Stalinist architecture

Palace of Culture and Science

The Palace of Culture and Science is the tallest building in Poland and the eighth tallest building in the European Union. It is 231 metres tall, which includes a 43-metre high spire. The building was originally known as the Joseph Stalin Palace of Culture and Science, but in the wake of destalinization the dedication to Stalin was revoked. The building was conceived as a 'gift from the Soviet people to the Polish nation ...
Founded: 1952-1955 | Location: Warsaw, Poland

Latvian Academy of Sciences

The Academy of Sciences edifice was built after World War II, between 1951 and 1961, collecting the necessary financing from the newly established kolkhozes in Latvia and - as further expenses increased, collecting the finances as 'voluntary donations' deducted from the salaries of the Latvian rural population. The building is decorated with several hammers and sickles as well as Latvian folk ornaments and motifs. The sp ...
Founded: 1951-1961 | Location: Riga, Latvia

Main building of Moscow State University

The Main building of Moscow State University, designed by Lev Rudnev, is the highest of seven Stalinist style skyscrapers of Moscow. It is utilized since its inauguration as headquarters of the Lomonosov Moscow State University. The skyscraper has 36 levels in its central part and is 240 metres tall. Its roof is topped by a 57-metre spire which ends with a 12-ton five-pointed star. Lateral towers are lower than the centr ...
Founded: 1953 | Location: Moscow, Russia

Hotel Ukraina

The Radisson Royal Hotel is a five-star luxury hotel which still maintains its historic name of Hotel Ukraina. Hotel Ukraina was commissioned by Joseph Stalin. It was designed by Arkady Mordvinov and Vyacheslav Oltarzhevsky (leading Soviet expert on steel-framed highrise construction), and is the second tallest of the neoclassical Stalin-era 'seven sisters' (198 m, with 34 stories). It was the tallest hotel in the world f ...
Founded: 1957 | Location: Moscow, Russia

House of Soviets

The House of Soviets is the office building built in Stalinist style in the late 1930s. According to Soviet projects, the House of Soviets was planned to host the administration of Soviet Leningrad government. The location was chosen on undeveloped south outskirts of the city away from the downtown area which was prone to frequent floods. The construction was completed just before the Nazi invasion of Soviet Union at the ...
Founded: 1936 | Location: Saint Petersburg, Russia

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week

Quimper Cathedral

From 1239, Raynaud, the Bishop of Quimper, decided on the building of a new chancel destined to replace that of the Romanesque era. He therefore started, in the far west, the construction of a great Gothic cathedral which would inspire cathedral reconstructions in the Ile de France and would in turn become a place of experimentation from where would later appear ideas adopted by the whole of lower Brittany. The date of 1239 marks the Bishop’s decision and does not imply an immediate start to construction. Observation of the pillar profiles, their bases, the canopies, the fitting of the ribbed vaults of the ambulatory or the alignment of the bays leads us to believe, however, that the construction was spread out over time.

The four circular pillars mark the start of the building site, but the four following adopt a lozenge-shaped layout which could indicate a change of project manager. The clumsiness of the vaulted archways of the north ambulatory, the start of the ribbed vaults at the height of the south ambulatory or the choice of the vaults descending in spoke-form from the semi-circle which allows the connection of the axis chapel to the choir – despite the manifest problems of alignment – conveys the hesitancy and diverse influences in the first phase of works which spread out until the start of the 14th century.

At the same time as this facade was built (to which were added the north and south gates) the building of the nave started in the east and would finish by 1460. The nave is made up of six bays with one at the level of the facade towers and flanked by double aisles – one wide and one narrow (split into side chapels) – in an extension of the choir arrangements.

The choir presents four right-hand bays with ambulatory and side chapels. It is extended towards the east of 3-sided chevet which opens onto a semi-circle composed of five chapels and an apsidal chapel of two bays and a flat chevet consecrated to Our Lady.

The three-level elevation with arches, triforium and galleries seems more uniform and expresses anglo-Norman influence in the thickness of the walls (Norman passageway at the gallery level) or the decorative style (heavy mouldings, decorative frieze under the triforium). This building site would have to have been overseen in one shot. Undoubtedly interrupted by the war of Succession (1341-1364) it draws to a close with the building of the lierne vaults (1410) and the fitting of stained-glass windows. Bishop Bertrand de Rosmadec and Duke Jean V, whose coat of arms would decorate these vaults, finished the chancel before starting on the building of the facade and the nave.

Isolated from its environment in the 19th century, the cathedral was – on the contrary – originally very linked to its surroundings. Its site and the orientation of the facade determined traffic flow in the town. Its positioning close to the south walls resulted in particuliarities such as the transfer of the side gates on to the north and south facades of the towers: the southern portal of Saint Catherine served the bishop’s gate and the hospital located on the left bank (the current Préfecture) and the north gate was the baptismal porch – a true parish porch with its benches and alcoves for the Apostles’ statues turned towards the town, completed by an ossuary (1514).

The west porch finds its natural place between the two towers. The entire aesthetic of these three gates springs from the Flamboyant era: trefoil, curly kale, finials, large gables which cut into the mouldings and balustrades. Pinnacles and recesses embellish the buttresses whilst an entire bestiary appears: monsters, dogs, mysterious figures, gargoyles, and with them a whole imaginary world promoting a religious and political programme. Even though most of the saints statues have disappeared an armorial survives which makes the doors of the cathedral one of the most beautiful heraldic pages imaginable: ducal ermine, the Montfort lion, Duchess Jeanne of France’s coat of arms side by side with the arms of the Cornouaille barons with their helmets and crests. One can imagine the impact of this sculpted decor with the colour and gilding which originally completed it.

At the start of the 16th century the construction of the spires was being prepared when building was interrupted, undoubtedly for financial reasons. Small conical roofs were therefore placed on top of the towers. The following centuries were essentially devoted to putting furnishings in place (funeral monuments, altars, statues, organs, pulpit). Note the fire which destroyed the spire of the transept cross in 1620 as well as the ransacking of the cathedral in 1793 when nearly all the furnishings disappeared in a « bonfire of the saints ».

The 19th century would therefore inherit an almost finished but mutilated building and would devote itself to its renovation according to the tastes and theories of the day.