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Old Russian architecture
The history of the Old Russian architecture extends back over 7 centuries.
The decision of the prince Vladimir the Great in 988 on the adoption of Christianity in its Eastern way made Kievan Rus' a part of centuries-long rich history of the Christian culture, blossomed in the Byzantine Empire. The Greek craftsmen, who were the first to built stone churches in Kiev, Chernigov, Novgorod, brought to Russia the cross-in-square type of construction. This kind of the church building took leading positions for long centuries. The image of a Russian church from now on was recognized by domes, rising on slender drums, by barrel vaults, placed in a cross that mark the interior, by mosaics and frescos, as well as by expressive icons, decorating the inner space.
In the XII century, at the time when Russia was split in separate principalities, local architectural schools started to appear. Across Byzantine and Romanesque traditions, based on the cross-building system, come different architectural concepts of churches in Chernigov and Smolensk, in Vladimir and Grodno.
The Tartar invasion in 1240 and the destruction of rebel cities stopped the construction of stone buildings for a few decades. The stone architecture in Novgorod and Tver principalities of the end of the XIII–XV centuries, the architecture of Pskov region and of Early Moscovite period of the XIV–XV centuries let us estimate new stylistic discoveries on these territories.
The consolidation of Russian lands around Moscow, the formation of the unique Russian state, as well as the construction of cathedrals of the Moscow Kremlin by Italian architects in times of the Great princes Ivan III and Vasili III (end of the XV century - first quarter of the XVI century) influenced the formation of the Great Russian architectural tradition. The stylistic features of the Cathedral of the Assumption and of the Archangel Michael Cathedral could be found in the cathedrals of the XVI–XVII centuries, built in Novgorod, Dmitrov, Yaroslavl, Vologda, Astrakhan and other Russian cities.
After the Great Time of troubles of the XVII century, there were built cathedrals, that became memorials of the victory over the Polish invaders. Their forms repeat the familiar lines of the church buildings of the precedent century, which shows off the continuity of the religious tradition of the Old Russia. The regal construction in the Kremlin, realized by the foreign craftsmen, Scots, in particular, transformed the historical center of the capital. The overbuilding of Spasskaya Tower, the construction of Terem Palace and Kremlin Palace churches influenced the tastes of the aristocracy and rich merchantry. This affected the formation of the style named the "Miraculous patternwork", that became the symbol of Rus' of the XVII century.
"Naryshkin style" or "Muscovite Baroque", that determined the image of Russian cities and monasteries of the end of the XVII century, became the last ascent of the Old Russia architecture.
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The architecture of Prince Vladimir and Prince Yaroslav the Wise era
The Russian architecture in the second half of the 11th - the beginning of the 12th century
The architecture of West Russian lands in the 12th - the beginning of the 13th century
The Novgorod art of building in the 12th - the beginning of the 13th century
Old russian architecture of the end of 10th – the first half of the 11th century
The Baroque
The Baroque – artistic style, originated in Italy at the end of the XVI century. During the XVII-XVIII centuries the style was widely spread in Europe and South America, becoming the first truly universal style.
Splendour, solemnity, luxury of decoration, use of sophisticated, usually curved forms, pursuit of dramatic illusory effects are typical for the baroque architecture. In the most significant buildings and ensembles, one can see the tendency to the synthesis of arts and integration of architecture with sculpture and painting.
The Baroque was brought to Russia at the time of Peter the Great. A number of buildings, constructed through and through after the European architectural forms and created likely with the participation of western craftsmen, appears in Moscow and Moscow area at the turn of the XVIII century.
The Baroque fully found its expression in the architecture of the newly built capital – Saint-Petersburg. This was the place where the new decisions in all the fields of the architecture were tried out and set. The best-known representant of the Petrine Baroque is Domenico Trezzini with his Saints Peter and Paul Cathedral in Saint-Petersburg.
The Golden Age of the Baroque in Russia falls on the reign of the daughter of Peter the Great – Empress Elizabeth of Russia (1741–1761). The style of the Elizabethan Baroque is mainly associated with the style of the court architect Francesco Bartolomeo Rastrelli. His solemn ensembles of the Winter Palace and the Smolny Convent in Saint-Petersburg, series of palaces and gardens in Tsarskoe Selo and Peterhof – all of them have features of the European Baroque, though not they are deprived of the national characteristics. Amongst the Russian architects of that time comes to the fore Sava Tchevakinsky with his Saint Nicolas Naval Cathedral and Dmitry Ukhtomsky with his Bell Tower of Trinity Lavra of Saint Sergius near Moscow.
