Vul. Kurbasa, 5 – residential building

ID: 2476

The former Sandl house is a unique monument of the ornamental Secession in Lviv; due to the fact that its façade is entirely covered with ceramic tiles, it is considered a version of the famous Majolikahaus in Vienna. The house's planning and its façade composition was designed by Henryk Salver in 1905-1906. In 1906-1907, on the basis of this project, Solomon Riemer completed the designs of the façade and of the interior using products of the Bracia Mund  ceramic workshop. The building is an architectural monument of local significance (protection number 180).


Kurbasa street was laid as early as the 18th century. On the 1829 and 1848 maps of Lviv the street is represented by isolated wooden houses, and the area corresponding to the present-day address vul. Kurbasa, 5 is not yet built up. However, on the 1861 plan we can see that the entire block between Kurbasa and Nalyvayka streets was built up by that time. The plot on vul. Kurbasa, 5 (ul. Rejtana) had conscription number 529 2/4; on the left, it bordered on the townhouse number 3 (conscription number 171 2/4), on the right, on the townhouse number 5 (conscription number 165 2/4), and at the rear, on the townhouse number 4 on Nalyvayka street (conscription number 163 2/4). The 1905 project of the façade (DALO 2/2/3734:74) indicates a low-rise nature of housing on Kurbasa street in the second half of the 19th century: on the left of the building, a two-storied townhouse is marked (replaced in 1909 by the five-storied building of the "Casino de Paris"), and on the right, a three-storied townhouse which has survived till today.

Consequently, a 1859 project has been preserved in the archives (DALO 2/2/3734), stipulating the construction of a two-storied double toilet block in the rear wing located in the courtyard of the house. So we can assume that the first building was constructed on this site between 1848 and 1859. As is shown in the sections filed in the archives, the lateral wing and the main townhouse had two floors and were encircled by a balcony/gallery, providing access to the toilet. On the first floor, one could go there from the courtyard. As evidenced by the signatures, the project was commissioned by Antschel Jurim and Izral Sandl; the builder was Michael Gerl.

Initially, the house's sewerage was connected to the channel of the rear townhouse (conscription number 163 2/4), which was, apparently, connected to the city sewerage system earlier. In 1864 a project of draining sewerage under the courtyard and the main townhouse to the collector on vul. Kurbasa (ul. Rejtana) was approved (DALO 2/2/3734:78). On 10 November 1891 a project of the construction of a cesspool in the courtyard was approved. The sewerage from the toilet in the rear wing was drained into that cesspool and, from there, straight through a "private channel" under the townhouse, to the "main channel" on the street (DALO 2/2/3734:76). The section shows no connections to the sewerage channel from the main house, indicating a lack of toilets there at that time.

An intensive development of the city at the turn of the 20th century caused restructuring of many buildings, and particularly that of the mid-19th century two-storied houses. It took two years to process and approve the project of a new building on vul. Kurbasa, 5.

At first, the city Magistrate received initial versions of the plans of a three-storied house with an attic signed by architect Henryk Salver. They were approved on 26 September 1905 (DALO 2/2/3734: 72, 76). There are no bathrooms in these plans; toilets were to be accessed from the balconies on the rear façade. On the main façade, there are no balconies either. A two-tract functional zoning of rooms, traditional for historical row housing, is marked in pencil. In particular, apartment rooms (labeled "P" - "Pokój", Polish for "room") are usually oriented toward the main façade while kitchens (labeled "K" - "Kuchnia", Polish for "kitchen") and bathrooms are oriented toward the rear façade. The ground floor is occupied by shops ("Sklep" in Polish). Each floor had to consist of two apartments: two- and three-room ones with a hall, a kitchen and a toilet.

At the same time, the initial version of the house's façade was approved, it corresponded to the  late Historicist style. In the project, the ground floor and the mezzanine are visually merged into a single floor, separated by a cornice; the whole façade plane is segmented by banded rustication, the windows of the upper floors have Neo-Baroque trimmings (DALO 2/2/3734:74). The drawings of the house floors and of its façade bear a seal reading "Hotel Berliński, M. Zimmermann, Lwów, ul. Rejtana L. 7", indicating the company which apparently commissioned the house construction and sought to expand their hotel, located next door.

