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.

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

Wintry Icy St Petersburg

Wintry St Pete

Here’s some severe beauty of the frosty St Petersburg – before it all melted away. No ‘winter wonderland’ for this New Year’s eve, I’m afraid.

Wintry St Pete

An icy hello from the Ladoga lake which it sends to the city via Neva river once in a while.

Wintry St Pete

The ‘rotundas’ on the Palace Bridge are there as festive decorations.

Wintry St Pete

And a view back:

Wintry St Pete

The entire city looked like this that day: as if someone sprayed it all with fake snow.

Wintry St Pete

Oh, look, there’s sun in St Petersburg, hurry up before it’s gone!

Wintry St Pete

Icy sky hues:

Wintry St Pete

And a photo from a bit earlier – the illuminated Peter and Paul Fortress:

Wintry St Pete

Adding this post to the St Petersburg series.

G.

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

Bolsheohtinsky aka Peter the Great Bridge

Bolsheohtinsky Bridge

This summer inspired by the excursion to the Vitebsky railway station where we learned quite a bit about the technologies of the early 20th century, I made a walk in the center of the city up to the Bolsheokhtinsky aka Peter the Great Bridge. It belongs to the same period and uses the same construction method which at that time was considered quite revolutionary.

Bolsheohtinsky Bridge

On my way to the Bridge there were a few unavoidable stops as you just can’t resist pulling your camera out and making some photos. Above – a neo-baroque late 19th century green eye-catcher that looks pretty well in a combination with a brightly painted red ex-gymnasium building just a few meters away from it. And here’s a late Art Nouveau building (or rather ‘Northern Modern’ as it is called in Russia) that I used to pass by every day heading towards one of my jobs. It is in a very poor state now but it was supposed to look like a fortress or a castle, with its impressive walls and stonework at the ground floor level.

Bolsheohtinsky Bridge

Built in 1911-12 this residential house still preserves its original windows and judging from the photographs taken in its inner courtyard and inside it has not yet lost some of those details that would help create the Medieval atmosphere around it.

Bolsheohtinsky Bridge

St Pete’s backstage:

Bolsheohtinsky Bridge

And now on to the Bridge that connected a – then – suburb Okhta (hence the first name) with the center of the city. As with a couple of other bridges in St Petersburg (like Troitsky linking the center to the Petrogradskaya side) its construction was not at all desired by those who provided transport services from one side of Neva river to the other. Those who did want the bridge to be built were the people who had to embark on a boat in order to commute.

Bolsheohtinsky Bridge

With its tons of metal all over the place Bolsheohtinsky Bridge does look pretty powerful and at the same time – so effortless in how it stretches from one side to the other in just three spans. The most often used adjective when describing this bridge in Russian is ‘azhurny‘, laced. The lighthouse-like towers hide the mechanisms that draws the central span inside them – and thanks to them this bridge resembles London’s Tower Bridge built in the late 19th century. Ironically Bolsheohtinsky Bridge did impersonate the famous bridge over Thames in the 1983 Sherlock Holmes series, the best by the way, – see how they turned Thames into Neva… or vice versa here :). This element here looks very Northern Modern, as if someone like Art Nouveau guru Robert Metlzer created this metal curve:

Bolsheohtinsky Bridge

The project that won the competition was developed and then fine-tuned by engineers, including Vladimir Apyshkov who created one of the Art Nouveau jewels, Chagin’s mansion, now a dental clinic. The legend has it that one of the clenches was made of pure gold but since all of the clenches are of the same colour – and there are more than a million of them – nobody has found it yet. Another interesting fact is that the bridge was constructed so well that it required some renovation only as late as 1970s. And yes, the second name of the bridge, which was abolished during the Soviet era, comes from the fact that it was laid down in 1909, exactly 200 years after Peter the Great won the Poltava battle, one of the decisive moments in the war with Sweden. The bridge opened to traffic in 1911.

