no recipe · on USSR / Russia · St Petersburg

Experimenting with Black and White: Smena Film Camera

Smena Black and White

Experimenting with the Soviet black and white Smena 8M camera that was given to my Mother as a present when she was still at school, in 1973 – her first photo camera. That was a popular and inexpensive model for beginners manufactured at the famous LOMO factory in Leningrad – well now you would rather call it a mind-boggling challenge! First and foremost, finding a black and white film was not that very easy, I managed to find only one type and it was quite pricey for an experiment. So I knew the price of every shot 🙂 Although that was not my first encounter with film cameras (I started with Zenith back in the early 2000s), Smena really is a Soviet austerity thing. The trick with this camera is that it is so basic that you can’t focus. Nope. No zooming, nothing, just your reckoning of how far the object is from you (which I’m pretty bad at!). And you can’t even fully get an idea of what will be in your picture once it’s developed either. I mean the thing you see in the finder when making the photo is not all what you get as a result. There are also those icons for the weather conditions that you need to choose from – I think I’ve made a mess with them every time, not mentioning the shutter speed that you have to determine yourself too. Add to this absence of a cap for the lens and a very stiff cover… Also when I had my film developed (which you don’t normally do these days, do you?) it turned out that most of the 36 shots were gone… I mean most of the film was just blank. I dunno if that’s due to the camera or to some error during the developing process but the thing is, I lost all the earlier photos that I did in January, February and March… So I’m left with the shots from early April till mid May 2018. By the way, I’ve deliberately kept the borders on the scanned photos (thanks to my Dad!) so that they have a more authentic feel (read: too lazy!).

Smena Black and White

The first shot that was more or less full (see a black stripe above) and the next one were taken in Tsarskoye Selo on a morning in early April, during the Easter week. That’s the church (below) and the wooden dormitories that I’ve already described in one of my previous posts. I was drawn by the interplay of the shadows and the bright sun on the walls but had no idea how it would look like in a black and white version.

Smena Black and White

A week later in April we took an evening walk in the Aleksandrovsky Park of Tsarskoye Selo. Again I was attracted by the shadows and the perspective of the tree alley. I had to consult my Mother as to what numbers / icons to choose. Absolutely no idea how people’s minds worked back then when everything was not automatically set! 🙂

Smena Black and White

Next day at our dacha, trying to capture the warm evening sun of spring:

Smena Black and White

Late April – some shots taken while walking along Moyka river from – roughly – the Palace Square to Tavrichesky Garden in St Petersburg. The beginning of the active tourist season… I was not sure whether the camera would focus on the river or the lamp post…

Smena Black and White

Trying to get that graphic repetition of the (shadow) pattern:

Smena Black and White

Here I was not sure wether the lamp would fit or not but I was more interested in the swirl:

Smena Black and White

Early May on the Palace Square, before getting my price for a Russian language competition 🙂

Smena Black and White

The sky was so dramatic, the wind was tough, I couldn’t hold myself from making another shot:

Smena Black and White

And this is mid May when the weather suddenly turned to very autumn-like rather than spring-time. We took a very fast walk in Pavlovsk, near the Mariental Castle (aka BIP), see the very first photo of the post for yet another take on it:

Smena Black and White

Obviously tried to get more of the reflection rather than of the castle itself:

Smena Black and White

And I think this is by far the best shot – a tiny bit of decadence:

Smena Black and White

After all, I liked the challenge. Some of the photos did remind me of those I took years ago when I borrowed Zenith camera from my parents – but that was a colour film camera and much more user-friendly. With Smena I think for a moment I did get that feeling back when with every shot you make you realize that that was probably it – or nothing. You can’t take a hundred and then choose the best one with this camera, you can’t have a preview, you can’t see the result immediately, you just – well, you just ‘fire’ that thing and wait to see! Perfectly old-fashioned.

G.

architecture · no recipe · on USSR / Russia · St Petersburg · travel

Duderhof and Taytsy Estate

Mozhayskoye and Taytsy

On the last day of May we explored a bit more of the region around St Petersburg, covering two spots in one go – Duderhof (aka Mozhaysky) and Taytsy Estate. Duderhof is situated right at the edge of the city, bordering with the Leningrad region, while Taytsy is already inside the region, though these two are just a few kilometers away from each other.

