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Historical Background

The Kyiv office of the State Commercial Bank was founded half a century ago, in 1839. Later a large one-storey house built in Empire style in Institutskaya street was purchased for the Bank. (The Kyiv office of the State Bank of Russia, established in 1860 on the basis of Posikov and Commercial Banks was located in this very building).

Будинок Держбанку до 1905 року та в наші чвси (24091 bytes)

Looking at the old pictures, one can judge, that it was a rather exquisite two-storied building with striking eight-column portico and two projections on each facade side. However, the Bank's financial operations expanded year after year and it was quite evident, that the old house was not any longer able to meet the growing demands of the State Bank. It was decided to construct a new modern building. The fate of the old one was not lucky. The Ukrainian historian Fedir Ernst wrote in his reference book "Kyiv. Explorer", published in 1930: "the construction was absolutely spoiled - its right wing was cut off and the portico - destructed". It can be distinctly seen at two pictures, made with the difference in 90 years.
However, first, the building was designed as adaptable to the changed conditions, but nothing good came of that.One of the arguments against reconstruction was that the building was far from Khreshchatik - Kyiv trade and business centre and very poor connected to this street because of the steep ascent along Institutskaya street. 10 years were spent for searching of new construction sites ( which were rejected one after another by Petersburg) and for persuading the Petersburg State Bank and Mr.Vitte (the then Minister of Finance), that it was impossible to enlarge the old building, so the only way out was to construct a new one. Only in autumn 1902, the construction started. And not in the attractive Kreshchatik, but in the same Institutskaya street, near the old Bank building.

Such architects as O.Kobelyev, P.Holandskyi and V.Gorodetskyi (the famous designer and owner of the Fancy House (1901-1903)) participated at the tender for the best design. The Kobelev's design was ackowledged as the best one and the work started. Later,   architekt Verbytskyi, who designed the main facade, joined the group.

O.Kobelyev(5637 bytes)

O.Verbytskiy  (5448 bytes)



To manage the construction process, a special Commission was formed. It developed the following basic construction principles:
- the premises were to be planned as large as to meet bank's requirements for at least 50 years;
- great attention had to be paid to strength and durability of the building constructive parts;
- almost all woodern parts had to be excluded to make it fully fire-protective.
All the above-mentioned reequirements were observed. Furthermore, the spacious reserve underground premises for future needs were designed as well.
To achieve the best quality of works, the Commission decided not to charge the only Contractor with the whole range of construction works. (As we see now, it was absolutely reasonable). About one hundred construction companies applied for participating at the construction. The tenderers used to be invited for every art of construction works.
Not all applicants were admitted,  but only well-known and reliable building companies with good business reputation. In a result of a very hard competition, about 20 subcontractors were selected. Among them were South-Russian machine building plant, construction companies of Hynsburg, Schmidt, Bronykovskyi and Zommer, Schwarzenberg and Safonov, construction companies of Leipzig, Magdeburg, etc.
The italian sculptor Elyo Sala was invited for exterior and interior decorative works.

Bank 1905 (2765 bytes)

On August 1, 1905, the banking operations were transfered to the new building and on the 22-d of February,  next year, the bank premises were sanctified.The city of Kyiv had received a beautiful modern one-storied building with ground and basement floors. It was supplied with central heating, electric lighting and airing system. Seven electric ventilators, by capacity of 18 h.p., were able to repump air in all premises within one hour. In winter, it was heated by heating system, in summer, the air was cooled when passing through cold underground corridors.

As it was underlined in the already cited short essay on the bank construction, published in 1906 in Kyiv, heating and airing problem was so important in buildings of this kind, that all members of the Commission had no doubt as to using the best achievements of the field in spite of great expenses. The cost of all heating and airing systems amounted to 100.000 roubles (one ninth part of the total construction cost of the bank's building and 4-storied annex house for the bank employees, cost of furniture included).

One small detail. The air for ventilation was taken from a special rose garden laid out in the bank yard. Every morning specially installed air collectors were turned on and rose fragrance was brought to all bank premises...

According to the design, 5 meter-spacings were foreseen between the neighbouring house and the old bank building. It allowed to make a very unusual binding of the new building to surrounding houses. It was compositionaly tied to the neighbouring houses with a stone gate. This gave the bank building an advantage before the other bank's premises, for example,  in Khreshchatik street, where they were built in one unbroken line. Moreover, this building formed the construction line of Institutskaya street and a perspective of Bankivska street. It determined the importance of the building, included to the historical Lypki ensamble, for urban planning.

The brick annex house for the bank employees by Kobelev's design was erected in the yard. Its facades were built in the same style as the main building. There were 32 single-and two-room appartments in the annex building and the basement floor.
The rooms were heated by stoves.

