Unusual buildings: stories and legends

Moscow is a city with an amazing mix of architecture from different eras. Walking along the city’s old streets can provide surprising insight into the imagination of architects: merchant buildings from past centuries, traditional Moscow buildings that perfectly blend into structures from the Soviet era. We suggest taking a look at some of the most extraordinary buildings in our city. Behind each one is a history of Moscow and its residents, and sometimes mind-blowing secrets. Each one is a fascinating journey into the past.

Arseny Morozov House

One of the most unusual houses in Moscow is located on Vozdvizhenka 16. It’s an intricate mansion that once belonged to the noble Moscow merchant Arseny Morozov. The building is considered a federal architectural monument, but not many people know that Muscovites didn’t start appreciating the site until the early 2000s. Prior to this, it had unanimously been dubbed the “fool’s home.”

In the beginning of the 1890s, a member of a wealthy merchant family Arseny Morozov decided to build an unusual home on a plot of land he received as gift for his 25th birthday. The only architect he approved of was Viktor Mazyrin.

The friends traveled to Spain and Portugal together, where they saw the Palacio Nacional da Pena on top of a hill. The combination of different architectural styles (Spanish-Moorish, Gothic, Renaissance and Manueline) left an unforgettable impression on them. Upon his return to Moscow, Mazyrin sketched the design of the house, which became an echo of the Portuguese miracle.

The house has a bit of everything: the portal of the main entrance with towers on the sides in neo-Mauritanian style, twisted columns and a scattering of stucco molding in the form of cockleshells side by side with classical columns. Even more variety of styles await visitors inside the house. There is a ceremonial dining room in the form of a "knight's hall," baroque rooms, Arabic and Chinese influences. A small hanging garden was built as well.

The house on Vozdvizhenka was also known for elaborate banquets. It wasn’t tough to get people together. The uncle of the owner, the inveterate theatrical Savva Morozov, brought over a lot of his friends, including writer Maxim Gorky. Arseny Morozov lived in his house until his death in 1908.

During the revolution, the house on Vozdvizhenka 16 was the headquarters of anarchists. But by spring of 1918, the house became part of the Proletariat theatre. The first travelling troupe performed Sergei Eisenstein’s plays here. Over the course of 10 years, the theatre was visited by Vsevolod Meyerhold and Vladimir Mayakovsky. Sergey Yesenin, who moved to Moscow from St. Petersburg, spent a few months living in the house’s attic, which was home to poet Sergey Klichkov.

During the Soviet era, the building was dubbed “The House of Friendship.” The new owner of the building, the People's Commissariat of Foreign Affairs, used the building to house the Japanese embassy until 1940. During WWII, the building housed the British office and the editorial staff of the British newspaper “The British Ally.” In the postwar years, the house was occupied by Indian diplomats for two years.

In the 60's the mansion was again at the center of social life. The new owner, the Union of Soviet Societies of Friendship and Cultural Relations with the Peoples of Foreign Countries, used the house the hold conferences, film screenings and meetings with foreign cultural figures. In the twenty-first century, Morozov’s house received the status of the Government House of Receptions. Now, only official foreign delegations can see the unusual interiors of the once sensational mansion.

The Tea House

The Tea House on Myasnitskaya 19 is a bright and alluring house. The Chinese-style pagoda was built at the order of Sergey Perlov. He was a fourth-generation Perlov – a famous merchant dynasty, which celebrated the 100 year anniversary of the family business on January 1st, 1887. On the same day, the Perlovs were granted nobility status. Over the course of a century, the Perlovs had become the tea kings of Russia, on par with the Ryabushinkiys, the Morozovs, the Prokhorovs, the Botkins, and the Abrikosovs. By the end of the 19th century, the Perlovs owned 88 stores in Russia and Europe, including 14 stores in the center of Moscow.

The plot was purchased by Sergey Perlov in 1875. Prior to this, the land was owned by other famous noblemen: Nikon Volkov, Captain Grigory Volkonsky, Princess Vyazemskaya, Major-General Lev Izmailov and the Kusovnikovs. In 1891, after the former buildings had been demolished, architect R. Klein started the construction of a new three-story house in the style of late Renaissance. However, Perlov’s business connection with China prompted the owner to redo the facade Chinese-style, which gave the building a unique look and served as excellent advertisement for the business. Moreover, a new kind of architecture was becoming popular in Russia at the time – Romantic Historicism, which was defined by a return to the Gothic, Roman, and Old Russian styles, and sometimes even old Eastern architecture.

