Urkraine President's palace garden

President Viktor Yanukovych's garden

President Viktor Yanukovych’s garden

As always, we welcome the fall of a dictator (Yanukovych, today) and puzzle over their bad taste. It looks like narcotecture, (aka poppytecture). Does the world have a design school with a specialism in this type of work? What are its origins? Hitler’s architectural taste was better. Though the (Berghof) was grandified vernacular it did not dissolve into baroque terracing or a bastard-baroque garden. It might be an idea for every presidential aspirant to design a garden and let voters inspect their work before the election is held. Jefferson, Washington, Churchill and many Japanese princes were respectable garden designer. Yanukovych also had a Japanese garden, very badly. Presidential candidates with gardening experience would reveal their character and learn that without loving care their subjects will perish.
(Photo BBC)

15 thoughts on “Urkraine President's palace garden

  1. Tom Turner Post author

    ‘Autocrats’ homes typically reveal absurd luxury, and the vast estate of Ukraine’s Viktor Yanukovych doesn’t disappoint, with its pet ostriches, private golf range and galleon restaurant. But why hasn’t the building been trashed or looted? And what’s likely to become of it?’ Patrick Kingsley, The Guardian, Monday 24 February Two answers (1) Being a dictator is bad taste, so it is sure to come out in their palaces (2) the fact that the palace was not trashed is a hopeful pointer to Ukraine’s future.
    Do China’s leaders own palaces? If so, are they in the traditional styles of mandarins? Or are they super-luxury tower blocks? Or are they poppy palaces? Or are they examples of Modernist good taste? I guess the Americans have satellite photos of them, just in case they ever need to be droned.

  2. Christine

    Very sad. It would seem best if the people showed respect for the office of their president even if he didn’t live up to it. There is something interesting about this architecture for me – because it is an unfamiliar vocabulary – melded onto the familiar villa type.

    1. Tom Turner Post author

      SIMON SEBAG MONTEFIORE, a noted historian, diagnoses Yanukovych’s taste as follows ‘If Harrods had a Dictatorial Chic Department, Viktor Yanukovych, ex-president of Ukraine, could have ordered the interior design of his ransacked Croesian mansion from its catalogue: “Saddam” gold taps, “Mobutu” leopardskin print, “Ceausescu” chandeliers and “Gaddafi” bathrooms. Its architecture dizzily combines Disneyesque fantasia, Spanish hacienda, Swiss chalet, Scottish baronial castle and Stalinist dacha’.

  3. Christine

    Kyiv National University as staff with affiliations with McGill University which has Canada’s premier school of architecture. Perhaps it is the political associations with the former president/president in exile of the villa that they would regret rather than the design?

    It is a little difficult for me to comment on the taste of the architecture as it is so unfamiliar and I am not in the position to personally experience it (which would be more enlightening than trying to view it from one photograph or from media reports).

    Stylistically Berkoff is stripped classicism or even modern classicism and has a particular coldness about it which the Ukrainian presidents residence does not have.

    The fact that it is not direct imitation of a foreign style is one aspect that speaks in its favor. They seem also to have developed the Ukrainian tradition of timber construction which also is a favorable attribute.

    Another aspect which is always telling in terms of taste is whether the style is a veneer on the structure – in this case it does not seem to be.

    The landscape of course is a different matter. Is there a tradition of landscape within the Ukraine, even if not a course of landscape architecture?

    With the events now taking place in the Crimea, ethnic allegiances and the history of the Ukraine seem to be important factors in understanding the political situation (all other aspects aside).

    1. Tom Turner Post author

      I suspect the taste on display is that of the client rather than the architect – in which case the potentially beneficial influence of McGill would be ineffective. Sorry – I do not get the reference to Berkoff.
      Re the outdoor design, I tend to be sceptical about national styles. Within Europe and its sphere of influence (which is rather large) it is difficult to think of any stylistic ideas which cannot be traced to ‘origins’ outside the borders of the countries with which they are associated. This applies to the Ukraine and Russia, so far as I know.
      But I think I am less sceptical about style as a veneer on structure and give the amazing example of Ellora Caves as an example http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ellora_Caves Since the “building” was cut from living rock, the structure comes entirely from nature. Its form comes from timber construction and from Buddhist philosophy. Neither of these ‘pecularities’ seem to diminish the quality of the temple. I wonder if the temple should be counted as ‘landscape architecture’?

  4. Christine

    Apparently Crimea became a Russian independent territory following the Treaty of Küçük Kaynarca in 1774 with Turkey. The Ukraine seems to have Russian and Austrian historical associations with the Ukraine becoming an independent territory following the Russian Revolution.

    Unfortuneately there seems to be a history of conflict between the Russian and Ukranian language and culture.

    1. Tom Turner Post author

      Just in case the presidents of Ukraine and Russia read this blog: my suggestion is for them to agree that each of the disputed territories holds a referendum to decide its status – as the Scots are going to do later this year. In so far as the Crimea belongs to anyone it is surely to the people who live there. But I can see room for debate if the Isle of Wight, or Tasmania, or London, or Sydney, were to vote for independence!

