Building the Institute

On February 23d, 1899 the Special Building Committee was organized in order to construct buildings of Saint-Petersburg Polytechnic Institute. This Committee commissioned talented architects and builders and used the best of the world's design and construction experience.

special Building Committee in charge of constructing buildings of Saint-Petersburg Polytechnic Institute. 1902

Special Building Committee in charge of constructing buildings of Saint-Petersburg Polytechnic Institute. 1902 (left to right): M.A. Shatelen, N.A. Menshutkin, A.S. Posnikov, V.I. Kovalevskiy, A.G. Gagarin, K.P. Boklevskiy, V.V. Skobeltsyn, E.F. Virrikh (the architect – in the middle)

E. F. Virrikh (1860- after 1949) E. F. Virrikh (1860- after 1949)

Within a short time the complex was expected to be built in Lesnoe, located not far from Sosnovka village, behind the cottage area of Saint-Petersburg. With its far-off location and carefully planned utilities, the Institute was destined to become an isolated and self-sufficient campus, like constituent colleges in Oxford or Cambridge.

During the construction and outfitting only the latest domestic technological and engineering achievements were supposed to be used. Only Russian engineers, designers and developers were involved in the process, only Saint-Petersburg factories were allowed to manufacture the equipment. Foreign producers could be invited as suppliers just in case of lacking or unavailable machinery.

On June 18, 1900 Saint-Petersburg saw the stone-laying ceremony of the Institute's main buildings – the Main Academic Building, the Chemistry Pavilion, the Mechanics Pavilion and Student Halls of Residence No.1 and 2. It took 5 years (1900-1905) to build them upon E.F. Virrikh’s design project using his architecture workshop that had been specially organized for building the Polytechnic Institute.


Stone-laying of a building. 1900s Stone-laying of a building. 1900s
General layout plan of the Polytechnic Institute. 1900s General layout plan of the Polytechnic Institute. 1900s

Lot clearing, foundation and blockwork. 1900-1904
Lot clearing, foundation and blockwork. 1900-1904
Lot clearing, foundation and blockwork. 1900-1904
Lot clearing, foundation and blockwork. 1900-1904

The Main Academic Building

The H-shaped configuration and the particular internal layout, when all lecture rooms looked out over the south-west, enabled using natural lighting in the Main and Chemistry Buildings to the full. According to contemporaries, the buildings were astonishing with “their expanse, height, and light. Large, endless corridors, spacious classrooms, […] special rooms for practical studying made a strong impression”.

The Main Academic Building and the Chemistry building, intended for the metallurgical department, were built in 1902. Both buildings were designed in neoclassicism, which was widespread in Saint-Petersburg architecture at the end of XIX century, to emphasize how monumental those buildings were.

The Main Academic Building
Chemistry Building Chemistry Building
Mechanics Building. 1902 Mechanics Building. 1902

Gas factory. 1902 Gas factory. 1902
Boiler House. 1902Boiler House. 1902

Following the Main and Chemistry Buildings, there were put into service the Mechanics Pavilion, 2 four-storey Student Halls of Residence, the first Professor's House, dispensary, pharmacy and hospital. Unlike the Main and Chemistry Buildings, they looked austere with the facades laid with unplastered red brick. This red color was predominant making the buildings in accordance with the industrial architecture in Saint-Petersburg.

Water Supply Tower. 1905Water Supply Tower. 1905

One of the oldest constructions on the University premises is the Water Supply Tower built in 1905, three years after the Polytechnic Institute was opened. It is the highest point among two- and four-storey institute buildings, and goes in contrast with other constructions because of its intricate and fractured forms.

The Water Supply Tower is 46 meters high. Until 1953, it had been used as an engineering construction to provide the work of the water pipe system. During the Great Patriotic War and the Siege of Leningrad the Tower served as an observational post of the air defense .

When built, the Water Supply Tower became one of the education-supporting buildings on the Institute’s territory. In 1905 the annex near the Water Supply Tower housed the Hydraulics Laboratory designed by I. G. Esman, who was the first hydraulics professor, supervised the construction, and became the first Head of the Laboratory.