Art & Architecture in St. Petersburg, Russia
(from San Francisco via Amsterdam) 2002.
Start: SFI international terminal. Close up of roof. Evokes associations with an (under)water world, in particular surfing
and sailing; both very much part of the California. (Architect: SOM / Designer: Craig Hausman)
Architectural focus for trip: Columns
SFI international departure terminal. Exterior view of roof structure.
SFI international departure terminal. Interior view of hall with massive
columns and roof/sky lights. Huge, clean, solemn space that is a relief to
experience at the start of a big trip (after the usual stress of preparing) !
SFI international departures terminal. Check-in counters with huge columns in between. Openness at counters is
remarkable; sense of space and columns in it is comparable in its effects to old European cathedrals.
SFI international departures terminal. Column-truss
connection. Elegance in structure.
Stop-over in Amsterdam Schiphol airport; here Arrival terminal. Architect: Benthem & Crouwel. Slender
columns with exposed deck. Organization of lights, air-conditioning units and pattern of roof structure evoke
associations with a plant world, an organic world.
Amsterdam Schiphol airport Arrival terminal. Slender columns with fine
base details (evoking associations with airplane technology).
Amsterdam Schiphol airport. Exterior of Arrival terminal. Notice the ‘column’ above the cafeteria being ‘held up
by its fellows’ by way of a truss. The cafeteria sticks thru the window façade in a very organic way (by its
Amsterdam Schiphol airport. Green roof of arrival terminal seen from departure level.
St. Petersburg Pulkovo airport, seen from the runway; first impressions of Russia.
St. Petersburg Pulkovo airport, international arrival terminal. This terminal (#2) was built in the 50’s, and definitely
has that old ‘Soviet’ feel to it. Not difficult to find the bus stop.
On your way in to the city, you’ll pass and see a lot of impressive Soviet Architecture (top right) and monuments
dedicated to the victory over the Nazi’s siege of Leningrad (top left). Of course, since this is 20th century history and
Architecture and added as a layer to the city, these impressions becomes less, and certainly less dominant, the more
you get to the heart of the (18th century) city. At a certain point, one will probably have to transition or travel by
subway, which is an experience in itself (or if you don’t, I would still recommend going); the subway station are
probably the most beautiful one will ever see / has seen. It’s not allowed to take photo’s down there, so the only way
to do it is, if you have to is; be inconspicuous, quick and get on a train immediately !
Map of Russia.
History in a nutshell: Peter the Great started St. Petersburg in 1703 as a northern outpost and defense in the war
against Sweden, because of its strategic location at the Baltic Sea. Throughout the 18th century a range of foreign
(I.e. Italian, French, German) and Russian architects designed this city into one of the most beautiful in the world.
In 1712 Peter the Great made it capital of Russia, favoring St. Petersburg over Moscow (not to everyone’s liking,
since it was built in a swamp).
St. Petersburg, Russia. View from river Neva to the Hermitage complex of buildings.
View of Trinity bridge from the river Neva, St. Petersburg. During a certain period of the building of the city,
Peter the Great put a stop to all use of stone in the rest of Russia, favoring St Petersburg.
View of Vasilievsky Island, where the river Neva splits (across from the Hermitage, immediately to the left,
just outside the picture, across the bridge). Beyond we see the Baltic sea.
View of Admiralty from river Neva, St. Petersburg. Peter the Great was a remarkable man; his dream was to
have a significant Russian naval force. To this end, he went to study shipbuilding abroad (i.e. Holland), at first
incognito. He designed the first shipyard for St. Petersburg himself.
Lenin monument seen from river Neva. This example of architecture under communism contrasts starkly with the
even more historical buildings around it, by means of its scale and abstract, austere character.
View from river Neva of architecture on banks. Dome of St. Isaac’s cathedral gilded. Under the reign of Elizabeth
(daughter of Peter the Great) a lot of splendid baroque architecture was commissioned; Italian architect Rastrelli
was her favorite.
View from river Neva towards Architecture on bank. Most of the 18th century Russian rulers were women, whose
taste set the celebrated architectural tone of St. Petersburg.
From the river Neva a canal system, similar to that in Amsterdam, set of into the heart of the city, creating
these impressive views. Peter the Great was inspired by Amsterdam’s canal system, and planned to
incorporate many canals into the city. Not all of them were possible, but the ones that were, make a lasting
impression. St. Petersburg stands out for its balanced and well ordered Architecture and city building, partly
achieved by adhering to restrictions of building height and good proportions between spaces and buildings
View of statue by Pyotr Klodt, of a man taming a horse, on the Anichkov bridge. This bridge crosses the Fontanka
canal and is part of St Petersburgs main street: the Nevsky Prospect.
View of ‘Quarenghi Stalls’ at the corner of the Fontanka canal and Nevsky Prospect. Built as trading rows in
1803-1806 by architect Quarenghi, it was handed over to the imperial chancellor and became known as ‘Cabinet’.
Quarenghi stalls seen from across the Fontanka canal. Note the doubling of columns where the façade gives way to an
Walking from the Fontanka along the Nevsky Prospect back towards the river Neva, we come by Yeliseevs
beautiful example of the Russian variant of the well-known ‘Art Nouveau’, called ‘Style Moderne’ in Russia.
