Street of Dreams
One of the first streets in Novosibirsk as a portal into Tsarist Russia 06/25/2013, 22:34
Sib.fm is starting a series of publications about Novosibirsk’s lost and half-forgotten architectural landmarks. The first story is about the residential area on historic Inskaya Street (in-SKY-a) and its value as an encyclopedia of city life. Inskaya bore witness to the rapid development of Novonikolaevsk (as Novosibirsk was known from its foundation in 1893 until 1926), was highly rated by merchants and Bolsheviks, has been both a backwater and a place of interest, survived a split into two parts and, perhaps most surprisingly of all for the Soviet Union, never once changed its name.
The Sib.fm editorial staff would like to thank the S.N. Balandin History of Siberian Architecture Museum for their assistance in preparing this article
Just a few hundred metres from one of the main transport corridors in the modern city of Novosibirsk lies a patch of urban fabric that has remained almost unchanged since before the Russian Revolution — a portal to Novonikolaevsk as it was in the first decades of its existence. This place is called Inskaya Street. The historical building density, or more precisely «thinness», has been preserved, as well as the appearance and use of many buildings, the rugged terrain and unique atmosphere.
At the same time, Inskaya is also home to iconic elements of the Soviet period and contemporary Russian history. In this sense, the street can serve as a guidebook to the stages of the city’s development, from the first wooden houses to modern hotel complexes.
The private residence of the Terentyev family of merchants dates back to the beginning of the 20th century. The building is actually made up of two structures: one is half-brick with a wooden upper floor — typical Siberian architecture of the time — and the second is a fully brick extension that was added later. The corner of the house used to be adorned with a balcony, which has since been lost, beneath the dome and spire. This «structure» would have doubtlessly attracted the attention of townspeople and gave guests the chance to quite literally look down on life in the city.
15% of the total living space in Novonikolaevsk was accounted for by brick buildings in 1927
The buildings on Inskaya have never been tightly packed together: the merchants resident there had large plots of land and equally sizeable resources for landscaping. Ordinary people did not lag behind either. They regularly planted trees on the street and prevented rubbish dumps from forming. In general, low-rise construction (the most typical style of development in Novosibirsk until 1950) naturally encourages people to care about not only their own homes, but also the surrounding area.
Another long-time resident of Inskaya Street is a building that was initially constructed in 1908. A decade later, the two-storey wooden house became the headquarters of the Communist Party District Committee. After Lenin’s death in 1924, about one thousand inhabitants of Novosibirsk joined the Party in order to support the «just cause» of the workers. The majority of them came to the District Committee building on Inskaya.
A trapezoidal tower with an attic and iron gate stands on the roof — an absolute rarity in the 120-year-old city.
Later, an impressively sized school was built on Inskaya — a striking representative of Stalinist neo-classicism and symbol of the era. The school yard served as a place for meetings, October Revolution anniversary celebrations and other formal occasions.
The arrival of the Communal Bridge, the first to cross the River Ob, in the mid-1950s split Inskaya Street down the middle. Since then, it has been unequally divided into one section with clear historical value and another with a «provincial» feel in the worst sense of the word.
Inskaya, with its palaces and poor neighbourhoods, became a street of contrasts.
The situation only worsened in the nineties and noughties. High-rise buildings began to spring up on the street and the amount of commercial property increased. The most notable example of the deformation of Inskaya’s historical space is the four-storey «Waterfront» hotel. The profile of other buildings changed too. For example, a children’s neuropsychiatric clinic took over the Terentyev residence.
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Despite the fact that the vast majority of houses on the street do not have listed building status, they all represent typical Novosibirsk architecture from the first third of the 20th century. Moreover, Inskaya retained its unusually steep (by Novosibirsk standards) hills, which in itself is a good reason to take a tour. Considering the current programme to restore historic buildings in the original core of the city, it seems that neighbouring Inskaya Street will also inevitably enter the itineraries of tourists and connoisseurs of urban antiquity. It has formed its own flavour, natural connection to the environment and image over the last hundred years. The street, having eluded a change in name, has earned the right to remain itself in all other aspects.