Mozhayskoye and Taytsy

Our first stop was the 1890 railway station still called Mozhayskaya (after a Russian aviation pioneer Mozhaysky) although the settlement itself has now officially regained (one of) its previous name(s), Duderhof. We have quite a few German or pseudo-German toponyms around here, like Peterhof, Shlisselburg and even St Petersburg itself. The station building is not Art Nouveau yet but definitely very close. And then we moved a little bit further up the road to find this…

Mozhayskoye and Taytsy

As part of my quest to visit all those Art Nouveau mansions scattered all over St Petersburg and its region, I had plans to see this one in particular as it seemed to fulfill not only the architectural ‘rules’ of this movement but also their aspirations towards a perfect location that would serve the purpose.

Mozhayskoye and Taytsy

This is a hospital for cancer patients, built on a hill overlooking the plains below it. There’s plenty of air, so the location is perfect for convalescence and walks in the surrounding area.

Mozhayskoye and Taytsy

And it was built by the maitre of Art Nouveau, Lutsedarsky, right at the start of this architectural movement, yet in its ‘romantic’ stage, in 1900-1902, for the sisters of charity. It does look like a small castle particularly when seen from the road as it sits on the hill surrounded by small houses and fields. The Russian ‘Alps’ view:

Mozhayskoye and Taytsy

Love this semi-circular wooden element:

Mozhayskoye and Taytsy

…and the ‘window’ on the left – not mentioning the grate and the tower!

Mozhayskoye and Taytsy

Not much is known about it, probably due to its extra-muros location. It is now occupied by a skiing school for children actually. Well, at least it’s somewhat looked after, maybe not in the perfect way but it’s not in the worst state for an Art Nouveau site outside St Petersburg either. Contrary to that, all that is left from one of the nearby wooden houses for the invalids (late 19th century) is this:

Mozhayskoye and Taytsy

We climbed up the hill through a sort of a forest to this place – with a view too. This is Duderhof heights, reaching up to 176 meters which makes it the highest ‘peak’ of St Petersburg. A perfect skiing location with very specific snow conditions during the winter season – as well as nice place for walking with a curious mixture of trees and plants, plus a water source.

Mozhayskoye and Taytsy

Unfortunately, the highest point of St Petersburg was not always all about skiing and just had to be very heavily involved during the war. The monument on one of the slopes of the hill represent the feat by the courageous crew of the famous Aurora cruiser who were deployed here with the guns taken from the ship. They got attacked by the enemy and very few of them survived the battle, after which the heights were captured in September 1941. The Nazis used this height to their full advantage of course – the city was there right below their feet… but never was it at their feet!

Mozhayskoye and Taytsy

***

Our next stop was at Taytsy, a small settlement with a long history. As with many estates after the 1917 it got turned into a sanatorium (a sort of a health resort for working people), a collective farm (!) and later a rehab center. Now it serves film crews as a filming location, and inevitably falling into disrepair.

Mozhayskoye and Taytsy

When we were there they were shooting something there, the main building was occupied and we could get a peep inside through a slit in the ‘shutters’. They did not say anything to us wandering about but we didn’t wander off very far either. There are other dilapidated buildings around the main ‘palace’, bearing the signs of their Soviet past on them.

Mozhayskoye and Taytsy

But I wanted to go to Taytsy mostly for the sake of its park which promised to be just as decadent in late spring as it is in late autumn. The lilac was in full blossom and the other trees were preparing for the summer as well.

Mozhayskoye and Taytsy

You can study the way a park which was so carefully planned and then so much cared for for many years, got completely out of hand when left to its own that the nature has got it all back. Particularly obvious with this bridge which was made to look ‘natural’ and now has such a natural look that you can’t get any better than this! (my father’s picture of the same view is here)

Mozhayskoye and Taytsy

The trees looked happy with their now all-natural style.

Mozhayskoye and Taytsy

It reminded me of the abandoned Soviet sanatorium I saw a year ago in Alupka, Crimea.

