Vasilyevsky Island in St Petersburg is an island of men – with its long list of man-architects, with its connection to so many historic man-figures and with just men living and working there. Although you won’t see any on my photos, you will have to believe me, I met mostly men on Vasilyevsky Island!
Last year I did just a bit of walking on the island (aka V.O., Vasilyevsky Ostrov), visiting one of its museums. But this year the island turned out to be indeed a new discovery for me. After studying on the southern edge of V.O. for four (!) years I somehow got so fed up with the terrible traffic situation (aggravated by the fact I was not particularly enjoying what I was standing in traffic jams for) that I almost deleted this district from my (architectural) walks.
I tried to defy this by walking for three hours one evening – and covering just about 1/3 of the city’s biggest island. The sun was not present much that evening and there was the imminent rain menace in the air but who would it ever stop in St Petersburg? This also added to the overall atmosphere:
It was nice finally walking on the island without being in a hurry although I did try to hurry myself up from time to time when it was obvious I was wandering off a bit too much. I used my Art Nouveau ‘map’ with the most interesting items on it only as a general plan for my trip as it was almost impossible sometimes not to get lured by those curious things hidden somewhere behind the island’s official ‘face’:
I investigated into the V.O. ‘s Southern part starting from some of the most authentic (and somewhat deserted) 18th century corners to the East:
With the original pavement though a bit carried away by the time:
Did you know that all those straight streets on V.O. used to be canals? You see, Peter the Great wanted to have his own Venice of the North here and so – obviously – a prolific Italian architect Domenico Trezzini designed the plan of the island with canals. But they say that the city major Menshikov was too greedy and under his command the canals got way too narrow.
They got later filled with earth thus becoming streets. They are called ‘lines’ and are numbered: actually, each side of the line is numbered separately. Moreover, lines with even numbers in their names have houses with odd numbers and vice versa! But the island has more weird stories to tell. Especially its backyards like this one with the remnants of the USSR used as shields to block windows:
This tiny house resembles a face:
Oh those rough views one find behind the facades in St Petersburg!
But let us not forget about men! One of the most notable Art-Nouveau facades of the island is this red one on the Makarova Embankment – and it belonged to duke Stenbock-Fermor and was built by a man-architect of course:
To add to the long list of men of the Vasilyevsky Island, here is the pharmacy, lab, factory and the residential building of Pel on the 7th line of V.O. (picture taken back in June 2015). Pel used to be the official provider of medications for the Royal court. They say that some of his inventions are used even nowadays (the pharmacy is open too)!
Although the most attractive urban legend connected to his name is about the Griffon Tower located in the courtyard (unfortunately, the access is blocked – too many curious people!). Pel was believed to be an alchemist and to keep his griffons in the tower… Meanwhile, let’s continue our list of men (by the way, the island’s name comes from some Vasily, though there’s no 100% sure version as to who this Vasily was).
This laconic building belonged to a general-major and was built during the late period of Art-Nouveau also known as ‘rational modern’. Artists (men?) would have their studios in the attic… Somewhat in the same line (but on different lines of the V.O.) are these ‘hygienic’ modernist buildings facing each other:
I can’t say that I like this late Art-Nouveau period, it doesn’t give off any warmth of ‘home’:
Even this Nordic-style Art-Nouveau building has a much colder appearance than its counterparts somewhere on Petrogradsky island:
I really like these shapes growing one on top of the other – or rather sprouting one from another!
this one too:
And this one is just the ultimate monument to the utter rationalism:
some gloomy castle-like house:
and how about this weird helm-looking tower:
or the attempt at bringing some life to the tiles:
sometimes the backyards are indeed much more interesting, with all the weird architectonics and variations on the facade decoration:
and then there’s just a WALL:
or this very confusing and I would say alarming wall:
and a very elaborately structured and decorated wall:
was it just weather or even this bright facade is also a little bit cold?
and here’s some curiously and seriously Sovieticized facade:
More yellow – but in a much more attractive style:
I liked this mansion a lot – one of the earliest examples of Art Nouveau in the city and already with all those characteristic details:
Of course belonging to a man who would deliver freight from Finland to Russia. His mansion / bureau should be very beautiful inside.
Yet another mansion is now occupied by the Medical Department of the State University. Doesn’t it look so strange with this wooden top?
Again, it should be quite a sight inside too. When I got to this mansion on the 21st line it started to rain and the light was going away bit by bit but I stubbornly continued my voyage. Walking to and fro from one line’s end to the other, I finally came up to the embankment of the river Neva, there where the ships and the factories are:
I told myself this would be the last destination as it was also getting cold. And there it was, the majestically horrendous constructivist tower, all alone and forgotten there at the Southern end of the Island:
so very industrial from all sides:
This is the water tower of the Krasny Gvozdilschik factory which would make wire and nails.
‘Protected by the state’ as most of the constructivist heritage of the city.
And then by miracle I caught a marshrutka (shared taxi; its driver was a man) which took me home across the illuminated city. And I still have 2/3rds of the Vasilyevsky Island to explore!
This post goes to the St Petersburg series.