The General Staff Building, one of the most famous architectural monuments in Saint Petersburg, was designed by the architect K. I. Rossi and was built between 1820 and 1830. The project revolved around the architect’s idea to unite two separate buildings with a triumphal arch, a monument to Russia’s victory in the war of 1812. This majestic arch is a symbol of Russia’s glory and military triumph; it forms a symmetrical axe with the central part of the Winter Palace.
The appearance of the General Staff Building possesses a certain strictness and laconicism. The lower level is interpreted as a rustic basement, while the walls of the upper two floors are smooth. Modest cornices and architraves surround the windows of the third floor (the Parade floor). The smooth walls clearly emphasize the raised frieze, and three Corinthian porticos break up the 580m length of the building.
The eastern wing of the General Staff Building originally housed the Ministry of Finance, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and several other ministries of the Russian Empire. From 1917, different institutions and organizations occupied the building including People's Commissariat for Foreign Affairs; the General Staff was located in the western wing, but nowadays it is the headquarters of the Western Military District.
When the grandiose reconstruction of the General Staff Building is completed, the collections of Russian and European decorative art, paintings and sculptures from the 19th and 20th centuries, as well as contemporary art will be displayed there. The exhibition will include the renovated historical interiors of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Empire and the personal apartments of the Chancellor Count Karl Nesselrode.
The Constitutional Court of the Russian Federation occupies an ensemble of historic buildings in the heart of the Northern Capital, right across from the Bronze Horseman. It includes the building of the former Senate, supreme governing body of the Russian Empire, the House of Laval and the Borkh-Polyakov tenement building.
The Senate building is a late Classicist architectural monument that was built in the first third of the 19th century and became the last major project of Carlo Rossi. The House of Laval owes its present-day appearance to the architects Andrey Voronikhin and Jean-François Thomas de Thomon. In the first half of the 19th century, it was one of the centres of cultural life in St Petersburg, famous for its interiors and a collection of works of art. In 1909, the state bought the house and adapted it for the Senate’s needs.
After 1917, the former Senate building and the House of Laval were given to the State Historic Archive. In 2006, following the decision to move the Constitutional Court of the Russian Federation to St Petersburg, reconstruction of these buildings commenced. In a short period of time, craftsmen restored historical interiors to the best of their abilities: the finish and wall paintings were renewed in the Grand Hall of Common Presence of the Ruling Senate (today’s Senate Hall), the Senate Church was fully restored. In the House of Laval, the fretwork-like (grisaille) painting was restored, as well as, among others, the interiors of the Pompeian Hall and the Blue Room. On May 27, 2008, the Senate building held the first session of the Constitutional Court of the Russian Federation.
A two-storey building was erected next to the Winter Palace in 1764-1766 by the architect Yuri Velten commissioned by Empress Catherine II. It successfully combined late Baroque and early Neoclassicist elements.
In 1767-1769 the architect Jean-Baptiste Vallin de la Mothe built a pavilion on the Neva River embankment with a grand hall, several living-rooms and an orangery for the Empress’s quite rest. Decorative pattern of the building follows Neo-classical canons as well as typical for this style austere proportions which reference the architectural structure of the Winter Palace. The rhythm of the Corinthian colonnade on the second level of the pavilion emphasizes the architectural unity of two buildings quite different stylistically.
The southern and northern pavilions were then connected by the Hanging Garden (raised to the level of the first floor) with galleries on its both sides. The whole architectural complex was named the Small Hermitage after the purpose of the northern pavilion where Catherine II hosted entertaining evenings with games and plays which she called "small hermitages". Fine art collections placed in the galleries running along the Hanging Garden have initiated the collections of the imperial museum.
The famous Peacock Clock is located in the Pavilion Hall; the galleries of the Small Hermitage host the exhibition of Western European paintings and decorative art works.