Mozhayskoye and Taytsy

It was actually built in the late 18th century by a prolific classicist architect Ivan Starov to adorn the 110 ha park. The estate has changed many hands, from Pushkin’s relatives to one of the Demindov family, the noble and super rich family who made their fortune thanks to mining and metal.

Mozhayskoye and Taytsy

Now the estate is abandoned even by those tired workers who used to regain their health here. There were some weird sort of construction going on nearby but we couldn’t see as the territory was behind a fence. I just hope they won’t turn it into a dacha for the rich and powerful.

Adding this post to the collection about the Environs of St Petersburg.

G.

no recipe · on USSR / Russia · St Petersburg

Spring Memories 2018

Spring at Dacha

I’ve spent quite a lot of time at our dacha this spring – and later summer. And I guess I have to be pay my dues to the job I’ve been doing for almost a year now which allows me to work from any location and almost any point during the day. Thanks to that I’ve also travelled to new places since I don’t necessarily have to stay at home.

Spring at Dacha

But at the same time too much is done on the computer which leaves me with no desire to use it any more after I’m done with the task for the day. So even if I have a desire to write to my blog, it’s not enough to actually do it. Which also made me ponder on the whole idea itself – whether I really need this blog etc etc. Ok, no more of this, let’s just leave some spring 2018 memories here.

Spring at Dacha

The first photos are from April when there’s such an awakening around you, such a joy inside you that cannot compare with any other season I guess. I love the interplay of the seemingly dead / sleeping nature and the subtle but obviously very sturdy and vigorous new life.

Spring at Dacha

It’s so fast this in-between season – I mean, between the winter and the full-on summer that you’d better open your eyes before it’s all gone.

Spring at Dacha

This spring gave us a marvelous May which was in a way warmer and nicer than most of the previous summers. And it was also made pretty clear to us that we were to face yet another apple year, a very prolific one though the apples I’m afraid were record sour which made them almost inedible for those with a weak stomach.

Apple Trees in Blossom

We’re still dealing with the apple harvest and I can only occasionally make something non-apple in terms of desserts since we have so many of them and everyone around seem to be having the same problem so there’s just no way of getting rid of them by giving away.

Apple Trees in Blossom

During winter I had some thoughts of going back to Crimea to get some proper spring experience just like I did in 2016 but then I realized I’d be better off at our dacha just enjoying life and nature in a sort of a seclusion that a 0.6 ha plot can give you. While making my strolls along and across the multiple dacha cooperatives that stretch for kilometers along the New Ladoga Canal (which in its turn runs along the Ladoga Lake shore), I met quite a few people who were also enjoying their dacha life in many ways though not all of their lifestyles were so to speak healthy. I guess that the relative remoteness from the city (about 50 km) and a more relaxed and village-like atmosphere means vodka will never lose its popularity in these places.

Apple Trees in Blossom

I’m definitely not a village person, I mean if I were to choose, I would definitely love to live in the country but then I’m absolutely hopeless with all the hard work it entails. And I can only drink my milk already pasteurized and devoid of all the (too) natural aromas, if you know what I mean. But I’m not a city person either which makes dacha a nice sort of compromise in between. Russians love their dacha for a variety of reasons, mine is very personal cause I’ve been spending there most of my summers since my very first one. I’m grateful for those Soviets who had the idea of granting plots to their people. And I’m really thankful for my grandparents who courageously undertook such a hard task to develop a plot from virtually nothing (ex-forest) to such a cozy place. Even a 9’C day somewhere in the middle of July can’t spoil it.

Apple Trees in Blossom

I can brag on for ages, you know. Need to save my enthusiasm for the rest of the backlog of various posts that I keep postponing for ages.

P.S. Pictured above is the famous Cobalt Net tea pot from a porcelain set very popular in the 1960s. The pattern itself was created even before the end of the war by an artist working at the Lomonosov Porcelain Factory during the Siege of Leningrad.  I’m no fan of porcelain but this one is such an iconic pattern that it’s somehow ‘by default’ included in our inner cultural canon.

