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A part of the Stremyannaya St. side elevation  

Bubyr' apartment building

11 Stremyannaya St.
In co-operation with N. Vasilyev.

This house has a perfect right to be called an example of the "Northern" Art Nouveau on the ground that its main elevation (along Stremyannaya Street) is northward. There is hardly any sunshine here except a few morning hours in May and June, when one can take a nice photograph or just admire the sun beans sliding along stones.

As to the sun, the number of its images perfectly compensates for deficiency in itself. Solar signs appear in stone, stucco, and forged fences, being a demonstration of the authors' adherence to the folk architectural traditions.

General view Entrance from Stremyannaya St. A part of the portal
Crows - the frieze along the 2nd floor Sculpture at the gate
Sculpture at the gate A side elevation fragment
Masks over the passage to the yard

Next to the signs of luminaries, there are images of crows, mushrooms, fir-trees, and other marks of our north latitudes. The lowest of all in this cosmogony are fishes, reptiles, and some odd creatures. ("The sculptor V. N. Sud'binin, who used to work in Bubyr's studio, may have taken part in their creation," – V. Isachenko writes.)

Two rock-hewn masks crown the passage to the yard (there used to be a gate here). One's imagination may want to find them looking like the authors of the house. However, these two heads supporting the upper window crosspiece – one being manly clam, the other tragically arduous – can hardly be the authors' portraits.

Alexey Bubyr' and Nikolay Vasilyev's co-operation lasted about ten years and generated several remarkable buildings in St. Petersburg and Tallinn, not to mention competitive projects (the limits of this site have not allowed room either for them or for buildings in Estonia). That long-lasting and arm-in-arm co-operation may cause some difficulties in separating one architect's findings from the other's achievements. For example, it is hard to assign the side elevations of the apartment house of the Basseynoe Partnership, where there are evident formal marks of both's techniques while no documentary evidence available. That creative alloy (which has recently generated the book Nikolay Vasilyev. Alexey Bubyr' published by Lisovsky and Isachenko, thus giving birth to an architectural centaur) is in fact nothing special. Bubyr' worked together with Ilyin and Klein, Vasilyev also worked together with Dmitriev; which was a common architectural practice at that time, and still is. Alexey Bubyr' and Nikolay Vasilyev enriched each other by exchanging ideas a great deal, but they remained independent masters who were going along parallel but still different routes.

The main elevation of the house in Stremyannaya St., which project was developed by N. Vasilyev, was a milestone in his search for the Russian national architecture that would avoid both borrowing Mediterranean features and copying details from Old Russian architectural monuments. Following the best representatives of the "Neo-Russian" style of the edge of the 19th-20th centuries, he looked for forming basics in the medieval stone architecture of Pskov and Novgorod as well as in wooden buildings of the Russian North. Thus the rectangular aperture with chamfered corners is a technique essential for loghouses, the top of the bay window resembles stocky Novgorod domes, and the fine devitrification of the upper parts of the windows reminds of mica windows. What the tradition gave short the artist's intuition made up (it must be said, he was most talented even for that time that was lavish in talents). A Finnish influence is sometimes mentioned - why not? Nobody works in vacuum (with the only exception), and Finland is closer from here than even Moscow. The stone skids that protrude on each side of the entrance and the passage and remind of castles and drawbridges are obviously European. The only architect's blunder is that those things are exactly at the height to hurt badly someone feasting his eyes on anything aside.

The elevation along Stremyannaya St. is the first thing to attract your attention in the house, and surely the most interesting. But let us try to imagine the house as a whole.

The house is situated on a gaunt lot which dimensions are about 21x45 meters. The narrow north side (on the plan it is in the bottom) goes along Stremyannaya St. Next to the left is house 13 built by Vasily Schaub in 1895, to the right is a little garden at the corner of Stremyannaya St. and Dmitrovsky Lane.

Entrance from the yard Yard

Bubyr' built the house body along three sides of this gaunt lot and left a small but cosy yard in the middle, open to the little garden. Later the architect who owned the house built a garage for his Renault in the yard and almost enclosed it, which, however, did not turn it into a well yard. In the corners of the Pi-shaped buildings are staircases. There are two flats on each stair landing. Flats consist of 3 to 9 rooms and are formed along corridors due to the narrowness of the building. The fifth-floor flat of 9 rooms used to be occupied by the architect himself and his family. The first photo shows the upper bay window row - those are windows of his study.

Ground floor plan 1st floor plan 5th floor plan

Ground floor plan

1st through 4th floors plan

5th floor plan

Out of the planning findings that influenced the appearance of the yard elevations, it is worth mentioning the bow-shaped passage from the living-room to the dining-romm on the fifth floor.

In general, the plans seem to have been used as fully as possible. On the lot of such moderate scale, a full-fledged architectural organism was grown, which defects - long internal corridors in a sectional house - were peculiar to that time's economy, and its creator could not correct, but still softened them.

As to the perception of the house, Nikolay Vasilyev's main elevation is a gift to both his colleague and the city. Together with Roman Meltzer's own house on Kamenny Island and Alexey Zakharov's house in Klinsky Prospect, they are the brightest examples of that most interesting but short-term style called sometimes National Romanticism, sometimes Northern Art Nouveau, which, with its cloak attributed to no estate, filled a gap of something real and human among the line of Neoclassicistic uniforms and the Eclectic raznochinetz crowd. In our relatively new city that destroyed its only ancient ancestor - Nyen Schantz fortress* - they also represent our Middle Ages, with their asymmentry, stone engraving, manually matched slabs still keeping creative spirit that has not been covered with another layer of plaster yet.

At the same time the house is still a typical St. Petersburg one – - six storeys, a facade, and an internal courtyard. Yet the facade, being very beautiful, seems superimposed, unlike the more organic facades of the houses Bubyr' built in 1910s. Nevertheless, owing to the durable materials used, that superimposition has preserved the house - if it had been plastered, as it is in the yard, instead of being covered with ceramic tiles and Pyterlahti granite, would the facade have endured so many years of traffic going by?

Another interesting thing. Judging by the fact that the house was copied several times, it was imterpreted as another manifesto of the Northern Art Nouveau (its project was published in the Zodchy magazine, which contributed to that interpretation). Examples of the inspiring influence of Bubyr' and Vasilyev's creation include Barsova's house, 23 Kronwerksky Pr. (arch. Yevgeny Morozov, 1911-2) and Wolkenstein's house, 33 Shirokaya (former Lenin) St. (arch. Sima Minash (Bubyr's classmate!), 1910). The nation ought to know their heroes!

Find 10 differences.


11 Stremyannaya St. Arch. A.Bubyr', N.Vasilyev, 1906. Fragment.

33 Shirokaya St. Arch. S.Minash, 1910. Fragment.

"Plagiarism is necessary. Progress implies it."
Brian Duguid

11 Stremyannaya St.
Arch. A. Bubyr', N. Vasilyev,

33 Shirokaya St.
Arch. S. Minash,

*Nyenss Staadh – Swedish town at mouth of the river Okhta, in the present territory of St. Petersburg. Founded in 1611. Destroyed in 1703. Centre of the Swedish territories along the Neva River in the 2nd half of the 17th century. Nyen Schantz – fortress in Nyenss Staadh, situated on the spit where the Okhta flows into the Neva. Built in the middle of the 17th century under the direction of engineer Heinrich von Seilenberg.

Photos and text by A. Mamlyga.

Translated by A. Rassadin

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