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The office of ЗMIN


5 min

2 November 2023

Can a historical apartment function not only as a housing, but as an office, too? One of such apartments is a flat in a 19th century building, situated on Ivan Franko St, where the office of ЗMIN Foundation is currenlty operating.
The Heritage Office talked to Khrystyna Boyko, director of ЗMIN – about the institution’s values, reflected in the space organization, and how a comfortable and convenient office for the team was created in a historical building.

About the object

A residential building on I. Franko St, 39, was constructed in 1866 according to the project of the architect Napoleon Lushkevych. The building is situated in the centre of the historical area of Lviv, but it is not an architectural monument. The 62-square-meter apartment is located on the second floor, with two balconies on the front side of the building and the access to the courtyard. Initially, it was a big apartment, that was divided into two communal apartments during the Soviet era. The apartment underwent its last renovation approximately in 70s or 80s, therefore it luckily avoided the "euro style" trend, and lots of original elements were preserved.

In ЗMIN, within our whole functioning, we try to stick to the policy of sensitivity and attentiveness, that was declared in our strategy and program activity. It particularly concerns the heritage. Therefore, preservation of the heritage, even private, is a logical continuation of our agency, – says Khrystyna.

During the development of this project, the team was guided by the fundamental principles of shaping and thoroughly considered the peculiarities of this room, in order to unite the modern design with the atmosphere of a 19 th century historical building. Our aim was to preserve the feeling of an open space and free movement, while dividing the room into three zones, separated with visually hidden barriers. We did not want to create a glossy Pinterest cover out of this space, but rather to keep all that was left.

About details

At the entrance, we are greeted by an outstanding door in a grassy shade. Alas, it is not authentic. Almost all doors and windows in this apartment were replaced during the late Soviet era and were in a critically bad shape. The lost carpentry was recreated according to historical analogues.

We immediately find ourselves in the hall, kitchen, and bathroom area. The design was inspired by the ergonomics and minimalism, without any odd details. The kitchen window overlooks the courtyard.
The highest number of preserved elements can be found in two central rooms. Here, we can observe fantastic, tiled stoves with plant motifs from the beginning of the 20th century. Although previous owners had the stoves painted over, the restorers managed to return the original color of the tiles. A decision to paint the crown and some elements of one stove in a gray tone was an experiment. However, we do have proofs that specifically this range of colors was used in the authentic elements of that time. At some point, when the apartment heating was changed to gas, the stoves were rebuilt. It was not done too professional – one of the crowns stayed unfixed,
supported by a brick. Now, when carrying out plumbing communication in the office, there was an opportunity to rebuild them professionally and restore the original possibility of heating with firewood. The works lasted for nearly two months.

Unfortunately, no traces of wall paintings were found in the apartment. Therefore, it was decided to fill the office with light tones and mirrors to visually expand the space. Brickwork was exposed in the window slopes to add emphasis. The laconism in colors was complemented with greenery and artworks.
Luckily, it was possible to preserve the artistic oak parquet. It can be noticed that it is not perfectly even and squeaky. However, the sound when walking is quite meditative and beneficial for the office functions. The century-old parquet has been cleaned, cycled, and covered with transparent wood oil. And, although the oak quite lightened after cycling, the oil made it darker, while the ash revealed a nice honey shade.

Numerous layers of paint have been removed from the 19th century door. This is the only survived authentic door in the apartment. The original functional hardware, a brass latch and even a key have been preserved here. It got its cracks, its scars. It even preserved a faint smell of century-old history. We refused to hide it all under the paint, as it has its charm, its own story.

About the approaches

We installed the air conditioners, laying a long route around the whole room so that it could be brought out back in the courtyard, as we believe that technical elements should not be placed on the front side of the historical buildings. It would be awesome if everybody shared this opinion.
In this project, the team cooperated solely with local restorers and Ukrainian manufacturers. It was the beginning of a full-scale invasion and, logically, we decided to support local manufacturers and businesses. The main funds were invested into professional restoration works, and the final amount was equalized by purchasing budget furniture for the office.

We assume that preserving the elements of heritage and space functionality can coexist together. The office is not a museum. Therefore, in our decisions we were guided by the idea of practicality, where alongside the preserved interior elements there are budget tables and chairs from IKEA. The space was designed to be holistic for the team, comfortable and pleasant for meetings with our partners, and well-adapted for holding events there. We tried to strike the right balance between expressing our thankfulness to the previous residents and paying attention to those using it on the everyday basis. That was our aim, – says Khrystyna.

We plan to fix the entrance, the facade of the building, and beautify the surrounding area. For this, we encourage the residents, businesses, and nearby institutions to join us. All of this can be achieved by establishing sensitive and equal communication among all interested sides.

Subdued color scheme, visual techniques of space expansion using mirrors and delineation with glass partitions, without cluttering the area with unnecessary details, turned this apartment into an example of a modern office you want to visit every day. Moreover, preserving historical peculiarities of the building that have been there for over a century, proves that designing in an already existing environment is not only possible, but highly interesting, too.

Text: The Heritage Office
Photo: Iryna Sereda, Taras Bovt, Olia Zarechniuk
Planning decisions – Design Studio Ya Gallery
The link to the original material is here.

The Heritage Office is a coordination and information center, focused on the popularization, preservation, and renovation of Lviv heritage. The Office is a constant partner of ЗMIN in implementing joint programs and supporting initiatives, that are related to the heritage preservation.

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