This is something new. Admittedly, only church architects are not frightened by the neo-Russian style. But Engeny Gerasimov has taken up the challenge and proposed a modern version of a housing estate à la russe to the center of St. Petersburg, combining “pseudo” and “neo” modern techniques.
Written by: Julia Tarabarina Translated by: Anton Mizonov
The site of the intended housing estate, meaningfully named “Russky Dom” (Russian House) is situated quarters away from Liteyny Avenue, on crossroads of Baskov lane and Korolenko Street. Three years ago, it was a battle ground for urban conservationists, claiming that the houses being demolished are the remains of artillery barrack-rooms of the early 20th century; and the client – “LSR Group” – that with the city government permissions and archival records on its hands, tried to prove that it was wrecking buildings erected no later than in 1932, even though old bricks had been used in them. Apparently, the developer succeeded in making out its case, since the construction has begun.
This time, the house planned by Engeny Gerasimov – already well known in St. Petersburg for his constructions in the spirit of historicism – is designed in a manner of “neo-Russian style of early modernism” echoing its realtor name, and inherits the phenotype of big apartment houses at the turn of the century (19-20), palace- or castle-houses that united several blocks with courtyards – sometimes “wells”, sometimes larger ones. There is a number of such houses in St. Petersburg. One of the most remarkable ones is the building of the Russian First Insurance Company, built upon a project of the Benois architects: Leontiy, Yuliy and Aleksandr, on Kamennoostrovsky Prospekt (1911–1914). However, that house is a wonderful example of neoclassic, inspiration by Italy, and there is nothing Russophile about it. There is a certain similarity between it and the Russky Dom in the project of Evgeny Gerasimov on the typological and sensitive levels.
First of all, Gerasimov uses the same basic planning method, cutting the house open, with the yard facing the street and going deep into the construction up to the last building on the inside border of the lot. The yard becomes the “front parterre” of the palace-house and is decorated accordingly – with a garden-park. But the main effect is created by the street perspective, whose construction line is interrupted with a gap, solemnly ornamented with two similar buildings. Apartment houses were not commonly planned this way, with an open, inviting yard – in modern terminology “urban public area”. But it did happen: sometimes even an inner street (with overlapping netting) ran between the block-houses, like in the case with the Russian First Insurance Company building on Sretensky Bulvar in Moscow.
The second peculiarity of a more general character – is the two wings of a flat-topped plan – a square plan, tightly closed squares around the yards, where you can get in only through arches – not very high, two-floor arcs facing the central yard-parterre. The inner courtyards are typologically the “wells” of St. Petersburg, but it is hard to call them so, because they are large – 2000 m2 and more, which is sooner comparable with the yards of Stalin houses. In general, Russky Dom is twice as large as its biggest prototypes, other apartment houses of the 20th century, at least because it takes up a larger area: the lot of the Benoit house is approximately one hectare, the Moscow house on Sretensky bulvar – about 1,5 hectares, here it is 2,4 hectares and more than 70,000 m2 of ground footprint. In this case, the size contributes to the triumphant air: increase of floor numbers in the back of the construction – inevitable for our time – complying with the height of the building line, is not only perceived as a method of increasing the usable floor area, but also as an element of the general crescendo defined by the pursuit of symmetry, front yard, sharp pinnacles and towers of the high “Terem-like” checked roofs and the rich ornamental relief. We definitely see a third, or even fourth reincarnation of a Terem-palace.
And now, some words about the Russian style: there is not much of it in St. Petersburg, and it is mostly found in church architecture and is not quite typical here on the whole. So we will not find a direct prototype of Evgeny Gerasimov’s house here, although plenty of similar examples seem to come to our mind. It even feels as if there must be a very similar house somewhere, just like this one: for historicism such illusion is sooner a compliment. The authors name three prototypes: Feodorovsky Gorodok in Tsarskoe Selo, Moscow Yaroslavskaya railway station and the State Department store, also in Moscow – GUM. Their influence can be seen. For example, each of them has different towers with pavilions, and in GUM they are also placed symmetrically, before the entrance. Feodorovsky Gorodok – the most “St. Patarsburg” prototype of the three – lends the most beautiful part: a carpet of reliefs, borrowed by the Pokrovsky Cathedral from the St. George’s Cathedral in Yuryev-Polsky. In the project of Evgeny Gerasimov, the carving turns into concave reliefs – sunken silhouettes of fairy birds that form the patterned foam of the façades. It brings another analogy to our minds – not mentioned by the authors: the apartment house of Leon Kravetsky at the end of Chistoprudny Bulvar, covered with lilies and lions like in Vladimir and Suzdal architecture.