G.

architecture · no recipe · on USSR / Russia · travel

Moscow Winter Holidays and Cat Therapy

Moscow Winter Holidays plus Cat Therapy

I took two (snowy) winter breaks in Moscow this year. My yet another attempt at taming Moscow couldn’t have happened in a more welcoming period – the temperature outside was around -20 ‘C. Well, with all the wind it might as well have been some degrees lower. I know! And still… It was quite a cozy stay in the Russian capital, which was obviously made even cozier with the presence of two cats who willingly and most generously provided their free (cat) therapy.

Moscow Winter Holidays plus Cat Therapy

Probably even thanks to such harsh weather conditions I was more active on the sight-seeing part, as I did manage to go to a couple of museums and visited some parks. This is just a square representing a typical picture of what you could see all over the place in February and March:

Moscow Winter Holidays plus Cat Therapy

After all there were loads of sun! Moreover, I had some translation & editing jobs to do so was only happy to drag myself out of the world of the computer and words (one of the reasons why I seem to be neglecting blogging these days). These are some shots from the Timiryazev park (I would rather call it a forest) just after the sunset:

Moscow Winter Holidays plus Cat Therapy

Urban Moscow is just a stone throw away:

Moscow Winter Holidays plus Cat Therapy

You just need to get through this ‘portal’:

Moscow Winter Holidays plus Cat Therapy

Looking back to kind of check whether there’s still way back:

Moscow Winter Holidays plus Cat Therapy

Tracks:

Moscow Winter Holidays plus Cat Therapy

On one of the days I went to the Russian Realistic Art Museum, located in one of the facilities of a former cotton-printing factory. It’s a private museum which traces the history of the Realistic Art in Russia from the early 20th century till today. As always, I liked the first part of the 20th century much more.

Moscow Winter Holidays plus Cat Therapy

I really liked these nostalgic etchings from one of the Vladimir school artists:

Moscow Winter Holidays plus Cat Therapy

Outside the museum – typical Moscow (and Russia):

Moscow Winter Holidays plus Cat Therapy

After which I went to a super-tiny museum of the Moscow Rail Road which was a disappointment. There was that very train that carried the body of Lenin to Moscow in 1924 and I guess that was and still remains the main exhibit for already many years. On my way there:

Moscow Winter Holidays plus Cat Therapy

Yet another day – a trip to the Aptekarsky Garden, all covered in snow and quiet, right in the middle of the bustle and hustle of Moscow. Founded in early 18th century it used to be a real garden with medicinal herbs and stuff. It now belongs to the MGU (Moscow State University) and is open to public. The Aptekarsky Island in St Petersburg is also connected to the efforts of the ever-present Peter the Great. Well, he created the first botanical garden in Russia – among many other ‘first’ things!

Moscow Winter Holidays plus Cat Therapy

Made some photos with a black and white Smena camera that day, hope it still works 🙂

Moscow Winter Holidays plus Cat Therapy

It was cold but lots of people were queuing to get into one of the glasshouses to get a refreshing glimpse of spring. Most of them were more involved into making selfies than actually looking at the flowers though… Anyway, it was amazing and definitely worth freezing my feet for some half an hour standing in the line!

Moscow Winter Holidays plus Cat Therapy

In the tropical greenhouse:

Moscow Winter Holidays plus Cat Therapy

Pressed layers of snow outside:

Moscow Winter Holidays plus Cat Therapy
That day there was sun only at the very end of the day:

Moscow Winter Holidays plus Cat Therapy

Look who was helping me work:

Moscow Winter Holidays plus Cat Therapy

More Moscow stories coming along…

G.

architecture · no recipe · on USSR / Russia · travel

Moscow Mosaics: The Stalinist Era

Rechnoy Vokzal, Moscow

From my trips to Moscow in late April, June and October 2017 I’ve selected the places that have impressed me most into this first Moscow Mosaics post, united under the same era that they belong to – the Stalinist era. We’ll start from the North River Terminal, built in 1933-37, when the creation of the canal that connected Moscow with the waters of Volga was also under way. So when the construction started, this river terminal was actually standing nowhere near water – the artificial Khimki water reserve was not yet filled with water 🙂 And yes, it looks like that very Doge’s Palace in Venice – and at the same time as a ferry when seen from above. Gosh, I’d love to travel back in time to see how it looked like with all the exclusive stuff inside including a posh restaurant and the artificial marble and the statues and the hairdresser’s, a shoe repair shops, an agitpunkt and a post office. The ideal life of the ideal citizens of the ideal state – as seen by the ideal ruler himself, of course.

