The "St. Petersburg Kaleidoscope": Admiral’s House

24 April 2020

Chapygina Street is oftentimes associated with television. It is here that from the 60s of the past century the famous building of the St. Petersburg Television Center has been located. The street is named after the Russian writer Aleksey Pavlovich Chapygin, the author of historical novels dedicated to the events of the XVII century.

But this once, House number 5 draws our attention - a massive building of the Stalinist period, reminiscent of a sea fort configuration. Residents of St. Petersburg call it the “Admiral's House”. Two large buildings are joined by a gallery with a gate, enhancing the sense of monumentality of the constructure. The walls, like fortification ones, are decorated with neoclassical pilasters. While the balconies, window apertures, and the layout in total, demonstrate an obvious commitment to the constructivist style, fashionable in the post-revolutionary years.

The house was built in 1936 especially for the command staff of the Workers 'and Peasants' Red Navy - that’s how the Soviet Naval forces were named at that time. The author of the project, architect David Buryshkin, today is little known to the general public. Meanwhile, he is considered one of the major Leningrad architects who shaped the face of socialist Leningrad. Suffice to say that he was the chief architect of the Baltic Fleet for a long time.

When constructivism, with its spatial volume experiments and the search for new expressive forms, gave way to a pompous, but conservative "Stalinist empire," decorative elements glorifying the Soviet system came to the fore. Here they are represented by numerous bas-reliefs depicting sailors of the Red Navy. The bas-reliefs are really unique. The faces of the sailors are made individually. It is said that the real sailors of the Baltic Fleet became prototypes of these characters. Heroes of bas-reliefs assault the Winter Palace, fight on the front lines of the Civil War, serve in the navy. You may examine curious details. For example, a sailor in a gas mask. And here you may see the sailors passing shells to the naval gun, although the cannons were already loaded automatically in the pre-war fleet. But the artist, emphasizing the almost mythological strength of the characters, neglects such trifles. The boatswain with a pipe convening the team upon alarm looks particularly colorful. Nearby the house you may always find the boys staring at marine devices, rangefinders and all kinds of devices on bas-reliefs with a great interest. This is a kind of excursion into the history of the Soviet navy.

The house, built for naval commanders and their families, was considered very high-status. Unlike most Leningrad houses of that time, it never had wood heating and stoves, but was heated using its own steam boiler. Strong walls of the house managed to survive during the war, despite shells.

They say that at different times in this house a total of 100 admirals lived. And, probably, the most famous inhabitant was the commander of the Baltic Fleet, Admiral Vladimir Filippovich Tributs. His brilliant actions in guiding ships during the Siege of Leningrad helped to save the city and a huge number of lives.