Work on creating the future “tea house” was assigned to the famous interior design master K. Gippius, who completed the project in 1895-1896.

A variety of Chinese ornaments whimsically intertwined with mystical dragons completely changed the appearance of the house, which looked like a colorful curious box brought from distant wanderings. Particularly fascinating was the two-level pagoda tower, crowning the building in the center of the facade.

An avid fan of Chinese art, Sergey Perlov kept his collection of Chinese paintings and porcelain inside the building.

During the Soviet era, the Tea House was owned by the government. It was used as an apartment building for some time, and was in disrepair by 1990. The best specialists worked to restore the building for twelve years. Now, like many years ago, the building houses a tea shop that holds regular tea and coffee tastings.

Margarita’s Gothic Mansion

The brainchild of famous Moscow architect Lev Kekushev is a unique ornament on Ostozhenka Street. The gothic mansion is considered to be Margarita’s mansion by fans of Mikhail Bulgakov, author of The Master and Margarita. The book’s fans came to this conclusion from the description in the novel, which talks about a “gothic mansion” on “one of the alleys near Arbat” and a bedroom in the tower of the mansion.

The house in Ostozhenka 19 looks like a medieval mansion with an asymmetrical composition and a tall tower. To create a complex composition, the architect used buildings of different sizes, decorating them with intricate stucco molding with a plant motif carefully crafted by the master. The combination of pink and white colors in the decoration of the house, the tent tower, and elegant window bindings give the building a special romantic feel. The main street facade used to be decorated with a three-meter sculpture of a lion, made by Austrian architect Otto Wagner. Unfortunately, the figure of the lion was not preserved.

The house’s facades with rich, prominent panels are particularly unusual. Mountain ash flowers, leaves of hemp and chestnut come together to form an expressive ornament. In the Art Nouveau style, where nature itself was the main source of inspiration, such expressive details often had their own undertones. It can be assumed that Kekushev also endowed the elements of the decor with a secret meaning: mountain ash protected from adversity and dislocation, hemp denoted peace, and chestnut stood for purity and innocence. Kekushev combined the idea of a conservative house-fortress with ideas that were quite innovative at the time.

The house is now a cultural heritage site, and is home to the Defense Department of the Embassy of the Arab Republic of Egypt.

Chest of Drawers House

The story of this magnificent palace-house started in the 1760s, when Count Matvey Apraksin bought several land plots on Pokrovka. After examining all the buildings, Apraksin began the construction of his own manor house in 1766. It was completed in 1796. The house on Pokrovka 22 is a unique Elizabethan baroque monument. There are wings on both sides of the main house, which were originally one-story and are connected to the house with arches and crossings. Unfortunately, the name of the creator of this architectural masterpiece still remains unknown – some researchers attribute this house to Bartolomeo Francesco Rastrelli himself or to some of the architects in his circle.

Count Apraksin owned the house on Pokrovka for a short time – in 1772 he sold the estate to Prince Dmitry Trubetskoy. The new owner belonged to the old and illustrious Trubetskoy family. He was a Guards Captain and had served in several wars. The Trubetskoy family moved to Pokrovka from the Kremlin (their Kremlin house was bought out by the Treasury to build the Senate buildings in its place). From there they transferred to a new manor and a house church of the Annunciation.

Trubetskoy added second floors to the wings of the manor, and in 1783 erected a new building with a stable on the far boundary of the property, resulting in the formation of a closed courtyard for the manor. Around this time, the house was given the dubious nickname "chest of drawers house" among Moscow inhabitants, and this branch of the Trubetskoy family was called "Trubetskoy-chest."

The house was badly damaged in a fire in 1812, and all the interior decoration was lost in the fire. Prince Ivan Trubetskoy, who inherited the estate after his father's death, restored the building. The facade of the house was left unchanged, but the interiors are decorated in the style of classicism. The beginning of the 19th century was the heyday for the house on Pokrovka. It was one of the most famous houses in Moscow. Balls and receptions were often held here, and many famous people used to come to the house. The owners of the house were related to the Pushkin family and the young Alexander Sergeevich visited this house multiple times and danced at the balls here.