Rechnoy Vokzal, Moscow

When I saw it I immediately thought about the Krasnoyarsk River Terminal on Yenisey which was built some 10-15 years later but following the same design. Well, it looks that they both are not in their prime state at the moment. They say the Moscow River Terminal which is in disuse for more than 10 years, will be renovated by 2020. The 1.5 meter in diameter (!) majolica medallions depicting the highlights of the Five-year plan (see the first photo of the post) were hand-painted (!) by a single woman artist (!). To me, the ‘Moscow – Volga 1937’ letters above the entrance just breathe the 1930s…

Moscow

Next stop – the Central Moscow Hippodrome which got rebuilt in 1951-55 incorporating the original late 19th century one into this Stalin empire style building with a tower. The tower looks pretty much alike with all those Stalinist era towers scattered all over the central Moscow. Though none of them has horses instead of the usual workers or happy peasants as statues.

Moscow

The Hippodrome is still functioning (we saw some horses in action) although I doubt it will ever regain its glory. One day I’ll walk inside but not for the races – to see the interior which seems to be quite nice as well as the public which seems to be mostly dedushki, grandpas.

Moscow

Some more of the Stalinist Moscow here, now at VDNKh, or the Exhibition of Achievements of National Economy. It’s been undergoing a massive renovation (reconstruction) process recently and it looks so much better now. Hopefully these pavilions too will be soon renovated.

VDNKh, Moscow

Built in 1952 as Glavkonserv pavilion with the best of the canned food there was in the USSR (see the decoration in the windows below), it has been a Gastronom (a sort of a Delicatessen) for quite a few decades since.

VDNKh, Moscow

The trick of the store is that they’ve preserved all the original stuff inside – well, except for the food obviously! Which is a shame, though…

VDNKh, Moscow

How’s that for a shop? Not your usual produkty (grocery store) for sure!

VDNKh, Moscow

This 1954 pavilion was originally destined to showcase the achievements in the construction materials industry, hence the use of the super-tough stalinit, a sort of tempered glass which nevertheless is transparent so – they say – from the inside you feel as if the roof is just floating in the air because the entire glass wall becomes almost invisible. The pavilion was later used to showcase other stuff – nuclear energy, consumer goods and then health care. Haha.

VDNKh, Moscow

And this is a 1952-53 pavilion first built for the Tsentrosoyuz, an authority coordinating all the consumer cooperatives. It too has undergone several mutations, serving as a pavilion for the nuclear energy, mechanization of agriculture, and consumer goods. The style of the building is a Stalinist take on the art-deco.

VDNKh, Moscow

And here’s a small one I liked a lot – Uzbekvino, showcasing wine from Uzbekistan.

VDNKh, Moscow

Built in 1954 as a part of the entire Uzbekistan section (the main pavilion later mutated into the Culture one), it later became Sadko restaurant which did not survive till our days. They say that yet another restaurant is to open here soon.

VDNKh, Moscow

And for the dessert, here’s a Kremlin petrol station, they say one of the oldest in Moscow. It’s situated close to the Pushkin Museum pretty close to the heart of Moscow, the Kremlin. The say also that it is still functioning – though only for the governmental cars. Built after the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour got blown up in 1931, it is – they say again – is the only relic remaining from the gigantic plan to erect a monstrous Palace of the Soviets right on the spot where the cathedral used to be. There was a series of architectural competitions but the Palace itself was never built. In the end (since 1960) they used the foundation for a huge open-air pool right in the center of Moscow which later (late 1990s) got rebuilt as… Cathedral of Christ the Saviour.

Pertsova House, Moscow

Adding this post to the Russian section of the Travel collection.

