Vasilyevsky Island

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ocated across the water from the Winter Palace is Vasilyevsky Island, surrounded by the rivers of St. Petersburg. It is a popular tourist destination and an integral part of the city’s academic, administrative and historical centre.
The idea of creating an architectural ensemble at the eastern end of Vasilyevsky Island occurred as early as during the reign of Peter I. Such a display would be on a terrain feature called the “spit”, an arrow point of the island, and highly visible from the mainland.

In the late 1710s to the early 1720s construction on several buildings began including the building of the “Twelve Collegiums”, a cathedral, the Bourse and the Shopping Arcade. The Kunstkammer Museum and a palace were built along the island’s southern bank. Ships offloaded cargo at the northern bank; the Bourse, the stone Shopping Arcade and a number of residential houses were situated here. The decision to erect the Bourse building at the Spit and the new academy building between the Kunstkammer and the “Twelve Collegiums” was made in 1783. Both projects were done by G. Quarenghi.

The architect Thomas de Thomon presented his project of the Bourse building in 1801. He installed two rostral columns in front of the building which were used as lighthouses in 1810-1885. Each column is decorated with a metal picture of a rostrum (the front of ancient rowing ships) and two sculptures representing the four great Russian rivers – the Volga, the Dnepr, the Volkhov and the Neva. The artistic effect was based on the contrast between the strong horizontal line of the granite embankment with its descents to the Neva and the central predominant volume of the Bourse building with its austere magnificent colonnades.

The construction of symmetrical buildings of the southern and northern pack-houses, enclosed warehouses, as well as the customs-house building was performed upon the project of the architect I. Luchini. After the construction of these building had finished the architectural ensemble of the Spit of Vasilyevsky Island was finally completed. The ceremonial opening of the Bourse took place in 1816. The building was given to the merchant authority of St. Petersburg.

Today, the Bourse building is widely recognised as one of the best examples of Russian architecture from the early 19th century. The Bourse was in operation until 1917. The building of the former Southern pack-house is now occupied by the Zoology Museum and the Zoology Institute. The former Northern pack-house hosts the Geology Institute, the Chemistry Institute and the Museum of Soil Sciences named after Dokuchayev. The museum’s collection numbers over 2500 items including 450 monolith samples – soil layers with unbroken structure.

The Spit of Vasilyevsky Island, a landmark that naturally blends in with the spire of the Peter-Paul Cathedral, has always been and remains a popular place for taking a walk. After all, there is much to see and experience. Travel to st Petersburg