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Scottish architects in tsarist Russia.

When the Scots architect William Hastie (1755-1832) designed the so-called Contract House in Kiev in 1815 he was not just carrying out one more commission in his role as head of Tsar Alexander I's town planning service but was involved in creating the most important economic institution in the whole of the Ukraine. For it was this building, Kiev's stock exchange, which was to be home to the annual winter Ukrainian `contract fair' at which contracts were signed for the wholesale trading of everything from handicrafts and manufactured goods to agricultural produce. Contracts were also drawn up here for the purchasing, selling and renting of property and land, loan agreements, dowries, wills and many other financial affairs. And far from being of purely domestic concern the fair was an international event, attracting landowners and merchants from as far afield as Britain, France, Denmark, Greece, Austria and Prussia. At the same time it was significant for the local population in that it provided the venue and occasion for a unique assembly of the nobility of the vast region. One of its prime reasons for meeting during the fair was to conduct local elections.

Hastie's Contract House (1815-17) was the first stone building of note to be constructed in the ancient Podil quarter of Kiev after a catastrophic fire in the summer of 1811 had reduced the area, and with it well over half the residential edifices of the city, to ashes. Hastie, who had been working in Russia for nearly thirty years by this time, was initially brought in to plan the redevelopment of the Podil and this he did in 1812. Towards the end of that year he arrived in Kiev to see with his own eyes how the regular plan of wide, straight streets and squares he had drawn up in St Petersburg could be adapted to the site conditions. However, the war with Napoleon interrupted the realisation of the plan and only in 1815 could work begin on the Contract House which was to be constructed on the new Contract Square on the site of the old City Council building.

Originally intended by Hastie to be the right-hand part of a symmetrical complex of buildings with the City Council in the middle and the Post Office to the left, the Contract House was built in a restrained, strictly geometrical, Doric style with two colonnaded facades facing the centre of the square. It consisted of two floors, on the second of which Hastie created a concert hall, a key musical venue in nineteenth-century Kiev. This was to host performances by ballet troupes from Madrid, Italian opera companies, the Belgian cellist Servais, the beautiful Italian soprano Angelica Catalani, and, perhaps most significantly, Franz Liszt. Liszt's first performance in the city, in late january 1847, coincided with the Contract Fair. The majority of the audience consisted of those who had converged to conduct their annual business in Hastie's building. Their appreciation of Liszt's concert was to have far-reaching consequences for the musical world: for among those present were the business contacts of Princess Carolyne von Sayn-Wittgenstein, one of the richest landowners in the Ukraine, and herself in Kiev for the fair. They persuaded the Princess to attend Liszt's second concert on February 2nd, whereupon the two met, fell in love, and within a year were living together in Weimar, Liszt having given up his career as a travelling virtuoso to concentrate on composition.

Hastie's role in establishing the architectural face of modern Russia was literally monumental. But it was not an isolated occurrence, for the Scots' influences stretched from medicine to freemasonry, from the flax trade to the iron industry, from Walter Scott's impact on literature to Samuel Greig's command of Catherine the Great's navy. Yet it was in architecture above all else that Scotland was to provide the most important visible changes in the Russian Empire. This said, architectural historians have tended to concentrate almost exclusively on the Russian career of Charles Cameron, Catherine's court architect, without fully recognising his place or legacy in the architecture that came after him. While this has allowed analysis of the introduction of the Neo-Palladian style into Russia, the other two major areas of Scottish influence, town planning and the adoption of the Gothic Revival, have remained largely neglected.

The reasons for Catherine's turn to Scotland for the builders of her new Russia were complicated. The fame of Colen Campbell, author of Vitruvius Britannicus, and Robert Adam and William Chambers, both architects to the crown, meant that the Scots had shown themselves capable of providing a viable, brilliant form of synthetic Neo-Classical architecture. if this style could be transferred to the Russian Empire it would signify the rising of Russia as a dominant player in the European hegemony of nations and, usurping the place of Turkey and Islam, as a cultural force. Thus the empress collected the drawings of Robert Adam, appreciated his ingenuity in unlocking the secrets of antique design, and sought suitable followers in his tradition. Further, the Scots were known for their practical capabilities and knowledge of modern construction techniques. In addition, they could be easily enticed out of Georgian Britain due to the shortage of work and the disaffection of some following the failure of the Jacobite risings.

