Siberian architecture has a rich and diverse history that reflects the cultural and climatic influences of the region. Located in the northernmost part of Russia, Siberia is known for its harsh and unforgiving climate, which has shaped the way buildings are designed and constructed in the region. This area has an extremely low population density per square kilometer, accounting for one-fifth of Russia’s population. In this article, we will explore the past, present, and future of Siberian architecture, highlighting the unique features and challenges of building in this part of the world.

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Siberia_©lonelyplanet.com

Past

Siberia has indisputable paleontological value since archeologists discovered evidence of prehistoric creatures and three human species. This area was home to a variety of nomads. People built their chum out of animal skins, wood, fur, and other materials during the period. These structures were designed to be easily disassembled and transported, making them ideal for the nomadic lifestyle of the Siberian steppe. Those dwellings can still be found in Siberia today.

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Siberian Nomad Chum_©Ада Тюлюш

During the past millennia, several nomadic groups lived in this area. Nomads controlled the majority of the region until the 13th century. Various forms of pagan architecture may be discovered during this period. At that time people of Siberia were ruled by proto-Mongol Khitan people and people lived sparsely. Genghis Khan’s Mongol Empire subdued the Siberian tribes around the beginning of the 13th century. This region was ruled by the Golden Horde following Genghis Khan’s demise. The autonomous Khanate of Sibir emerged with the fall of the Golden Horde in the late 15th century. Different styles of architecture were constructed in this area at this time. Around 17 kilometers from the present-day city of Tobolsk, on the right bank of the Irtysh River where it meets the Sibirka rivulet, stood the medieval Siberian Tatar castle of Qashliq (14th–16th century).

Although there were many other nationalities and religious traditions in the Khanate of Sibir, the Turkic population prevailed over the native Khanty, Mansi, and other local tribes. The Turkic elite chose the khan to serve as the head of state. The khan resided in a palace that was walled and made of mud bricks. Typically, Central Asian architects who were skilled in creating distinctive ornamental elements were recruited to create such buildings. However, because of the nature of the materials used to construct them, such palaces were short-lived, and not even their remnants can be seen now.

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Castle of Qashliq_©r/papertowns

In the 16th century, the Siberian Khanate started to crumble under the weight of Russia’s expanding influence in the West. People from the western region of Russia began to visit this location throughout the 17th century, which led to an increase in occupancy.

With 115 stone churches in Siberia recorded in 1803, the majority of which were constructed in this regional variant of the Russian Baroque, influenced by the Ukrainian Baroque, and in some cases even incorporating lamaist motifs, Siberian Baroque emerged as a dominant architectural style in the 18th century. Ornate ornamental features like scrolls, curves, intricate moldings, symmetrical compositions, and the use of vivid colors all define this design aesthetic.

The Church of the Transfiguration in Krasnoyarsk is one of the most outstanding examples of Siberian baroque architecture. This church was built in the late 19th century, and it has a large facade with elaborate embellishments and a domed ceiling. With painted murals, a golden iconostasis, and exquisite altarpieces, the interior is similarly beautiful.

Other examples of Siberian baroque architecture can be found in cities such as Irkutsk, Tomsk, and Omsk. These buildings often served as public buildings, such as town halls, schools, and hospitals, as well as churches and other religious structures.

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Church of the Transfiguration in Krasnoyarsk_©Wikimedia

Siberian baroque architecture was heavily influenced by European baroque architecture, as well as by traditional Siberian architectural styles. The use of bright colors and ornate decorations was meant to reflect the wealth and power of the region, and these buildings were often seen as symbols of progress and modernity.

Despite its grandeur, Siberian baroque architecture is not as well-known as other European baroque styles. However, these buildings continue to stand as important examples of the architectural history of Siberia and the cultural influences that have shaped the region.

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Odigitrievsky Cathedral | Siberian Baroque_©Armenzakh

During the Soviet Union period, Siberian architecture underwent significant changes as the region underwent rapid industrialization and urbanization. Stalinist architecture, characterized by grandiose buildings with elaborate decorations and propaganda motifs, became prevalent in Siberia.

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Krasny Oktyabr Red October Chocolate Factory_ Hans-Jürgen Neubert

One of the most notable examples of Stalinist architecture in Siberia is the Krasny Oktyabr (Red October) Factory in Novosibirsk. In the 1930s, this factory features a grandiose entrance with towering columns and a monumental statue of a worker. The interior is equally impressive, with high ceilings and elaborate decorations.

Other cities in Siberia with instances of Stalinist architecture include Krasnoyarsk, Irkutsk, and Tomsk. These structures frequently served as public facilities, such as theaters, libraries, and museums, as well as government and residential structures. The Stalinist architecture was intended to symbolize the Soviet Union’s authority and might, and these structures were frequently viewed as symbols of progress and modernity. The magnificent grandeur of these structures, however, frequently came at the price of convenience and practicality, and many of them have subsequently fallen into ruin or been demolished.

Overall, the Soviet Union period had a considerable influence on Siberian architecture, with the installation of massive Stalinist structures that continue to affect the region’s metropolitan landscape to this day.

