New Interpretation of a
Thousand Year Old Tradition

Radoslav Zuk



Significant architecture embodies the spirit of its geographic location, the intrinsic character of the people it serves, and the most advanced ideas and technological capabilities of humanity at a given time in history. Therefore, such architecture cannot be impersonal and sterile, nor can it be blatantly eclectic. lt must maintain the substance of a specific cultural tradition, but transform it into a fresh, inventive and relevant form.

In its essence, cultural identity is not derived from familiar historical stylistic elements such as a Gothic arch or a Baroque dome, but rather from more abstract and basic characteristics such as rhythms and proportions of a building‘s component spaces, masses and planes. Certain proportions or rhythms are more in tune with, and preferred by, a specific cultural temperament than others. Thus, in its one thousand year old history Ukrainian architecture followed contemporary stylistic trends, but according to typically Ukrainian abstract configurations. The splendid Byzantine, Renaissance, and Baroque buildings are experienced as distinctly Ukrainian, in spite of the great stylistic variety of their respective methods of construction, volumetric shapes or types of decoration.

The task then is to create an architecture which responds to a specific cultural temperament and tradition, but at the same time is expressive of the given geographic situation and of the dynamism of the contemporary world spirit. The question, therefore, is not which prototype or which stylistic element to select, but rather how to infuse a design, which explores new environmental experiences within the universal cultural context, with those special abstract attributes which will make it meaningful in the most profound -subconsciously sensed – way to a specific cultural group.

But a complete architecture must also have its own autonomous presence. This implies an absolute architectural quality which transcends meaning, time and place, and in its essence constitutes the archetypal „being“ of architecture. lt is inherent in the imaginative and logical conception of each of a building‘s functional, perceptual and tectonic systems, in their coherent integration, and in their proper relation to the immediate environment. lf of a high order, it can by its inevitability enhance human existence, give it new moving insights, and raise it to poetic heights. lt is this quality which distinguishes true vernacular architecture, great historical cities and buildings, as well as the best of our contemporary architecture.



Radoslav Zuk was born in Lubacziw, in 1931. He attended high school and studied music in Graz, and graduated in architecture from McGill University in Montreal with the B.Arch. (with Honours) degree and several prizes, including the Lieutenant Governor‘s Bronze Medal, the Dunlop Travelling Scholarship and the highest award for a graduation design project in Canada, the Pilkington Travelling Scholarship. After travelling in Europe and working in London and Montreal, on such projects as the new US Embassy in London and the new City Hall in Ottawa, he obtained the M.Arch. degree at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Boston. More recently he was awarded an honorary doctorate by the Ukrainian Academy of Art in Kyiv. 

Radoslav Zuk has taught architecture at the University of Manitoba, the University of Toronto, and at McGill University, where he is an Emeritus Professor and a recipient of the Faculty of Engineering Ida and Samuel Fromson Award for Outstanding Teaching. He has served several times as Head of the State Examination Commission for graduation projects in the Faculty of Architecture of the National Academy of Art and Architecture in Kyiv, and has appeared as a guest lecturer and/ or guest critic at various universities in Canada, the USA, and several European countries, including Austria, Germany, Great Britain, Italy, The Netherlands, Turkey and Ukraine. 

Winner and co-winner of several competition prizes, Radoslav Zuk has designed, among other projects, nine Ukrainian churches in North America and one in Ukraine, in association with or as consultant to a number of architectural firms. Most of these buildings have been recognized in the international architectural press, e.g., Architectural Forum, Architectural Review, Baumeister, Domus, Kunst und Kirche, Parametro, Progressive Architecture, and exhibited in North America and Europe. He has served on juries of architectural competitions, and has published articles on design theory, cultural aspects of architecture, and on the relationship between architecture, music and other arts. 

He is a Fellow of the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada, a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, a Fellow of the Society for Arts, Religion and Contemporary Culture, a Fellow of the International Institute for Advanced Studies in Systems Research and Cybernetics, an Honorary Fellow of the Ukrainian Academy of Architecture, and a Member of the Shevchenko Scientific Society in Canada and of the Ukrainian Academy of Arts and Sciences in Canada. He has been awarded the Ukrainian Canadian Congress Centennial Medal, the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada Governor General‘s Medal for Architecture, and the State Prize of Ukraine for Architecture .