In the middle of the 19th century, the estate gradually began to turn into a profitable possession. The wings were turned into apartments that were rented out. The main house of the manor was adapted for study rooms and a boarding house. Many famous people studied in the gymnasium over the years – philosopher Vladimir Solovyov, director Konstantin Stanislavsky, writer Alexei Remizov, and scientist Nikolai Zhukovsky.

The gymnasium was closed after the Revolution of 1917, and the church was abolished. The house was turned into communal apartments and housed various offices. Now, Pokrovka 22 is home to a geophysics research and development institute, as well as the Russian Charity and Health Foundation.

Ding’s Villa

The villa on Rybinskaya Street 22 was built in 1902-1903 by architect Alexander Kalmykov. The building’s yellow walls are decorated with ornate stucco ribbons and wreaths, enormous windows and three majolica panels with landscapes. Two panels in cartouches on the main facade depict the southern views with cypresses, mountains and a fountain. The third panel on the turret depicts yellow crocuses blooming at sunset and a bird soaring above the field. The rustling turret roof is crowned with a high spire-needle with a weathercock in the form of a coat of arms of Moscow. The elegant fence and gate of the mansion with a floral pattern are also striking. The owner of the mansion on Rybinskaya Street was a major industrialist and owner of a pasta factory, German Johann Leonard Ding. He came to Moscow from Hamburg and founded a pasta factory, which was the first pasta factory in Moscow and the second one in the Russian Empire.

The factory, which made pasta, chocolate, and pastries, was initially located in Zamoskvorechye. However, by 1900 Ding needed to expand. He bought a large plot of land in the Sokolnicheskaya part of the city, by the Ribynka River, and built a new factory there. The pasta plant boomed, but negative attitudes toward Germans during WWI forced Ding to sell the factory and return to Germany. After the Revolution, the plant was nationalized and transformed into State Pasta Factory No.1, which has been making products under the brand name “Extra M” since 1993.

These days, Ding’s former home is available for rent. The beautiful two-story building has a total area of 1,073.6 square meters with a fence and a parking lot for 10 cars.

Fairytale House

This house is one of the most beautiful buildings in Moscow, and was dubbed “Fairytale House” by Muscovites a couple of years after it was first erected. The house was commissioned by the famous railway engineer Petr Pertsov. In 1905, he acquired a corner landplot at the intersection of Prechistenskaya Naberezhnaya, Soimonovsky Proezd, and Kursoviy Pereulok.

Pertsov decided to erect an entire complex, including apartments he would rent out and a separate section for him and his family. A committee of architects and artists, including Franz Shekhtel, Viktor Vasnetsov, Vasily Surikov, Sergei Soloviev, Vasily Polenov, Illarion Ivanov-Shits and other prominent representatives of the Moscow creative intelligentsia, was created in order to design the house. Among the projects submitted for the competition, the works of Apollinaria Vasnetsov and Sergey Malyutin were given the most attention.

Sergei Malyutin was a master able to translate the aspirations of Peter Pertsov – to build a house that expressed remarkable traditions of Russian architecture. Russian national art was close to Malyutin, so it’s no coincidence that in 1898 he painted the modern symbol of Russia – the first matryoshka.

Motifs from popular European Gothic and Russian Russian architecture of the 17th century came together in the design of Pertsov's apartment building thanks to the unifying aestheticism of the modernist style. Russian influence is obvious in details like the wrought-iron lattice over a pointed pincer and in the design of terem-balconies, one of which received its own special name – "The Dream of the Princess." The panel that adorns the facade from the side of the embankment shows images of the solar Slavic deity Yarila, watching the Battle of the Ox and the Bear – the symbolic animal deities of Perun and Veles.

In 1908, a unique theatre-cabaret called “The Bat” was established on one of the basements of the Fairytale House. Famous actors of the Moscow Art Theater took part in the plays: Olga Knipper-Chekhova, Vasily Kachalov, famous directors Konstantin Stanislavsky and Vladimir Nemirovich-Danchenko. Alexander Vertinsky sang here and Anton Pavlovich Chekhov attended the performances.

