Alexander Nikolsky: biography, creativity, career, personal life

From the biography

 Alexander Nikolsky was born in 1884 in Saratov in the family of a Zemsky doctor. Twelve-year-old boy he was sent to a real school in St. Petersburg. Drawing classes were particularly interesting for him. At the Institute of Civil Engineers he received a higher architectural education. Defending his diploma, he designed the library and monastery cathedral and was awarded a gold medal. To avoid students participating in strikes during the first Russian Revolution, they were attracted to design and construction work. A. Nikolsky repeatedly participated in the construction of houses as a labourer.

Creative activity

Before the October Revolution, the architect designed cathedrals in Vyborg and Kronstadt, income houses in St. Petersburg. After the revolution he was engaged in many projects, including the building of the Volost Executive Committee. This work played a prominent role in the young architect’s professional career.

In the 1920s, A. Nikolsky organized a creative workshop. He studied new forms in architecture closely and did not stop thinking about their psychological and visual aspects. He was interested in a new kind of creativity — color coloring of buildings. He developed a project of Leningrad’s first houses for workers. Tractor Street was a new word in residential architecture.

A. Nikolsky was engaged in school construction as well. The architect proved the need for single-storey study rooms with upper light for better organization of the process.

A special area of his creativity was the baths – unique round buildings, deep into the ground, with an outdoor swimming pool. The Giant Baths also became groundbreaking. They were characterized by maximum walkability, separation of entrance and exit in case of epidemics. The building evoked associations with the cosmic body.

The construction of the two stadiums used reinforced concrete supports on which the frame of the bowl lay. The stands kind of hung above the ground. Similar projects appeared in Europe.

The list of works by the architect is impressive. And always he carefully considered the peculiarities of modern life and as a professional tried to bring harmony into his works.

The business of a lifetime

In the 1930s the architect was already a well-known master. In these years, the idea of creating a stadium and a park of all-union significance on Krestovsky Island emerged. Forty-eight-year-old A. Nikolsky started the main business of his life. He gave all his professional and vitality to this project.

The outer shape of the stadium is a hill that has a height of 16 meters Materials — earth, stone, reinforced concrete. In the project there was also a metaphorical meaning: the landscape, which grew out of the earth, gradually filled with architecture, and at the very top dissolved in the air by a gallery.

But much of the design remained on paper. In our time, viewing drawings, drawings and texts of A. Nikolsky can cause a strong impression, which the author wanted to achieve. And before the war itself, additional difficulties began. Even later it turned out that what was invented in the early 1930s could not be built in the 1950s. The project became the utopia of the century and A. Nikolsky remained forever a legend of Leningrad architecture.

During the war

When the blockade began, the architect stayed in Leningrad. Helped in defensive work, participated in duty. He lived in the basement of the Hermitage and continued to paint everything he saw. In the most difficult time A. Nikolsky dreamed of victory and developed projects of monuments, festive decoration of squares. The architect above a piece of paper illuminated by a candle garb – a symbol of resilience that can be found in films about the blockade of Leningrad.

In his diary remained mentions and notes about working on the stadium project. Here’s one of the entries:

Health A. Nikolsky was undermined. This is one of the last blockaded entries:

Happiness of the Architectural

After War A. Nikolsky went on a creative business trip to defeated Berlin. He went to see the stadium structure. A British officer, upon seeing him, ordered him to come clean, but upon seeing a document certifying membership in the Royal Institute of British Architects, gave the honour of A. Nikolsky.

In the 50s another story began — the story of the stadium and park on Krestovsky Island. It was a folk building. Dozens of Sundays were held. During the stadium’s opening, a graying man with a square beard could be seen in the outside, tight-lipped, slender, with surprisingly young eyes. He closed his eyes for a second as if he was trying to remember something. Then his face lit up with happiness. It was A. Nikolsky, whose brainchild became a place of remembrance, of sorrow.

Three years after that event, in 1953, he died.

From personal life

, the

architect’s wife is Vera Nikolaevna, former Sheuinova. In his younger years, when he, as a student, earned a trip abroad, she traveled with him to Italy and helped to make measurements of buildings, paint church interiors, urban views. At the age of 24, Alexander built a home for the family according to his project.

In blockading time Vera Nikolaevna supported her husband, and he took care of her. A drawing survives in which the architect expressed a sense of immense love for his wife — bits of bread he left to his wife.

After the war, architect Nikolsky created a laboratory in the Research Office at the Institute, in which his wife was concerned with the problems of color form and the principles of painting of modern buildings.


A. Nikolsky is a famous professional who dreams of creating the best working conditions and recreation for the people. Having brought numerous projects to life, he left a worthy memory of himself, becoming a master legend, because he invested all himself, all his talent in all his creations.

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