking red and purple hue that commanded great interest...

Maya M. Tola 12 October 2023

large building of curvilinear forms covered in stainless steel beside a water front Architecture

Frank Gehry in 10 Designs (That You Can Visit)

In February 1998, Philip Johnson, the godfather of Postmodernism, stood before the shimmering Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain, and declared Frank...

Julia Bourbois 2 October 2023

Architecture

Masterpiece Story: Casa Batlló by Antoni Gaudí

Passeig de Gràcia, 43, Barcelona. There’s an unavoidable house at this address: the Casa Batllò, a symbol of the Catalan capital. It is one of...

Tommy Thiange 25 June 2023