G.

architecture · no recipe · St Petersburg · travel

Bogoslovka, Osinovets Lighthouse and the Road of Life

Ladoga

There are some summer memories leftover from 2017. On a surprisingly sunny day in August we travelled out of St Petersburg into the (Leningrad) region to see Bogoslovka on the Neva river, and Osinovets and the Road of Life Museum on the Ladoga Lake.

Ladoga

First stop on our way was Bogoslovka, a sort of an open-air ethno-park where they reconstruct traditional wooden buildings of the Russian North-West region. These buildings are copies and had to be painstakingly recreated as none of them was lucky enough to survive till our days.

Ladoga

The central piece of Bogoslovka, the Church of Intercession of the Holy Virgin which – they say – was once designed by Peter the Great himself in 1708. After some 250 years it was lost in a fire but never recreated on the spot. So the enthusiasts of Bogoslovka did it here, on the south-east outskirts of the city.

Ladoga

The church is open not only as a museum but also as a functioning church. When we were there, they were baptizing a child or something. The church is immense! You can’t really take it in in one go – so many onion domes and kokoshniks (these wooden arches recalling the traditional Russian headdress), rising up to the sky, a real wooden skyscraper of a church!

Ladoga

There was so much sun that day (of otherwise pretty moody summer) that my photos seem to be overexposed. Here is another building, as far as I remember of a wealthy peasant. I guess they use it as a guesthouse.

Ladoga

I had to find points in the shade from where I could at least observe the buildings without constantly straining my eyes. Can’t believe St Petersburg summer can be that sunny sometimes! Well, once a year 🙂 Here’s a tiny church from the Arkhangelsk region and that huge peasant’s house in the background:

Ladoga

And a free-standing bell-tower:

Ladoga

There was also a sort of a Russian crafts village but it was closed. There seems to be some more (re)construction going on there (as well as on their website) so some time soon there might be more copies of the wooden architecture from the region there. I like such open-air museums where they either move the original wooden buildings to or recreate them, like the one in Novgorod the Great or Suzdal. Have not been to the Kizhi open air museum yet, they say it’s the best.

Ladoga

To get to the two other places we visited that same day we continued our way along the right side of the Neva river away from the city towards the Ladoga Lake. Both places are connected with the Siege of Leningrad during the Second World War.

Ladoga

This monument belongs to a whole ‘belt’ of them, commemorating important places which played their part in the lifting of the Siege of Leningrad in January 1944. This used to be the front line of the defense of the city and you can imagine how fierce the battles were here.

Ladoga

This one is very much in the 1960s war-memorial style, and I think it’s rather powerful. The pyramid is placed on the top of an artificial hill (hence the name, Hill of Glory, or Nameless Height), right at a spot on the Neva river aka Ivanovo rapids where its flow is the most challenging: too shallow, too straight with the maximum speed. Nowadays it’s not that dangerous as they’ve performed a number of tricks which made it deeper, wider and less fast.

Ladoga

Further we moved along the Neva river and came to the spot where the ring stifling the city was kept from becoming complete. This spot on the western coast of the Ladoga Lake connected the besieged city with the rest of the world. The lake played the crucial role in the survival of Leningrad during the Siege: it was the city’s Road of Life, providing it with food, transporting people to the mainland.

Ladoga

Next we moved on to the Osinovets lighthouse on the Ladoga Lake, a contemporary of some of my most favourite buildings in St Petersburg. Built in 1905-1910, this 70 meter lighthouse is there to pinpoint the entrance to the Shlisselburg bay, where the river Neva takes its source from Ladoga.

Ladoga

It also played its role in the Siege, being an important landmark for those navigating along the Road of Life, under the heavy bombardments of the Nazis.

Ladoga

We walked along the artificial bar into the Ladoga. Looking back at the Lighthouse where the St Petersburg people come to have some (noisy) rest, it all seemed so peaceful and quiet. With only the waves and the wind and an occasional boat disturbing the silence.

Ladoga

I think I liked this spot most of all.

Ladoga

A few hundred meters away from Osinovets is a recently renovated museum of the Road of Life. I am not a fan of war museums although I do understand their importance. This one surprised me as being very much un-dusty compared to most of the war museums I’ve visited so far.

