Imaging fixing your teeth in an Art-Nouveau mansion without paying a single kopeck / cent, etc? That’s what might happen to you if you live permanently in the Petrogradsky district of St Petersburg and need a dentist. Yes, some crucial things are still free of charge in Russia, we inherited it from the USSR.
The mansion that the public (and hence free) dental clinic occupies since 1935 was originally built by Vladimir Apyshkov (who would later create the impressive Bolsheokhtinsky Bridge over Neva) for a wealthy engineer in 1906-07. It was consequently purchased by other people and enhanced with two wings, one of which was designed by Fedor Lidval. However, the mansion is still known as Chaev’s mansion, after its first owner.
This is a rather cold type of Art-Nouveau, that is sometimes referred to as ‘hygienic style’, meaning a polished appearance almost devoid of any decorations, with the buildings usually faced with smooth bricks and tiles. In this case the choice of the ‘hygienic’ moderne (Art-Nouveau in Russian) for Chaev’s mansion almost predicted its future use!
This mansion’s style is edging on the neoclassical one as well. Just look at these figures (above) or this railing on one of the mansion’s staircases:
And as usual – everything in Art Nouveau is in details:
The mansion reminds me of another – more well-known – mansion of the Petrogradsky Island which belonged to the famous Russian ballerina and emperor’s sweetheart (they say) Kschessinskaya (now occupied by the Museum of the Political History of Russia). It was built in 1906 and had definitely – and immediately – an influence on other mansions designed during that period.
Chaev’s mansion is planned in a curious way: you enter through a tower-like cylinder…
and proceed into a round hall with a mirror ceiling (which originally was a glass ceiling to allow for natural light to flow in):
And then there’s yet another circle waiting ahead – the winter garden, like in Kschessinskaya’s mansion:
Very generous windows!
These three elements are interspersed, creating not only quite unusual space but also a weird sensation (must be even more weird when your teeth are aching!). They say that the glass ceiling was actually the third floor’s, well, floor, where the servants would live. Their dining table used to run all around that glass ceiling / floor not to block the light. Also, the kitchen and the laundry were placed on the top floor to avoid the unwanted aromas in the master’s room below.
It’s not that easy to imagine how it used to be in this mansion 100 years ago. Some of the interiors have been reconstructed but it’s obvious that all the oak panels, paintings and Louis XVI furniture are long gone.
And when you hear those dentist’s sounds (brrr!) you are for sure reminded that all these people sitting around waiting (wearing the inevitable bakhily – plastic overshoes, see the women’s feet in the picture below) are not Chaev’s guests!
A long-living leftover from the original mansion?
They say that the pool room is now occupied by the ‘dental cabinet #3’ whereas the head doctor sits in the former boudoir. The orthopedists are in the bedroom and the dental laboratory is in… the bathroom 🙂 By the way, this dental clinic was one of the only that worked all through the Siege of Leningrad.
By the way, Chaev mansion is on … Roentgen Street (used to be Litseyskaya Street), close to the First Medical University campus. Which needs to be investigated into as well sometime soon!
This post goes to my never-ending St Petersburg series.