Carusel Tours
13 February 2020

Traditional Art Nouveau in St. Petersburg. Historical Department Stores and Cafes

Globe and Glass Tower, Singer House, Nevsky, St. Petersburg, Art Nouveau
In this post we will tell you about one of the most fascinating architecture styles of the eve of the 20th century - Art Nouveau in St. Petersburg. We were very pleased to see the genuine interest to our Instagram posts about it and now we will happily provide you with more details on Art Nouveau in the former capital of Russia! For the northern version of the Art Nouveau style in St. Petersburg, mysterious National Romantic Style see our next post.

The city is filled with many outstanding examples of Art Nouveau, some of the most iconic buildings of St. Petersburg were designed in this architecture style, and below you will learn where to find them, and what are the various versions of Art Nouveau represented in St. Petersburg.


What is Art Nouveau and how it came to Russia. Russian Merchants

Among the key principles of Art Nouveau, an art movement that emerged in the end of the 19th century in Europe and quickly spread across the world, was to create young art, inspired by nature, and make the life for the people of the next century more convenient and surrounded by beautiful objects. It is defined by flowing forms, asymmetry and curves, mysterious allegorical images from legends and fairy tales, and the abundant use of modern materials - steel, glass, ceramics and concrete.

At that time, Russian merchants were the main force that supported the empire's economy and introduced latest technologies, and no wonder that they were the first to bring the new architecture style to the major Russian cities. They started to commission their mansions and commercial buildings to be built or redecorated in the Art Nouveau Style and the leading Russian architects quickly mastered the new style and enriched it with local details.
Do not get surprised that the majority of Russian architects mentioned in our architecture posts bear German, Polish, French, Jewish, Swedish or Finnish surnames. St. Petersburg and Moscow were very international cities, and they were populated not only by various ethnical groups and nationalities that at that time formed the part of the Russian Empire, there was also a significant number of craftsmen and artists with ancestors coming from various European countries, mostly artisans.
Below are some emblematic sights of St. Petersburg and we admire them, but when they were constructed they were labeled pompous and tasteless by many locals. All of these buildings are still housing shops and cafes and you can visit them easily now on your trip to St. Petersburg and appreciate their design and convenience. And, by the way, all of them are conveniently located within the walking distance from each other!

Iconic Art Nouveau Buildings in St. Petersburg

The landmark Art Nouveau buildings in St. Petersburg from that period are
Singer House Nevsky Avenue St. Petersburg Russia Art Nouveau
Singer Building (Nevsky Avenue, 28)

completed in 1904 to the design by Pavel Suzor for the headquarters of Singer Sewing Machine Company in Russia. It is one of the dominants of Nevsky Avenue and the first building in Russia constructed with the use of metal frames. Its façade could not be taller than that of the Winter Palace, the residence of Russian monarchs, but the architect overcame this restriction in a very interesting manner - he designed the beautiful glass tower with the crystal dome held by bronze Valkyries (created by sculptor Amandus Adamson) on top of the building. Still the Singer House is elegant enough not to overshadow the Kazan Cathedral and its other beautiful neighbours. Since the Soviet time the Singer Building has been the home to the most famous bookstore of the city, called the House of Book. Come inside to appreciate its beautiful Art Nouveau interior, buy souvenir books, calendars or postcards with the views of St. Petersburg, or sip some tea in a nice café overlooking the magnificent Kazan Cathedral and busy Nevsky Avenue.
Eliseyev Emporium Merchants Eliseyevs Eliseef House Nevsky St. Petersburg Art Nouveau
Eliseyev Emporium (Nevsky Avenue, 56)

completed in 1903 to the design by Gavriil Baranovsky for the Eliseyev Brothers, prominent merchants who were the most famous suppliers of gourmet food and delicatessen for the Royal family and rich people in the Russian Empire. The commissioned architect Baranovsky, who already designed several buildings for them before, to construct the most lavish food hall in St. Petersburg, of course, in Art Nouveau, the most popular architecture style of that time. When the building was completed it received very negative reviews from the citizens – they labelled it the most tasteless building of the capital. Before the revolution, it housed the most famous food hall and wine cellars in the country, it also contained a bank and a theatre, the latter is still functioning today. During the Soviets the only deli store in the city with high quality and deficit products continued to work in the building. Today Eliseyev Emporium is restored in its full glory and it still has the food store that sells some typical Russian products mainly for the visitors of the city. But most people come here to see its luxurious interiors rather than for food shopping.
Eliseyev Brothers also had a deli store and wine cellars in central Moscow with equally lavish interior in the building on Tverskaya Street 14. Today it is still functioning as the food store and touristic sight. The building was bought by Eliseyev Brothers in 1898 and redesigned by the same architect, Gavriil Baranovsky, in the Art Nouveau Style. It was opened in 1901, two years earlier than Eliseyev Foodstore in St. Petersburg.
Au Ponte Rouge St. Petersburg Art Nouveau Red Bridge Moika River Embankment
Au Ponte Rouge (Moika River Embankment 73-79)

completed in 1907 to the design by Vladimir Lipsky and Konstantin De Rochefort for the department store of Belgian-Austrian-Dutch Entrepreneurs Stefan Esders and Charles Scheefhals. At the core of the building is the massive metal frame, this idea was actually borrowed by Rochefort from the Singer Building on Nevsky. This is the first multi-store department store in St. Petersburg, it was very popular among the nobility and among its clients were the members of the royal family, including empress Alexandra. After the Revolution of 1917 the building was neglected for 1,5 years and in 1919 it was given to the clothes manufacturing factory. In 1930-s the beautiful spire on the building and the glass tower were demolished and it is still unclear why. It was returned to the building only in 2009-2014 during the large-scale reconstruction works. At the same time the original gilded signboards in pre-revolutionary Russian* and French on both sides of the building were recreated. Today it houses, again, an expensive department store and a culinary studio on the top floor. Feel free to visit it and see the glorious Art Nouveau interior.

*Russian spelling was simplified in 1918 by Bolsheviks and there is an apparent difference in the pre and post-revolutionary city signs that all Russian language speakers see at once.
Department Stores by Esders and Scheefhals had branches in Vroclav, Vienna, Brussels and Paris, but only the buildings in Paris and St. Petersburg survived to our day.
And now we recommend you to read our post about the National Romantic Style in St. Petersburg, one of the most interesting local versions of Art Nouveau, that is spread over present-day Finland, Estonia, Sweden and St. Petersburg.

We have also written about the Art Nouveau Walk around Nevsky for lovely Tea in her Culture Tourist Blog, check it out before you prepare for a walk along the main avenue of the city!

See our fascinating Architecture in St. Petersburg Tour and remember that we will be happy to create specific architecture tours for you about Art Nouveau in St. Petersburg!

Text by Alexandra Lyukina/ Karina Matveeva
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