Nativity of the Theotokos | Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church
Lviv, Ukraine

The church is located in Sychiv, a satellite city of Lviv, the capital of Western Ukraine. lts site is a large open space, on the axis of the main approach to the district, thus giving the building the importance of a focal civic monument. lts floor plan is a simply stated interpretation of the typical Byzantine cross-in-square + narthex + apse(s) plan. This allows a contemporary, geometrically clear, yet culturally relevant, volumetric configuration, the latter relating to the typical rhythmic outlines found in historical urban and vernacular Ukrainian churches. The building may thus suggest a possible approach to resolving the persisting conflict between the liturgical demands of a traditional East European plan and a contemporary three-dimensional articulation. 

The geometric and structural simplicity of the building (in-situ reinforced concrete frame, unit masonry and stucco) is due also to the wish to allow for the participation of unskilled parishioners in the construction process. The proportions of the building, which are based on consonant musical ratios, may be seen as a discreet homage to L viv‘s fine Renaissance monuments, as well as an attempt to incorporate architectural attributes, which reach out beyond the project‘s geographic location and the period of its creation. 

Capacity: 1000 people
Completion: 2006 


Radoslav Zuk – architect responsible for design; „Mistoproekt“ Institute – architects responsible for the execution of the project: Zinoviy Pidlisnyi, former director of the Institute and associate architect, Mykola Koshlo, cuffent director of the Institute, Oleksandr Baziuk, principal project architect, Lida Kutna, architectural team leader; Vasyl Kniazyk, lead architect, Valeriy Kulikowskyi, principal structural engineer.


St. Stephen‘s | Byzantine Ukrainian Catholic Church
Calgary, Canada

The church is located in a quiet residential area, between a small park to the south, and an existing rectory, community hall and garage to the north. There are two entrances. The principal entrance on the south side is close to the main parking area, which lies to the west, away from the street. A secondary entrance located on the mezzanine choir level, on the north side, connects by means of a colonnade to the existing buildings. The sacristy, a cry-room, the confessionals, and service rooms are under the mezzanine, and connect directly to the rectory basement. 

The interior of the church evokes, in its nave and sanctuary, the spirit of both Byzantine basilicas and the tall tower-like Ukrainian wooden churches. On the exterior, the articulation of the multi-peaked (segmented dome) sanctuary and the belfry recalls the rhythms of those historical wooden churches, albeit in unique geometric shapes. The lower portions of the church relate in scale and material to the adjoining buildings, while the projecting towers symbolize a place of worship. The irregular configuration results from a desire to respond to the immediate environment and to generate an image in harmony with the character of the larger landscape, in particular the Rocky Mountains. The dynamic asymmetry thus obtained maintains nonetheless an ordered presence due to, among other considerations, a clear structural articulation and a geometric discipline based on a combination of the square with the equilateral triangle and their related modules. 

Capacity: 350 people
Completion: 1982 

Awarded a Royal Architectural Institute of Canada Governor General‘s Medal – 1986


Radoslav Zuk- Visiting Architect; Hugh McMillan Architect Ltd. – Architect; Adjeleian Fenton – Structural Consultant; Vinto Engineering Ltd. – Mechanical Consultant; H. R. Barker and Associates – Electrical Consultant; John Schreiber / Ron Williams – Landscape Consultant; Roman Fodchuk and Associates – Landscape Architect; Ourwest Construction Ltd. – General Contractor.


St. Josaphat‘s | Ukrainian Catholic Church
Rochester, N.Y., U.S.A.

This church is situated on a narrow lot, between two existing parish buildings. lt fronts on a commercial road which runs parallel to a major expressway. In the rear it faces a quiet residential area. The site slopes down from the street to a parking lot. The church is set back from the street in order to create a defined entrance plaza, to respect the scale of the adjoining buildings, and to provide direct access from the parking lot to a lower level which contains an altemate entry, a multipurpose hall and service areas. 

The overall massing of the building emphasizes its major components: the projecting raised choir in the front, the narthex recessed undemeath, the major part of the nave under the rising domes, the sanctuary tower and the support areas in the rear. Thus while expressing the processional aspect of the liturgy this design concept attempts to integrate a center-based plan, an evolving arrangement of major spaces (including the traditional five domes) as well as the topography of the land along a dynamic longitudinal axis. 

The stately character of the exterior is meant to convey the strength and stability of faith in contrast to the busy, flashy and ever-changing commercial street. The colour and texture of the exterior walls relate to the neighbouring parish buildings. In height, the lower portions of the church also relate to them, but the central tower cluster rises above the surroundings and is visible as a landmark for miles, especially from the nearby expressway. In the interior the structural grid while not exposed is clearly expressed and helps to underline the organizing geometry (equilateral triangles horizontally and modular rectangular progression vertically) of the entire building. 