Dating from1901-03, and designed by Gabriil Baranovskiy, it still serves as a store for the Yeliseev
company/dynasty, founded in 1813, selling delicatesse like caviar and vodka.
Close up of Yeliseev stores ’Style Moderne’ façade. Note slender
wrought iron and steel structure as a layer in front of the windows.
Close up of façade of Yeliseevs store; example of ‘Style Moderne’. 1901-03 by Gabriil Baranovskiy.
Interior view of Yeliseev store for delicatesse.
A little further down the Nevsky Prospect; the ‘Passazh Arcade’ an 1848 Russian version of shopping mall that was
a popular type all over Europe. It was rebuilt in 1900, and is 590 ft. long and has two levels.
Passazh Arcade; halfway the facade gives way to a stairway that leads one along counters of stores at
various intermediate levels, thereby using the visitors ascent/descent to attract his/her attention to the
Looking from the bridge back towards the entrance of the ‘Passazh Arcade’.
On side street of Nevsky Prospect: façade with column on 4th floor balcony, spanning two stories.
Back to the river Neva and the Hermitage, ranking among the worlds top museums. In choosing to have an
architectural focus on columns, I didn’t know the Hermitage has so many, and in so many forms (inside and out, as
we shall see). View of exterior of winter palace and small hermitage showing columns and statues on the roof.
View of Winter palace and small Hermitage from the river Neva.
The river Neva.
The river Neva.
The Hermitage complex consists of several buildings, mostly palaces. Originally built as a residence for the
imperial family (for which it served as such until the early 20th century revolution), it started to house the art
collections that Catherine the Great was buying all over Europe in the 18th century:
- The Winter palace was built from 1754-62 and designed by the Italian Architect Rastrelli;
- The Small Hermitage was built for Catherine the Great as a retreat from the busy life at court in the Winter
palace, from 1764-75, and designed by Vallin de la Mothe and Yuri Velten;
- The New Hermitage was built from 1839-51, and designed by Leo von Klenze, and is the only custom designed
museum part of the complex.
- The Large (aka ‘Great’ or ‘Old’) Hermitage was built from 1771-87 and designed by Yuri Velten to house the
paintings that were collected by Catherine the Great;
Palace Square on the side of the city (also entrance to the museum Hermitage from this square).
Interior view of Hermitage. Richly decorated corridor in Winter palace.
Richly decorated room in the Small Hermitage. The room consists of two parts, separated by a colonnade/bridge.
Notice the abundant gilding.
Richly decorated room in Small Hermitage. Notice fine gilded railings at balconies.
Benois madonna by Leonardo da Vinci. One of the two Da Vinci’s the
museum owns. Da Vinci painted only 14 paintings, of which the
Hermitage owns two madonna’s with child. The Hermitage collection of
paintings is vast, and contains many works by masters, i.e. Rembrandt
and other Dutch masters (a whole room is dedicated to them).
Internet café in Hermitage on 1st floor. Notice space between huge
piers/columns provides intimacy. It’s located as an isle alongside a
corridor, separated by columns.
Internet café in Hermitage; side-isle of corridor where huge piers/columns
provide the necessary intimacy and atmosphere.
Sculpture collection. Red-brown marble hall. Located mainly on the first floor, the halls where the sculptures
(mostly Roman copies of Greek originals) are located are clad in marble, each room with a different color and
pattern, thereby giving specific character to the rooms as a background for the sculptures. Wandering thru the
rooms, one becomes very sensitive to the tone of the material and the material of the sculptures that are exhibited.
Russia had its own huge resources of marble and granite.
Red-brown marble hall with sculptural expression as a decorative column.
Patterns of a light marble with a subtle grey and reddish marble in it,
provide a quiet and serene background for the sculptures in the room.
A Venus. Notice the patterns of marble colors in the wall.
Venus; notice the marble paneling in the wall, providing a warm tone for the sculpture.
Amor and Psyche. Notice the subtle match of tone in sculpture and marble wall paneling.
Room with square and round columns. Notice that the round columns are
typically in the middle between the square ones, and have more
refinement to them(i.e. ‘cannelures’).
View of middle isle (of three) of temple-like room. The closed end of the
isle, and the light coming from the side indicate the direction to turn to.
Temple-like room seen in typical bay with display near light.
View along side isle leading towards door of next room. Notice the square expression of columns as
ending of the piers, and defining the little alcoves near the window. Again: round columns in the
middle, and square to the sides.
Atlantes carrying the canopy of what was once the public entrance to the
Stairway to main museum floor level, from once public entrance. Note the
marble walls and colonnades on top of that.
Same stairway at abandoned public entrance (looking down). Note the
colonnades to both sides and the light filtering thru them.
Surrounding the stairway is a gallery, with a limited use of tone in mainly contrasting colors (dark and light).
The Gallery houses light marble sculptures that do very well in this light. Notice
the contrasting color tones recurring in the floor pattern.
Diane, the huntress, seemingly looking at Amor and Psyche.
Amor and Psyche playing.
“From Russia, with Love.”
(end of presentation)