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Petrine Baroque
Baroque architecture of the second half of the 1720s – 1730s
Elizabethan Baroque
Catherine's Baroque
The Classicism (Lat. classicus – exemplary) – artistic style of the European culture of the XVII-XIX centuries. Its aesthetic ideal was ancient art of Ancient Greece and Rome.
System of ancient orders (Lat. ordo – structure, order), suggesting definitive proportions between portate and portative parts of the building, forms the basis of the architecture of classicism.
In the ancient architecture this were columns and lintels lying above – the entablature, that were forming the basis of the Greek cathedrals.
The three orders of Ancient Greece got their names after the territories of the coverage: Doric, Ionic and Corinthian. They differed in their proportions and arrangement of separate elements, column tops in particular.
The Roman architecture added to the three existing orders another two – Tuscan and composite, that were close to Doric and Corinthian orders by proportions and details.
The Renaissance (XIV-XVI centuries) also rested on the ancient heritage: this period became the next step of the development of the theory of orders.
Later on the architects of the West European and Russian Classicism often addressed to the creative work of the Italian architects, who were brilliantly interpreting the ancient architectural swatches.
France of the XVII century was motherland of the European Classicism.
By the beginning of the XVIII century it was France where the classicism turns into an exact and complete system.
This was much encouraged by the philosophy of the Enlightment, calling for the power of mind, return to nature and natural man.
It was in the Ancient art that classicists found the epitome of triumph of rational basis, examplary order, spiritual and harmonious serenity of mind.
Excavation in Pompeii and Herculaneum – cities of the Roman Empire destroyed in the eruption of mount Vesuvius in 71 A.D. – was of a great importance for the formation of the European classicism.
These archeological works, started in 1748, restored the interest towards the study of the Ancient art.
Since 1760-s Russian architects in keeping with European samples give preference to the noble simplicity of the classicist buildings.
This was much encouraged by personal tastes of the Empress Catherine the Great, by her interest in French philosophy and passion for decisive state reforms.
Catherine realized the power of the architecture to represent by the means of monumental forms welfare and strength of the state. Her reign (1762-1796) became one of the most intensive periods of construction.
In the history of Russian architecture they distinguish three stages
of classicism: early (1760-s – 1780-s), strict or mature (1780-s – 1800-s) and late or Empire style (1800-s – 1830-s).
The scale of construction activity and high artistic quality of Russian classicist school made it among the first in Europe.
Classicism in Russia has a certain distinctiveness. It was determined by the singularity of architectural heritage and by the facts of life of the country (economic, social, political) and surely by creative potential and strong personalities of few generations of outstanding architects.
The city building dimensions, related to the foundation of a big number of new cities and regular replanning of the old ones, have predetermined the creation of more than 300 plans of small and big cities through the whole Empire by the end of the XVIII century.
City development conditioned the creation of a big number of new types of constructions – official and private.
Educational institutions, banks, shopping arcades, bourses, public offices, hospitals, barracks and ordinary residential buildings were usually built using typical plans.
Classicism became the golden age of country estate construction.
Russian nobility, being exempt from the obligations of the estate service, was building and rebuilding old manor houses in accordance with creative and aesthetical principles of classical architecture as well as garden and landscape art.
In the XVIII century and at the beginning of the XIX century occurred some significant changes in the engineering.
The number of brick factories was growing, the equable measure of a brick was imposed, the usage of ferrum and iron for supporting constructions obtained currency.
From now on they raise big domes in stone buildings and use rafters with suspended roofs in wooden buildings.
Artificial marble and stucco moulding, imitating natural materials, are being frequently used for the interior decoration.
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Early and strict classicism in Moscow
The period of early and strict (mature) classicism in Moscow architecture begins in 1760-s and lasted till 1812.
Distinguishing features of Moscow classicist school of that period were determined by the creative work of the eminent Russian architects V. Bazhenov and M. Kazakov.
Fostering of a whole generation of Moscow classicist architects is their due. Best among them were E. Nazarov, I. Egotov, R. Kazakov.
Initiatives of the Empress Catherine the Great contributed much to the blossom of the Moscow architecture of this period. At the beginning of her reign, the Empress assigned a leading part to the ancient capital in the implementation of the reforms.
Projecting by the Board of a new Legal code, a vast programme of I. Betskiy on the inauguration of the first orphanage in Russia intended the construction of buildings corresponding to the importance of the conception.
Grand city planning activities were planned in Moscow for the last quarter of the XVIII century. In 1775 there was presented a “Project” plan, suggesting the creation of permanent squares, streets alignment and arrangement of a boulevard ring on the place of the walls of the White town.