However, this project was not implemented. Almost a year later, on 21 December 1906, an entirely new façade design was added to the previous plans, approved by the Magistrate and signed by Solomon Riemer (DALO 2/2/3734:74). The project was commissioned by Isaak Gersh Sandl (DALO 2/2/3734:73, 75). In the explanations to the drawings one can read that it is a"ceramic façade, different from the original project". A Lviv workshop owned by brothers Jakób and Maurycy Mund was charged with the production of ceramic tiles for the façade and interior of this house (Бірюльов, 2008, 473). But if you compare the location of windows and their size in the first and second versions of the façades, you can discover the identity of their compositional schemes. The only thing Solomon Riemer changed was the façade surface design, with a shift from the Historicism to the Secession and Orientalism.

Six months later, namely, on 31 July 1907, the "arrangement of bathrooms on the 3rd and 4th floors" in the project, previously designed by Henryk Salver, was approved (DALO 2/2/3734, 2/1/6407). This slightly revised project, designed by Riemer, is not different from the 1905 project, except for bathrooms and some interior details (entrances to the toilets from the kitchens, stoves, gas water heaters in the kitchens, exits to the balcony).

Given the degree of change in the façade and planning, we can conclude that the main work was done not by Solomon Riemer but by Henryk Salver, whose name as that of the author of this project remained unknown to researchers.

The date of the townhouse construction is confirmed by an inscription, made of tiles on the vestibule's floor: "Rejtana L. 5 1907". Obviously, the construction was started earlier, in 1906, after the approval of the first project of the façade.

The 1907 site plan shows, a rear wing as wide as the courtyard was added to the toilet block, significantly reducing the size of the courtyard.

Around 1911 the vestibule's interior was decorated with four large pictorial panels in frames (Бірюльов, 2008, 473). The ground floor was occupied by a coffee shop called "Japońska" (Japanese) which functioned there till the First World War (Бірюльов, 2008, 473). There are mentions that there was also a restaurant of Szymon Katz (Kulewski, 2006, 172). On 13 August 1931 a project was approved of a connection to the new city sewerage channel, made of concrete pipes 40 cm in diameter. This channel was laid deeper than the previous one (at a depth of 4.9 meters from the sidewalk); it was at a distance of 4.1 meters from the main façade. The city channel was connected with the townhouse by a pipe, where sewage from the old toilets in the wing and from the new toilets in the house, located on either side of the staircase, was drained (DALO 2/2/3734:81).

In 1937 the then owner of the house Oskar Fränkel, a Lviv merchant, repeatedly received letters from the ciry administration's building supervision department reminding him of the need to restore the façade, which was destroyed, dirty, and shabby, thus distorting the aesthetic appearance of the street. Especially accentuated was the need for dismantling three portals/shop windows which were in poor condition and made it impossible to control and to restore the façade. The portals belonged to the companies owned by Leon Stark, David Santerpacht, and Rubin Zeisl. To ensure these works, the administration collected a deposit of 800 zlotys, which was not returned in case of failure. Oskar Fränkel sent a letter to the Magistrate saying that the townhouse was owned not by him but by Rachel Neuthhaler and Mina Fränkel. Accordingly, the Magistrate addressed the real owners on 25 May 1938. However, on 9 June 1939 Oskar Fränkel appeared as the owner of the house again as he received from the city administration a letter about an unauthorized construction of a small gallery at the shop level (DALO 2/2/3734:55-70).

Until now, the original purpose of the building has remained unchanged: the ground floor premises are used as shops and the upper floors are occupied by apartments. In Soviet times the portals leading to the shops from the vestibule were bricked up. The lower parts of the vestibule and staircase walls were covered with oil paint, thus distorting the authentic look of the building's interior (especially when compared with ceramic tile facing). For better insolation the former courtyard was in Soviet time expanded to a quite considerable size due to the demolition of internal wings and boundary walls between the neighbouring townhouses in the entire block (numbers 3-9 on Kurbasa street; numbers 4 and 6 on Nalyvayka street; numbers 5-9 on Tyktora street).

Recently, to limit access to the courtyard, the townhouse owners installed a metal lattice in the ground floor staircase, which does not correspond to the building's style and distorts its appearance.

In 2015 Kurbasa street became pedestrian, enabling a better perception of its architectural features, including the façade of the townhouse number 5. 

Generally, the building symbolizes a connection between the ornamental Secession of Lviv and that of Vienna, including Otto Wagner's works, and is considered a version of his famous Majolikahaus, as this house is often referred to.


