Historical and cultural treasures within the historical centre of Brest

V.Kukunia, T.Kostsich

After the third partition of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth in 1795, Brest was incorporated into the Russian Empire. The location of the city in a strategically important place was immediately assessed by the military, several plans for the construction of the fortress were proposed. As a result, the design of 1833 was adopted. It envisaged construction of a huge fortress on the site of the old city. The entire urban population was ordered to move to eastern city outskirts, called vorstadts with regular street grids.

Initially, wooden houses prevailed in those vorstadts. The situation changed in the late 19th cituation after the construction of the rail way. Brest bacame a big railway junction . That boosted the well being of the city dwellers that had impact on the architectural view of the city. Due to the control of the military engineers of all housing rpojects in the city the one story houses prevailed in Brest. In 1895 the fortress lost its military significance and the restrictions as to the number of storeys were not acute any longer.

Classicism prevailed in housing designs from 1840 года until the late 1860s. From the early 1870s until WW1 houses were built in eclectic style.

From 1921 until 1939 Brest was the capital city of Polesien Province of Poland. The first after war years saw rapid reconstruction of the houses, ruined during the war.

In 1924-1925, an inventory of ruined and survived housing was compiled. It indicated the persentage of the ruined housing for each quarter of the city.

The first houses, rebuilt after the war, had modest view due to the limited resources.

Many houses had garrets to enlarge living space. The garrets were not quite big, with only three windows. The architectural décor of the facades was often modest. That was most common with the rebuilt or reconstructed houses on the old foundations

Sovetskaya Str. 43-45

The designs of quite new houses envisaged large show windows joined in blocks with doorways in the mid-1920s.

The following boom in commerce demanded more shops and workshops that occupied the ground floors of the houses in the town. Additional storeys were built as dwelling space.

Starting from the late 1920s, constructivism prevailed in the architecture of Brest. A new type of block of flats appeared in Brest that was called in some European countries town-houses.

Mansions were built that were excusively for dwelling. In the 1930s the style saw the peak of popularity in newly built schools, banks, sport venues, kircha, governmental institutions, industrial work halls.


In the 1930s, constructivist architecture in the shape of small outbuildings became widespread. They were located in the depth of lots to accommodate one family.

Many designs were made in the 1920s and 1930s by architects W.Wdowiszczuk, B.Rymkiewicz, N.Sinkiewicz, М. Коtowicz, B.Nowak.

In the 1920s, in national style a city district for governmental officials was built under the design of the architect Julian Lisiecki.

After 1939, majority of houses in Brest were nationalized, but none of them underwent reconstruction till the end of WW2. After 1945, the city experienced acute shortage of housing. The ground-floors that were earlier shops were converted into dwelling rooms. The large show windows and doorways were filled and replaced with small windows. Further reconstructions and repairs resulted in the loss of the previous architecture of the major part of the of historical cenre of the city. The loss can be assessed as 30% - 80%. Nevertheless, some buildings fortunately preserved both their general original architectural view and some single features.

Unfortunately, starting from the late 20th century the historical architecture is being methodically ruined. We would like to show a building that was pulled down in K.Marx Str.

As a result, tangible culture of several historic periods was completely ruined.

Fig. Historical architectural base plan of the historical centre of Brest (2006).

To make things worse, the documents are stored in archives of several countries. Poor datebase leads to the decline of enthusiam.

To sum up, we see that due to ignorance, layers of cultural heritage can be underestimated and ruined. To eliminate ignorance is education.

Visualization is the most efficient way of education. Such data is compiled for each city quarter in the historical centre in the mid-20th century. It requires the following historical datasets:

  1. Original lay-out of the quarter with comprising plots within it.
  2. Design structure of the quarter in the the mid-20th century.
  3. Development documentation dating back to the 19th century - mid-20th century.
  4. Photos of developed quarters dating back to the 19th century - mid-20th century.
  5. House addresses and functional application.
  6. House adresses associated with outstanding personalities and events.
  7. The vacant sites are developed with earlier existing housese on the basis of documentation.
  8. In case of missing historical documentation new venues must be built in accordance to the scale of surrounding architecture, proportionate to the surviving urban environment both in general and in details.

There is a need in a perspective of any changes in today’s tendency of development in the city centre, where disproportionate buildings appear, destroying the planning layout and individual genuine view of the architectural environment, still remaining in the city of Brest.


The historical centre of Brest is on the National list of historical and cultural heritage. 1986.
Published according to the article: V.Kukunia, Т.Kostsich: Historical and cultural treasures of the 1920s-1930s withing the historical centre of Brest. [in:] Historyczne zespoły miejskie w dobie przemian. Problemy-wyzwania-szanse, Warszawa 2014