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Towering Contribution

 The story of the first and tallest water tower on Novosibirsk’s left bank  09/27/2013, 18:52
Towering Contribution
photography by sergei mordvinov and the s.n. balandin history of siberian architecture museum

Sib.fm continues to tell you all about Novosibirsk’s lost and half-forgotten architectural landmarks. This time, it’s the turn of the first water tower on Novosibirsk’s left bank and its significance in the development of the city. One of the first civil engineering works in the district, it remained the tallest building in the area and a town-planning reference point for several decades, served as a refuge for independent television and almost turned into a youth club.


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.

The government of Novosibirsk turned its attention to the left bank of the Ob in the 1920s. The left side of the river was historically populated before the right; a few old villages and settlements had been preserved. They later became part of the city and remained only in place names. Then, however, a real city, almost independent from neighbouring Novosibirsk, was planned for the left bank — the «Left Bank Sotsgorod» (Social City).

The reason for this «isolation» lies in the transport links between the two banks, which left much to be desired right up until the construction of the Communal Bridge at the end of the 1950s. Nevertheless, a development programme was started on the left bank as early as 1930. In particular, there was talk of creating a water supply system, a key element of which was to be a water tower. It was assumed that the new structure would serve approximately 50,000 residents of the left bank and meet the technical requirements of the «Sibcombine» plant.

The water tower’s capacity was 30,000 cubic meters per day: 17,000 for residents’ drinking water, the rest to be consumed by industrial facilities.

405 thousand people lived in Novosibirsk in the late 1930s

The architectural execution of the tower is fully consistent with the artistic spirit of the time. The mix of styles — outgoing constructivism and actively imposed neoclassicism — is more than evident. The central and largest tier is practically devoid of decorative detail, with strict square columns and ribbon windows. Right next to it — the pompous upper level, home to many adornments and intricate metal grills.

The water tower on the left bank is perhaps the most beautiful man-made object in Novosibirsk built for purely utilitarian purposes.

The eight-storey building was a natural high-rise and would have seemed like a true skyscaper amidst the left bank’s potato fields. Up until the late 50s, it remained the highest point in the area, which, by the way, had remained undeveloped. With time, «Tower» became the name of the entire nearby residential district. Thus, the water tower served as, among other things, the most important architectural object on the left bank, its reference point and its anchor for two decades.

48 public baths operated in Novosibirsk in 1939

With the advent of more modern and powerful water supply systems, the tower ceased to play such an important role in the life of the left bank.

For a few years, the tower was used as a warehouse, while in the 1980s a project was developed to reconstruct the building as a Youth Club. In the 90s, local TV company NTN-4 took up residence there, where it stayed until the mid noughties. Long-term residents affirm that the shape of the building featured in the company’s first title sequences and video clips.

Now, most of the water tower’s space is unused. It is surrounded by dense development and has completely lost its functional purpose. Despite the fact that the tower is a regionally listed building, it could be demolished in a few decades due to its state of disrepair. However, if the idea of arranging a branch of the City Museum within its walls is realised, the building will survive. The inhabitants of the left bank will surely be interested to know why their area evolved from a potato field into one half of the largest metropolis in Siberia.

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