Lviv vs. Berlin: Pre-First World War Architecture
Majestic Art Nouveau buildings in Germany’s capital and the top tourist city of Ukraine
I used to live in Lviv for 5 years, and I’ve been living in Berlin for 1,5 years. It’s long enough to explore the beauty of both cities and fall in love with modern architecture. This article is a subjective mix of the most fascinating buildings I recommend staring at.
Let me give you some context. The end of the 19th — beginning of the 20th century is called the Belle Époque (Beautiful Epoch). It was a period of peace, prosperity, and innovations. European architecture before the outbreak of the First World War had two primary directions:
- Eclecticism — attempts to revive previous historical styles. Depending on the source of architects’ inspiration, there were such sub-styles as neo-Gothic, neo-Renaissance, neo-Baroque, etc.
- Art Nouveau — introducing new elaborate shapes and modern materials: metal, glass, and reinforced concrete. This style is known as Secession in Lviv (at that time, part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire), and Jugendstil in Berlin (the former German Empire).
Chapter 1. Lovely villas
🇺🇦 Lviv: Villas of Kastelivka (1890s)
Kastelivka developed at the end of the 19th century as an area of country houses for middle-class citizens. This neighborhood gained its signature look owing to Polish architect Julian Zachariewicz and Ukrainian-German architect Ivan Levynskyi.
Levynskyi combined Carpathian folk architecture with Secession, thus bringing Ukrainian motifs into the Western European tradition. Besides, he was one of the city’s largest employers.
🇩🇪 Berlin: Villas on Hagenplatz (1890s)
These adjacent villas are both neo-Gothic, but they were created by different architects within several years of each other. Otto Stahn designed the first villa for Müller-Breslau, the rector of the Technical University; the second villa was constructed by Franz Goltsch for engineer and builder Holmgren. Owing to contrasting materials like brick, plaster, and wood, the villas have a distinct country-house effect.
On the right from villas, there is a two-story house constructed by Eugen Confeld von Felbert for chemist Woringer. The building was influenced by English country style (the first floor and roof) and has neo-Romanesque and neo-Renaissance elements (the ground floor).
🇺🇦 Lviv: Villa Shultz (1896)
Brothers Jan and Karol Schulz built this elite neo-Renaissance house for themselves. It’s the pearl of Pidzamche that used to be a poor neighborhood outside of the city’s northern boundaries before the 18th century. Jan Schulz is also known as the founder of the Lviv Secession style.
Interesting fact: a “Tatra” tram on the photo above is one of 30 used trams purchased by Lviv from Berlin in 2018.
🇩🇪 Berlin: Doppelvilla Schwedlerstraße 9/9A (1898–1899)
This double villa was constructed by Zaar & Vahl who also designed the exterior of the famous Berlin Zoo Aquarium. Initially, the villa belonged to Rudolf Vahl himself and patent attorney du Bois Reymond.
This building draws attention by its asymmetries, contrasting details on each facade, and materials variety: wood, plaster, stucco.
🇺🇦 Lviv: Dolynskyi Villa (1899)
Architect Ivan Dolynskyi built this villa for himself using neo-Baroque and neo-Renaissance features. By the end of the 19th century, this neighborhood wasn’t considered prestigious, but the development of Stryiskyi Park nearby contributed to the appearance of more villas.
Dolynskyi Villa remains merely known among Lviv citizens as it stands on a curvy dead-end street pretty far from the center.
Chapter 2. Majestic hotels
🇺🇦 Lviv: Hotel “George” (1900, 1906)
The history of the hotel dates back to the 18th century, and this is the third building on this site. It was constructed by architects Fellner & Helmer with Ivan Levynskyi’s participation (mentioned in the chapter about villas).
The hotel was initially a two-storied neo-Renaissance building, but further extensions and renovations brought Art Nouveau elements. Niches on the corners hold allegorical female sculptures of The Four Continents: Africa, Asia, Europe, and America.
Notable guests who stayed at the hotel include writers Honore de Balzac and Jean-Paul Sartre and composers Franz von Liszt and Maurice Ravel.