The Sandl house is located amidst row housing about halfway down Kurbasa street, a small street, where one can see a rather contrasting stylistic palette of the architectural trends of the second half of the 19th – early 20th centuries. On the left, the Sandl house borders on the five-storied building of the Kurbasa theater (number 3), designed in the Secession style with some elements of Neo-Gothic. On the right, there is a three-storied mid-19th century building with mansards added in the 2000s. On the opposite side of the street, there are residential three- and four-storied late 19th century townhouses erected in the Historicist style.

Originally, the townhouse was built as a residential one, its premises were to be rented for housing on the upper floors and for offices or shops on the ground floor.

The four-storied, two-tract Sandl townhouse is covered with a gable roof. Due to its flat main façade and location on a rectangular plot within the street's row housing, the building's volume fits in a regular parallelepiped with a square base (about 12x12 m) and about 14 m tall (up to the cornice). The unpretentiousness of the building's volume is slightly enlivened by a rhythm of rectangular balconies (a long one on the second floor and two short ones on each of floors 2-4). The volume of the building is designed symmetrically relative to the transverse main axis; the so-called transit block, i.e. the entrance portal, the vestibule and the staircase, is shifted to the right. Due to the fact, differently sized  (two- and three-room) apartments with almost regularly proportioned rooms were formed. The two-flight staircase's volume projects out as a rounded apse on the rear façade. Entrances to each floor's two apartments were arranged from the stair landing. Inside, from a small square hallway one can go to the bathroom, kitchen or intercommunicating rooms, i.e. the whole apartment (according to a traditional Lviv planning pattern) can be circled. On both sides of the staircase, kitchens with bathrooms and toilets are located whose windows are oriented toward the rear façade. From the kitchen, an exit is arranged to a balcony on the rear façade, which is common to the two apartments.

The four-window façade of Sandl house of is characterized by a symmetrical composition relative to the vertical axis, somewhat affected by the entrance portal's shift to the right. Vertically, the façade composition is developed according to the principle of Secessionist atectonics when the ground floor plane is designed in a restrained way, and the intensity of decoration grows upwardly. In particular, the ground floor is decorated with slightly embossed board rustication and separated from the upper floors by a long balcony running the entire width of the house (similar to Otto Wagner's Majolikahaus). The planes of floors 2-4 are entirely faced with majolica ceramic tiles, creating an orderly ornamental composition (like Otto Wagner's technique). Ornamental stripes along the horizontal and vertical axes between the windows are clearly seen against the beige background. The basis of these stripes' ornament consists of circles which, at the intersections of the stripes and along the vertical window axes, form a kind of rosettes framed with stylized royal lilies. The ornament is designed in a warm range of brown and ochreous shades, associated with the technique of grisaille. Contrast is created by the insertion of white circles and blue lilies with a white outline. It is worthwhile to note that only square ceramic tiles are used on the façade without any combination with "glazed bricks" as is wrongly believed by some researchers (e.g., Бірюльов, 2005, 77).

The lack of cornices over the windows and a restrained, slightly relief crowning cornice was four years ahead of the "eyebrowless" house of Adolf Loos on the Michaelerplatz 3 in Vienna (1910-1912). An insuffucient section of gutters and a small cornice overhang caused a soaking of the façade's upper part and, consequently, a falling-off of the majolica tiles and a destruction of the cornices (Казанцева, 2010, 2014).

In the façade's decorative design a significant role is played by the forged door and the balconies' elements. In particular, the balconies' lattices are decorated with a typical Secessionist forged ornament (vegetable elements, circles, and wavy lines), different on each floor according to the Secessionist principle of the uniqueness of each work of art. Large forged consoles under balconies are expressive accents, their concave forms contrasting with the rectangular slabs of balconies and with the flat façade.

The window and door openings are rectangular. The main façade's side windows have two parts, while the middle windows have three parts with an exit to the balcony, located in the center of the opening. An authentic Secession woodwork has been preserved in one three-part windows (second floor) and in two two-part windows (second and third floors); the rest of the original windows have been replaced with plastic ones. Large shop windows are arranged on the ground floor.