In fact, Cameron, reputedly a Jacobite, was to be the instigator of a distinct `Cameron School', which first began to emerge from his work for Catherine's `ideal' town of Sophia. The laboratory nature of this new town, a model strategically built under Catherine's nose at her Tsarskoye Selo palace outside St Petersburg (she could view the progress of its construction from the Neo-Palladian Cameron Gallery there), was not only to bring about the establishment of a Scottish colony there but also to attract such young architects as Nikolay Lvov and Ivan Starov. And it was these architects who, in the process of carrying forth Cameron's architectural principles, were physically to realise Catherine's 1775 decree concerning the reform of the political and administrative structure of the Russian provinces, most notable through the construction of local administrative centres. Furthermore, it was Cameron's Scottish assistant, William Hastie, who, under Alexander I, was to continue the tasks he had commenced.

Cameron's role, then, must be considered not simply as the designer of palaces, for which he has become well known, but as a pivotal part in the development of Catherine's internal restructuring of Russia. Thus he was able to move from planning individual palaces to the design of a complete residential ensemble, with palaces, parks, villages and a town, that was totally without precedent in its vast scale. This was to act both as a paradigm for the new Russia and an indicator of the strength of a state whose eyes were firmly cast towards the shores of the Black Sea and expansion into the Ottoman Empire.

Sophia was founded in 1779, the year that Cameron arrived in Russia. its name was highly symbolic, being associated with contemporary gnostic usage as `the foundation' and the female creator of order, as well as with the Greek interpretation of wisdom and the Holy Spirit. Further, it also alluded to the town's founder (Catherine's real name being Sophia), and to Sophia, Peter the Great's half-sister and rival, as if in mimicry of the St Petersburg of Peter the Great. This hints at the. significance it held for the empress, who after years of war was able to fully concentrate on reshaping the infrastructure of her empire. And like St Petersburg, Sophia, built on virgin land, began with modest wooden houses, a regular network of streets and a cathedral. It further echoed the scheme of its predecessor in that it very quickly became apparent that the envisaged reorganisation, designed to bring the Russian system closer to west European models, needed the minds and hands of west Europeans.

The situation resulted in Cameron's arrival and his subsequent understanding, after continual problems in construction and difficulties in communication, that the local workforce needed to be replaced by outsiders. For him this meant seventy-three Scots tradesmen who replied to an advertisement he placed in the Edinburgh Evening Courant on january 21st, 1784. By early May, contracts had been signed and the Betsey and Brothers sailed from Leith with the workers and families on board. By June, this group of around 140 persons was settled in Sophia, in a street of small, temporary wooden houses built by Cameron. The close-knit nature of this colony was demonstrated by the important role that the new Imperial Scottish Lodge played in its life, acting as it did as a craftsmen's guild for many of the workers. The lack of integration with the local community was furthered by the colony's physical and mental distance from other Russians, being fifteen miles from St Petersburg and isolated by existing social barriers from the serf workers.

Yet at least one Scot found his way out of this seclusion within a year. This was Adam Menelaws (c. 1750-1831), from Edinburgh. Menelaws had signed up as a master vaulter, and as such he was to be responsible for one of the most crucial of Cameron's Tsarskoye Selo assignments: the construction of the vaults in the Cold Baths, the extremely luxurious recreational complex at the southern end of Catherine's palace. This had been one of Cameron's first projects at Tsarskoye Selo and it had hitherto resulted in a series of failures and accidents, not least with the roof which kept falling in.

Having helped supply a roof structure that did not collapse, in May 1785 Menelaws was hired as assistant to the prodigious Nikolay Lvov, who by this time had commenced his own adaptation of the innovative Palladianism which Cameron was expressing in projects such as the seminal Cathedral of Sophia (1782-88) with its innovative use of the Greek Doric order and its interpretation of the Villa Rotonda, Vicenza. Menelaws was to stay with Lvov until the latter's death in 1803. He first worked with him in Torzhok, a new regional centre one hundred miles north-west of Moscow. There he was employed in constructing the Palladianist Boris and Gleb Cathedral, the foundation stone of which was laid by Catherine on June 9th, 1785. The following summer, together with Hastie this time, he was taken by the ailing Lvov to prospect for coal in the Valday region one hundred miles north from Torzhok. The discoveries these three men made by the River Msta at Borovichi were ultimately to see an end to the Russian dependence on coal imported from Britain and wood taken from their own forests. However, it was not until 1797, and Tsar Paul's reign, that Lvov and Menelaws had the opportunity to develop the local coal industry. Then, with Lvov having been appointed by the government to supervise this development, Menelaws was sent to Britain to buy much needed machinery. In addition, the Scot continued his own search for alternative fuel sources, one of his most important finds being peat at Cherkizovo just north-east of Moscow.

