Stone Island

 The story of Novosibirsk’s first high-end residential building for cultural workers  07/18/2013, 22:24
Stone Island
Photography by Sergei Mordvinov and the S.N. Balandin History of Siberian Architecture Museum

Sib.fm continues its series of publications about Novosibirsk’s lost and half-forgotten architectural landmarks. This time, our subject is the first residential building in the city for arty intelligentsia, primarily the artists of the future Opera and Ballet Theatre. The artists’ house on Romanov Street had no architectural counterparts in Siberia, took pride of place as the longest residential construction in the area and retained its «island» status, not finding worthy «neighbours» even in the noughties.

Sib.fm’s editorial staff would like to thank the S.N. Balandin History of Siberian Architecture Museum for their assistance in preparing this article.

In the early 1930s, a special committee in charge of building the Novosibirsk Opera and Ballet Theatre (then the House of Science and Culture) undertook a new project — a residential building for guest artists from across the country. As it would have been unthinkable to settle future stars of the Siberian Coliseum in wooden huts, the artistic elite needed a new, preferably high-status building. That’s how one of the most striking examples of «one-off» construction, the Artists’ House, appeared in the city.

The Artists’ House stood out from the architectural trends of the time so much that it still remains to some extent unlike anything around it. Not least because of the fact that the building has an «insular» position within a city block, being in no way connected to neighbouring buildings.

Architects Boris Gordeev and Sergei Turgenev caught the essence of the transition from 1920s constructivism to Soviet neoclassicism and largely formulated its features. At the same time, the Artists’ House isn’t a graphic example of the change in architectural landmarks — it’s a little unique in every way.

The L-shaped building is conspicuous due to the rectangular recesses (caissons) on its façade, stained glass windows, rustic masonry on the ground floor and interesting cornices.

Such «big-city» techniques were tried out for the first time on the Metropolitan Hotel at the beginning of the century, but did not become widely adopted in the young Siberian city.

Shostakovich’s Second Piano Trio, written in 1944, is dedicated to the memory of Sollertinsky

During World War II, established Soviet scientist and musicologist Ivan Sollertinsky lived in the house. Novosibirsk opened a regional branch of the Union of Composers and put its name on the symphonic music map largely due to Sollertinsky, who became seriously ill and died in 1944.

For a long time, the Artists’ House was one of the longest residential buildings in Novosibirsk (the building is more than 55 metres in length). More symbolically, it was, and still is, home to theatrical dynasties with family trees that are just as long.

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in Russian

The building retained its residential function over the years, its layout and owners remaining unchanged — the Artists’ House was always mainly occupied by cultural workers. Nevertheless, its special intellectual aura hasn’t found a place in the list of unofficial urban legends and has essentially stopped meaning anything even for residents of the building. City authorities and estate agents don’t see it any great value in it either, leaving everything in the same unenviable insular position. The link with the other «island», the Theatre of Opera and Ballet, has probably been lost forever.

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