But there is one detail. The prototypes named by Evgeny Gerasimov include two houses in neo-Russian style of the early 20th century (the train station and Feodorovsky Gorodok) and one pseudo-Russian building (GUM) of the late 19th century – and these are two different things, if you look up-close. As a result, the architecture of Russky Dom poises on the edge of three sources: pseudo-, neo- and modern architecture.
The “pseudo” is the symmetry, the passion for the image of Terem, starting from the brilliant rustication, up to the colorful roof with attic windows, and surfaces broken by windows, moldings and ornament. Remember the “classical” Igumnov house, the French Embassy Building in Moscow or Nikonov Apartment House in St. Petersburg on Kolokolnaya Street. But there is another prototype from the mid-19th century – the romantic palaces of Europe, for example: Neuswanstein in Bavaria, the Disney Castle, built in honor of the romantic music of Wagner. Or the Schwerin castle in Pomerania. If we look at them, a lot of things become clearer: exaggeratedly thin towers, sharp roofs, white color, love for Roman mullion windows connected with a single arch. All these elements can be frequently found separately, but the impressive growth of the form might lead us to thinking that the romantic castles became one of the author’s inspiration sources – perhaps, not completely reflected. And this is absolutely natural for the Russian style: not only does it ground on the ideas of romanticism and pseudo-gothic in its search of national identity (it even started from them), but the Russian prototypes themselves – take for example the Vladimir and Suzdal reliefs of the Rus’ – are not that far from the Roman, or south Switzerland, or north Italian spirits: this is where the mullions came from, also, however, inherited by the neo-Russian style.
The neo-Russian style of the early 20th century is represented by the carpet reliefs, inspired by Pokrovsky Cathedral, interpretation of the mullions “pressed together” by a single arch – such were quite popular in 1910-s, gables opening towards the façade surface; the spatterdock columns at the bottom of the corner towers – sisters of the low, chtonic columns of the northern modernism. Bay windows of the corner towers become recollections of modernism per se – smooth, drawn along a regular curve with inclusions of neat quadrifoils that remind the “Roman” house in Kovensky lane, ten minutes walk away from Baskov lane. It was built by Evgeny Gerasimov for the same customer – LSR. It is interesting to mention what Russky Dom does not have – it is completely devoid of individual architraves, originating from the 17th century and equally adored by Schechtel, Pokrovsky and Pomerantsev.
Finally, the modern interpretation of the form remains: the first five floors are drawn with a thorough, regular network of wide stone lines with ornamental, even center, not submitted to tectonics and more than that – due to mullions placed in each cell, it tends to horizontal proportions. It makes us think of the project of Evgeny Gerasimov for the “Tsarev Sad” tender in Moscow (the winner of the tender, by the way). In that project, Evgeny Gerasimov took a sample of the “pre-Peter stylistic” which has now been elaborated in Russky Dom. The two-story bay windows also look rather modern. As a result, if you try to notice – you get a feeling of “backward reconstruction”. We know a lot of apartment houses in different styles with upper floors built upon them in the 30-s, and we are used to them. This case is an imitation of an opposite situation – as if neo-Russian towers have been added to a house in modern “ornamental stylistics”, and a couple or more “Terem-like” floors have been built on the top. We can see a retrospective in this architecture – as if the style has changed and now new floors of very old style are being added to the modern – even though conservative houses. This intergrowth of ornamental modernity into the historicism is a self-reflection and perhaps the most interesting feature of the project.
Two more analogies can be added to the line of others – practically every house of Evgeny Gerasimov designed in the spirit of historicism contains two or three layers, not just a single stylization. The first one is an analogy with a Stalin-time avenue. The neo-Russian style sought for asymmetry looking for the pastoral fairy soul of the folk in the ancient Russian architecture. The two towers before the long yard are different – they are absolutely ceremonial and remind the beginning of many avenues: for example, the Mira Avenue in Moscow or Gagarin Square. It is hard to say, where it comes from, but this layer of the Stalin-time Art Deco often appears in Gerasimov’s houses, perhaps more intense due to the sizes. There is no denying of another analogy as well – although you would sooner want to push it away. The Russian practice of today already has a vast experience in pseudo-Russian style – mostly in church construction (but it is usually a more precise copy and the sizes are different). But there is also the palace of Alexey Mikhailovich and the “Teremok” in Izmailovo – the very essence of the “Terem” style in our construction. Well, the house of Evgeny Gerasimov differs from them significantly: it is much more laconic, more poised and clean – at least with its whiteness. It is much closer to the images of modernism – if you pay attention. The above mentioned “today’s” foundation and the checked carcass prevent it from merging with kitsch – such tricky possibility nowadays. Although the connoisseurs of modernist minimalism may not see the difference – it is still there.