Capacity: 500 people
Completion: 1979 


Radoslav Zuk – Design Consultant; Blood and Houghton -Architects; John Fayko – Local Supervising Architect; John Luther and Sons Co. – General Contractor.


Holy Trinity | Ukrainian Catholic Church
Kerhonkson, N.Y., U.S.A.

The church is located in the Catskill Mountains adjoining a popular Ukrainian summer resort. The rather unspoiled natural environment and the need to provide for a much increased congregation during the summer season were the main design determinants. The spatial organization consists of two connecting spirals. A horizontal spiral based on increasing equilateral triangles commences at the sanctuary and extends the nave beyond the enclosed part of the building into the landscape, toward a terminating low belfry. A vertical spiral based on a regular hexagon expands the sanctuary space into the main church tower. The extemal, longest, side of the building, in the form of an open „cloister“, is separated from the main part of the building by a sliding glass wall which opens in the summer and provides space for the !arge overflow holiday congregation, still in close proximity to the sanctuary. The sanctuary is the focal element of the entire building. Both the plan form and the inclined roof planes lead the eye to this, the most important part of the church and then above it to the „infinite“ spiral of the tower, where light enters under each of the small pyramidal roofs. 

The need for a Sunday school and community gathering space as well as the desire to raise the church above the sloping-away site resulted in a lower storey, on the opposite side from the main pedestrian approach. A winter entry and a stair connecting the two levels have been treated as a distinct architectural element. The underlying geometry and the structural system of the building are without precedent in Ukrainian architecture. The materials and the overall scale, proportions and rhythm of its component parts, however, recall very strongly the vernacular architecture of the Ukrainian mountains. 

Capacity: 275 people
Completion: 1976 


Radoslav Zuk – Designer; Gorman, Mixon and Blood -Architects; D.A. Selby- Structural Consultant; Langlois, Crossey, Cóté, LeClair, lnc. – Mechanical and Electrical Consultants; Roy C. Knapp and Sons, lnc. – General Contractor


Holy Cross | Ukrainian Catholic Church
Thunder Bay, Ontario, Canada

The architectural form relates to the spatial organization of the building. The low flat peripheral portion, defined by the brick walls, contains secondary liturgical and various service accommodations, such as choir, confessionals, sacristy, entrances, stairs, etc. The principal part, consisting of the dominant peaked roof, contains the main body of the church: the sanctuary, and the congregation. The highest peak is over the sanctuary – the most important space in the building. The other peaks are over the congregation and the points of entry into the church. The resulting vigorous profile of the building with the differently sized roof forms relates to the traditional outline of Ukrainian churches which were usually covered with three or more domes, or towers, of varying height and volume.

The shape of the nave focuses the attention of the faithful on the sanctuary located towards the apex of the isosceles triangle which is the geometric basis of the entire plan. The lighting is subdued, generating an atmosphere conducive to worship. Dominant light sources are in the major peaks of the roof, giving a dramatic illumination to the sanctuary and the nave. The glazed doors and windows in the lower portion indicate the points of entry. The building is raised on a landscaped podium to give it prominence in the sparsely populated surroundings of a suburb of Thunder Bay and to accommodate a community hall. The prominent form of the roof thus becomes visible from a great distance and is a strong feature in the essentially flat landscape. 

Capacity: 350 people
Completion: 1968 


Radoslav Zuk – Architect; Smith, Carter, Searle -Associate Architects & Consulting Mechanical and Electrical Engineers; Crosier and Greenberg – Consulting Structural Engineers; Stead and Undstrom – General Contractor.


Holy Eucharist | Ukrainian Catholic Church
Toronto, Ontario, Canada

The church of the Holy Eucharist occupies a prominent location in the City of Toronto. lt is situated above the Don River Valley, overlooking a public park, the Don River Parkway and the northern line of Via Rail. lt is clearly visible from the office towers in the Toronto downtown area and from the bridge of the Bloor St. subway line. lts immediate surroundings consist of detached residential buildings, mostly two storeys in height. 

The church building contains four distinct facilities: the church proper, a community hall in the basement, Sunday school classrooms, and a small monastery. Due to severe land limitations, all these facilities are contained in one single, basically rectangular low structure, which is dominated by the prominent cruciform roof of the church and the bell tower over the entrance to the monastery.