The ensembles of big public buildings constructed in the end of the XVIII century and numerous town mansions in the classicist style, have determined the new image of Moscow.
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Early and strict classicism in Saint-Petersburg
Most precisely the order system was realized in the works of the craftsmen of the strict classicism. Tauride palace by I. Starov is canonical monument oа this period. The architect deployed the vast but strictly symmetrical composition of the palace widely and freely. The main artistic motif in the middle of the facade is a Roman-Doric hexastyle portico with columns drifted from the walls. The plastics of the order forms is accentuated by the expanse of walls wшер the rows of windows without architraves. Composition of the court of honor in the form of the Cyrillic letter Pe (“П”) and yellow plastered walls with white portico became favourite devices of the Russian classicism of that time. But the decent external architectural character of the Tauride palace was hiding the splendour of the state interiors. The colonnade of the Grand Gallery was standing out in their unprecedented spatial swing: “the triumph of a column” – that’s how I. Grabar described the style of this hall, defining by this the essence of the classicism.
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Late Empire in Saint-Petersburg
After the Patriotic War of 1812 and the victory over Napoleon, the theme of the war glory in the architecture became vibrant. The power of the Russian Empire took shape in the solemn shew and monumental greatness of the architecture of the late classicism or the Empire style. The French Empire style (Fr. empire – the empire) is the style of the Napolean Empire, that orientated on the triumphal Roman antiquity. Its characteristics are excessive monumentality, immoderate abundance of stucco ornament and plastic decoration.
The growing of the town-building in Saint-Petersburg falls at 1820-s. The European architectural practice never knew such a scale before. The city ensembles are placed along two main axes – the Neva river and the Nevsky avenue.
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Late Empire in Moscow
The Patriotic War of 1812 was a dramatic boundary in the history of Moscow architecture. Russian troops abandoning the city set it on fire – Moscow loses three-quarter of buildings. But the nationwide enthusiasm, that came with the victory over Napoleon, contributed to the energetic restoration of the city. To direct the process in 1814 there was created a «Comission for Moscow buildings», that was concerned with planning and constructive works. Without its approval, not a single house could be built in the city. For Moscow this was a time of big town-building works: creation of regular squares, of important public buildings, streets redevelopment. The Neglinnaya river was lead underground – this gave the possibility to lay out the space around the Kremlin and Kitay-gorod, which was first mentioned in the «Project» plan of 1775. The leading architects, that have estimated the scale and determined the image of the post-fire Moscow, were O. Bové, D. Gilardi and A. Grigoriev.
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It was in a common practice until quite recently to denote the new style searchings of 1840-s – 1890-s with the term “eclectism”, interpreted as an architecture of a reasoned choice. Currently the term “historicism” is being used more and more often by the example of similar phenomenons in the European architecture.
This period, inspired by a romantic idea of the liberation from rules and regulations, supposed that an artist (architect as well) was free to choose the expressive means from a wide historical palette. The forms of Gothic, Roman style, Baroque, Renaissance from now on with the prefix “neo”, competed with the “classical style”. Tremendous upgrowth of theory of the architecture and finding of new ways of the Russian architecture evolution are specific for the historicism.
Following the national idea, expressed in the ternion “Orthodoxy, autocracy, nationalism” by S. Uvarov, Minister of national education of the time of Nicholas I, Russian style arose. This style was fated to prevail up until the beginning of the XX century. In the architectural experience it is presented in the formation and evolution of the national-romantic architectural tendency, named in different times “Russian-Byzantic”, “Russian” and “Neorussian” style. Its best incarnation one can find in the creative work of K. Ton, in the Cathedral of Christ the Savior, in particular.
As a result of the historical and archaeological data collection on the culture and art of the pre-Peterine Russia, “Byzantine” and “Russian” styles differentiated one from another in the second part of XIX century and went on in their evolution separately. Herewith, “Russian” style, that took leading positions in church and civil architecture since 1880-s (work of A. Pomerantsev, N. Nikonov, A. Parland, L. Benoit, D. Tchitchagov and others), had also its “democratic” version, supported by critic V. Stasov and expanded through the summer, mainly wooden, cottages construction (buildings and projects by V. Hartmann, I. Ropet, N. Nikitin).
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Modernist style
The modernist style (Fr. – moderne, Lat. – modernus – new, contemporary) appeared in the European art at the turn of the XX century as a pursuance of new forms, as an address to natural lines and as an experiment with new technologies and materials. In western countries the modernist style has different names – “modern style” in England, “art nouveau” in France, “Jugendstil” in Germany, “Secession” in Austria, “liberty style” in Italy, “tiffany” in USA. Time fence of the style is 1914 – the beginning of the World War I – that clipped the natural evolution of the art in Europe.
