The Jewel of Poltava: Explore the unique and fascinating style of interplaying light & texture.

With its startling use of cast glass, swooping staircases
and bevy of beauties at the bar, Kashtanova Alleya (Chestnut Tree Alley) could be the trendiest new
restaurant and bar in Barcelona or Moscow, but this masterwork is actually the pride of Poltava, Ukraine.

The magnificent space showcases the work of sculptor Alexey Pergamenshik, engineer Ruslan Sarana,
and a number of master glassmakers from L’viv: it features a superb conversion of the mid-20th century Lystopad cinema’s ticket office into a world-class palace of culinary pleasure. The spacious three-story bar and restaurant serves Ukrainian, European and – surprisingly – Mexican dishes, not to mention an array of award-winning desserts.

A Unique Interplay of Light and Glass
One enters Kashtanova Alleya through a foyer of cast glass. By day, light streams into the two-story bar through a cylindrical curtainwall that surrounds the building. This towering curtain of glass stretches from
just-below-knee height up to a ceiling more than 20 feet (6 meters) high, then resumes once more in the
top-floor restaurant.
The stunning impression made by this cascade of daylight is surpassed by the unusual quality of the light within. The interior of Kashtanova Alleya gets its unique look from glass that has been cast, then slumped, and from strategically deployed lighting. The blocks of glass composing the interior walls and the exterior of the entry foyer were each hand-cast by master Ukrainian glassmakers from the city of L’viv (Lvov), graduates of L’viv National Academy of Arts. Making the blocks involved both hot glass and warm glass techniques. First came the casting process, where the artisans ladled molten glass out of a furnace into molds. Many of the blocks were then slumped. In that process, each block of cast glass was melted in a kiln to alter its shape. Each block is a unique sculpture: every mold was used only once, and the two halves of each are distinct from one another and from every other mold. The glass runs from blue to green to clear, often within a single block.
The blocks are held together by a special mortar unique to the building and composed of clay, sand, and concrete.
Lights are strategically positioned on the walls, in the bar and even in the tables of the upstairs restaurant. Each wall-mounted light is a glass creation in its own right. Light passes through and bounces off the variously colored glass blocks. Thus, day or night, as patrons and staff move through the space, the refractions and reflections combine with their movements to produce a variety of oceanic effects. Two spiral staircases in the bar rise up to a horseshoe-mezzanine. Like all of the staircases in the building, these are the work of Ruslan Sarana.

These stairs are supported from the edges, so the skirts bear the load, producing a dramatic effect of hanging in space. There is no center post or wall to bear the load. Spotless wineglasses grace shelves built into the underside of each of these staircases, forming a functional part of the wait staff’s workstations. The waist-high walls of the workstations are constructed from more sculptural cast glass blocks supporting stone counter-tops. These same blocks compose the coat check by the entrance and the deejay booth on the mezzanine. Many of these blocks are positioned so that patrons can view them from either side.

Off on one side of the room a set of beer taps connect to a device reminiscent of a mad scientist’s laboratory. With its coils, heavy pipes, and miscellaneous meters and gauges, it looks like it should do more than pour beer – perhaps brew it, or even fashion it out of thin air. Overhead, two light fixtures composed of three large slumped glass bottles are held together by a wooden brace and suspended from the underside of the mezzanine.
On the mezzanine, just below the ceiling, bas-reliefs by sculptor Alexey Pergamenshik span 41 feet (12.5 meters) and display 147 distinct figures. Telling a story that can be “read” from left to right, they portray the invasion of the Poltava region nearly a thousand years ago by Cuman hordes (known in Ukraine as Polovtsy), who swept northward from the steppes. Pergamenshik sculpted these over the course of two months, and clearly relished the artistic scope of the task of representing so many distinct figures. From the ground floor,
a pair of grand, engraved wooden doors leads to a wide formal staircase that spirals past display cases to the third-floor restaurant. From the inner wall of the staircase, golden trees lean up across the handrails toward a sky-painted ceiling. Each tree is approximately three meters high, and seven of them are hollow, with light projecting from inside onto the roots and leaves.

To Page Two

Researched and written by
Joe Mabel and
Benjamin Roggasch

Photographed by
Sanislav Zacharov and
Benjamin Roggasch

L'viv National Academy of Arts

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