Bolsheohtinsky Bridge

This photo is taken from the Okhta side of the Neva river. It has been so heavily Soviet-style urbanized that for me – probably yet – it doesn’t really seem attractive. Okhta, a right-had tributary of Neva, gave its name to the settlement that used to be a carpenters’ village from the early 18th century. It later grew into one of those industrial suburbs surrounding the city, with many factories and a shipyard. But it also became the place where the rest of the city would get its milk and dairy from – the full-bodied Okhta women would come to various districts of St Petersburg selling their fresh produce and thus making their living.

Adding this post to the St Petersburg series.

G.

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

Winter Has Come

Winter Has Come

Winter has come. I would argue that this year it came on December 1st when I happened to cross the Neva going from Vasilyevsky to Petrogradsky island on an errand. November was uncommonly snowless and as the tradition goes, we were completely unprepared for the snow on the first day of calendar winter here in St Petersburg. Technically, that was not the first snow the city has experienced this season but it was the

Winter Has Come

Snow turns the city into an absolutely different place. As if by some true magic the streets, the embankments and the parks change their obviously outdated soaking wet garments into pristine white cloaks. The entire city is seized with this cold crystal-clear estrangement. You feel like walking on your toes not to disturb its sleep.

Winter Has Come

Well, hello winter!

Last year winter came in November abruptly burying us under snow and cutting off at least several weeks of late autumn. Hey and three years ago I celebrated the first snow with melt-in-your-mouth chocolate cookies already in October!

G.

St Petersburg

Steel Sky of St Petersburg in Two Shots

Steel Sky of St Petersburg

(here’s number one) This is a memory note for the once-in-a-lifetime-one-day-short-of-29-going-on-30 situation. Kind of thoughtful and a bit puzzled, I am. One doesn’t live that long, they – most(ly) jokingly – say in Russia (tak dolgo ne zhivut!). In fact, I’ve ben laughing quite a bit today – you just go mad if you don’t laugh it all off these days. And do it wholeheartedly, mind you, otherwise your laughter will only give away your being a nervous wreck (which you are not). And oh yes, here’s the notorious steel sky of St Petersburg in late November. Been enjoying it for years on end and it still send shivers down my spine every autumn!

Steel Sky of St Petersburg

(and here’s number two)

Playing in my ears – Director’s Cut by Kate Bush.

Reading – Mikhail Prishvin’s 1927 diary and the biography of – another – Mikhail Bulgakov.

More on the sky of St Petersburg here and here.

G.

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

Autumn and Art Nouveau in Tsarskoye Selo

Art Nouveau in Tsarskoye Selo

Autumn and Art Nouveau go really well together. And where else would they go perfectly well together than in Tsarskoye Selo, an aristocratic suburb of St Petersburg. I love visiting it in autumn when the ex-royal residence is wearing its gorgeous multicolour veil. This time though we decided (ok-ok, I persuasively suggested it) to go on an Art Nouveau quest around the town. The number of Art Nouveau places is limited but thanks to the overall status of Tsarskoye Selo as a ‘country’ residence, they are mostly separate cottages / dachas. The first spot we visited was the dacha (summer cottage) of the grand duke Boris Vladimirovich of Russia , now the premises of the Research Institute of Horticulture. Built in 1896-1897 – supposedly by two English architects – it is considered to be one of the first Art Nouveau places in St Petersburg.

Art Nouveau in Tsarskoye Selo

Since the last time we were there in spring 2017 (seems like years ago), they’ve surrounded the whole area with a fence and also started renovation in one of the buildings which used to serve as a stable (also built in 1896-1897). Also, the little clock tower which used to decorate this house is gone…

Art Nouveau in Tsarskoye Selo

I do hope they will be careful with what is left from the original interior details (if any) – in this case you never know if the renovation is beneficial or on the contrary fatal for the building. The nearby second (reserve) home with a garage (one of the first garages for automobiles in Russia, built in 1899), slowly but steadily dying from the mold and disuse, represents a very sad picture from the inside:

Art Nouveau in Tsarskoye Selo

Wonderfully decadent from the outside – if only there was a way to stop the building from decaying:

Art Nouveau in Tsarskoye Selo

I don’t know the plans for the garage, but I hope they do something about it pretty soon as the roof is falling in:

Art Nouveau in Tsarskoye Selo

An un-standardized door:

Art Nouveau in Tsarskoye Selo

An un-standardized window:

Art Nouveau in Tsarskoye Selo

The previous times I was there I didn’t pay much attention to the fountain erroneously thinking it was a later addition. probably thanks to the fact the dacha is somewhat off the main road and the fountain is almost in the ‘woods’, it survived till today – and who knows, maybe even its mechanism is still working?