The roof form of the church relates to those traditional Ukrainian Church forms which were based on the Greek cross plan, expressed by one major and four subsidiary domes in its roof shape. In the Holy Eucharist Church, the Greek cross is only indicated and the cross shape approaches an octagon. This represents an attempt to bring the altar closer to the congregation and to make it a component part of the main space of the church. The use of the bell tower, which due to its forward position is visible from a long distance along the curving access street, is also related to traditional freestanding belfries. Another reason for the basic simplicity and geometric peculiarities of the architectural form was an attempt to make the building harmonize with the existing homogeneous environment.

Capacity: 400 people
Completion: 1967


Radoslav Zuk – Architect; De Stein & Associates – Consulting Structural Engineers; Huza & Thibault – Mechanical & Electrical Engineers; Dumyn Construction – Builder; Myron Levyckyj – Icons and Murals.


St. Michael‘s | Ukrainian Catholic Church
Transcona, Manitoba, Canada

The strongly articulated form reflects the main functional subdivision of the building. The high rectangular mass contains the nave; the lower rectangular mass consists of the sacristy, the parish offices and the priests‘ residence; the dominant curved tower houses the primary space of the building – the sanctuary. The irregular profile of the tower, culminating in three crosses, relates to the main liturgical functions performed in the sanctuary on the central altar and two side tables. This and the massing of the building volumes relate to the traditional tripartite division of vernacular Ukrainian churches. The building is linked on the south side to an undistinguished old community hall by the narthex. Future plans for the old building were not definite at the time of design: a new parish centre may be erected in its place or the church may be extended in this direction. Therefore, the narthex, the choir balcony and the glazed south wall were so designed as to be easily removed.

The church is located close to the town centre of Transcona, a suburb of Winnipeg. The simple mass of the nave and the sacristy block relates in scale and material to the architectural fabric of the immediate neighbourhood. The sanctuary tower rises above the surroundings and contributes significantly to the skyline of the town.

In the interior the importance of the sanctuary is emphasized by its geometry as well as by light: the glazed side of the tower, invisible to the congregation, floods the sanctuary with bright light in contrast to the dim nave which is lit by narrow vertical windows. This contrast and the elongated shape of the building direct the attention of the congregation toward the main altar.

Capacity: 450 people
Completion: 1966


Radoslav Zuk -Architect; Number Ten Architectural Group -Associate Architects; Crosier & Greenberg – Consulting Structural Engineers; Reid, Crowther & Partners – Consulting Mechanical and Electrical Engineers; Zulak Construction – General Contractor.


St. Joseph‘s | Ukrainian Catholic Church
Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada

As the plan of the church was almost entirely predetermined by the shape of an existing basement community hall, the building was conceived as a formal composition with the important functional elements placed to their best advantage in one unified interior space. The client‘s insistence on five symmetrically placed towers was accepted as a challenge. They were treated as superimposed symbols, but with a view to contributing significantly to the city‘s skyline. Thus the emphasis was placed on the architectural quality of space and volume, on scale and proportion, on the harmony of component materials rather than on the functionally expressive organization of spaces. 

The location of the church in relation to its surroundings has also partially determined the general character of the building. It is sited between a residential area and one of the most important commercial streets in Winnipeg. An immediate neighbour is a shopping centre and the simple shape of the main body of the building underneath the prominent towers, as well as the use of concrete as a visible building material, constitutes an attempt to integrate the church into the prevailing cityscape. The exposed structural elements also derive from the intention to express the technical and architectural potential of pre-stressed and post-tensioned concrete.

Capacity: 450 people
Completion: 1964


Radoslav Zuk -Architect; Number Ten Architectural Group -Associate Architects; Crosier & Greenberg – Consulting Structural Engineers; Gerard S. Sugiyama – Consulting Mechanical Engineer; T.B.J. Kruse and Associates – Consulting Electrical Engineers.


Holy Family | Ukrainian Catholic Church
Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada

The church of the Holy Family is located in a residential district of Winnipeg, alongside a major street. The architectural form expresses the main functional subdivision of the building: the gently rising low nave and the steeper and shorter sacristy section culminate in the high tower over the most important part of the building, the sanctuary. 

The subdivision of the tower into three parts reflects the main liturgical functions performed on the central altar and two side tables in the sanctuary. It relates also to the basic tripartite division of vernacular Ukrainian churches. This, and the use of the round arch form, which relates to the first Ukrainian churches in the Byzantine period, constitute an attempt to link this building with the Ukrainian architectural tradition. 

