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Architectural tradition in the land of Ukraine is very old: here the pre-Christian remains of great structural complexes have preserved. For instance, these are Chersoneses and Olvia, the ancient Greek city-states on the Black Sea coast and in Crimea, and others. In particular, it is the Bilske settlement of the 7th to 3d centuries B.C. that scientists identify with the pre-historic city of Gelon described by Herodotus.
The authentic Ukrainian architecture started to form in the 9th to 10th centuries with emergence the Kievan Rus, the centralized power on the territory of Ukraine. Initially, all the constructions, that is, fortifications, palaces, churches, were made of wood. From time immemorial, erected of horizontally laid sections of timber provided with hipped roof the log-structure served as basis. This tradition of erecting log-houses had preserved up to the beginning of the 20th century. Even today, one may observe these constructions used for living quarters, for instance, in Chernihiv.
Concurrently with embracing Christianity the first constructions of Byzantine style appeared in Kievan Rus, which glaring example is the Saint Sophia Cathedral of the 11th century in Kyiv that succeeded to last out until the present, however having undergone substantial baroque remodeling.
The Byzantine style, having found itself in Rus, started to be actively reformed in accord with the authentic conceptions of construction and ornamentation. Resulted by such a reforming the elongated up domes of Kyiv’s churches and specific color array of the paintings, frescos and mosaics appeared.
Following the Mongol invasion construction in Ukrainian land became subject of defense purposes. During 12th to 15th centuries predominantly towered fortresses, fortified monasteries and castles were being built in Kamianets-Podilsky, Lviv, Lutsk, Kremenets, and Bilhorod-Dniprovsky. With their walls high and unassailable, one may see decorative ornament in some of them made in the form of Ukrainian plakhta (right-angled pattern) or embroidery bricked red. Of this, the Khotyn Castle in Chernivtsi oblast with walls 30 to 35 meters high is the best example that preserved perfectly until now.
Fortified monasteries of the 15th century are also remindful of castles. The place of the principal cathedral of the monastery was usually either in the center of the monastery court or within the system of defensive walls. Temples were necessarily adapted to withstand attack since they often served asylum not only for monks but for laity too.
During 16th and 17th centuries, the Renaissance style spread widely in Ukraine. The phenomenon has reflected most vividly in the architectonics of Lviv. The Revival Style ensemble of houses, which dominant feature of the so-called Chorna Kamianytsia – a black structure surrounded by the lighter ones, has preserved almost completely in one of the central squares of this city. Extraneous features of epochs and combination of various styles in the architectural style of the city make it a genuine open-air museum. UNESCO as cultural heritage of humanity registered the historical downtown part of Lviv.
Renaissance arrival was also of great importance for further development of Ukrainian architecture, especially the Ukrainian Baroque style. The Baroque art and architecture that happened to be the climax of artistic efforts in West and East Europe and appreciated highly in Ukraine of the 17th century had combined with local artistry here, especially the one of stonework, creating a new unique style of Ukrainian Baroque. Thanks the active activity of Hetman Mazepa in the field of construction the Baroque style in Ukraine is also called the “Mazepian Style”. Unfortunately, the majority of masterpieces of the Ukrainian Baroque style failed to have preserved; partly it happened because of the Bolshevik policy of “temple destruction” and partly due to specific offshoot of the style – the so-called Cossack Baroque represented by churches made of wood.
In the 18th century, the Ukrainian Baroque underwent changes: the faces were plastered and decorated with modeling which example is the Pokrovska Church built from the design of outstanding Ukrainian architect Hryhorovych-Barsky.
Baroque is the style of architectural ensembles. The majority of the ensembles of Ukrainian monasteries had been formed in different periods, often even in old Rus times, however their final formation occurred during the epoch of Baroque when all the structures were licked into unified stylistic shape. Such are the monasteries of the Dnipro River region and left bank Ukraine, Saint Sophia Cathedral ensemble and Vydubetsk monastery in Kyiv.
Starting with the end of the 18th century Classicism, the so-called its urban style came to Ukraine which characteristic feature was considerable reduction in construction of churches with preference for palaces and public buildings. It was during this period that from the design of Italian architect Bartolomeo Rastrelli the Mariinsky Palace, the present-day residence of the President of Ukraine, was erected.
In the architecture of late 19th and early 20th centuries, the figure of Vladislav Horodetsky became prominent. Kyiv decorated with inimitable houses built in Modern Art and Architecture style (the House with Chimeras), neo-classicism (the Museum of Antiquities and Arts, presently the National Art Museum), neo-Gothic Art and Architecture style (Mykolaiv Roman-Catholic Church, presently the House of Organ Music), Moorish style (Karaite Temple, now Actors’ House) is especially grateful to him.
During 1910 to 1920, the neo-Baroque style, an attempt to combine the traditions of the “high Mazepian Baroque” with the achievements of European Modern Art and Architecture, was widespread.
The Communist regime destroyed quite a few outstanding buildings that later were registered as monuments of architecture (for instance, Mykhailivsky Golden Dome Cathedral and Mykilsky Military Cathedral in Kyiv; Troitsky Cathedral in Hlukhiv, etc.). As of today, some of them, for example, the Mykhailivsky Cathedral, have been restored.
A separate page of Ukrainian architecture one may call its folk kind. Considering wooden monuments are in need of special care, these architectural samples are moved to special preserves. The most famous of them are the Museum of Folk Architecture and Domestic Life of Ukraine located near Pyrohovo village in Kyiv and Shevshenkivsky Hai (Shevchenko’s grove) in Lviv.