In the intervening period Menelaws was in charge of the construction of Lvov's most prestigious commission, the `Greek' Palladianist St Joseph's Cathedral in Mogilev (now destroyed) that Lvov had begun in the early 1780s for Catherine. This was a project that symbolised the sights the Russian empress had on extending her southern borders, and which again utilised a play of name associations for its founder. For it had been in Mogilev in 1780 that Catherine had signed the alliance with Emperor Joseph II of Austria against Turkey. Mogilev, almost halfway to the Black Sea from Sophia, and which Russia had gained through the partition of Poland in 1772, was conceived by Catherine to be the administrative centre of a newly created province on Russia's western borders. As such it was to be one of the first towns built according to the Sophia model.

In the two decades that Menelaws worked with Lvov he was essentially his right-hand man: a consultant who could contribute his own ideas and who was to be trusted to supervise projects when his master was engaged elsewhere or ill, as he frequently was. This meant, for instance, that from 1797-1802 he was to be responsible for the running of Lvov's Schools of Earth Construction at Nikolskoye, Lvov's estate near Torzhok and Tyufelev Grove on the banks of the River Moskva in southern Moscow. These were revolutionary new institutions designed for the instruction of peasants from all fifty Russian provinces. They would be sent to learn the new clay construction methods worked out by Lvov and Menelaws in order that they returned to their localities and commenced building in materials other than wood. By 1802, 815 men had passed through the schools and acquired the necessities of the new craft.

Menelaws' work for Lvov brought him into contact with many of the wealthiest Russian landowners and intelligentsia. At the turn of the century, with Lvov terminally ill, he supervised the construction and was probably partly responsible for the design of Count Aleksey Razumovsky's mansion on Gorokhovoy Field, in east Moscow. Again this turned out to be a bold essay in Neo-Palladianism, which was distinguished by its reference to British eighteenth-century architecture and its fine park that stretched to the River Yauza. However, it was to be eclipsed by Menelaws' wholly independent residences for the Razumovsky family - the estates at Yahotyn (1806), one hundred miles east of Kiev, and Gorenki (c. 1800) near Balashikha, fifteen miles east of Moscow. The beautiful neo-classical mansion, picturesque park and botanical garden of the latter attracted the attention of the Scottish horticultural writer John Claudius Loudon when he visited in 1814:

Gorenki is remarkable for its botanical riches, and an immense extent of glass. The grounds are of great extent. A natural forest of birch and wild cherry clothes the park, and harmonises with the artificial scenes. The mansion is highly elegant; and the attached conservatories and stoves, and decorated lawn, form a splendid and delightful scene, unequalled in Russia ... The botanical garden presents the most extensive private establishment not only in Russia but perhaps in the world.

While Menelaws was engaged on these and other commissions by the unimaginably rich Razumovskys, Cameron was also building a luxurious palace and residential settlement for them at Baturyn in the Ukraine. And simultaneously Hastie, after several years assisting Cameron at Tsarskoye Selo, was establishing an independent career as an architect. Having been taken into Catherine's service in 1792, Hastie, known in Russia as Vasily Geste, had then produced exquisite albums of architectural designs in the Neo-Palladian and Neo-Gothic styles. Much admired by the empress, these resulted, in 1795, in him being appointed chief architect to Prince Zubov, the Governor of the new Ekaterinoslav and Crimean provinces in the south. There, however, despite contributing to the restoration of the Khan's Palace at Bakhchisarai, a project on which Cameron had also been engaged following Russia's acquisition of the Crimea in 1783, most of his work appears to have gone no further than the paper on which it was drawn.

From 1801, under the new regime of Alexander, Hastie began another stage in his career, this time based in St Petersburg. It commenced through his contact with Charles Gascoigne, the former managing director of Carron founders, Falkirk, who was then modernising the Russian ironworking industry, and James Wilson, a smith who had arrived together with Hastie in 1784. Thus he was employed to design the Admiralty's Izhora Ironworks at Kolpino near Tsarkoye Selo (1801-08). Gascoigne was to be director of the factory, his deputy being Wilson's son Alexander - yet another Scottish-Russian innovator, who in 1812 designed Russia's first iron skeleton building, the flax mill at the Alexandrovsk Works, St Petersburg. Hastie's ambitious plans at Kolpino included: the widening of the nearby River lzhora; a 250-metre long curved dam and a reservoir; two canals leading to huge waterwheels designed to drive the factory's machines; the workshop buildings, which were symmetrically distributed around the reservoir; the neo-classical administration block with quadrangular clocktower; a large semi-circular courtyard; and houses for both managers and workers.

