Vadim Bass (European University at Saint Petersburg)


From 13:30
to 15:00
From 13:30
to 15:00

Course description
Italy throughout the centuries has been the most important source for the Russian architecture. In some cases this effect was of a theoretical nature – Italian architectural treatises of the 15th-16th centuries (the works of Alberti, Palladio, Vignola, etc.) were the main source of professional knowledge for Russian architects, the basis of professional culture and education system. In other cases, Italian architectural culture was brought in directly with its carriers – the Italian architects worked extensively in Russia. One of the most famous examples is related to the late Quattrocento and early Cinquecento when Italian builders were involved in the reconstruction of the Moscow Kremlin. The most important cathedrals, public buildings and the Kremlin fortress itself demonstrate a combination of traditional compositional formulas, the Renaissance rationalism and Italian construction techniques. Architects from Italy or Italian Switzerland have also made an important contribution to the architecture of the Imperial period.
In other cases we can see a direct imitation of certain Italian structures, use of characteristic quotations borrowed from particular monuments or more subtle allusions to some Italian buildings. Often Russian architects not trying or not being able to "archeologically accurately" follow the models, reconstructed in their buildings 'images of Italy', tentative, visionary images of the "Italian" – e.g., a romanticized atmosphere of the Renaissance architecture. These phenomena seem to be very important in terms of perception of the "Italian" in Russian architecture, and – in a broader sense – culture.
Entire movements of Russian architecture were of Italian origin – for example, extremely popular (in the 19th Century) neo-Renaissance. This "invented" architectural language was the official style of public buildings during the reign of Nicholas I – the period that preceded the beginning of serious academic studies of the Renaissance, including architecture.
Palladianism should be considered one of the most striking examples of Italian influence, it was one of the most important trends in Russian architecture. The highest achievements (e. g., buildings by Giacomo Quarenghi and his colleagues) were reached during the reign of Catherine II. Russian Palladianism was a part of a wider European movement of the 18th Century, its significance for Russian architecture can be compared with the importance of English Palladianism for the architectural landscape of England. The type of Palladian villas was developed in both the estate construction, and in the architecture of public buildings. Palladio retained the authority for Russian architects thereafter, until the Soviet era, when the Stalinist neo-classical buildings manifest Palladian features. This influence can be traced also in the traditionalist (or revivalist) movement of the post-Soviet period.
The "Italian" had a variety of shades in Russian architecture. First of all "Italian" was associated with Roman. Therefore the imperial implications of Russian culture and politics found reinforcement in the images of Italian origin, both ancient and modern. The Imperial capital St. Petersburg has a trident plan, which goes back to the trident of the Piazza del Popolo. The architectural structure of St. Petersburg, a city of baroque type, dates back to the transformation of Rome in the age of Sixtus V. In addition, for St. Petersburg, a city on the water ("Venice of the North"), Venetian allusions are of special importance. The course examines the architectural and town planning aspects of the problem.
During the Soviet period, Italy remained an important source for Russian architecture. In the 1930s they undertook an ambitious program of translating the classical architectural treatises, which included the texts of Palladio, Vignola, Daniele Barbaro’s commentary on Vitruvius, etc. In 1935 Soviet colleagues participated in the 13th International Congress of Architects in Rome and then shared their experience. In the post-Stalinist period Soviet architects carefully studied Italian practice – including the works of rationalists, especially G. Terragni. The influence of Italian architecture of the Fascist and postwar periods upon the Soviet "classicized" modernism is evident. The direct influence of Italian models (e.g., The Palace of Congresses, EUR) can be seen in the Soviet public buildings. In the post-Soviet period the buildings and designs of such architects as Marcello Piacentini, Armando Brasini, etc., attracted a lot of attention. For Russian architects their work is an important example of a highly professional culture that is implemented under "soft" totalitarianism, an example of diversified and skillful using of historical architectural vocabulary for contemporary needs. Soviet and Russian architecture has also been influenced by P.L. Nervi, Aldo Rossi and some other Italian architects and structural engineers.
The course also covers a number of particular issues regarding the Italian-Russian architectural influences, such as the phenomenon of Russian Piranesianism. Russian architecture in Italy will also be regarded as an example of "feedback".

Learning outcomes
As a result the students are expected to possess the profound knowledge in the history of the Italian-Russian architectural relations as well as to be well-informed about the main issues of Russian architectural history.

Teaching and evaluation methods
Students have to attend the classes, take part in the seminars and discussions, and write the term paper. The requirements are:
- participation in the seminars and discussions and regular class attendance (30%);
- seminar (week 6): presentation of 4 architectural teams taking part in the imagined design competition for the renovation of the Small Marble Palace in St Petersburg (15 min., probably in groups depending on the number of students, 30%);
- term paper: an essay (min. 5 pages) based on analysis of a selected episode in Italian-Russian architectural interactions (40%). The term papers are to be submitted by the last lecture class.