The polychrome theme of the majolica façade is continued in the building's interior. In the vestibule, the walls' lower panels are entirely faced with ceramic tiles having motifs and colours similar to those used on the façade, but with a much higher ornament density. Vertical stripes of rosettes alternate there with those of palmettes stylized as Renaissance arabesques (the latter were not used on the façade). The vestibule's side walls have a composition symmetrical with the portal of the former entrance to the shop, located in the middle. The portal has a profiled trimming with an overdoor, decorated with a Secession molding having stylized volutes and grape leaves motifs. On the margins of the wall, on either side of the portals, there are large pictorial panels in wooden profiled frames with "ears". On the panels, coastal landscapes are depicted in oil technique; unfortunately, they are almost destroyed. The vestibule floor is paved with small square ochreous tiles of high durability, framed with mosaic guilloche border with the addition of black and wine red colours. In front of the steps, there is an inscription made up of tiles and reading "Rejtana L 7 1907". The vestibule ceiling has a shaped border, authentic bronze hooks for chandeliers have been preserved.

Through a Secession-styled wooden interior door one can get to the wooden staircase with a forged fence and a wooden handrail. The style and material of the fence are typical of the Historicism, particularly due to traditional volutes and "S"-shaped elements. It can be assumed that the stairs remained from the previous building.

The panels of the flight of stairs between the first two floors are coated with white ceramic tiles, whose rows are parallel to the rise of the stairs. Brass railings were attached to the staircase walls; their round supports still can be seen here and there. Under the staircase windows one can see majolica panels, made of the same tiles as the rosettes on the façade; however, here they form an original composition, additionally decorated with a frieze of palmettes at the top. This technique, as well as the coating of the walls of the staircase (not of the vestibule) is unique to Lviv architecture. The floor of the landings consists of diagonal rows of tiles with stylized French lilies in a range of grey colours with a black outline against the ochreous background, corresponding to the colors of the wall tiles. The entrances to the flats have lost their authentic framings due to the installation of new door panels. However, overdoors have survived over several entrances, identical with those in the vestibule. 


Henryk Salver — architect, author of the first design of the present building in 1905
Mojżesz Zimmermann — commissioner of the first design of the present building in 1905, also, the owner of Hotel Berliński, located next door (ul. Rejtana, 7, now vul. Kurbasa, 7).
Michael Gerl — builder who constructed a two-storey toilet block in the building's rear wing and connected it with the lateral wing and the main building block by a gallery in 1859
Antschel Jurim — co-owner of previous building in 1859  
Izral Sandl — co-owner of previous building in 1859  
Salomon Riemer — architect who designed the ceramic façade (1906) and the changes in the building's planning (1907) on the basis of Henryk Salver's 1905-1906 project
Bracia Mund, Jakób i Maurycy — owners of Lviv workshop of ceramic tiles, that were  used for the decoration of many buildings in Lviv, among them the Sandl townhouse
Izaak Hersch Sandl— commissioner of the design, owner of the building in 1907 


1. State Archive of Lviv Oblast (DALO), 2/2/3734.
2. Тетяна Казанцева, "Майоліка на фасадах львівської сецесії. Аналіз типології, стилістики та композиції на базі натурних досліджень", Студії мистецтвознавчі, 2010, Ч. 1, 70–92.
3. Тетяна Казанцева, "Майоліка на фасадах львівських будівель. Аналіз типології, стилістики і композиції на базі натурних досліджень", Збірник наукових праць кафедри реставрації та реконструкції архітектурних комплексів "Проблеми дослідження, збереження і реставрації об’єктів культурної спадщини",2014, 118–127.
4. Юрій Бірюльов, "Архітектура початку ХХ ст.", Архітектура Львова. Час і стилі ХІІІ–ХХІ ст. (Львів: Центр Європи, 2008).
5. Юрій Бірюльов, Мистецтво львівської сецесії (Львів: Центр Європи, 2005).
6. Adam Kulewski, Lwów: przewodnik(Warszawa: Rewasz, 2006).
7. Львів непопсовий. "Майоліка-хаус"Львів. Будинок Санделя (1907 р.).
8. Jakub Lewicki, Między tradycią a nowoczesnością: Architektura Lwowa lat 1893-1918 (Warszawa: Neriton, 2005).
9. Narys Upiekszeń Miasta Lwowa / Начеркъ Украшеній Міста Львова (Wiedeń: Austriacka Biblioteka Narodowa, 1861).
10. Plan der Stadt Lemberg sammt ihren Vorstadten / План міста Лемберг разом із передмістями (Wien: Lit. bei J. Trentsensky in Wien, 1829).
11. Plan von Lemberg (План Лемберга). ‑ Wien: Artaria & Compagnie, 1841.

By Tetyana Kazantseva