Unsurprisingly Kolpino soon became the most advanced ordnance works in Russia, Hastie's success there leading to his appointment as a bridge builder in the newly created Ministry of Waterways. Both jobs were central to Alexander's reform policies. Indeed bridge building was a key concern in the envisaged development of Russia and it had led to the Tsar unsuccessfully attempting to lure Thomas Telford to work for him. And, in contrast to Catherine's extensive Utopian worldview, the initial practicality of Alexander's nineteenth-century vision served to unite the latest technological achievements with a relatively progressive social and cultural programme.

In the first place, St Petersburg, built on an archipelago of small islands, urgently required permanent bridges. Hastie's first, designed in 1805 and built in 1806, was the vital Police Bridge over the River Moika at its juncture with the city's main artery Nevsky Prospekt. Using designs based on Robert Fulton's ideas in Treatise on the Improvement of Canal Navigation (1796), this was to be Russia's first cast-iron transport bridge. Almost forty metres long it was made from small box sections of iron bolted together to form a gentle curve between piling platforms. The cheap, light and elegant design succeeded to the point that it was to become a standard for a series of twelve bridges to be built by Hastie and others in St Petersburg until the 1840s.

Having thus proved himself, Hastie was appointed chief architect of Tsarskoye Selo in 1808. There he planned a new town, another regional centre, on the northern side of the palace and Elizabeth Park, that simultaneously deprived Sophia, on the southern side, of its status. His plan, not dissimilar to Cameron's for Sophia, consisted of a geometric network of streets laid out around a central square in the middle of which was sited a cathedral. It, and the regularised, functionalist buildings which accompanied it, captured the imagination of Alexander, who, seeing the need for standardised projects in his town improvement plans for the whole of Russia, appointed Hastie head of the Russian town planning service. And it was in this role that he was able not only to influence the planning of Moscow after the Great Fire of 1812, but also to transform the character of most major cities in the Russian empire, from Kiev, Vilnius and Smolensk in the west, Ekaterinoslav in the south, Krasnoyarsk, Tomsk and Omsk in the Siberian east, and Onega on the White Sea coast in the north. Yet while Hastie's plans and building types represented a practical approach to much needed urban development, they were not always appreciated by the locals, who considered them representative of distant and autocratic Russian imperialist power and out of touch with indigenous styles and even local geography. That said, their rationalism prevailed and as a result many survive as the core of the present-day cities.

During this period Menelaws also returned to St Petersburg where he was to enter the last and most significant stage of his career. With Lvov having died in 1803 it was Razumovsky, now the Minister of Public Education, who directed his path towards Alexander's new Construction Committee in the Ministry of Internal Affairs. Now over sixty, he began to design public and private city parks, among them the picturesque park to the Mikhail Palace (presently the Russian Museum, 1819-25) for Alexander's younger brother Grand Prince Mikhail and that of the Anichkov Palace (1817-20) for the Tsar's other brother, the future Tsar Nicholas, both in collaboration with the Italian architect Carlo Rossi.

But Menelaws' most important court commissions, and his undoubted masterpieces, were to be the imperial palace and park ensembles at Tsarskoye Selo and Peterhof. For it was these, particularly in their original advancement of the Gothic Revival, that were to prove axial moments in Russian architectural history. The Tsarskoye Seto project (1818-30) involved the transformation of the so-called Menagerie', the greater part of the vast forested Alexander Park. This, together with Cameron's Sophia and Hastie's Tsarskoye Selo towns, was to complete the trilogy of Scottish planning around Catherine's palace. With the help of his Russian assistant Ivan Ivanov, Menelaws created a unique gesamtkunstwerk of landscapes, ponds, grottoes, gates, lodges, pavilions and other miscellaneous buildings. Mostly in red brick, the latter included the castellated Llama House (1820-22) for the Tsar's collection of the South American mammals: a wooden, 'Indian Style' Elephant pavilion (1828, now destroyed), which until the early twentieth century housed elephants gifted by the Emir of Bukhara and the Negus of Abyssinia among others; the elegantly Gothicised Pensioners' Stables (1827-29) with its roundel for the Tsar's retired horses who were to be buried in the neighbouring equine cemetery; the earlier and more primitive Gothic farm (1818-22) built for the Tsar's cattle-breeding experiments; the six-storey thirty-eight-metre high quadrangular White (Heirs) Tower (1821-27), an exotic Gothic residence for the Tsar's sons; the artificially ruined Chapel (1825-28); and the Arsenal (1819-34).