As for the rest, the house is fitted with everything that is meant by the modern standards of elite housing: a kindergarten is built in the ground floor of one of the blocks, cars are not permitted in the yards and the citizens – on the contrary – are allowed to access the central front yard. Cafes and shops are situated on the ground floor, apartments are equipped with air-conditioning blocks in order not to spoil the facades. The interiors of the rooms and corridors combines Russian, Byzantine, classical and modern motifs. Columns, marble, natural wood, bas-reliefs and plaster moldings – everything here is supposed to create the feel of luxury. The main color of the complex – white – dominates in the interiors as well.
In a word, this house is in many ways an experiment – there are not so many housing estates in neo-Russian style these days, and in the portfolio of Evgeny Gerasimov this house is also a step to new experience, an exciting example of exploring a new page of “historicism”. Besides, the authors managed to achieve wonderful balance between respect of the context and courage of self-expression. They have not masked the new object as a background historic building, but made it the key note of a small lane. It was definitely a risk – but now it seems worth it. The dominating role of the new complex is determined first of all by the size of the territory which allowed to create a green public area here – which is very important. The large, complete and vivid ensemble formed around it breaks the monotonous structure of the construction, typical of the neo-style epoch. Boldly and excitedly, the authors compete with the historical neighbors not trying to conceal the young age of the new building but also not showing it off, having respect for the predecessors but keeping their own ideas in mind.
In Three Voices
The high-rise – 41 stories high – housing complex HIDE is being built on the bank of the Setun River, near the Poklonnaya Mountain. It consists of three towers of equal height, yet interpreted in three different ways. One of the towers, the most conspicuous one looks as if it was twisted in a spiral, composed of a multitude of golden bay windows.
In the Space of Pobedy Park
In the project of a housing complex designed by Sergey Skuratov, which is now being built near the park of the Poklonnaya Hill, a multifunctional stylobate is turned into a compound city space with intriguing “access” slopes that also take on the role of mini-plazas. The architecture of the residential buildings responds to the proximity of the Pobedy Park, on the one hand, “dissolving in the air”, and, on the other hand, supporting the memorial complex rhythmically and color-wise.
Dynamics of the Avenue
On Leningrad Avenue, not far away from the Sokol metro station, the construction of the A-Class business center Alcon II has been completed. ADM architects designed the main façade as three volumetric ribbons, as if the busy traffic of the avenue “shook” the matter sending large waves through it.
Steamer at the Pier
An apartment hotel that looks like a ship with wide decks has been designed for a land plot on a lake shore in Moscow’s South Tushino. This “steamer” house, overlooking the lake and the river port, does indeed look as if it were ready to sail away.
The Magic of Rhythm or Ornament as a Theme
Designed by Sergey Tchoban, the housing complex Veren Place in St. Petersburg is the perfect example of inserting a new building into a historical city, and one the cases of implementing the strategy that the architect presented a few years ago in the book, which he coauthored with Vladimir Sedov, called “30:70. Architecture as a Balance of Forces”.
Walking on Water
In the nearest future, the Marc Chagall Embankment will be turned into Moscow’s largest riverside park with green promenades, cycling and jogging trails, a spa center on water, a water garden, and sculptural pavilions designed in the spirit of the Russian avant-garde artists of the 1920, and, first of all, Chagall himself. In this issue, we are covering the second-stage project.
A-Len has developed and patented the “Perfect Apartments” program, which totally eliminates “bad” apartment layouts. In this article, we are sharing how this program came around, what it is about, who can benefit from it, and how.
“Architectural Archaeology of the Narkomfin Building”: the Recap
One of the most important events of 2020 has been the completion of the long-awaited restoration of the monument of Soviet avant-garde architecture – the Narkomfin Building, the progenitor of the typology of social housing in this country. The house retained its residential function as the main one, alongside with a number of artifacts and restoration clearances turned into living museum exhibits.
LIFE on the Setun River
The area in the valley of the Setun River near the Vereiskaya Street got two new blocks of the “LIFE-Kutuzovsky” housing complex, designed by ADM architects. The two new blocks have a retail boulevard of their own, and a small riverside park.
