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Many Americans perceive Russian architecture as this…
While some Russians perceive American architecture as this…
In fact, it is neither as both countries have a wide variety of architecture with influences from around the world.
At first glance, the architecture of Russia and the United States may seem very different – but there are interesting similarities! For example, the drawings by Montforrant for the dome of St. Isaacs Cathedral in St. Petersburg were studied by Thomas Ustick Walter, who designed the dome of the US Capitol.
Wooden churches were popular in both countries where stone was not readily available. Wood lasted better in colder climates.
Wood homes and towns are similar too.
Peter the Great selected the site for St. Petersburg and our own “emporer” George Washington, selected the site for Washington, D.C. Peter worked with Italian Domenico Trezzini, and George Washington worked with Pierre L’Enfant on the plan for the new capital cities.
Unlike Russian Orthodox churches, the United States modeled its cathedral architecture after those in England.
New York City and Moscow have many similarities: each city is a financial capital with tall buildings announcing their powerful role.
1960s architecture in Russia and the United States is strikingly similar: on the left we have the White House in Moscow/ on the right, the U.S. Government’s Health and Human Services headquarters, Washington, D.C. On the left is a Russian circus building; on the right is an exhibition hall and visitors center at Gettysburg National Park.
Many architects in Russia and the United States traveled to Europe to gain inspiration for their work. Here are two 19th century examples of “Castles” – the left is for former Muromtzevo Estate outside of Vladimir and the right is the Smithsonian Castle, headquarters of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C.
The United States has its own form of royalty with wealthy families such as the Vanderbilts, who built this summer house in Newport, Rhode Island.
The oldest settlement in the United States that still exist are pueblos, built by Native Americans. Acoma Pueblo was built around 1100 AD on a bluff for fortification. The pueblos are made of adobe: a mix of clay, water and straw. Very thick walls keep the structures cool in summer and warm in winter. This type of architecture is prevelant in New Mexico today for many buildings.
The oldest house in the eastern United States is Fairbanks House in Massachusetts. This style of architecture can still be seen today in homes throughout the country.
Both countries have forts – these were built in the 19th century: Fort Alexander in the Gulf of Finland on the left and Fort Jefferson, off the Florida coast.
While Russia had wonderful shopping arcades from the 18th century, it took the United States until 1890 to erect its first in Cleveland, Ohio. Separate buildings for department stores were later designed, as you can see with Macy’s in New York, and Kunst and Albers in Vladivostok.
Train stations in Russia have their own distinct style as do ones in the United States. The larger the city, the larger the station as with Union Station in Washington, D.C., designed as a great entrance portal to the city. Often, train companies such as the Santa Fe in the U.S., had their unique station design – the one in Amarillo, Texas, resembles the other Santa Fe stations throughout the country.
A recent trend in architecture is covering existing outdoor courtyards. Architect Norman Foster has cornered the market for covering courtyards in historic buildings. Here is his concept to expand the 19th century Pushkin Museum in Moscow (this isn’t going to happen), and our 19th century Smithsonian American Art Museum and National Portrait Gallery, housed in the former Patent Office Building, with its enclosed courtyard.
Before I left I was looking for similar buildings in your city and mine. I found two: an early 19th century house which you are familiar with and I can’t and a school in Washington, D.C. built in 1898 in the classical revival style.
Good design of any building type will ensure enjoyment by users and enhancement of life for generations.
Amy Ballard: US and Russia Architecture
Perceptions of Architecture in the United States and Russia
Senior Historic Preservation Specialist