By consolidating different art schools and branches, the modernist style tended to contrast with the eclectism of the previous period. The main features of this style are: extensive use of new technologies in the architecture, abandoning of symmetry and rectangular composition in favour of curved lines, imitating natural shapes, tendency to the synthesis of arts, developing of decorative and applied arts.
Literary and philosophical elements, belonging to the ideas of symbolism, estheticism and “philosophy of life” by F. Nietzsche, were very important for the modernist style. The theorists of the modernist style – as for example Henry van de Velde, who drew on the socialist utopias of William Morris – thought that the new style was capable to form a new society, by creating around a person a unique objective and spatial environment, infused with the esthetics of beauty. The modernist style was designed to express the spiritual content of the time through new forms and constructions, unconventional art methods, synthesis of arts and usage of contemporary materials.
All these complex targets of the new style found their outstanding expression in the architecture of private houses. Herewith the modernist style, tending to become universal, meets a wide acceptance during the construction of a big number of trading, business, industrial, living and social buildings. Since the end of 1890-s the tidal wave of the modernist style reflected on the image of Saint-Petersburg, Moscow and other provincial cities with the fronts of extravagant private houses, hotels, commercial apartment buildings and trade houses. City and country houses of the time of the modernist style, built by the architects F. Schechtel, L. Kekushev, A von Hohen and others, mark the higher level of elegance and comfort available at that time.
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The architectural avant-garde, as an artistic phenomenon of 1920-s, is indissolubly related to various and sometimes mutually exclusive styles. The original educational system, created by the professors of VKHUTEMAS (Rus. ВХУТЕМАС – Higher Art and Technical Studios, 1918-1930), the work of innovative groups of rationalist architects from ASNOVA group (Rus. АСНОВА – Association of New Architects) and of constructivist architects from OSA group (Rus. ОСА – Organization of Contemporary Architects), as well as the real house building of 1920-1930-s, influence stylistic and practical configuration of the avant-garde. The Soviet architectural avant-garde is also characterized by a new, original, spatial and dimensional method of the architectural building, related to the professional achievements of the XX-th century.
In the beginning of 1930-s the architectural style in USSR started to get another forms according to the changes occurred in the country: centralization of the power lead to the modification of every activity's basis, constructive as well. There had happen a sudden change of the style direction – from avant-garde to traditionalism. This could be seen during the all-union competition of 1931 in the construction of the «Palace of the Soviets». In some part, the changes in the architecture became a logical evolution of the compositional language of avant-garde and a sign of the professional progress of the architects. Aimed at the diversity of buildings, they tended to make monumental projects, by increasing the scale of the buildings.
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Soviet architecture
The middle and the second part of the XX century of the Russian architecture is being characterized by a number of alternate styles.
Stylistics of the architecture of 1950-s was based on the theme of the victory in the World War II and was marked by the development of design. The after war architecture is being distinguished by monumentalism, pomposity, narrativity, wide application of sculpture and decorative and applied art. The most characteristic buildings of this period are the famous Moscow highrises.
The main objective of the architecture after the World War II was the reconstruction of the cities. In 1945 there was issued a regulation “On a top-priority of the reconstruction of 15 Russian cities”, that had an extreme ideological and economical importance for the organization of the architectural process of the demolished cities of the RSFSR (Russian Soviet Federated Socialist Republic) along the entire western border – from Murmansk to Sebastopol. The choice of the cities was first of all symbolic: these were historical Russian combat outposts on the western border.
The architecture of 1950-s – 1960-s gets the name of post-constructivism. A great number of 4-floor buildings built upon the basic project in each and every Russian city belong to this style. These panel houses are popularly named the “Khrushchyovkas”, as they were built when Nikita Khrushchev ruled the country (1953-1964). The analogy with the constructivism of 1920-s appears due to the fact that the architects were executing the social and governmental order by reviewing the traditional forms of projecting. As well as in 1920-s the architects worked at the creation of an optimal, typical project suitable for an economic mass construction. The ideology of the typical project was based on the idea of democratization of living and of availability of individual apartments for the greatest number of soviet citizens possible.
In the soviet architecture 1970-s and 1980-s are being characterized by the changes in volume and plastic preferences: one can notice the tendency to the laconic geometrical forms, the minimalism of the decoration and the formation of a new language of the architectural stylistic expression.
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