Three towers on a podium over the Ramenka River are the new dominant elements on the edge of a Soviet “microdistrict”. Their scale is quite modern: the height is 176 m – almost a skyscraper; the facades are made of glass and steel. Their graceful proportions are emphasized by a strict white grid, and the volumetric composition picks up the diagonal “grid of coordinates” that was once outlined in the southwest of Moscow by the architects of the 1970’s and 1980’s.
Clouds over the Railroad
In the stead of former warehouses near “Lyubertsy-1” station, a new housing complex has been built, which peacefully coexists with the railroad, with the flyover bridge, and with the diverse surrounding scenery, not only dominating over the latter, but improving it.
Towers in a Forest
The authors of the housing complex “In the Heart of Pushkino” were faced with a difficult task: to preserve the already existing urban forest, at the same time building on it a compound of rather high density. This is how three towers at the edge of the forest appeared with highly developed public spaces in their podiums and graceful “tucks” in the crowning part of the 18-story volumes.
The Towers of “Sputnik”
Six towers, which make up a large housing complex standing on the bank of the Moskva River at the very start of the Novorizhskoe Highway, provide the answers to a whole number of marketing requirements and meets a whole number of restrictions, offering a simple rhythm and a laconic formula for the houses that the developer preferred to see as “flashy”.
The Starting Point
In this article, we are reviewing two retro projects: one is 20 years old, the other is 25. One of them is Saint Petersburg’s first-ever townhouse complex; the other became the first example of a high-end residential complex on Krestovsky Island. Both were designed and built by Evgeny Gerasimov and Partners.
The Path to New Ornamentation
The high-end residential complex “Aristocrat” situated next to a pine park at the start of the Rublev Highway presents a new stage of development of Moscow’s decorative historicist architecture: expensively decorated, yet largely based on light-colored tones, and masterfully using the romantic veneer of majolica inserts.
Renovation: the Far East Style
The competition project of renovating two central city blocks of Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk, developed by UNK project, won the nomination “Architectural and planning solutions of city construction”.
The Istituto Centrale per la Grafica in Rome presents Sergei Tchoban’s exhibition “Imprint of the future. Destiny of Piranesi’s City”. The exhibition includes four etchings, based on Roman architectural views of the XVIII century complemented by futuristic insertions, as well as a lot of drawings that investigate the same topic, at times quite expressively. The exhibition poses questions, but does not seem to give any answers. Since going to Rome is pretty problematic now, let’s at least examine the pictures.
In Search of Visual Clarity
In this article, we are reviewing a discussion devoted to the question of designing city space elements, which is quite complicated for the Russian expanses of land. The discussion was organized by the Genplan Institute of Moscow at the ArchMoscow convention in Gostiny Dvor.
The City of the Sun
Jointly designed by Sergey Tchoban and Vladimir Plotkin, the VTB Arena Park complex can arguably be considered the perfect experiment on solving the centuries-old controversy between traditional architecture and modernism. The framework of the design code, combined with the creative character of the plastique-based dialogue between the buildings, formed an all-but-perfect fragment of the city fabric.
...The Other Was Just Railroad Gin*
In their project of the third stage of “Ligovsky City” housing complex, located in the industrial “gray” belt of Saint Petersburg, the KCAP & Orange Architects & A-Len consortium set before themselves a task of keeping up the genius loci by preserving the contours of the railroad and likening the volumes of residential buildings to railroad containers, stacked up at the goods unloading station.
Lions on Glass
While reconstructing the facades of Building 4 of Moscow Hospital #23, SPEECH architects applied a technique, already known from Saint Petersburg projects by Sergey Tchoban – cassettes with elements of classical architecture printed on glass. The project was developed gratis, as a help to the hospital.
Park of Sentiments
The project of “Romantic Park Tuchkov Buyan”, which was developed by the consortium of Studio 44 and WEST 8, and has won an international competition, combines sculptural landscape design and wooden structures, variety of spatial features and an eventful agenda, designed for diverse audience, with a beautiful and complex passeist idea of a palace park, meant to evoke thoughts and feelings.
Architecture as an Educational Tool
The concept of a charity school “Tochka Budushchego” (“Point of the Future”) in Irkutsk is based on cutting-edge educational programs, and is designed, among other things, for adapting orphaned children for independent life. An important role is played by the architecture of the building: its structure and different types of interconnected spaces.
The Gallery Approach
In this article, we are covering the concept of a Central District Clinic for 240 patients, designed by Ginzburg Architects, which won at a competition organized by the Architects Union and the Healthcare Ministry.
