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Secessionist Ensemle of Bohomoltsia Street

Urban Transformations of Lviv in the 19th Century

Olga Zarechnyuk
Medieval Lviv was surrounded by several rows of fortifications, walls with towers, and bastions. These fortifications were dismantled in 1772-1840, as they became ineffective at that time due to the emergence of new ways of battle. At that time, later bastion fortifications, surrounding a much larger area around the city, were dismantled too. On the one hand, it was a significant loss for the city, since some valuable examples of the 14th-18th cc. defensive architecture were destroyed. On the other hand, while compared to most cities of that time, Lviv got a much better possibility of territorial development. Its historic center was not closed any more, and new streets, public and residential buildings, public promenades, gardens, and parks began to appear on the territory of its suburbs which had actually looked more like a village before.

Lviv was not an industrial center, but, being the capital of Galicia, it attracted people from surrounding villages and towns. That is why the city was ​​constantly expanding in the 19th c., and the territory around its center was made more dense while the number of stories in buildings increased. At that time, one of the biggest challenges for the city was the need for more and more affordable housing. In the second half of the 19th c. the urban construction was aimed mostly at handling this problem.

As in most European cities, it was mostly residential buildings that were constructed in Lviv at that time. These apartment buildings were built chiefly under typical projects; separate apartments or rooms in them were rented out. Whole streets of such houses grew in place of former palaces, villas, monastery gardens in different parts of the city.

Lack of professional specialists and regulation in the field of construction were the main causes of disordered, often chaotic housing, whose effects are felt particularly acutely today. The city authorities were not prepared for the rapid growth of the city in the second half of the 19th c., both from administrative and technical points of view. New streets were laid then without understanding of the "general picture" of the city development. In many cases, engineers involved in designing the townhouses had no education in urban planning (Mączyński, 1908; Drexler, 1912). The plots were built up to the maximum limit (according to the 1885 building statute, only 13% of the plot were to remain free from housing; however, if several buildings were given a common courtyard, the percentage could be even lower). This led to the appearance of closely packed blocks of row housing with uncomfortable layout, with small and therefore badly lit and mostly wet courtyards, with awkwardly shaped rooms. Given that in the 1870-1880s, that is, in the first period of the so-called construction "boom" there was no electricity or centralized water supply and sanitation in the city, a large number of residential buildings needed modernization as early as the second half of the 1890s.


"Designers are aimed only at getting as much income from land and buildings as possible and with minimum investment. Cities are built by profiteers, each in his own part, taking no care of general needs."

Ignacy Drexler, Miasta ogrodowe, 1912, 4