🇩🇪 Berlin: Hotel am Steinplatz (1906–1907)
Hotel am Steinplatz is an outstanding example of Jugendstil. It was built by August Endell, the architect of the Hackesche Höfe (see chapter below), as a residential building but became a hotel soon thereafter. The hotel stands out from the dense street layout owing to its olive-green facade and fascinating stucco resembling forest and night motifs.
In the 1950s, the hotel’s basement bar served as a secret meeting place for celebrities like Brigitte Bardot, Luciano Pavarotti, or Romy Schneider. Later, the building was a retirement home and then stood empty until renovation and reopening as a five-star hotel in 2013.
Chapter 3. Mysterious mansions
🇩🇪 Berlin: Villa Nölle (1901–1902)
This beautiful villa in the style of neo-Renaissance is now abandoned, but it was one of the most magnificent villas in the entire district of Grunewald. The villa was built on the bank of an artificial lake, Dianasee, by architects Solf and Wichards for the factory owner Ernst Nölle.
Nölle’s heirs sold the villa, which turned out to be too expensive as a single-family property. Soon, a substantial part of the garden was sold and built up by middle-class residential houses.
🇺🇦 Lviv: Sosnowski House (1901, 1907)
Architect Josef Sosnowski built this house in two stages; the first part — for rent, and the second one, with the tower — for himself. Owing to an original mix of neo-Gothic and Moorish elements, this building creates the illusion of a medieval castle.
By the way, Sosnowski took part in the construction of the Central Railway Station and the restoration of many ancient buildings in Lviv.
Chapter 4. Fabulous schools
🇺🇦 Lviv: “Red Schools” (1880–1890s)
This ensemble of red neo-Gothic and neo-Renaissance schools is attributed to Julius Hochberger, director of Lviv’s building administration. Hochberger had worked in this position for three decades and built seven schools in Lviv, not to mention other buildings.
Hochberger was born in Posen, German Empire (now Poznan, Poland), and studied architecture in Berlin. He was awarded a silver medal in the competition dedicated to the anniversary of Karl Schinkel’s death. And Schinkel, in turn, was a prominent architect and city planner whose buildings adorn the center of Berlin. Who could think of such historic ties!
🇩🇪 Berlin: Victoria-Luisen-Schule (1903–1904)
Berlin has many more schools looking like Hogwarts from “Harry Potter” than Lviv, but I’ll tell show you, probably, the most interesting one.
Victoria-Luisen-Schule was founded as a school for girls and initially bore the name of the Princess of Prussia. It’s a so-called old-language school where pupils study Latin and Greek.
Architect Otto Herrnring deliberately broke a typical German format of red-brick school barracks and paid attention to varied facade details.
🇩🇪 Berlin: Höhere Mädchenschule Zehlendorf (1902–1903)
The grammar school for girls is located in Zehlendorf, a green western locality of Berlin. It was designed by architects Höniger and Sedelmeier who found inspiration in Renaissance municipal buildings and typical German houses. Look at these fabulous half-timbered gables and clock towers!
🇺🇦 Lviv: Ukrainian Pedagogical Society (1906–1908)
This building is a prominent example of Ukrainian Modern and nowadays houses the National Forestry University. It was designed by Ivan Levynskyi’s architecture bureau in the Secession style, namely its folk variant, which resembles Carpathian log cabins. It stands in the western part of the city on a hill and is surrounded by a park.
Chapter 5. Commercial estates
🇺🇦 Lviv: Bank of Prague (1911–1912)
At the beginning of the 20th century, Lviv was the economical center of Galicia, a historical region that used to be a small kingdom in medieval times and nowadays occupies Western Ukraine and Southern Poland. Many banks operated in Galicia, and the Bank of Prague was one of the major participants in the region’s industry.
This corner building belongs to Late Secession and was designed by a team of Lviv architects who won a competition among 16 projects. Not only is the building’s dome its most recognizable feature, but also a step towards Art Deco, the architecture style following Secession.
🇩🇪 Berlin: Hackesche Höfe (1906–1907)
Unlike other items in this article, the Hackesche Höfe is not a building but a complex of 8 interconnected courtyards designed by August Endell in Jugendstil. The first courtyard, the most famous one, is adorned with colorful patterns of glazed brick.
The area around the Hackesche Höfe used to be a poor district by the 19th century but right before the construction of the courtyards turned into a center of clothing and accessories manufacturing. Now, it’s a venue of 40 businesses including shops, cafes, and event halls.
