The beauty of balconies

For the third year, Zelva in Grodno Region hosts contest for best balcony in 18th century style, with winner announced in late August, during Annensky Kirmash Fair
By Svetlana Sokolova

Where there is a will
The Zelva competition requires residents to create a balcony to be not only beautiful but fitting the festive Fair’s atmosphere. Unfortunately, Zelva lacks 18th century buildings so residents and members of the jury must use enthusiasm and imagination. French Rococo style usually proves popular, with residents making their own iron fretwork and spiral curls, decorated with large flowers and fan-shaped shells.

Basket of treats
Last year, the best balcony belonged to Zelva’s Lyudmila Rusak, who tells us, “As soon as I saw the advertisement in the local newspaper, I began to prepare. It’s not easy matter, as you need to consider the composition and then find or make the necessary details.” I ask her how many people took part and whether a competitive spirit prevailed, as well as what made her entry stand out. She tells us, “There were more than ten participants. Our building alone had three balconies decorated. We paid special mention not only to decorating in a beautiful manner but in old style, using an old samovar, embroidered tablecloths and towels — especially brought from the village — and a suspended cradle. We posed as a family in traditional dress, having just returned from the fair. Above the table, we placed the samovar and various treats: hanging doughnuts, dried mushrooms, and a string of onions.” Besides taking tea themselves, the host and hostess lowered a woven basket from the third floor to the pavement on a rope, to share their treats. Colleagues still smile on recalling the picnic.

Storage of old skis
“There is a science in architecture and illumination, looking at the possibilities and principles of using light sources,” notes architect Vyacheslav Chernatov, Professor of the Architecture of Residential and Public Buildings Chair, at the Belarusian National Technical University. “It is considered that balconies are not well suited to our climate; in apartment buildings, they ‘steal’ scarce sunlight from lower floors and health officers argue that lack of UV penetration contributes to rickets in children. In the Khrushchev era, when people needed space to store potatoes and dry clothes, balconies appeared on most apartments. It seems preferable to construct French balconies (suitable for flower pots in the warmer months) or bay windows that ‘catch’ rays from different angles. Architects have been gradually rejecting balconies in Belarus since the 1990s, as seen in the Kamennaya Gorka suburb, using bay windows and French balconies instead.”

Sky underfoot
Balconies and loggias, closed on three sides, are usually used as storage areas but those in Barcelona, on buildings designed by the great Catalan Antonio Gaudi, are similar to Venetian carnival masks. Those in Helsinki are like crows’ nests and Chicago has glass balconies on the 103rd floor of the Sears Tower, offering incredible views.

This year, citizens of Zelva, as usual, are preparing for the contest, ready for the Annensky Kirmash Fair.
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