 Rykov В.(4858 bytes)

В. Rykov

Though area of the bank premises was planned in such a way as to meet the bank's requirements for no less than 50 years, as far back as in 1933, the Central office of the State Bank failed to correspond to the growing demands of the city (due to forthcoming transfering of the Ukrainian capital from Kharkiv to Kyiv). So, it was decided to add two more stories to the main building.Only in rare occasions that such additions did not interfere with a building's integrity and proportional unity.May be, for this very reason, first Kobelev refused to participate in such risky undertaking. Was he afraid of spoiling his most perfect piece of work?  But the fact was, that Kobelev in cooperation with Rykov started to develop the design for two more floors.
Started on February 25, 1934, the construction works were completed within 8.5 months, before November 7.
Some interesting technical details as to this reconstruction should be mentioned. The second and third floors were built  simultaneously with lifting the roof . It meant, that the roof was not removed, but it was cut into seven fragments and step by step lifted with lifting jacks. After the walls masonry had been finished , roof fragments were fixed upon cast iron pillows and welded again. The roof was lifted by 12 m, its weight amounted to 330 tons and the perimeter was 400 meters.

Bank appearance before 1934  (10125 bytes)

Bank after reconstruction of 1934 (9282 bytes)

Let's compare the pictures of the bank appearance before and after reconstruction of 1934. Due to the architects' skill the structure became even more expressive and beautiful. No doubt,  the fate of the building was lucky.
In its lay-out, the NBU- structure was H-like. Two parallely located three-storied buildings were compositionally united by the operating hall, the main bank's hall, richly decorated with stucco mouldings and stained-glass windows. Building facades were executed in the style of north-Italian Gothic and late Renaissance. Brick walls of the main facade were covered with artificial stone, imitating grey granite and rose sandstone.

The festive portal with a balcony and front colonade was a compositional centre of the main facade. Two symmetrical risallittes (projecting parts) on each side of the portal made it more ceremonial and expressive. Risallittes were decorated with balconies and twin half-circular windows and ended with a small attic wall and light towers at each corner.

Side parts of the main facade were decorated with rows of regularly arranged windows. Twin windows of the ground floor were separated with thin Corinthian columns. Large apertures of the first floor with half circular top parts were filled with rossette decorated twin windows. Lower window parts of the first and the third floors were decorated with rustica facing and lion head-sculptures.

Monumentality of the structure was underlined by broad majolica cornice. External facade walls were fastened by convoluted columns with decorative towers, supported by the figures of enormous griffons - winged lions. It's interesting to mention that griffons in ancient methology were considered to be the guards of gold mines.

As already mentioned, that Elio Sala, Italian sculptor of the second half of X1X-th - beginning of XX-th centuries (1864-1920), was invited to make decoration works.

Sculptor Elio Sala came to Kyiv in the 90-es of the last century. He arrived together with his two brothers - an artist and a plastic worker. He worked a lot with a famous architect Vladislav Gorodetskyi. Their cooperation began during construction of the city Fine Art Museum (now the National Fine Arts museum in Grushevskyi street, 6). The Italian master executed there the pediment composition, lions figures near the entrance and griffons by the structure corners. Then Sala decorated the Karaite church in Yaroslaviv Val ,7 (now Actor's House), also constructed by architect Gorodetskyi. But most of all, contemporaries were impressed by Sala's sculpture works, decorating the Fancy House (Bankova, 10), designed by Vladyslav Gorodetskyi. As decorative elements he used images of different animals (elephant heads, deers, rhunoceros, gigantic toads), fishing nets among waves, made of concrete. Furthemore, Sala decorated catholic St.Mykolai  Cathedral (Chervonoarmiiska, 75), Head building of the Politechnical colleage, City Theatre structure (now the National Opera House).

No less carefully decorated Sala and the State Bank building. This time much was spoken about its exterior decoration, it should be added, that the interior was very beautiful and festive as well. The interior was remarkable for its uniform style, good lighting arrangement, reasonable and comfortable internal lay-out. There was a lot of plastic decor and carving - especially in the operating hall: sculptures of ancient Gods of Hermesus, Demetra, Athena-Pallada and Hephestus.
Plastic decorations, such as shield with emblems and coat of arms upon them were located along the Hall perimeter above the balcony. In the middle of the hall cealing there was the glass image of the archiangel Michayil, patron of Kyiv, restored recently in its original appearance. It should be mentioned, that brothers Sala introduced new methords of casting sculptures and other plastic elements. The matter is, that the cast was not filled   with alabaster, but with a half-dry mixed concrete. This method had a lot of advantages before the alabaster one, especially by facade decorations.

Since the 90-es, the kyivites and the guests of the city have been admiring this pearl of architecture, created by architect Kobelev together with thousands of unknown masters. Due to its high artistic merits, this structure is one of the best Kyiv buildings of XX-th century. Passing it by, please find a few minutes in your daily bustle and stop for a while to admire this unique creation of human hands and you will feel, that life is not as bad, as we sometimes think about it.