Of these, the Chapel and Arsenal had most symbolic significance. The romantic Scottish-style first, with its eight-pinnacled pyramidal spire, was Tsar Nicholas' private house of prayer. With stained glass windows, stone angels, a beautiful seven-feet tall white Carrara marble crucifix commissioned from the German sculptor Johann von Dannecker as well as an Egyptian sarcophagus sent from Alexandria by Count Tolstoy, the chapel evoked a strong sense of antique mysticism and spiritual correctness. This was correlated with the Arsenal, sited at the centre of the Menagerie's radiating paths, symbolising the strength and historic place of Russia in the world hegemony of nations. The Arsenal, guarded by a team of twenty war veterans, stood like a great Gothic castle with four massive hexagonal crenallated corner towers. The two main floors, also lit by stained glass, included a library, study, reception hall and Hall of Knights. In this octagonal chamber, with coats of arms of the Russian provincial governors decorating the walls, was kept the Tsar's five thousand piece collection of arms, his trophies of war (including personal belongings of Napoleon), ethnographic and archaeological collections, rare eastern saddle-cloths, even Catherine the Great's walking stick. The Arsenal was also to accommodate `Carousel' festivities, a sort of pageant with the imperial family and court dressed up in medieval costumes.

Menelaws' work at Tsarskoye Selo was not restricted to the Menagerie for between the southern edge of the town and Sophia he created, together with the architect Vasily Stasov, a new estate with a neo-classical dacha (1817-25) for the Interior Minister County Kochubey, notable for its graceful semi-rotunda entrance with lonic colonnade. In addition, to the north on the road to Kuzmino village he built the highly distinctive Egyptian gates (1827-30). These were given a pair of two-storied battered pylons that served as lodges and which were built in brick clad in cast-iron. The iron, which paid tribute to the quality of casting at the Alexandrovsk Works (run by Matthew Clark, yet another Scot), was covered in reliefs of stylised Egyptian figures copied from a recent French study of Egyptian traditions.

The play of exotic and ancient associations, together with Menelaws' skill as a picturesque planner, was to be continued with a flourish in his final commission, the Alexandria palace and park ensemble at Peterhof, some thirty miles north-west. There, in the 144-hectare park running down to the Gulf of Finland, he constructed a further series of Neo-Gothic buildings, among them the highly ornate, cubic Alexander Nevsky Chapel (1829-33), built to a design by Karl Friedrich Schinkel; the simple Farmer's Palace (1828-30) and, most importantly, the Cottage Palace (1826-29). The latter, created as a summer residence for Tsar Nicholas and his Prussian wife Alexandra, comprised a two-storied house with garret for the Tsar's naval study. Here the emperor's love of medieval chivalry and Walter Scott was expressed with all the eloquence of a Russian Abbotsford. Abounding in references to the 1828-29 'holy' war with Turkey, the abiding tone of the house is again Gothic, this being the style of all variety of features, from the window tracery, ironwork, mouldings, murals, furniture, spiral stairs and fittings.

As a result, the Cottage most fully embodied the Russian version of the Gothic Revival and provided a vital impulse for its widespread dissemination and integration into the architectural vocabulary of nineteenth-century Russia. Indeed, it was this tendency, which reached its climax with the Scottish-owned Muir & Mirrielees department store built in Moscow in 1908-10, that was to be the last of the three primary aspects that constituted the Scottish impact on Russian architectural history.

The authors would like to acknowledge the generous funding of The British Council, The Royal Society of Edinburgh, the Caledonian Research Foundation and the Leverhulme Trust which made possible the research on which this article is based.

FOR FURTHER READING: T. Talbot Rice et al, Charles Cameron 1740-1812 (Edinburgh, 1967); A.J. Schmidt, `William Hastie, Scottish planner of Russian cities', Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society vol. 114., no. 3, June 1970; A. Cross, `In Cameron's Shadow: Adam Menelaws, Stonemason turned architect', Scottish Slavonic Review, Autumn 1991, no. 17.

Dr Jeremy Howard is lecturer in the School of art History at the University of St Andrews, and is the author of art Nouveau: International and national styles in Europe (Manchester University Press, 1996).

Dr Sergei Kuznetzow is bread of historical research at the Stroganov Palace, St Petersburg.
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Author:Howard, Jeremy; Kuznetsov, Sergei
Publication:History Today
Date:Feb 1, 1996
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