Kharkiv - Svoboda (Freedom) Square (Part 1)

Kharkiv Travel Blog

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The bird’s eye view of Svoboda Square
Svoboda Square adjoins Sumska Street. Its unique architectural ensemble is known far beyond Ukraine.

First of all it must be noted that the 1920s were a turning point for the town planning of Kharkiv. On the one hand, this was caused by a lack of housing in the city — the years of the revolution, the Civil War and the struggle with interventionists, when practically no construction had been carried on, adversely affected it. On the other hand, the new political system demanded unprecedented embodiments of its power in everything including architecture. It caused an intense competition between conservative and avant-garde trends that at that time were reflected in the city planning.

Svobody square's unusual form resembles of a retort
For example, a big apartment block for the Yugostal Trust employees (at 116 Sumska Street) and the Noviy Byt (New Life) block of dwelling houses in Danilevskoho Street (##18–26) were approximately simultaneously constructed. The apartments of 5- and 6-storeyed houses lacked kitchens as they were to be replaced by a special kitchen-factory (it was believed that a Soviet person, freed from the burden of cooking, could do more good for the country). Later the building of the kitchen-factory was transformed into a military school and the tenants of «Noviy Byt» had to install baths and gas stoves in the corridors and bathrooms. And the «health and safety» experiment in apartment blocks at #71 and #73 in Sumska Street, where baths and water heaters were installed directly in the kitchen-rooms!! In short, it was the time of brave ideas and non-standard decisions and one of them is the architectural complex in Svoboda Square.
Rectangular side of Svobody square. On the left — the Palace of Creative Activities for Children and Youth, on the right — the buildings of the «Kharkiv» Hotel and the House of Design and Construction Organizations

In the middle of the 1920s a great number of different offices and organisations were concentrated in the capital city of Kharkiv. To provide for their operation a lot of housing facilities were required. The pre-revolutionary administrative buildings were occupied by the local government bodies; the republican government bodies were provisionally offered apartment blocks, like the above mentioned one, that belonged to the Salamander Insurance Company. But it did not solve the problem as the staff of different institutions increased steadily.

To solve the accommodation problem, it was decided to erect a whole complex of special buildings.

Svoboda Square panorama
With this aim a State joint-stock company was organised, and many republican trusts, e. g. Prombank, Vneshtorg and Gostorg became its members. It took long to choose a construction site for the prospective giant, but eventually the site to the north-west of Sumska Street was chosen. Until the end of the 18th century this land had belonged to Kharkiv military residents that had inherited it from their ancestors (the Cossacks). At the beginning of the 19th century they passed this land over to University for the construction of the university buildings. At the beginning of the 20th century the clinics and other buildings of the University Medical School were situated there, and beyond them there stretched the waste ground cut with ravines.
Svobody square (view from Gosprom)

In 1923 a competition of projects for the planning of this territory was held. The project by a young architect V. Trotsenko won this competition. This project envisaged the layout of new blocks of apartment blocks for workers in the form of concentric circles divided by radial streets coming from a round square (park). This planning idea was used later in 1924 when a decision to construct a new square was taken. The project by V. Trotsenko was sent to the participants of a new competition as a planning basis and the competition took place in 1925.

Soon the marking of the territory for the construction of a complex of administrative buildings (the House of State Industry, (Derzhprom) was the most important among them) was carried out. Three blocks in the inner circle of the square were allotted for Derzhprom. A new district was being formed around it. The present-day Pravda Avenue, Chichibabina Street, Danilevskoho Street, Kul’tury Street used to form the rings that were crossed by Lenin Avenue, Halana Street, Romen Rollana Street, Henry Barbussa Street and Passionariya Slope that connected Svoboda Square with Klochkivska Street, which lay at the bottom of the hills. The development of this site was basically completed in the pre-war years. To clear the view of Derzhprom from Sumska Street, the land around it was levelled and some low-rising buildings were demolished.

Today Svoboda Square — one of the largest squares in the world (almost 12 hectars) — consists of a rectangular part that fronts onto Sumska Street and a circular part that is connected with Lenin Avenue. The length of the square is 750m, the width of the rectangular part — 130m, the diameter of the circle — 350m. The unusual layout of the square that reminds a retort was the result of the efforts to make its shape more

clear-cut. It was also the result of the spatial division of it into a rectangular part, which is the city’s main «forum», and a circular part, in the centre of which a park was laid out. On the rectangular north side of the square there is Kharkiv Hotel and an office building. The east side, that adjoins Sumska Street, is enclosed by the building of Kharkiv Regional State Administration and Regional Council. Along the south side the square is framed by the side face of the Youth Palace and Taras Shevchenko City Garden. In the circular part of the square there are three grand buildings: Derzhprom, V. Karazin Kharkiv National University and the Military University. Under the surface of the square there is an interchange section of underground stations crossing at different levels : Universytet Station (Saltivka line) and Derzhprom Station (Oleksiyivka line).

The architectural pattern of the buildings is varied, but the observance of continuity in the compositional solutions gives the unique architectural ensemble its integrity and completeness.
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The bird’s eye view of Svoboda S…
The bird’s eye view of Svoboda …
Svobody squares unusual form rese…
Svobody square's unusual form res…
Rectangular side of Svobody square…
Rectangular side of Svobody squar…
Svoboda Square panorama
Svoboda Square panorama
Svobody square (view from Gosprom)
Svobody square (view from Gosprom)
photo by: viktosha