Chapter 6. Profitable houses
Profitable houses were multi-apartment buildings aimed at generating income from rental payments. Owners of profitable houses leased flats and commercial premises to individual residents and businesses.
🇩🇪 Berlin: Luisenhaus (1892–1893)
This exquisite building adorns the old part of Gesundbrunnen, a city’s central-northern district. Luisenhaus was built by Carl Galuschki on the territory of Luisenbad, a decaying 18–19th-century park with a healing spring and guest houses on the bank of the river Panke.
One-third of the house was demolished soon after construction, and a new facade was finished in 1907. It is decorated with a bas-relief of the fountain house from former Luisenbad. As for Galuschki, persecuted by creditors, he shot himself at the gates of an asylum in 1910.
🇩🇪 Berlin: Kurfürstenhaus (1895–1897)
This neo-Renaissance office building is located in the heart of Berlin, Nikolaiviertel. The house arose on the site of its predecessor, where Prince-Elector (Kurfürst) Johann Sigismund died in 1620, hence the name “Kurfürstenhaus.”
The previous building was put to different uses. In the 18th century, it housed the inn “To the Three Lilies,” and Giacomo Casanova was among its guests. In the 19th century, there was a wine store and cellar pub here. The old Kurfürstenhaus was demolished in 1867, and a new one followed its original Baroque-altered Renaissance style.
🇺🇦 Lviv: Segal’s House (1904)
This house was erected in the style of ornamental Secession for attorney Adolph Segal (see the initial “S” on the facade). This building is a sample of prestigious housing of the early 20th century.
Segal’s House is decorated with floral ornaments, and the windows of each floor have their unique pattern.
🇩🇪 Berlin: Mietwohnhaus Kurfürstendamm 59–60 (1905–1907)
This is a well-preserved example of an upper-middle-class apartment building from the turn of the century. It was built by the architects Hans Toebelmann and Henry Gross as part of an ensemble of four residential houses. The facade is lavishly decorated with balconies, bay windows, and copper domes.
The initial layout had two luxurious 11-room apartments on each floor, but nowadays they are divided into smaller ones.
🇺🇦 Lviv: House Doroshenka 15 (1906–1907)
Together with Segal’s House, this building is one of the first Secession residential estates in the city. It was constructed by architects Kedzierski & Ulam for merchant Jozef Haussmann who owned the previous building at the same address. The building is decorated with colored tiles, lyre-shaped cartouches, and patterned railings.
🇩🇪 Berlin: Mietwohnhaus Kaiserdamm 118 (1907–1908)
This magnificent house was built by Hermann Heider in the neo-Renaissance style with a colossal gable fronton, golden mosaics, and massive bay windows. Apartments in this house were up to 400 square meters large!
🇺🇦 Lviv: House Kniazia Romana 6 (1912–1913)
This building is a unique example of the transition between Modern and Modernist architecture. It combines the motifs of Jugendstil, neo-Gothic, and Secession and was designed by architect Adolf Piller as a residential estate for merchants Stadtmüller and Czudzak. Today it houses the Lviv State Regional Radio and Lviv Regional Broadcasting Center.
Chapter 7. Beautiful theatres
🇩🇪 Berlin: Renaissance Theater (1902)
This building was initially built for the academic association “Motiv” (founded in 1847) and soon also housed a cinema. Later it was remodeled as a theater and opened in 1922 with the play “Miss Sara Sampson” by Gotthold Ephraim Lessing, an 18th-century German philosopher. During Nazi times, the theater was closed and didn’t get proper restoration until the 1980s.
The Renaissance Theater is considered to be the only completely preserved Art Deco theater in Europe.
🇺🇦 Lviv: Catholic House (1908–1909)
This neo-Romanesque and neo-Gothic building arose on the orders of the archbishop on the territory that had belonged to Augustiner monks. The ground floor provided space for 12 shops that were selling monastery-manufactured goods. The theatre hall had 420 seats and 200 standing places. And the facade was decorated with the statues of St. Mary and St. Joseph, which disappeared after the First World War.
Nowadays this building is known as Lviv Academic Drama Theater named after Lesya Ukrainka.
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