The contrast between the almost uninterrupted side walls and the glazed ends, the converging shape of the plan, and the inclination of the nave ceiling direct the attention of the congregation toward the sanctuary. The importance of the sanctuary is also emphasized by light: the tower windows flood the sanctuary with bright light, in contrast to the dimly lit nave. The full view of the tower is revealed to the faithful only as they approach the sanctuary during the culminating event of the liturgy, the Holy Communion. 

Capacity: 450 people
Completion: 1964 


Radoslav Zuk – Consulting Architect responsible for design; Zunic and Sobkowich – Architects; Crosier and Greenberg – Consulting Structural Engineers; Crowther, McKay and Associates Ltd. – Consulting Mechanical and Electrical Engineers; Bockstael Construction Ltd. – General Contractor.


St. Michael‘s | Ukrainian Catholic Church
Tyndall, Manitoba, Canada

The architectural form of the church expresses the functional subdivision of the building: flat roof over the narthex, gently rising roof over the nave, high tower over the sanctuary, and flat roof over the sacristy. The division of the tower into three parts relates to the main liturgical functions performed in the sanctuary on the central altar and two side tables. It relates also to the traditional tripartite forms of wooden Ukrainian churches.

The small town of Tyndall is located near a busy highway, approximately seventy kilometres north of Winnipeg. The church tower was designed to be visible from a long distance along the highway, to dominate the surrounding landscape and thus become an important landmark on the flat prairie. The importance of the sanctuary is emphasized in the interior by the use of light the glazed side of the tower, invisible to the congregation, floods the sanctuary with bright light, in contrast to the dim nave which is lit by narrow slot windows. The elongated form of the building and the gently rising ceiling of the nave direct the attention of the congregation toward the sanctuary. The full view of the tower is revealed to the faithful only when they are receiving Holy Communion which is the culminating event of the liturgy.

Three decades after its erection the church was demolished to make room for the expansion of the adjoining highway.

Capacity: 150 people
Completion: 1963


Radoslav Zuk -Architect; Gustavo da Roza -Associate Architect; Crosier & Greenberg – Consulting Structural Engineers; Gerald S. Sugiyama – Consulting Mechanical Engineer. Built by the church congregation under the direction of the parish priest, Rev. M. Kotovich, OMI.

Press reviews

„La maggiore novita di questo lavoro risiede infatti nella sfida posta della stacitita dell‘istituzione religiosa alla volonta espressiva dell‘architettura moderna …. la chiesa di S. Stefano a Calgary (Alberta) si sforza di tradurre in una forte immagine plastica un groviglio contrastante di tensioni: la reminiscenza di forme tipiche … cerca di riscattare ii progetto dalla mera reproduzione per accendere invece la complessita di piu intriganti coinvolgimenti.“

Domus – ottobre 1984


„Reinterpreting ancient ritual for contemporary congregations in a way that has meaning is a problem that is both liturgical and architectural. … ln Canada … Radoslav Zuk has built a distinguished series of churches …. He had been concerned to make churches which, while they have particular resonance with Ukrainian culture, do not copy the forms of the past but abstract from them to create places which have an authentic, not kitsch relationship to tradition.“ P.D.

The Architectural Review – April 1992


„ … il sottile meccanismo misterioso per cui l‘uso di forme forti e monumentali – necessarie per rapportarsi ad un paesaggio dai grandi orizzonti e vuoto di segni significativi – non degenera in monumentalismo, ma si stempera attraverso l‘invenzione di articolazioni e contaminazioni delle emergenze e degli spazi, e nella mediazione del materiale ligneo che tutto rende leggero e come „disponibile“ all‘uso, cosicche ii senso poetico che ne deriva lo spozio disponibile alla verita liturgica.“

Glauco Gresleri Parametro – marzo-aprile 1995


„Die Kirche Mariae Geburt in Lviv/Lemberg (Ukraine) …. einer der strengsten und zugleich schönsten Kirchenentwurfe im Werk des kanadischen Architekten …. ein zugleich konstruktiv und geometrisch einfaches, anderseits jedoch in seiner Gesamtgestalt komplexes, den Begriff von Zeit und Raum transzendierendes Gebilde, welches sich mühelos über den in Osteuropa derzeit allerorten neobarock und postmodern eingefärbten Kirchenbaukitsch erhebt. … Dabei versinnbildlichen vertikale Lichtbänder, die nach oben strebenden turmartigen Baukorper der Joche und die fünf vergoldeten Kuppeln die enge Verbindung des Bauwerks zur gottlichen Sphäre.“

Gerold Esser Baumeister – August 2005