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Vasily Ivanovich Bazhenov, Model for the Central Part of the Façade of the Great Kremlin Palace, Moscow, 1769-1773, A. V. Shchusev State Research Museum of Architecture, Moscow

throne room model
oval plaza section
oval plaza model
stair hall model

Central Façade Model

Great Kremlin Palace Project

In 1767 Empress Catherine II of Russia commissioned architect Vasily Ivanonich Bazhenov to design a new administrative building in the Kremlin in Moscow. Bazhenov, however, prepared designs for a new palace that would surround all the medieval buildings of the Kremlin. The project was so immense that a special government agency, the Department for the Building of the Kremlin, was created to plan and build the structure. Although the palace was never constructed, a large model showing Bazhenov's proposed design was completed between 1769 and 1773. Exhibited to the upper classes of society once a month, it became one of the most popular attractions in Moscow.

The central part of the model can be taken apart to reveal the palace's ceremonial spaces: the throne hall, oval plaza, and stair hall. More than 40 feet long, the model is carved from four types of wood: lime wood for the basic structure, maple for the cornices, and apple and pear for the interior decoration. Some decorative details were cast in lead for greater precision. The monumental façade reveals a strong classical influence, anticipating the neo-classical architecture that would come to dominate Russia in the late eighteenth century.

Bazhenov recognized the importance of models in the design process, claiming that, "in order to understand how beautiful and excellent the building will really be...the architect must make a model...indeed the making of the model is considered to be half the work." The project, though never built, exerted a profound influence on Russian architecture.

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