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Architectural Décor of Old Russia
February 26, 2009 19:42


In Old Russia, the country of boundless forests, where wood was the most accessible material, wooden architecture took a special place, gaining perfection, and had a great influence on Russian architecture as a whole.

One of the peculiarities of the Russian national dwelling was the steadiness of its main types, façade layouts and construction methods. At the same time, decorative elements, such as suspenders, vergeboards, window aprons, balconies, porches and other details were subject to change of artistic forms.

This led to a great diversity of decorative techniques and added individuality to peasants’ houses. Decorative forms in every region resulted in a big number of ornament types, thus making architecture more varied. Traditions of wood masters were passed on from generation to generation, with methods of wood carving detailed and perfected gradually. The Russian North and Middle Volga Region provided inimitable wood carved specimens. The northern carving with its simple ornaments of slant and straight lines, diamonds, rosettes, and grooves, followed traditions of ancient Novgorod.

Volga Region was the largest centre for artistic wood carving. It was here where the famous “ship” carving was developed, first made for Volga River vessels and then spread to house architecture to decorate house facades, gates, pillars, and household paraphernalia. Like embroidery the intricate patters depicting climber plants, fancy birds, mermaids, lions and human figures spread along the facades.

Decorative elements were located in special places of the house façade and were divided into certain types, such as construction-decorative parts (bracket suspenders, ceilings, binding bars, etc.), decorative parts (vergeboards, window aprons, balconies), and functional and decorative parts (porches, gates, and galleries).

Love for decorative patterns and sophisticated adornments in old Russian architecture was a natural outcome of developing ornamentality in folk art. Besides, decorative details made architectural forms more explicit, revealing the tectonics of constructions, and thus served for fuller implementation of the imagery concept.

The monumental and decorative sculpture, as well as relied décor of natural and artificial stone, metal, and polymers used for adornment of public and residential buildings date from the epoch of Peter the First’s reforms.

Peter the First “cut a window to Europe” allowing streams of “new technologies” to flood in through it. Moulding and stucco were unknown in the Old Russia. Sculpture and sculpture décor did not gain ground here because of the peculiar religious character of culture of the Russian people who adhered to Orthodox Christianity. Apart from rare exceptions white stone carved décor was used for adornment of churches.

The border of the 17th and 18th centuries became a one-way turning point in all spheres of Russian life.

The germination of new civic culture was related to a wide scope of stone building, with new technologies, new forms, new motives and new methods issuing the challenge for Russian architects: to master and creatively adapt the experience of European architecture, from methods of design, layout and arrangement of houses to types and motifs of decorating their interiors and facades.

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Tags: Russian Architecture Old Russian House Wooden Carving Old Russian Ornaments  

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