Saint Petersburg Kaleidoscope from Home: The House with Bears

19 June 2020

In the last issue of our “kaleidoscope," we talked about the mansion of Kurt Siegel, a St. Petersburg businessman and engineer. Now we continue our acquaintance with the heritage of this outstanding person.

If we go from the well-known Siegel mansion on Marata Street to Dostoevskogo Street, we will see the buildings of the former mechanical plant “K.B.Siegel ”(Dostoevskogo Str., 40-44). In fact, these are three houses that look like a single architectural ensemble. The secret of such visual effect is simply explained. The architects who created this, one of the most interesting industrial buildings of the city at the beginning of the 20th century, understood that their task was to highlight the Siegel plant, to give it an unusual look in a row of apartment houses that had been quite similar to each other. And they did it. The “House with Bears”, as St. Petersburgers call it because of two unique lanterns with sculptures of bears, has become a city landmark, which can lift the spirits, both of adults and children.

The architects Jerome Kitner and Richard Berzen were, respectively, a teacher and student. Kitner was already a recognized master and academician of architecture, a bright representative of the "brick style" and the author of the project of the Siegel mansion. In his work, he used the principles of eclecticism, combining various historical architectural techniques. Therefore, the plant looks like a building dating back to Gothic times, resembling the outlines of medieval houses in Northern Europe.

Richard Berzen, then a young supporter of the Art Nouveau style, who built constructivist buildings in Soviet times, brought graceful lines and bright decorative details to the neo-Gothic basis of brick factory buildings.

As for the famous lanterns, it was a completely special project. The bear was a symbol of the Siegel brand, as it is now commonly called - a trademark of the company. The work on creating lanterns with bears, as if climbing up a tree trunk (for honey perhaps?), was carried out by Artemy Ober, the famous sculptor at that time, an academician of the Academy of Arts. He became famous not so much for monumental works as for sculptural miniatures depicting animals. His "foxes" and "greyhounds", "bulls" and "bears", cast in bronze, used to decorate many desks. Aubert achieved surprising accuracy in conveying the nature of animals. His sculptures can be seen in the collection of the Russian Museum.

Well, the bears on Dostoevsky Street have been attracting the attention of all passers-by without exception for almost a hundred and twenty years. People take pictures with them, make their wishes or just smile at them, walking by...