Both architecture and history of Chelyabinsk are versatile.
Chelyaba began as a fortress, typical fortification situated on the right bank of the Miass. The first structures were military buildings: the commander’s house, barracks, barns, powder magazines – surrounded with ramparts made of logs being laid horizontally. The houses of settlers living along the river gradually made up the first street – Bolshaya Beregovaya (Sibirskaya, Truda) which later became one of the main streets and the first compositional axis of the city.
The modern general plan of the city is based on the project of land surveyor Sidorov (1838). He replaced the existing structure of curved narrow streers with a regular-shaped system of unified blocks. But Chelyabinsk remained an uncomfortable town with wooden houses dominating.
The Trans-Siberian Railway resulted in the dramatic population growth and high demand for housing. Wastelands were occupied with wooden houses and one-storey buildings in the centre were replaced with two- and three-storey ones. The town was quickly developing into a strong merchant centre with the territory having grown as much as four times.
Public and apartment buildings of the early XX century were distinguished by the influence of various styles: classic, modern ones. The town was being improved: the streets were illuminated and paved.
The industrial growth of the 1920s – 1930s defined the future structure of Chelyabinsk – a centre surrounded with autonomous objects: modern factories with settlements attached to them – «socialist towns». The centre was made up of buildings belonging to the style of constructivism.
The early 1930s were marked by return to the classical legacy. The main highway – Spartak St. (Lenin Avenue) was planned as a link between the Chelyabinsk Tractor Plant, the centre and future ensemble of the square adjacent to the park. The general plan was only partially implemented due to the outbreak of war. At that time the city look was contrasting: the centre with multi-storey buildings rising above the pre-revolutionary houses, enterprises surrounded with capital buildings of «socialist towns» dominating over barracks, frame and panelized houses.
During the wartime Chelyabinsk significantly changed and expanded. According to 1946 the population reached 450 thousand people. A second plan of the city development was vital: it was necessary to organize the territory of the post-war city, to adjust the development of the enterprizes and provide for mass construction of apartment buildings with modern conveniences. But in a few years (in 1951) this general plan was adjusted, the number of storeys in apartment buildings significantly increased.
Neo-classical architecture dominated in all types of buildings up to the late 1950s. The buildings were decorated with spires, cornices, balconies and bows comprising unique art of facades. This period can be called the «golden era» of Chelyabinsk architecture when a great number of individual projects were developed for the construction industry
In the 1960s industrial house building was developed with elements of architectural décor being eliminated from projects. For decades whole blocks of five-storey buildings of the first mass series were constructed, later being replaced with nine-storey ones. All buildings were typical and efficient. However even in this period of «architectural stagnation» buildings with original exterior were specially constructed for important dates.
The main planning idea of the General plan of 1967 actively involved objects of nature in the structure of the city: Shershnevsky and Kashtaksky pine forests, the reservoir and the Miass river.
The embankment was gradually changing: the trade centre with a unique wide-span dome, high-rise hotel Malahit and the turquoise dome of the circus joined the pre-war philharmonic hall on the river bank
During next three decades the city was beautified with expressive complexes of buildings of different exterior and function, besides, the old buildings were renovated.
The focus of the height of a building also changed: the 1990s were marked with 16-storey buildings being constructed.
Individual designs came back at the turn of the century. Design solutions were significantly complicated and detail design of facades was based on the elements of different historical styles and modern architectural techniques.
Nowadays more than 1 mln. people live in Chelyabinsk, in the area of 500 square km. The goal of the General plan of 2003 is to rearrange the structure of the city. Two large areas are singled out: the historic centre and five districts the centre is surrounded with.
What does Chelyabinsk look like today? It should be noted that history and modernity do not always match well…
Our city attracted talented architects among which A.N. Pomerantsev, A.A. Fedorov, A.K. Burov, T.M. Ervald, V.Ya. Gofrat, E.V. Aleksandrov, I.E. Chernyadyev, F.L. Serebrovskiy, M.P. Mochalova, I. V. Talalay, B.V. Petrov, B.A. Baranov, V.L. Glazyrin, N.I. Semeikin.
Our city is not deprived of beatiful buildings. There are a lot of them! But we completely agree with the journalist, area studies expert and writer M.S. Fonotov: «Is there an outstanding, eye-catching, unique, extraordinary building in Chelyabinsk? I think, no. The Trade centre? Yes, of course, but it lacks architecture. The complex of the former pioneer area? It is indisputably original but is it appropriate? I agree that there are a lot of harmonious buildings in Chelyabinsk and I have no remarks of them. And I agree that the Opera House, the Drama Theatre, the Palace of Culture of Metallurgists, the Palace of Culture of Machine Tool Makers can be called extraordinary and even pretend to be luxurious and colossal but only in their group and tradition. But I mean that a building must be eye-catching, draw attention of everybody.
You may say: do we really need such loud buildings? I think we do. The city needs its symbol, emblem. Does Chelyabinsk have such a building? Not yet. The complex of buildings in Revolution Square was supposed to play this role but a row of mistakes spoiled the idea.
… Originality, idea, shape, style, image – all these things can be used by architects today and we are expecting them to take advantage of the opportunity to create something great in Chelyabinsk which will be discussed outside the city. Of course, some things do not depend on architects but they are to start».(Fonotov M. Architecture, Your Highness. (Chelyabinsk architecture : notes, sketches, fragments) // Ural new ground: Literary Journal. – 2000. – № 1)
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