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Saint Petersburg Real Estate Market Overview
Rental Houses and well-type Courtyards in St Petersburg
The main feature of the development of property in St. Petersburg in the 19th century was the construction of rental houses. In the middle of the 19th century, the majority of newly constructed buildings were houses for rent. The renting of apartments in St. Petersburg brought enormous profits to the building owners, who attracted private capital to pay for construction. The construction of rental houses led to a reduction in the number of mansions: the territory of former mansions was purchased, the mansions demolished and multi-storey houses were put up in their place
Bolshaya Konyushennaya courtyards
These new types of buildings were gradually acquiring typical features of their own. Usually, a house consisted of several buildings. Houses were built along the perimeter of the construction site: the main building faced the street, in the middle of the area a courtyard house was constructed (side wings). As the city's construction became denser, not only side wings were built but the developers began to build wings of the main building all along the perimeter of the property. The side wings and perimeter wings divided the main courtyard into smaller courtyards. These internal courtyards were interconnected by arches.
During this time, the government was desperately trying to regulate the building process. In 1857, the State approved a building charter which specified: "Each separate area should have at least one courtyard of no less than 30 square fathoms (63 m2); the minimal width of the courtyards should be no less than 3 fathoms (6 m); other courtyards can be less than 30 square fathoms wide but should be interconnected by passages of no less than 4.5 arsheens (3 m) leading to the street or other courtyards. In addition to standard courtyards, it is permissible to construct small well-type courtyards for the purpose of lighting stairways, corridors, back houses, closets and other rooms of this kind. The minimal size of these "light" courtyards should be within a 1-fathom square (2.1 m)". Today, these "light" courtyards are popularly known as "well-courtyards.".
The layout of Saint Petersburg apartments in rental houses varied from huge "manor-type" apartments to modest one-room flats. Flats for wealthy people were situated in the main buildings with windows facing the street. These flats had two staircases; the front staircase leading to the street and back (black) staircase which led to the courtyard.
Front staircases were always nicely decorated with stain glass paintings, stucco and molding elements and beautiful banisters. There was often a fireplace to heat the foyer. Black stairways were used by servants and salespeople. The rooms of the masters were located closer to the front stairway; the rooms of servants, the kitchen, lavatories, etc. were closer to the back stairway.
Small, inexpensive apartments were located in the courtyard houses. For these buildings, there was only one stairway and the kitchen, lavatory and closets were located close to the entrances.
Tenements appeared throughout the city in the middle of the 19th century. These were densely, built-up areas with multi-storey buildings in which many apartments were occupied by "room" and "corner" lodgers (lodgers renting a room or a part of a room, i.e. a corner).
The layout of rental houses was usually planned according to the typical requirements of the building owner. Profitability usually was the most important factor when designing these buildings. The facade of the house also depended on the taste of the owner, although the creativity of the architect also played an important role.
Late 19th century St Petersburg
The rapid development of industrialization in Russia in the second half of the 19th century was accompanied by a spectacular growth in private construction. Intensive urban development transformed the outskirts of St. Petersburg and actively penetrated into the central districts. This type of spontaneous construction was often not in harmony with the traditional urban development principles of the city. Government regulation of the building process was still quite difficult.
In the last quarter of the 19th century, the city population doubled from 670,000 in 1869 to 1,440,000 in 1900). A building boom was in full swing in St. Petersburg. Not only rental houses, banks, schools and hospitals were all being built at a rapid pace.
Courtyard of Ratkov-Rozhnov
In 1880, the St. Petersburg Arrangement Project was developed. The project was essentially a blue print for city expansion. It covered the creation of new prospects, squares, streets and side streets and the laying out of new streets and roads to create entirely new districts.
The creation of large, architectural ensembles also began at this time. An ensemble united several standard building areas into one complex. There were two ways of doing this. The first was for buildings within a city block to be constructed in accordance with a single architectural composition (for example, the ensemble of Pushkinskaya Street).
The other variant entailed creating a complete composition which included courtyards and terraced or separate courtyard houses. The entrance was usually a large arch (for example, the House of Y.V. Ratkov-Rozhnov on 13-15 Pestelya Street). This principle was further developed in the Art Nouveau and Neoclassic Architecture of the beginning of the 20th century.
Continue reading the Architectural Development of St. Petersburg by going to the next section: