At the beginning of the 20th century, European architects and artists sought new ways of expression and abandoned the use of traditional classical forms. At precisely the time a large number of artistic and architectural trends emerged, which are commonly referred to as the First wave of modernism or interwar modernism.

The term “architectural modernism”, which is used in professional literature, corresponds to the concepts of modern architecture. In Ukrainian, the word "modern" is applied to a completely different European style called secession, which is a bit confusing for those who do not deal with these issues professionally. So, here in Ukraine, we have modernism and modern - completely different styles.


The main principles of architectural modernism: the rejection of historicism and decoration and so-called “naked construction”, the functional approach towards internal space, comfort and convenience in designing spaces, the use of glass and concrete.

The motto of modernist architecture is “from the inside out”: first, the interior is planned, and after that, the architect designs the exterior of the building.

The modernism of the first wave includes European functionalism, Soviet constructivism and rationalism, and Art Deco.

In the project Constructivism.Kharkiv we use the term “features of the European modern” to show the influence of the European modern architecture - functionalism. 

Functionalism is characterized by standardization and industrialization of construction. The construction of buildings and residential complexes served the purposes of functionality and uniformity with its standardized sections and apartments, as well as row house neighborhoods.

Functionalism is determined by practical considerations, production and household activities that take place in the buildings. Constructivism has much in common with functionalism, but one can still see some differences between Soviet constructivism and European functionalism.

Functionalism referred to the idea that design should be built around the building’s specific functions. In return, constructivism tried to embody utopian concepts of “the creation of the new man,” which is reflected in the architectural design. Therefore, constructivist buildings have a larger palette of three-dimensional solutions.

Functionalism uses minimalist forms because of their convenience, while constructivism seeks creative expression in the minimal use of forms and volumes.

There are several buildings with the features of European modern architecture in Kharkiv. These are Derzhdacha (state cottage) and buildings of the Ukrainian Institute of Physics and Technology.

Along with modernism, such movements as revolutionary romanticism, art deco, and authentic Ukrainian architecture emerged in Kharkiv. All this existed side-by-side.

 Bauhaus school building in Dessau

Bauhaus school building in Dessau

In Kharkiv, there are buildings of 1920-1930s with not only modernist features but also influenced by different styles, with elements of other movements.

That is why we have identified six styles to describe the stylistic features of each building.