Residential Architecture of Russian Imperial Age (1703-1843) in Drawings of Italian Architects

Residential Architecture of Russian Imperial Age (1703-1843) in Drawings of Italian Architects

Mariya Komarova (Politecnico di Torino, Italy)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-0675-1.ch015
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The object of research is the residential architecture of the heyday of the Russian Empire that has undergone many changes under the influence of time and urban transformation. However, the drawings of Italian architects as primary sources, can tell a lot about architectural and landscape heritage of the Russian cities of XVIII-XIX centuries. That was the period of origination and development of architectural drawing and Building Code in Russia. Domenico Trezzini, Francesco Rastrelli, Giacomo Quarenghi, Luigi Rusca, Domenico Gilardi, Giuseppe Bova, and others created their precious works of art. Thanks to the remaining drawings it is possible to write not only the history of architecture, but also restore the monuments of the Russian Empire.
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Turning to the history of urban development of the Russian state, it should take into account the periods of reign of Peter I, Catherine II and Alexander I, and their laws about architectural drawings, urban planning and residential building.

Peter was crowned, and in 1682 assumed the title of Emperor of Russia. Endowed by nature with all the advantages that can form a large monarch, he did not neglect the help and efforts of all kinds, such as the total prudence to instill in his men fighting spirit, and to make them formidable on the land and at sea. He was a genius that distinguished himself from the others; he reached his goal in any way that he could find. He delivered the empire from its enemies; he has introduced civilization, commerce, and all the arts; finally, Russia was given a new life. (De Laugier di Bellecour, 1826)

Peter the Great, Emperor of Russia, from March 1697 to August 1698 studied in Western Europe. After the return to his home country, he established a new order of urban planning in Russia. In 1703 he founded the city on the Neva River - St. Petersburg that from 1712 to 1918 became the capital of the country. At that time he also adopted the Building Code through some important laws (Arzhantsev, 2003; Speranskiy, 1830a) that concerned the image of the residential architecture of all Russian cities:

  • 5 June 1714 on the construction of houses in St Petersburg to boyars, courtiers, merchants and craftsmen. According to this decree from each province it was given a list of selected residents who had to build dwelling houses in St. Petersburg in the summer and autumn of 1714.

  • 7 June 1714 on the prohibition of the construction of dwelling houses in masonry in Moscow, in the Zemlyanoy Gorod of Moscow and behind the street Zemlyanoy Val.

  • 9 October 1714 the law that imposed a ban for a few years on the construction of brick houses in all over the state, in all provinces and cities, except in St. Petersburg. The decree was passed due to the shortage of masons and artists in order to build a new Russian capital. From the date of publication of that decree the construction of the stone dwelling houses in Russian cities was paused for several decades, despite the fact that the 31 January 1728 a law allowing the construction of the stone in Moscow was issued.

  • From the 14 September 1715 by the decree of Peter I, any construction of residential houses without architectural drawings became forbidden, for non-execution of the law, all constructed was taken away, and for the each housing the fine of 10 rubles was imposed. Even the architects who worked without architectural drawings were severely punished. The law referred to the construction of housing. Social and religious sites such as the Kremlin, monasteries, churches, cathedrals, royal mansions, have always been built on drawings and plans. But housing was often built without complying with the strict lines of the adjustment, planning and facades. In Russia with that law the work of architectural drawings and the sense of the project became even more important than the actual object’s construction.

Key Terms in this Chapter

“Exemplary” House: Residential building construction of which is carried out on a massive project.

Rusticated Walls: Finishing the external walls of the building by creating indentations in the plaster, or gluing the elements dividing the surface into pieces.

Avant-Corps: Refers to a part of a building, which projects out from its main mass. It is usually over the full height of the building. It is common in facades in Elizabethan Baroque and Russian Classicism period.

Tambour: Passage space between the doors, serving for protection against the penetration of cold air, smoke and odors at the entrance to the building, the stairwell or other premises.

Cour D'honneur: Front yard limited to the main building and the side wings. On the red line is usually separated from the outer space by a fence with a gate.

Portico: Semi-open space with a roof supported by columns.

Architectural Order: One of the five structural classic architectonic systems, such as Tuscan, Doric, Ionic, Corinthian and Composite in accordance to the book “The Five Orders of Architecture” on classical architecture by Giacomo Barozzi da Vignola.

Gostiny Dvor: Indoor market, or shopping centre. These structures originated as collections of small shops where merchants from other cities could, at designated times, come to sell their wares. Such structures were constructed in every large Russian town during the first decades of the 19th century.

Cornice: It is interior and exterior projecting element of buildings, premises, furniture. In architecture it separates the plane of the roof from the vertical plane of the wall or divides the plane wall along the chosen horizontal lines.

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