A residential building on Stryiska Street in Lviv, Ukraine, was targeted by a Russian Kalibr missile last week, claiming the lives of 10 individuals and injuring 45. The attack on July 6 destroyed two floors, ruining about 60 apartments in the historic building. 

The building complex on Stryiska Street is representative of early architectural Functionalism, designed in 1925 by Lviv architect Mikhal Ryba and constructed in 1930. Planned as inexpensive and affordable housing during the interwar period, the complex has a unique oval shape featuring elements of Art Deco design, such as metal door partitions adorned with flowers, curved handrails, arched windows, and wooden doors.

Myroslava Liakhovych, a researcher of the architecture of interwar Lviv and scholar at the Institute for the History and Theory of Architecture of the Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule Zürich, told Hyperallergic that the architectural complex is a rare example of social housing in the city.

“It was built in the period of transition from Art Deco and Neoclassical forms to Functionalism which began in the 1920s,” Liakhovych said. “The initial residents of the building were professors from higher education institutions, including Lviv Polytechnic, as well as impoverished intelligentsia.”

The building has not been entirely destroyed, but the restoration process may prove challenging. According to Liakhovych, the attack resulted in the irrevocable loss of authentic architectural elements such as stucco, carpentry elements, and decorations. Replacing these with exact replicas seems impossible.

“It’s a major concern how this building will be restored given the lack of funds and a shortage of specialists,” Liakhovych said. “The number of renovators specializing in the modernist era of the 1920s and 1930s in Lviv is very scarce.”

Metal decorations of the doors at the residential complex on Stryiska street, Lviv (2017)

Following the attack, UNESCO released a statement condemning the bombing of the buffer zone of the World Heritage Site of “Lviv — the Ensemble of the Historic Center,” calling it a “violation of the World Heritage Convention and 1954 Hague Convention for Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict.” Founded in 1254, Lviv’s historic city center is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, with its distinct parts of medieval urban topography, the oldest of which dates back to the 5th century and has been preserved virtually intact, along with many Baroque and later buildings.

In response to the UNESCO statement, Lviv Mayor Andriy Sadovyi reprimanded the organization for hesitation “to name the terrorist country” responsible for the attack. “Moreover, Russia is [still] a member of the executive committee of the organization,” Sadovyi added. Ukrainian Minister of Culture and Information Policy Oleksandr Tkachenko joined in the criticism, saying Ukraine expects “actions greater than just deep concern” from UNESCO.

Liakhovych, lamenting UNESCO’s lack of decisive action in holding Russia accountable, characterizes the response as “typical” for international organizations. Still, the question is whether its response will impact the future restoration process of the damaged heritage.

“Could UNESCO subsidize the repair? Otherwise, there is no constructive information in this statement overall,” she commented.

According to the Ukrainian Ministry of Culture and Information Policy, 623 cultural heritage sites and objects have been destroyed or damaged by Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine as of May 15, 2023.

Lisa Korneichuk is an editor and writer from Kyiv currently based in Chicago. She is a Fulbright student in New Arts Journalism at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.