Architectural tour

to Moscow and St.Petersburg

St. Petersburg is a mecca of cultural, historical, and architectural landmarks. This magnificent city harmoniously combines western European and Russian architecture. Some critics say that St. Petersburg does not have a style of it’s own, but others would argue that this fact makes St. Petersburg one of the most unique cities of its kind. The city of St Petersburg and its signature, colourful and eclectic style has evolved over time, creating a marvellous kaleidoscope of construction, ranging from Baroque-style buildings to Soviet architecture, Neoclassical structures to Style Moderne.

Let`s start with exploring the city’s Neoclassical structures. This architectural style, harking back stylistically to the age of antiquity (columns, statuary, and austere, yet monumental, grandeur), can be seen in some of St Petersburg’s quintessential cultural sights, including Saint Isaac’s Cathedral, Yelagin Palace, the Imperial Academy of Arts and Mikhailovsky Palace, which houses the Russian Museum.

The Winter Palace is one of the most iconic examples of Baroque-style buildings in St. Petersburg. In earlier times the home of the Tsars, nowadays the home of the State Hermitage Museum, the Winter Palace is a grand, opulent, green and white structure, built in the mid-18th century. Designed by the same architect as the Winter Palace, the decadent Smolny Cathedral, with its bright blue and white exterior and gilded onion domes, is another wonderful example of Baroque architecture in St Petersburg.

St. Petersburg is filled with many outstanding examples of Art Nouveau, or Style Moderne as it was known in Russia. Some of the most iconic buildings of the city were designed in this architecture style, for example Singer House (the former Russian headquarters of the Singer Sewing Machine Company) and the Eliseyev Emporium. Built within a year of each other on Nevsky Prospekt in the early 20th century, both buildings were constructed using a metal frame, and exemplify this playful, ornamental style with their exuberant copper statuary and curvaceous lines.

Describing the styles of St. Petersburg’s architecture, we can`t but mention the Soviet buildings: majestic underground stations, constructivist buildings and the austere House of Soviets, the former KGB palace and the Memorial to the Victims of Political Repression. The House of Soviets in Moskovskaya square is the most impressive building of this architecture style. Designed by Noi Trotsky in 1936, the palace was supposed to host the city’s Soviet government. It never happened, as it was first used as the military headquarters during the siege and Nazi occupation at the beginning of World War II.

Mystical buildings in Neo-Gothic style can also be found in St.Petersburg. The brightest example of this style is Chesme Church (also known as the Church of the Birth of St. John the Baptist), a striking bright pink and white wedding cake-shaped structure with Gothic turrets and spikes pointing skywards. Although the original interiors are long gone, a visit here is worth it for the exterior alone; after all, how often do you get to see a pink Gothic church? Another attractive church typifying this vaulted, buttressed style is the aptly named Gothic Chapel at Peterhof; a small, but ornate stone church festooned with arches, parapets, and icons.

Moscow’s architecture is utterly eclectic. Medieval historical and architectural monuments are side by side with flamboyant buildings dating back to the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries. Interestingly, Moscow features three buildings included in the UNESCO World Heritage List, namely, the Moscow Kremlin and Red Square, the Church of the Ascension in Kolomenskoye and the Novodevichy Convent. Among the most popular architecture styles in Moscow are Art Nouveau, Moscow Baroque, Soviet, Modern architecture and others.

The heart of Moscow - the Kremlin and Red Square – is a perfect place to start your discovery of Moscow architecture. The Kremlin is the symbol of Moscow and of centralized state power. Its redbrick wall, designed by Italian architects in the 15th and 16th centuries and recognizable by the characteristic sparrow-tailed notches, and scenic, steeple-roofed towers are incredibly popular among tourists. In fact, every building on Red Square is a unique architectural masterpiece.

Art Nouveau trends in Moscow architecture emerged in the late 19th-early 20th century. Russian architects used the Western style as a model, adding some features typical of medieval Russian architecture and art. The very first Art Nouveau building in Moscow is the List Mansion in Glazovsky Lane, designed by L. Kekushev. Among other examples of this style are Martha and Mary Convent, Ryabushinsky Mansion and Derozhinskaya Mansion.

Naryshkin Baroque, also called Moscow Baroque, is a unique style of architecture that was popular in Russia from the early 18th into the early 19th centuries. Its typical features include petal-shaped church design, superimposed décor elements and centric compositions. Some of the finest examples of Naryshkin Baroque architecture are St. Clement’s Church, Novodevichy Convent, Vysoko-Petrovsky Monastery and the Church of the Intercession at Fili.

Soviet architecture can be loosely divided into three stages. Industrial construction and constructivism characterize the first stage (until the 1930s), exemplified by the Shukhov Tower and Rusakov House of Culture. The second stage (1930s to 1950s) is dominated by monumental and expressly luxurious Stalinist architecture. Stalin’s high-rises (also called “Stalin's Seven Sisters”) are the finest examples of Stalinist architecture. Large-scale low-cost panel building is typical of the third stage (from the 1950s onwards).

Considered as one of the most beautiful metro systems in the world, the Moscow Metro is a unique chapter in the history of Soviet and post-Soviet architecture. Of particular interest are central metro stations such as Komsomolskaya, Kievskaya, Ploshchad Revolutsii, Novoslobodskaya and Mayakovskaya. The Moscow Metro features an impressive architectural design, a well-pronounced concept idea and special meanings hidden in every details: all of this shows how high the demands imposed on metro designers were back in Stalin’s times.

Modern Moscow architecture is highly eclectic. As an example, the Arbat area boasts the surprising Pompeii House, sometimes considered as Moscow’s loveliest modern building. In Zamoskvorechye there is the Neo-Classic Roman House Residential Building, built in 2002-2005.

A small four-storey mansion near Clear Ponds (Chistye Prudy), commonly called the Egg House or the Faberge House, is also worth a visit. The Moscow International Business Center, located in the west of Moscow, is definitely a must-see. It is designed after the world’s major business centers. It was built under the supervision of architect G. Sirota in the constructivist style, with the exception of the Tower on the Embankment that is representative of the high-tech style.

Should you have any interest in other architectural objects, not mentioned in this article, we would be glad to elaborate a tailor-made trip to any hidden place of our country.