  5. Christine

    Western Australians and Far North and Northern Queenslanders are known for their secessionist tendencies! So far they haven’t become too serious about going it alone and leaving the Federation of states. Tasmania relies too much on the distribution of GST in its favour to want to separate itself from the mainland states.

    Yes, there is certainly more difficulty with the creation of independent city states, particularly when they are the most populous cities of the nation in which they are located.

    Fortunately Scotland didn’t have to resort to a revolution, man the barricades and attempt to send David Cameron into exile or to the Hague! (It is little wonder with a lack of democratic experience under his belt the Ukrainian president took sick leave).
    [ http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/jan/30/ukraine-president-yanukovych-sick-leave ]

    Perhaps some light reading on the Ukrainian experience of democracy is needed. [ http://www.amazon.com/Ukraine-Became-Market-Economy-Democracy/dp/0881324272 ] I am not sure if some advisors from nations with a longer experience of democracy (but no historical stake in the Ukraine) would have assisted averting the current crisis?

    It seems as if the President of Russia does read your blog and has taken your advice on the Crimean referendum seriously.

    1. Tom Turner Post author

      Scotland has always had an over-generous financial subsidy from London and are now thinking about independence mainly because they think they would do even better if they had all the revenue from oil taxation. The fact that these revenues are in steep decline hardly seems to register.
      There was a similar dispute between what used to be the two parts of Czechoslovakian – with Slovakia the assumed beneficiary. So they split the country in two and now (1) they are much better friends than formerly (2) Slovakia has adopted a ‘Baltic States’ economic policy (a low flat-rate tax) and their economy is now doing much better than that of the Czech Republic. Scotland would do better to point to this example than to the examples of Norway (which really, really, really does have oil wealth) and Ireland (which is going to be in hock for a generation). The problem with the Slovakian example is that the Scots want to be like France, with high taxes and high welfare spending.
      It is only the threat of war which make a good case for big strong nations. I think India and China should ‘granularize’.

  6. Christine

    Yes, the threat of war puts many things in a very different perspective.

    It is said:
    “Much of the origin of the WWI was based on the desire of the Slavic peoples in Bosnia and Herzegovina to no longer be part of Austria Hungary but instead be part of Serbia.”

    This aspiration was expressed with the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand of Austria-Hungary by a Serbian nationalist.

    It is also said:

    That the seeds of WWII were sown at the end of WWI in the signing of the Versailles Treaty, because of the harsh terms of the war reparations exacted from Germany/Austria-Hungary. The crippling economic conditions that followed lead to the popular rise of the Fascist ideology.

    I am not sure if there are ethnic tensions in India and China which will eventually lead to their granularisation. But there is certainly a Pan-Indian consciousness which is larger than the current nation state of India. [ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Indian_nationalism ]

    1. Tom Turner Post author

      After the floods, the UK is now drenched in speculation about the origins of 1WW – and the most curious fact is that a century after it began there is no agreement among historians about its causes. I blame superpower rivalry. As my grandad used to say ‘small countries make small wars and big countries make big wars’. Globalisation and football (as a substitute) are the best hopes for avoiding war.
      Separatism has been strong in India since 1947 see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Separatist_movements_of_India.
      It would probably be strong in Hong Kong is there was any realistic possibility and it is certainly strong in Tibet, Xinjian (East Turkestan). I have no sympathy for the idea of reclaiming Taiwan by force of arms and, despite our problems, recommend an EU-style federation for China. Also for the Indian sub-continent. When the Brussels Bureaucracy accepts that ‘ever closer union’ is folly, the EU as a looser-than-federal arrangement could be a great political structure.
      An oddity is that the Chinese separatists are considered anti-Maoists and the Indian separatists are regarded as Maoists. China and India both regard regions with different languages as ‘ethnic minorities’ – with the term ‘minority’ meaning ‘no right to independence’, in the manner of children. They forget that children usually become adults.

  7. Christine

    Yes. These problems of history are not easily resolved. A sovereign state is “understood to be a state which is neither dependent on nor subject to any other power or state.”

    However “according to the declarative theory of state recognition a sovereign state can exist without being recognised by other sovereign states, unrecognised states will often find it hard to exercise full treaty-making powers and engage in diplomatic relations with other sovereign states.”

    So, even in international law, the status of states is subject to some ambiguity.

    Westphalian sovereignty is the concept of nation-state sovereignty based on territoriality dating from a series of treaties signed in 1648.

    1. Tom Turner Post author

      The definition of a state needs to be flexible, otherwise no geographical areas could follow the example of so many countries in declaring independence from whatever land areas they ‘belong’ to. The Russians are right to point out the hypocrisy of the ‘international community’ supporting independence, to say the least, for Kosovo and Kurdistan, while denying it to the Crimea. Putin’s mistake was to rush the process with a ‘Russian Referendum’.


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