The owner, Petr Pertsov, lived in the house up until his immigration in 1923. During the Soviet era, the house was handed over to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Today, the house on Soymonovskiy Proyezd 1 is still occupied by one of the offices of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation. Unfortunately, entry is very limited.

Loskov’s Apartment Building

There is a romantic castle with a high corner tower topped by a pointed dome on Mansurovsky Pereulok 4. The house stands out among other buildings with its uncharacteristic view of Moscow and unusual details. This original house was built as an apartment building in 1905-1906 by the architect Zelenko, and commissioned by the wealthy peasant Loskova. When designing the house, Zelenko took advantage of the expressive means of the northern variant of the modernist style, which is rare for Moscow. The project was based on the romantic image of the national dwellings of Nordic countries: Norway, Sweden, Denmark and Finland. The house looks like a fortified castle, protected from all the problems of the tough northern climate. The facade is covered with a roughly processed stone at the basement and first floor levels. The windows under the roof of the corner turret resemble loopholes, which further strengthens the parallels between Loskov's house and European castles.

General Aleksey Brusilov, famous for the Brusilov Offensive during WWI, lived in one of the apartments for about ten years starting in 1916.

After renovations, which took place in 2010-2012, the Loskov house looks much like it did when it was first built. It is now home to the Syrian embassy.

Melnikov House

This single-apartment house, a world-famous monument of Soviet avant-garde architecture, was built in 1927-1929 on Krivoarbatsky Lane 10 in accordance with the design developed by the outstanding Soviet architect Konstantin Melnikov for himself and his family.

Konstantin Melnikov was an amazing man for his time. At the beginning of his career, the architect's projects made a splash at the Paris exhibition, and he immediately received a lot of prestigious orders. But Melnikov left for Russia, rejecting all proposals. In Moscow, he built several worker’s clubs. As a reward, the Moscow City Council decided to give architect Melnikov a plot in the center of Moscow for the construction of his own house.

Melnikov's house has no equivalents. It consists of two cylindrical buildings that penetrate each other and has no 90 degree angles either on the outside or on the inside. Melnikov believed that the use of round forms leads to savings in building material. Proceeding from this idea, Melnikov's house was built from the cheapest materials – brick and wood. Construction waste was used for heating the premises. The area of ​​the building is also used as economically as possible: inside the house is very spacious, supporting beams are absent, there are no corners, everything is based only on carefully calculated wall construction.

The tes placed on the edge forms a grid of walls along which the windows could freely move – some openings were laid and other openings were left open. The windows are hexagonal in shape. There is not a system of rooms in the way we typically think of them: the size and shape of the rooms, as well as the height of the walls vary (from 2.6 to 5 meters). 9 rooms occupy 60 square meters, while a living room and a workshop get a full 50! There is even a terrace, but there are no closed or isolated rooms. This experiment with light and space was extremely bold.

Windows are especially important. There are 36 honeycomb windows in the workshop, which allowed Melnikov to avoid the appearance of shadows. In the bedroom, the windows alternate rhythmically, scattering light. In general, the bedroom was a real sleep laboratory, in which there were 3 floored beds for all members of the family. Everything in this room was aimed at creating an environment conducive to sleep.

The only entrance to the building is in the cut off part of the small cylinder, facing Krivoarabat Pereulok. The whole facade occupies a huge window located above the entrance. Above there is an inscription: "Architect Konstantin Melnikov." According to the author himself, this house and the inscription on it are meant to affirm the significance of each person.

Konstantin Melnikov died in his own house at the age of 83. His son, artist Viktor Melnikov, dreamed of creating a museum dedicated to Melnikov’s work in the house, so he carefully guarded everything connected to his name, did not sell any of his things, and worked hard. It was said that Konstantin Melnikov built a temple, and his son painted it.

The building has been handed over to the Shchusev State Museum of Architecture. There is a memorial part of the exposition dedicated to Konstantin and Viktor Melnikov.