Ladoga

But you feel really really small, uneasy and scared of course while walking along the Ladoga Lake with all those guns and boats and aircrafts behind you. They also play some sort of bird sounds (very loud and disturbing) to keep the real birds away from their exhibits (and the glass walls as far as I can understand). Well, a war museum is a war museum, no fluffy staff there.

Ladoga

In one of the hangars they have some of those vehicles which helped transport so many goods and people to and from the mainland during the winter months of the Siege. The dark one is the famous polutorka which was one of the workhorses of the Road of Life, many of them unfortunately never made it to the land. The museum was about to close down for the day so we had to leave.

Ladoga

Then we had our lunch in a small cafe kept by Armenians where we could admire Ladoga from if not for the loud music outside which kept us inside 🙂 Oh yes, I also had my first swim in the Ladoga Lake that day – shallow and cold, but very refreshing. Such a fine day!

Ladoga

This post goes to the St Petersburg collection.

G.

architecture · no recipe · on USSR / Russia · St Petersburg · travel

Spring and (More) Art Nouveau in Tsarskoye Selo

Art Nouveau in Tsarskoye Selo (spring)

Tsarksoye Selo to the south of St Petersburg is a treasure trove of yet undiscovered Art Nouveau architecture. Here, a bit out of the eye of the St Petersburg experts and activists in architectural conservation, some of the beauties have disappeared without a trace over the years. But luckily some of them are left as is and some are even gradually renovated. In continuation to my last year’s spring-time and autumnal walks in the Art Nouveau realm of Tsarksoye Selo, here we go.

Art Nouveau in Tsarskoye Selo (spring)

I think spring and autumn with their rusty colours of the nature, with their true warm light (as opposed to the ‘through’ hot light of summer) just bring out the best in Art Nouveau, they are the best seasons for spotting architecture in general – not much leaves on the trees to obstruct the buildings and no (or little) snow to cover the details. We did this walk back in the surprisingly warm early April (after which there was such a setback – raining and all that). Our first stop was at the now State Museum Tsarskoye Selo Collection (apparently – of the 1930s Leningrad art). But it used to be one of those mansions for just one family built right in the center of the city by the architect from the capital (i.e. St Petersburg then) von Goli in 1909.

Art Nouveau in Tsarskoye Selo (spring)

Regardless of its pink painted walls, this mansion bears the signs of the so called Northern Modern style, the one which evolved in St Petersburg but was inspired by the Finnish Romantic style as well as the Scandinavian spirit in general.

Art Nouveau in Tsarskoye Selo (spring)

Hence all the fortress-like reminiscence, such as the windows, portals and stone.

Art Nouveau in Tsarskoye Selo (spring)

But the mansions’ signature details is this tower rather menacingly hanging over passers-by. To my mind they even left the entrance right underneath is in disuse because of that.

Art Nouveau in Tsarskoye Selo (spring)

Curious ‘lid’ above the balcony:

Art Nouveau in Tsarskoye Selo (spring)

There is not much known about the previous history of this cute little mansion. I will one day go inside since there’s also a workshop at the ground level. I wonder whether it sunk down quite a bit over the century or was meant to be that low.

Art Nouveau in Tsarskoye Selo (spring)

The wall on the other side which were in the shadow that morning are less… feminine, more laconic as there are no such doors or balconies, just a wall pierced by the windows.

Art Nouveau in Tsarskoye Selo (spring)
Our next stop was not actually planned as I used to consider these buildings long gone and didn’t bother to check (I read about them in the book on the Art Nouveau architecture in St Pete). But since they were just some meters away from the pink mansion we bumped into them by chance, so to say.

Art Nouveau in Tsarskoye Selo (spring)

It was Sunday and Easter Sunday, so people were already gathering outside the church waiting for the priest to sprinkle that holy whatever on their traditional (and not so much) kulich and died eggs and whatnot.

Art Nouveau in Tsarskoye Selo (spring)

I was drawn by the pseudo-Russian style of the church which was also lit by the warm sun to its advantage. There’s something to its volumes and features that makes you think of the very old Russian churches (which was obviously meant) but there’s also something from the Art Nouveau aesthetics which is so appealing.

