on USSR / Russia · St Petersburg

Architectural Walks in Kolpino Part 1. Dvorets Kultury

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Before Kolpino as I have known it for 26 years becomes something completely different, here is an architectural journey from the early 20th century through 1930’s constructivism and Stalin’s neo-classicism to the 1980s brutalism. I’m trying to preserve the traces, so to say, without being particularly nostalgic. Let’s call it my way of getting to know my city better.

This is not the first time I speak about architecture here cause St Petersburg is one of those places where you would go to just to look at the buildings. Kolpino being St Petersburg’s youngest industrial brother (the famous Izhorsky plant which gave birth to this town is celebrating 292 years in 2014) used to have a variety of styles too before the war came. After which the Soviet buildings spread all over the town, especially in its oldest historical part. We still have some older buildings from as early as 19th century but if you’re looking for a limited territory with a concentration of the Soviet styles – welcome to the architectural reserve of Kolpino!

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I will make several ‘architectural walk’ posts out of megabytes of photos I took throughout the summer. Let’s start this particular walk from the Half-Circle Canal and Dvorets Kultury (House/ Palace of Culture) aka DK, a Soviet way of promoting culture and crafts among the working class. I used to study there when our school was housed in the building. We would also use DK as a meeting point and it is still a point of reference when you’re explaining location of something in Kolpino. It used to belong to the Izhorsky plant, now it’s in the city’s hands. The name remains, only its ‘title’ changes – it used to be Palace of Culture and Technology, now it’s a Cultural and Recreational Center.

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The famous wooden staircase in the old part of DK got even filmed in a movie… Imagine how many workers’ feet trod its steps to and fro before it got rented out to various non-cultural organizations. Children and adults still go here to participate in various clubs but no doubt it is not crowded by culture-hungry pionery flocking around a sitting plaster figure of Lenin (I do remember it!). And all the girls and boys got inevitable and irrevocable brown stains of mastic polish on their white stockings (no more mastic these days but we’ve experienced that with my sister). These matching brown doors I’m sure are here from the very beginning:

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The asymmetrical building itself is quite a riddle – its construction started in late 1930s so there’s a kilo of constructivism in it, then proceeded during the neo-classicism era and was complemented in the late 1980s. Its architects were pretty prolific creators of various buildings in St Petersburg. The war did not permit to finish their grandiose plan (with namely a 10 meter tower for the scientific purposes) and the almost completely ruined DK was re-built and re-designed in late 1940s, when Stalin’s Empire style was in full swing. So no 10 meter tower anymore, which was anyway erased by the nazis. But the neo-classicism was grandiose enough – if not in terms of height, but definitely in terms of decoration! Hence this spiral staircase with -unfortunately – now removed looooong-long carpet:

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spinning three floors up (or down 🙂

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and these bas-reliefs

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  and the chandeliers

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with even more bas reliefs

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and pseudo-Corinthian capitals of the columns

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and overall lots of columns both inside

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and outside

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It’s one of the dolgostroy of our town – these were constructions that took years to complete, normally becoming a part of the city life and city folklore. The latest (or last?) addition to this complex construction was the concert hall, finally built in 1988. It represents a true mixture of both the original constructivism, Stalin’s classicism and the late 1980s khm… style. But oh, its inside decorations with mirrors, chandeliers and crimson velvet benches are just real magic…

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These metal stands outside are still used to hold the hand-painted billboards informing the citizens about the upcoming events and new clubs. In summer DK is deserted and when we got there with my Mother after several years of no-see, the security guard was puzzled at our long walk up and down the stairs. The right wing is being renovated from the inside now and I guess it will lose what was left from the 50s (there used to be a small cinema hall and later a disco).

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DK is haunted with memories. Wait, am I being nostalgic?

 G.

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