House with Tiles

When you exit Sukharevskaya metro station on the right, you immediately see this unusual house with emerald tiles. This is Miansarova’s apartment house, built in accordance with a design developed by Sergei Rodionov in 1908-1912. By the beginning of the 20th century, the modern style was already well known in Russia. Miansarova’s house is a great example of how new ideas blended with original Russian style of architecture. Vertical, clearly marked lines that make the house look sleek, visual division of the roof into separate elements – all this gives the house a lighter, modern look. At the same time, the characteristic features of the Neo-Russian style remain – contrasting catchy colors, the decoration of the facade with colored ceramics, the use of tile inserts in the lining of the corbel arch. This building was often called “house with tiles.”

Until 1917, the house was used as an apartment building with a shop on the first floors. The building has been restored, but it serves a similar function: apartment buildings on the upper floors and stores on the first floor.

Igumnov House

Igumnov House, located on Bolshaya Yakimanka 43, is an architectural masterpiece of federal importance. It is the most recognizable house in Moscow built in traditional Russian style.

Nikolai Igumnov owned the Bolshaya Yaroslavskaya Manufactory as well as the gold mines of Siberia. In 1888, the merchant decided to acquire a residence in Moscow. The location he chose was far from prestigious. It was far from the center and not in a wealthy district. There are two theories about Igumnov’s strange choice of location. The first one is that he didn’t want to be at the center of city gossip. The second is that this is the street that remembers the young merchant.

The house was built in the form of a fabulous palace in pseudo-Russian style. Igumnov was ready to conquer the city and did not spare any funds to do so. Brick for construction was transported to the construction site directly from Holland, tiles were ordered at Kuznetsov's porcelain factories, and interior decoration was entrusted to one of the most popular architects – Petr Boytsov. The most diverse and complex components (turrets, tents, arches, columns) were united in a single structure. There is a stylistic similarity of the mansion with a masterpiece of Moscow architecture of the same years – the State Historical Museum. The building is now a cultural heritage site, but initially Moscow’s high society did not think highly of the house.

There are a ton of secrets and legends surrounding Igumnov’s house. The most mysterious is the legend about a dancer. According to the legend, the rich merchant built a house for his mistress – a remarkably beautiful woman he was madly in love with. Of course, he was not the only one in love with her. Fond of the luxurious life, she hosted other lovers in the house. After finding out about the betrayal, the enraged Igumnov immured her body in the walls of the building. It has been rumored that a ghost of the restless girl still wanders around the house at night.

Another legend claims that Igumnov's house nearly cost him his life. Before a gorgeous ball in his house, the merchant ordered to lay out the floor of one of the rooms with gold coins, the emperor's profile facing upward. The next day in St. Petersburg, Nicholas II found out that Moscow merchants danced on imperial profiles minted on coins.

For this kind of disrespect, Igumnov was sent to Abkhazia in 1901. However, the merchant acquired land and built a new factory for the manufacture of canned goods. He never came back to Moscow.

The next owner of the house on Yakimanka was a good fit for the gloomy legends that surrounded the mansion. In 1925, a laboratory for studying the brain (known as the Brain Institute after 1928) settled here for the next 13 years. During this time, the brains of Vladimir Lenin, Clara Zetkin, Anatoly Lunacharsky, Andrei Bely, Vladimir Mayakovsky, Maxim Gorky, Nadezhda Krupskaya and others were studied here.

In 1938, the Embassy of France settled in Igumnov's house. It has served as the residence of the Ambassador of the French Republic since 1979. It hosts diplomatic receptions and other events.

Egg House

The egg house on Mashkova Ulitsya 1 was built in 2002. Not a single other building in the capital stirs up as much heated discussions. Opinions about the egg house range from excited enthusiasm to complete rejection.

In any case, the house has become a new attraction in the city. It is mentioned in several tourist guidebooks as one of the most interesting and beautiful buildings in Moscow.

Not many people know that the egg house is adjacent to the next eight-story building. The building was planned as an exclusive apartment for this residential complex. Its total area is almost 350 meters across four floors. To get the "toy" red color, which all passers-by can see today, ceramic colorants were used in decoration. The building itself consists of a metal frame and brick. The roof of the egg is covered with copper. The top floor, made in the form of a dome with a wide cornice serves as an attic.

The architectural wonder contains several bedrooms, a hall, a sauna, and a spiral staircase and elevator that go up to the top floor. The house also has a personal entrance to the underground parking lot of the residential complex.



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