Art Nouveau in Tsarskoye Selo

Another thing which I didn’t explore earlier was this hobbit-like pavilion near the greenhouses (not sure if these are the original ones) – also built in the Art Nouveau style and now full of junk.

Art Nouveau in Tsarskoye Selo

The entire pavilion seems to be growing out of the ground, merging with the garden. It has obviously sank over the last century which only gives it a more ‘natural’ look. If only it was also kept in a better condition…

Art Nouveau in Tsarskoye Selo

Our next Art Nouveau stop was the ex-store of the Guards Economic Society, built already in the late Art Nouveau period when in St Petersburg they were mostly moving towards the retrospective styles (1911-1914). But the ‘province’ (although Tsarskoye Selo is very close to the city) is a different thing.

Art Nouveau in Tsarskoye Selo

They say the building continued to be used as a shop even in the Soviet period but now it’s hard to say what’s there. There are security cameras and yet half of the building seems to be abandoned.
Art Nouveau in Tsarskoye Selo

Apart from the decadent stone staircases…

Art Nouveau in Tsarskoye Selo

with trees growing through them, …

Art Nouveau in Tsarskoye Selo

and original glass in the windows,…

Art Nouveau in Tsarskoye Selo

there is also a pavilion in the same pseudo-English style nearby (as well as two other pavilions of an uncertain function):

Art Nouveau in Tsarskoye Selo

I wish I could visit that shop when it was just open. Or even now, to see what’s hiding inside behind those large windows – and also what’s up there in the pinnacle? What’s inside the small pavilion is better not seen 😦

Art Nouveau in Tsarskoye Selo

The third stop was the mansion of count Gudovich (built in 1901-03), now a kindergarten, situated just outside the Catherine Park.

Art Nouveau in Tsarskoye Selo

You cannot go close to the building as the schools and places like this are now mostly fenced in (we had plans to get hired as cleaning ladies to get inside 🙂 so we just wandered around peeping through the fence. Must feel like a sort of Hogwarts to the kids!

Art Nouveau in Tsarskoye Selo

One of the details that catch your eye is the grate and the gates designed by Art Nouveau guru Robert Metlzer. The grate reminds me of the Northern Modern style that was a very popular movement within Art Nouveau. It brought into the architecture all those Scandinavian fairy-tale elements that make you think of fortresses, ammunition and creatures that turn into stone.

Art Nouveau in Tsarskoye Selo

The gates are still operating:

Art Nouveau in Tsarskoye Selo

There are also street lights but sadly no bulbs:

Art Nouveau in Tsarskoye Selo

The forth stop was connected to the first automobiles in the Russian empire – though now it has more to do with the agriculture of the Leningrad (St Petersburg) region as it houses some of the departments of the local Institute of Agriculture. The garages were built in 1906-1907 to house 2 new Delaunay-Belleville cars bought for the emperor.

Art Nouveau in Tsarskoye Selo

When we saw this bas-relief we couldn’t decide whether that was a car or a tractor – such is the aura of the place now 🙂 But it actually depicts the introduction of the first cars in Russia. And here is the garage:

Art Nouveau in Tsarskoye Selo

Now students sit in there listening to their lecturers. What a transformation for a garage!

Art Nouveau in Tsarskoye Selo

The building in the background is the one with the bas-relief.

Art Nouveau in Tsarskoye Selo

A pavilion nearby was built later and has a glass roof for more light. I guess they use it to house some specimens of agricultural machinery:

Art Nouveau in Tsarskoye Selo

Faded colors of autumn:

Art Nouveau in Tsarskoye Selo

Natural decadence:

Art Nouveau in Tsarskoye Selo

Beautiful door of the nearby dacha of Alexander Pushkin:

Art Nouveau in Tsarskoye Selo

The day was really nice so I decided to leave the architecture for a while and go enjoy some nature. The Alexander park (a free-entrance counterpart of the more popular and more regular Catherine park) was surprisingly green for late September and although the sun was already setting down, I enjoyed my walk along the alleys up to those corners that you normally miss out.

