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
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
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
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.
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