A modern, innovative, multi-functional center-library which now for more than a year unites people from various environments, a forum for conducting events in various formats, has received international recognition. The building was recently nominated for the 2019 European Union Prize for Contemporary Architecture – Mies van der Rohe Award. (The site of the award has more information [https://miesarch.com/archive?editions=17&cities=Lviv&countries=42)
The Sheptytsky Center of the Ukrainian Catholic University is built on the territory of the campus as the university’s information-resource center. It includes classrooms, public cultural spaces, conference halls, a children’s area, a café, bookstore, exhibit area, administrative premises, and a library.
The first floor includes classrooms, a café, and an exhibit area; the second and third floors include a library and group work areas; the fourth has administrative premises. The lower floor has a conference hall. The building’s roof, with a few terraces, has a “green” covering that retains water.
The ceremonial opening of the multifunctional library occurred on 10 September 2017 as part of the annual UCU Days. From the early days of the center’s work, it became a favorite place for conducting various events, and the comfortable library is the students’ favorite place.
The German company Behnisch Architekten and AVR Development designed the center. Stefan Behnisch, the chief architect of the Sheptytsky Center, noted that very many people were involved in this project, and he well remembers when his company was first asked if it would be interested in preparing a proposal to build a library for UCU.
“We agreed, because work for a university, for students, for teachers, brings great satisfaction to any architect,” recounts Stefan Behnisch. “Much can be said about the architecture, its philosophy, but a good university is based on an idea, a concept of teaching, and architecture can only help in this matter. And in order to understand how to design such a building, it is necessary to feel the foundations of this idea, the philosophical vision and mission of the university.”
The architect is convinced that architectural structures are those recognizable artifacts that humanity leaves behind. It determines our dimension, space, and time. “We can avoid many types of arts, but architecture surrounds us everywhere and is a reflection of our cultural abilities and opportunities. And so, if we manage to achieve even the least success in reflecting this idea, in reproducing cultural abilities, the horizon of this city, people, and community, I will be endlessly grateful,” says Stefan Behnisch.
It would have been impossible to bring all these plans to life without the support of UCU’s benefactor, James Temerty, whose donations built the Sheptytsky Center.
James Temerty has also been a member of committees that select architects involved in some large building projects, and he recounted that it is very seldom that the results are better than the promises, so it was particularly valuable that architect Stefan Behnisch so well understand his thought: promise little, but do much. “In one interview, Behnisch talked about buildings and universities and said that universities are not about buildings but about the spiritual essence. This is truly a wonderful building with a uniquely interesting façade,” says Temerty.
And so the Sheptytsky Center for more than a year has served as a key place for realizing the educational mission of the Ukrainian Catholic University and a leading public space in which are combined culture, research, and education. So, because of an idea deep and authentic in its basis, the jury of the international EU architectural prize noticed this building, and this is a good sign that the UCU team and the Sheptytsky Center are on the right path.
Addendum: The Fundació Mies van der Rohe and the European Commission established the prize in 2001. It is awarded once every two years for projects finished in that period. The goal of the prize is to achieve an understanding of transformation and to form a European environment, to commend innovations in the field of architecture (conceptual and structural), and to turn attention to important contributions of European professionals in the development of new ideas. After the nominees are announced, the jury prepares a short-list of 40 projects and then five finalists.