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The architecture of "Moskovskij stil' Ampir" in the recostruction of Moscow (1813-1843)



Tedeschi L.


Nicoud G.


External participants

Klimenko Yulya

(Third-party beneficiary)


This research project intends to make a new critical contribution regarding the architecture that characterizes the reconstruction of Moscow after the 1812 fire, in the light of recent literature which has modified both knowledge and interpretations of the architecture of the Napoleonic and post-Napoleonic periods, and questioned the notion of the “Empire style”. Roughly three-quarters of Moscow’s buildings were destroyed or badly damaged in the fire. This unprecedented disaster (comparable, perhaps, to the Lisbon earthquake of 1755) brought about profound transformations at an urban and infrastructural level, so that between the 1810s and the 1840s, Moscow became a more European kind of city. These changes fostered the pervasive diffusion of a new architectural language, which Russian historiography defined as “Moskovskij stil’ Ampir”. The intention of the project is to study the “Moskovskij stil’ Ampir” from a “linguistic” point of view in order to understand how a brand new architectural language was created, –though based however on a specific pre-existing framework that took the local building tradition into account. The project will attempt, through analysis of the “generative grammar”, to clarify the Muscovite architectural lexicon as manifested in designs and in realized works. In this context, questions will arise along the lines of: is this a matter of the specific importation of an international “Empire style” into Moscow? Or is it rather an issue of an autochthonous “Moskovskij stil’ Ampir”? What points of reference were considered in relation to the architectural lexicon of St. Petersburg, and, indeed, to that of other capitals, such as Paris, London, Vienna, Milan and Rome? This leads on to questions regarding the contamination or hybridization of different lexicons corresponding to indigenous cultural traditions and, conversely, models either imported or imposed by higher authorities and involving institutional processes, the theoretical, and cultural context, the training and experience of the architects and craftsmen involved in each particular case. The aim is to go beyond the lists and catalogues produced by previous studies and beyond hermeneutical debates focused only on historical events and their dates. It is necessary to venture more deeply into the questions raised by this architectural case: a mutation of an original sense of identity, which comes to restructure Moscow’s environment and, in doing so, to transform life in Moscow itself and the social dynamic Shvidkovskijs of the city as a whole. It is necessary to study the content of classicist architecture in order to identify, on the one hand, the architectural “dress”, used for typical buildings and the standardized construction of the time; and, on the other hand, that employed in more demanding works or those intended to have representative functions, so as to attempt a more profound investigation of architectural “dress”, with all the freight of symbolic value and meaning that this inevitably entails. Such prestigious architecture will have assumed a dynamic and highly significant role and, to all effects, become representative architecture. But representative of what, exactly, and in what sense? What is the possible relationship – political, administrative and social, as well as cultural and architectural – proclaimed by such a construct? And moreover, which historical dialectic, which present and future prospects, dictated what was designed and built in Moscow after 1812 in a classicist language and what were the immediate consequences of this? A sample of works and projects will be studied analytically on the basis of the literature, archival and press sources and journalism of the time and of every other source of information that makes it possible to reconstruct the debate of the period. Comparative and intertextual analysis of selected buildings will allow us to focus with greater clarity on the distinctive characteristics of their language in order to provide concrete answers for the questions raised by the research. Representative public buildings will be studied, together with theatres, aristocratic residences and the buildings of the emerging mercantile class. Finally, this close concentration on the genesis and progressive affirmation of “Moskovskij stil’ Ampir” will produce greater knowledge regarding the individual personalities who played a significant role in the reconstruction of Moscow, including Ticino-born Domenico Gilardi and the less well-known figure of Osip Bove, thereby contributing to a clearer definition of their culture. The detailed examination of individual approaches may also help us to appreciate more fully the contribution to this extraordinary story of other figures such as the architects Francesco Camporesi, Carlo Antonio Lamoni, Luigi and Francesco Rusca, Giovanni Lucchini, Leopoldo Carloni, Luigi Pelli, Afanasij Grigor’ev, Fedor Shestakov, Evgraf Tyurin, Fedor Sokolov, Vasilij Stasov, Ilya Zhukov, Ivan Tamanskij, Ivan Mironovskij and Aleksej and Timofej Bakarev, etc., and sculptor-decorators such as the Italians Santino Campioni, Michele Fortini, Giovanni (Ivan Petrovitch) Vitali and Sebastiano Cerfoglio, and, from Ticino, Santino and Stefano Oldelli, Pietro Ruggia, Antonio Baroffio-Bruni and Giuseppe Artari-Colombo. Reference will be made to the different Russian and Western historiographical traditions as well as the recent literature on the subject in the fields of history, art history and architecture, together with interpretative models such as those of Noam Chomsky and Yuri Lotman. The project is promoted by the Archivio del Moderno (Accademia di architettura, Università della Svizzera italiana) together with, in Moscow, the MARCHI (Institute of Architecture) and the Shchusev State Museum of Architecture, Centre Chastel-Université Paris-Sorbonne, Osservatorio Giacomo Quarenghi, Bergamo. Responsible for the scientific management of the project are AdM director Letizia Tedeschi, MARCHI professor Yulya Klimenko, AdM Deputy Director Nicola Navone and an AdM researcher, Alessandra Pfister. The project will also make use of the skills of Russian participants, MARCHI Rector Dmitrij Shvidkovskij and Tatyana Dudina, curator in charge of the Department of Modern Era Design at the Shchusev State Museum of Architecture. The applicants intend to publish the results of the research in a monograph on the city of Moscow and in a number of scientific articles in Russian and European journals. The results will also be employed to implement the ongoing Portale dell’architettura dei Ticinesi (Ticino architecture portal) which the Mendrisio Archivio del Moderno established in 2014. The idea is to bring together scholars involved in investigating the artistic immigration of Ticino-born figures to Europe and the New World with the opening of a globally accessible portal: this will be constantly updated and help to establish links between both individual researchers and ongoing projects similar to the present one in a variety of countries, including Italy, Russia, Germany, France, the USA and South America. The project forms part of the scientific activities of the institutions involved and consolidates a partnership that began in 2000 in the context of a four-year project sponsored by the Archivio del Moderno called Italian architectural culture in Russia from 1750 to 1850.

Additional information

Start date
End date
36 Months
Funding sources
Swiss National Science Foundation / Bilateral programmes