Course syllabus

Week 1. Introduction. An Outline of Russian architectural history.
Reading (articles are in the Course Reader):
Shvidkovsky D. Russian Architecture and the West. Yale Univ. Press, 2007. Pp. 1-11.

Week 2. “Italianisms” and Italian architects in Old Russian architecture.
Shvidkovsky D. Russian Architecture and the West. Yale Univ. Press, 2007 . Pp. 30-41, 73-77.

Week 3. Italian and Swiss Italian architects in Imperial Russia.
Navone N., Tedeschi L. Dal mito al progetto. La cultura architettonica dei maestri italiani e ticinesi nella Russia neoclassica. Mendrisio, 2004 (selected English translations from the Russian edition (St. Petersburg, 2004) see in the Course Reader).

Week 4. Architecture of Russian neo-Renaissance, its origin, its ideology, and its versions. Housing, public buildings, railway architecture. The impact of the Italian Mannerism on Russian architecture of the first half of the 20th Century.
Bergdoll B. European Architecture 1750-1890. Oxford, 2000 (selected fragments see in the Course Reader).

Week 5. Russian, Soviet, and post-Soviet Palladianism: the sources, the forms, ideology, and the buildings.
Bass V. Il Palladianesimo nel 20 Secolo, o il significato di Palladio per i Russi. In: Russia Palladiana. Palladio in Russia dal Barocco al Modernismo. Venice, 2014 (English translation see in the Course Reader).
Bass V. Inizio del 20 Secolo: L’invenzione del Passato. In: Russia Palladiana. Palladio in Russia dal Barocco al Modernismo. Venice, 2014 (English translation see in the Course Reader).

Week 6. Case Study: The Small Marble Palace in St Petersburg and the draft design competition for its renovation. Lecture and the student presentations session.

Week 7 – midterm break

Week 8. Theme 1. Italian architectural treatises in Russian and Soviet artistic practice and theory.
Mitrović B. Studying Renaissance architectural theory in the age of Stalinism. I Tatti Studies in the Italian Renaissance, Vol. 12 (2009). Pp. 233-263.

Theme 2. Italian type of opera house in Russian and Soviet theatre architecture.
All the World's a Stage. Architecture and Scenography in Russia. Moscow, 2017 (selected English translations from the Russian catalogue of the exhibition at Moscow Museum of Architecture see in the Course Reader).

Week 9. Italian impact on the Soviet and post-Soviet architecture.
Sedov V. Il Palazzo Italiano dei Soviet. In: Il Palazzo Italiano dei Soviet. Moscow, 2007 (English translation see in the Course Reader).
Further reading:
Latour A. The Birth of a Metropolis, Moscow 1930-1955. Moscow, 2002 (selected fragments see in the Course Reader).

Week 10. The images of Venetian buildings in Russian architecture of the Imperial period: from Arsenale to Campanile. Venetian Motifs in Soviet architecture in the age of Stalin.
Latour A. The Birth of a Metropolis, Moscow 1930-1955. Moscow, 2002 (selected fragments see in the Course Reader).
Further reading:
Shvidkovsky D. Russian Architecture and the West. Yale Univ. Press, 2007. Pp. 324-334.

Week 11. St. Petersburg as an "Italian" City. Rome as the model city and its reflections in Russian town planning. The 'Venetian text' of Saint-Petersburg.
Cracraft J. The Petrine Revolution in Russian Imagery. Chicago, 1997 (selected fragments see in the Course Reader).

Week 12. The individual aspects of Italian-Russian architectural relations. Russian "Piranesianism".
Russian and Soviet architecture and architects in Italy. Russian Pavilions at Venice Architecture Biennale and their reception by Western and Russian architectural press.
Nikitin S. Sulla rotta del palazzo dei Soviet. Vita e produzione di Boris Iofan negli anni’20. In: Il Palazzo Italiano dei Soviet. Moscow, 2007 (English translation see in the Course Reader).
Further reading:
‘Station Russia’. Hatje Cantz Verlag: 2018.

Week 13.
Final discussion: Italian influence on Russian architecture.
Paper discussion and readings.

The course includes also field trips (the schedule to be settled with VIU office).

Brumfield W.C. A History of Russian Architecture. Univ. of Washington Press, 2003 (Cambr. Univ. Press, 1993).
Shvidkovsky D. Russian Architecture and the West. Yale Univ. Press, 2007.

Supplementary reading
Architectures of Russian Identity: 1500 to present. Ed. by J. Cracraft and D. Rowland. Cornell Univ. Press, 2003.
Cracraft J. The Petrine Revolution in Russian Architecture. Univ. of Chicago Press, 1988.
Hughes L. Russia’s First architectural books: A Chapter in Peter the Great’s Cultual Revolution. In: Russian avant-garde. Art and architecture. Guest ed. by Catherine Cooke. Architectural Design Profile. 47. 1983. Pp. 4–13.
Paperny V. Architecture in the Age of Stalin: Culture Two. Cambr. Univ. Press, 2002.


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