Art Nouveau in Tsarskoye Selo

Although this is a landscape park and so it’s not exactly all nature… But the combination of the natural beauty with the tricks of the architect makes you love it no less.

Art Nouveau in Tsarskoye Selo

A lamppost next to the ruins of the Chinese Theater:

Art Nouveau in Tsarskoye Selo

One of the bridges bears the name of the factory that produced it – the famous one that is also responsible for major metal constructions found here and there in St Petersburg, the San-Galli Factory:

Art Nouveau in Tsarskoye Selo

Since the summer started a month later than it was supposed to, the autumn also arrived late(r) this year. The autumnal hues were just beginning to make their appearance:

Art Nouveau in Tsarskoye Selo

Four friends:

Art Nouveau in Tsarskoye Selo

On my way back:

Art Nouveau in Tsarskoye Selo

The golden evening light of September…

Art Nouveau in Tsarskoye Selo

…made the Catherine Palace less pompous and a bit warmer:

Art Nouveau in Tsarskoye Selo

While it made the gold look even gold-er 🙂

Art Nouveau in Tsarskoye Selo

Baroque palace meets civilization:

Art Nouveau in Tsarskoye Selo

And as my final stop, I entered the 1860s Lutheran church with its rows of white benches and a boy changing the plates with the numbers of verses to be read next day. I came just after the organ concert finished. The church originally opened for the German instructors working at the nearby Lyceum (where Pushkin studied) and had services also in Finnish and Estonian languages up until 1931. Then it acted as the premises for a factory, gestapo and a driving school. Miraculously, it didn’t suffer much destruction through all that.

Art Nouveau in Tsarskoye Selo

More pictures of autumnal Tsarskoye Selo are here in my last year’s post.

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

G.

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

A Snapshot of Golden Autumn in St Petersburg

St Petersburg in Autumn

With the first snow 2 days ago and the general turn to a rather winter-like weather, I’m gradually fallen into a sort of seasonal snooze. Before I get all sleepy and lazy, here’s a snapshot of what St Petersburg is like these days, these golden autumn and post-golden autumn days of September and October.

Golden Autumn in St Pete

I will not bombard you with those lusciously coloured trees in the parks of the city (you can easily google that) but rather try to render that delicate (sophisticated? aristocratic? cold – for sure!) look and feel that St Petersburg adopts somewhere in late September.

Golden Autumn in St Pete

(by the way, see above the Palace bridge from which I took my recent photos of the Neva river view)

St Petersburg’s been pretty generous on various sunsets and sky views this autumn:

Golden Autumn in St Pete

(pictured is the golden dome of the St Isaac’s Cathedral from where you can get a very fine view of the city)

The sun makes such a difference – even when it just lights up the spire of the Peter and Paul’s Cathedral against the ominously dark cloud (the contrast was much more impressive than what you get on this photo – and the colour of Neva waters was almost identical to that of the clouds):

Golden Autumn in St Pete

Steel-coloured sky of St Petersburg (Moika river next to the Palace Square)

Golden Autumn in St Pete

My first alma mater and ex-building of 12 ministries of Peter the Great with a long-long corridor:

Golden Autumn in St Pete

Find 10 differences in the light between this photo (taken at 9.55 am)…

Golden Autumn in St Pete

and 9.56 am:

Golden Autumn in St Pete

A general view of the place I pass by almost every morning (on Vasilyevsky island):

Golden Autumn in St Pete

In the park near the Admiralty (the very center of the city), a (three) boys’ picture:

Golden Autumn in St Pete

And a girl’s picture:

Golden Autumn in St Pete

Will try to deal with the heavy backlog of all the posts I’ve been meaning to share with you since July or so.

This post goes to that very very prolific St Petersburg series.

G.