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Materials of the Conference
Lidia Tomalintseva, philosophy and history, St. Petersburg State University
Bridges and embankments of the Neva River: Dynamics of cultural-historical changes and perspectives for future development
St Petersburg is one of the most water-oriented cities in the world: 1/5 part of its territory is covered with water. The water element has determined the beauty and the originality of architectural shape of St.Petersburg, the order and rhythm of life of the city and its inhabitants, and its unique character. The Neva river is the main water highway and architectural axis of the city and as such it has exerted a huge influence on the whole planning of St.Petersburg including the scale of its architectural ensembles, the width of its streets and the height, form, and color of its buildings. But also the Neva is «the main prospect» and «the main space» of the city (Yu. Tynyanov).
It is impossible to imagine the landscape of St.Petersburg without the beautyof the deep, wide Neva and its
very powerful current. But the integral element of the Petersburg landscape is its bridges and embankments, engineering marvels that are also perfect architectural ensembles.
In trying to put together a picture of the cultural-historical changes in the bridges and embankments of the Neva over 300 years, it is necessary to note that their founders carried out very difficult hydrotechnical tasks using scientific achievements and modern technologies. They took into consideration the natural properties and special features of the river and the natural shape of its coast, but they also made significant changes, In the central part of the city the Neva was narrowed by approximately 50 meters because of the constant process of siltation and the shoring up of the embankments.
The first bridge in St.Petersburg was constructed one year after the city was founded – over the Kronverksky strait. The bridge connected Zayachy Island, where the Peter and Paul Fortress was under construction, with Birch Island – the first historical city centre. First this was a pontoon bridge. In 1887 it received the name of Ioannovsky Bridge.
Peter I did not encourage the construction of bridges in St. Petersburg, as he wanted people to travel between separate parts of the city by boat.
The first bridge across the Neva was St. Isaac's bridge, a pontoon bridge built in 1727 to connect the most populous portions of Vasilevsky and Admiralty islands. It took its name from the nearby St. Isaac’s Church (which preceded the St. Isaac’s Cathedral but stood much closer to the water).
The pontoon bridge was moved in 1856 to the site of the current Palace Bridge. In 1916 it burned down, due to a spark from a passing tugboat.
Right -- St. Isaac's Bridge in winter, 19th century illustration
One of the most beautiful Neva bridges is the Trinity Bridge. Formerly it was also pontoon. (see illustration, right).
But on its 200 anniversary of St.-Petersburg the city received a gift – the permanent Trinity drawbridge was constructed. The famous French engineer A.G. Eiffel took part in the development of the project of the bridge, which was constructed by the French firm “Batignol.” It was the first bridge to have electricity.
View of the Peter and Paul Fortress from Trinity Bridge
Each of the Neva bridges is remarkable in its own way. For example, the Trinity Bridge is not only beautiful but marks the Pulkovsky meridian, defining the mid-European time zone. It is 30 degrees, 19' east of the Greenwich meridian.
The “youngest” bridge over the Neva is the Bridge of Alexander Nevsky (1965). It is the longest of all the bridges in the city at 905,7 meters.
|The Foundry bridge (1879) is unique in that the coat of arms of St.Petersburg appears 546 times on its lattices.|
|Now in the early 21st century, the Neva has been the site of a major modern bridge-building project that will combine the highest technical, architectural, and aesthetic standards.The Bolshoi Obukhovsky suspension bridge opened in December, 2004 and is not only the longest bridge in St.Petersburg (at almost 3 km!), but one of 40 largest suspension bridges in the world.|
|Bridges are characteristic of the architectural landscape of St.Petersburg, but they are inseparable from the city's granite embankments. By the end of the XX century
there were about 160 km of fixed embankments in the city and its suburbs,. Their architecture with granite step descents,
cast-iron cast and forged fences also makes one of distinctive features of the
appearance of the city. Granite embankments are much younger than St.Petersburg.
The first embankments, as well as the first bridges constructed up to the mid-eighteenth century,
were wooden. The banks of the rivers and channels were fixed by piles, logs, sometimes
they were painted «like a stone» trying to give a smart look to
the young city. The first embankments appeared on the right bank of the Neva,
between the Peter and Paul Fortress and the Big Nevka, and the next one was on the left bank,
from the Admiralty up to the Summer Garden (see illustrations below).
The first stone embankment was constructed in St.Petersburg in the 1720s. It surrounded a small "harbour" in the Summer Garden near to the Summer Palace :
When the construction of the grandiose Winter Palace (1754) under the project of B.F. Rastrelli began it was decided to build a stone embankment in front of the building,jutting out into the Neva by almost 20 meters. That is why the road along the Neva near the Winter Palace is much wider than in other places.
A part of the embankment upstream behind the Winter Channel is the oldest part of existing embankments of the Neva. Dates of the construction are written on the granite descents: 1764, 1766 and 1767.
A part of the Neva embankment in front of the Admiralty underwent the biggest changes during 300 years
of the city existence. Without the Admiralty it is impossible to imagine the panorama of the Neva embankments
but, unfortunately, in second half of the XIX century the majestic facade was
hidden behind huge heavy buildings which are alien both to the character and
scale of this architectural masterpiece [pic.19, 20].
1. Anisimov E.V. The tsar
and the city. St.Petersburg, 2004.