In this issue, we are publishing the concept of a standard clinic designed by UNK Project, which took second place in the competition organized by the Union of Architects of Russia in collaboration with the Healthcare Ministry.
From Foundation to Teaspoon
Based on the taste of their friendly clients, the architects Olga Budennaya and Roman Leonidov designed and built a house in the Moscow metropolitan area playing Art Nouveau. At the same time, they enriched the typology of a private house with modern functions of a garage loft and a children’s art studio.
Continuation and Development
The second “office” stage of Comcity, the most popular business park of the “New Moscow” area, continues the underground street of the already existing part of the complex, responding to its architectural identity.
The Flying One
Expected to become an analogue of Moscow’s Skolkovo, the project of the High Park campus at Saint Petersburg’s ITMO University, designed by Studio 44, mesmerizes us with its sheer scale and the passion that the architects poured into it. Its core – the academic center – is interpreted as an avant-garde composition inspired by Piazza del Campo with a bell tower; the park is reminiscent of the “rays” of the main streets of Saint Petersburg, and, if watched from a birds-eye view, the whole complex looks like a motherboard with at least four processors on it. The design of the academic building even displays a few features of a sports arena. The project has a lot of meanings and allusions about it; all of them are united by plastique energy that the hadron collider itself could be jealous of.
A Comfortable City in Itself
The project that we are about to cover is seemingly impossible amidst human anthills, chaotically interspersed with old semi-neglected dachas. Meanwhile, the housing complex built on the Comcity business part does offer a comfortable environment of decent city: not excessively high-rise and moderately private as a version of the perfect modern urbanist solution.
Moving on the Edge
The housing complex “Litsa” (“Faces”) on Moscow’s Khodynka Field is one of the new grand-scale buildings that complement the construction around it. This particular building skillfully tackles the scale, subjugating it to the silhouette and the pattern; it also makes the most of the combination of a challenging land site and formidable square footage requirements, packing a whole number of features within one volume, so the house becomes an analogue of a city. And, to cap it all, it looks like a family that securely protects the children playing in the yard from... well, from everything, really.
Visual Stability Agent
A comparatively small house standing on the border of the Bolshevik Factory combines two diametrically opposite features: expensive materials and decorative character of Art Deco, and a wide-spaced, even somewhat brutal, facade grid that highlights a laminated attic.
The Faraday Cage
The project of the boutique apartment complex in the 1st Truzhenikov Lane is the architects’ attempt to squeeze a considerable volume into a tiny spot of land, at the same time making it look graceful and respectable. What came to their rescue was metal, stone, and curvilinear glass.
The Union of Art and Technology
His interest for architecture of the 1930’s is pretty much the guiding star for Stepan Liphart. In his project of the “Amo” house on St. Petersburg’s Vasilyevsky Island, the architect based himself on Moscow Art Deco - aesthetically intricate and decorated in scratch-work technique. As a bonus, he developed the city block typology as an organic structure.
The project that Evgeniy Gerasimov and Partners developed for Moscow’s Leningrad Avenue: the tallest building in the company’s portfolio, continuing the tradition of Moscow’s Stalin architecture.
In the project that they developed for a southern region of Russia, OSA Architects use multilayered facades that create an image of seaside resort architecture, and, in the vein of the latest trends of today, mix up different social groups that the residents belong to.
Just a Mirror for the Sun
The house that Sergey Skuratov designed in Nikolovorobinsky Alley is thought out down to the last detail. It adapts three historical facades, interprets a feeling of a complex city, is composed of many layers, and catches plenty of sunlight, from sunrises to sunsets. The architect himself believes that the main role of this house is creating a background for another nearby project of his, Art House in the Tessinsky Alley.
Part of the Whole
On June 5, the winners of Moscow Architectural Award were announced. The winners list includes the project of a school in Troitsk for 2,100 students, with its own astronomy dome, IT testing ground, museum, and a greenhouse on the roof.
Yet another project of a private school, in which Archimatika realizes the concept of aesthetic education and introduces a new tradition: combining Scandinavian and Soviet experience, turning to works of art, and implementing sustainable technologies.
In the “Parallel House” residence that he designed in the Moscow metropolitan area, the architect Roman Leonidov created a dramatic sculptural composition from totally basic shapes – parallelepipeds, whose collision turned into an exciting show.
In the Istra district of Moscow metropolitan area, the tandem of 4izmerenie and ARS-ST designed a sports complex – a monovolume that has the shape of a chamfered parallelepiped with a pointed “nose” like a ship’s bow.