Polovtsov Mansion on Bolshaya Morskaya Ulitsa (House of Architects)

This mansion, named after the 19th century senator Alexander Polovtsov the elder, is located in the very centre of St. Petersburg, not far from St. Isaac's Cathedral. While from the outside this unostentatious neoclassical building may seem unremarkable, inside it houses genuine masterpieces of interior design, displaying all the luxury and magnificence of the era. Know to Petersburgers as the House of Architects, the mansion has managed to preserve much of its rich decoration, including fine-wood paneling, marble, plasterwork, exquisite parquet flooring, and an utterly unique fireplace.

Polovtsov Mansion (House of Architects) on Bolshaya Morskaya Ulitsa in St Petersburg, Russia
Polovtsov Mansion (House of Architects) on Bolshaya Morskaya Ulitsa

The plot where the Polovtsov mansion now stands was home in the first half of the 18th century to the villa of Count Gavriil Golovkin, chancellor, diplomat, and comrade of Peter the Great. The main entrance faced the Moyka River across a garden. In the second half of the 18th century, the villa was bought by the Levashov brothers, both major-generals famous for their "enlightenment" and their success at court. Their house was twice an asylum for political refugees, first for Sebastian Francisco de Miranda y Rodriguez, the Venezuelan revolutionary who fought for independence from Spain in South America, and then for the Comte d'Artois, younger brother of Louis XVI who fled the 1789 Revolution and was later crowned Charles X.

In 1835, the land was bought by the Princes Gagarin, who invited the young architect Alexandre Pesle, an assistant to Auguste de Montferrand in the building of St. Isaac's Cathedral, to reconstruct the villa. Pesle's design completely altered the appearance of the building. The front entrance was now from Bolshaya Morskaya Ulitsa, via a wrought iron porch with a large bay window above it. The Gagarins did not stint on decorating their mansion, ordering white marble from Italy for the staircase, marble fireplaces, and carved wood cupboards from the 16th century.

  • Interiors of the Polovtsov Mansion in St Petersburg, Russia
    Interiors of the Polovtsov Mansion
  • Splendid Interiors of the Polovtsov Mansion in St Petersburg, Russia
    Splendid Interiors of the Polovtsov Mansion
  • Restored Interiors of the Polovtsov Mansion in St Petersburg, Russia
    Restored Interiors of the Polovtsov Mansiong
  • Details of Interior of the Polovtsov Mansion in St Petersburg, Russia
    Details of Interior of the Polovtsov Mansion
  • Fireplace of the Polovtsov Mansion in St Petersburg, Russia
    Fireplace of the Polovtsov Mansion

In 1864, the mansion was sold to the family of State Councilor Alexander Polovtsov the elder, who set about ordering the fabulous formal interiors that can still be seen today. They were created by leading architects Harald von Bosse, Nikolay Bryullov and Maximilian von Messmacher. Among their most impressive achievements are the Louis XV White Hall, the Bronze Hall with 16th century tapestries, the Oak Hall with its magnificent 16th century Italian fireplace, the dining room decorated with 17th century cordovan leather paneling, the drawing room, the library, and the boudoir with bay window.

After the October Revolution, the Polovtsov Mansion was turned into the Higher Professional School of Culture and then, in 1934, the St. Petersburg branch of the Russian Union of Architects. Unfortunately, the building lost many of its treasures. Carpets, furniture, and paintings were all carried off, while the tapestries of the Bronze Hall and a collection of Chinese porcelain were sold at auction. Further damage was done to the Oak Hall during the Second World War. Nonetheless, with a few small renovations, the mansion has lost little of its value as a repository of Russian aristocratic interior design. The mansion's dining room is now home to the Polovtsov Mansion Restaurant, which is a popular function venue and serves traditional Russian haute cuisine. The other rooms of the mansion can only be viewed as part of a tour group by prior arrangement.

Address:52, Bolshaya Morskaya Ulitsa
Getting there:From Admiralteyskaya, turn right then right again down Bolshaya Morskaya Ulitsa. About 500m along the street, crossing Isaakievskaya Ploshchad, the mansion is on your left. (15 minutes)
Telephone:+7 (812) 571-2729
Tours of the mansion:
Admission:RUB 200.00
What's nearby? Nabokov Mansion, Moyka River, Isaakievskaya Ploshchad, St. Isaac's Cathedral, Reform Church Building, Fonarny Bridge, Voznesenskiy Prospekt