Art Nouveau in Tsarskoye Selo (spring)

This a ‘home’ church meaning that it was built into a building, actually into a charity organization for the Russian Red Cross nurses who lived here and worked in the hospitals of the city, the whole thing being backed by the emperor’s wife herself, Alexandra (i.e. the last Russian emperor Nicholas II’s wife). And it was designed by the emperor’s own architect with a charming Italian name of Silvio Danini. I’ve already investigated into some of his creations scattered all over Tsarskoye Selo but no to this one.

Art Nouveau in Tsarskoye Selo (spring)

As with the prototype – the first Russian churches – the rounded volumes are clearly the best:

Art Nouveau in Tsarskoye Selo (spring)

The history of this church during the Soviet era is pretty much similar to those churches which survived and were not taken down (this could happen not just in the 1920-30s but well into the 60s as well – sadly). They were mostly deprived of their distinguishing features (i.e. bell towers, cupolas, of course all the interior etc) and transformed into everything from cinema halls to driving schools to bread baking plants.

Art Nouveau in Tsarskoye Selo (spring)

This one was used – again – to the benefit of the society, as a part of the sanatorium for the TB kids. All the icons got painted over, regardless of them being designed by the famous Viktor Vasnetsov. The 1912-1914 church then got transformed into a show room in the 1990s and was handed over to the church officials back only in 2006. And the renovation started finally which can only rejoice me. What a unique show room (they say of… doors!):

Art Nouveau in Tsarskoye Selo (spring)

The rest of the building has not been renovated and looks pretty sad. Though again I loved the volumes:

Art Nouveau in Tsarskoye Selo (spring)

Right next to the brick church is this big wooden house pretty much in the style of the very first pre-Art Nouveau English-cottage-style creations by the prolific Danini (1896-1897). It is in a poorer state than the adjacent church:

Art Nouveau in Tsarskoye Selo (spring)

This was originally built as the Nurses’ dormitory and clinic, but later became a Soviet kids’ TB sanatorium (the ‘new’ 1980 Brutalist style facilities are right next door). It is older than the church (1907-08) and is right next to another charity organization (which I failed to see this time) again built by the same Danini some years earlier.

Art Nouveau in Tsarskoye Selo (spring)

Now it’s some sort of something, no sign there but they say it will be handed over to the adjacent church some time soon.

Art Nouveau in Tsarskoye Selo (spring)

I hope it will be renovated. This could be a nice Sunday school or something, with its large windows. Although I doubt it will be restored as such. Real estate in Tsarskoye Selo is ridiculously overpriced…

Art Nouveau in Tsarskoye Selo (spring)

It does look like a wooden dacha (summer cottage). I can imagine drinking tea from samovar sitting on the verandah:

Art Nouveau in Tsarskoye Selo (spring)

I tried to capture these interplay of shadows that day with my mother’s first LOMO Smena photo camera, loaded with a black and white film. Still have some 10 shots to go before I can develop the film and find out whether it is actually still working. I adore black & white photos, its aesthetics, its graphic lines and atmosphere but still have to master it.

Art Nouveau in Tsarskoye Selo (spring)

The snow is already gone now but I’d love this early spring period to linger…

Art Nouveau in Tsarskoye Selo (spring)

Our last stop was actually in the neaby Pavlovsk, yet another royal-park-residence environ which is just a railway station away from Tsarskoye Selo. But this dacha is stuck somewhere in between wooden houses and posh ‘villas’, not where you would normally go to in brief.

Art Nouveau in Tsarskoye Selo (spring)

This used to be a private dacha of the architect who built among others the Faberge store in St Petersburg, Karl Shmidt. Built in 1902-1903, they say it used to be painted white with green, blue and red details, but I like its current earthy colours as well. Not sure about what’s inside, they say it’s occupied by the Pavlovsk park administration.

For the autumnal part of my Art Nouveau walks see this post. For my last year’s Art Nouveau walk, see this post.

Adding this post to the St Petersburg collection.

G.