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Mass-scaled Khrushchyovka in Talnakh_©Ninaras

Present

As the region has continued to modernize and grow, Siberian architecture has seen considerable modifications in recent years. Today, Siberian architecture is distinguished by a combination of traditional and modern features, reflecting the region’s numerous cultural influences over the ages. The utilization of novel materials and techniques is a fundamental aspect of modern Siberian architecture. Many buildings in the region, for example, are now built with energy-efficient materials and techniques, such as insulated walls and roofs and triple-paned windows. This reduces energy use and expenditures while also protecting against the severe Siberian winters.

Along with using contemporary materials and techniques, many Siberian architects are drawing influence from old Siberian architectural forms. Log cabin construction and timber frame techniques, for example, which were once common in the region, are now being utilized in the design of modern structures. These techniques contribute to a sense of connectedness to the region’s rich cultural past while also delivering practical benefits like insulation and durability.

Another important trend in modern Siberian architecture is the focus on sustainability. Many architects in the region are designing buildings to minimize their environmental impact and conserve resources. This includes the use of renewable energy sources, such as solar panels and wind turbines, as well as the incorporation of green spaces and natural elements into the design of buildings.

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Technopark of Novosibirsk_©Minsvyaz.ru

Siberian architecture now reflects the region’s numerous cultural influences as well as current technological achievements. Siberian architecture is continually growing and adapting to the changing demands of its inhabitants, from ancient timber cottages to modern energy-efficient structures.

Future

With various new trends and advancements on the horizon, the future of Siberian architecture is bright. As the region grows and develops, architects in Siberia are working on designing creative and sustainable structures that will fulfill the demands of the region’s residents and workers. The utilization of sophisticated materials and technology is one of the important themes in future Siberian architecture. These include the use of improved insulating materials to minimize energy usage and the inclusion of smart home technology for greater control and efficiency.

Another trend in future Siberian architecture is the focus on sustainability. This includes the use of renewable energy sources, such as solar panels and wind turbines, as well as the incorporation of green spaces and natural elements into the design of buildings. By designing buildings to minimize their environmental impact, architects in Siberia are helping to create a more sustainable and livable future for the region.

Adelaide Aboriginal Art and Cultures Centre_©Diller Scofidio + Renfro and Woods Bagot

In addition to these themes, there is a rising emphasis on designing adaptable and flexible structures. Because of the unpredictability of the Siberian environment, it is critical to design structures that can resist harsh weather conditions while also adapting to changing demands over time. This involves the use of modular and prefabricated building systems, which enable structures to be quickly renovated and enlarged as needed.

Overall, Siberian architecture has a promising future, with a focus on innovation, sustainability, and adaptation. As the region grows and evolves, architects in Siberia will play an important role in defining the built environment and ensuring a brighter future for the people who live there.

Reference

lonelyplanet.com. (2022). Siberia. [Photograph]. (Siberia: https://www.lonelyplanet.com/russia/russian-far-east/petropavlovsk-kamchatsky)

Wikipedia. (2022). Siberia. [online]. (Last updated 21 December 2022). Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Siberia [Accessed 23 December 2022]

Тюлюш А. (2012). Siberian Nomad Chum. [Photograph]. (Siberian Nomad Chum: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chum_%28tent%29#/media/File:%D0%A7%D1%83%D0%BC%D1%8B_%D0%90%D0%BB%D0%B4%D1%8B%D0%BD-%D0%91%D1%83%D0%BB%D0%B0%D0%BA.jpg)

Rbth.com (2020). How Siberia was once a separate country. [online]. (Last updated 11 February 2020). Available at: https://www.rbth.com/history/331675-how-siberia-was-once-separate-country) [Accessed 24 December 2022]

r/papertowns. (2014). The city of Qashliq around the 15th century was the capital of the Khanate of Sibir. [Photograph]. (The city of Qashliq: https://www.reddit.com/r/papertowns/comments/6wiel5/the_city_of_qashliq_around_the_15th_century/)

hisour.com. (2020). Siberian Baroque. [online]. (Last updated 2014). Available at: https://www.hisour.com/siberian-baroque-27765/) [Accessed 24 December 2022]

Wikipedia. (2022). Siberian Baroque. [online]. (Last updated 13 December 2022). Available at: https://www.hisour.com/siberian-baroque-27765/) [Accessed 24 December 2022]

Armenzakh. (2012). Odigitrievsky Cathedral | Siberian Baroque. [Photograph]. (Odigitrievsky Cathedral | Siberian Baroque: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:%D0%A3%D0%BB%D0%B0%D0%BD-%D0%A3%D0%B4%D1%8D._%D0%A1%D0%BE%D0%B1%D0%BE%D1%80_1.jpg)

Wikimedia Commons. (2005). Church of the Transfiguration in Krasnoyarsk. [Photograph]. (Church of the Transfiguration in Krasnoyarsk: https://www.reddit.com/r/papertowns/comments/6wiel5/the_city_of_qashliq_around_the_15th_century/)

Neubert. H. J. (2010). Krasny Oktyabr Red October Chocolate Factory. [Photograph]. (Krasny Oktyabr Red October Chocolate Factory: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Krasny_Oktyabr_Red_October_Chocolate_Factory.jpg)

re-thinkingthefuture.com. (2022). An overview of Soviet architecture. [online]. (Last updated 2022). Available at: https://www.re-thinkingthefuture.com/architectural-community/a8885-an-overview-of-soviet-architecture/ [Accessed 24 December 2022]

Ninaras. (2022). Mass-scaled Khrushchyovka in Talnakh, North Siberia. [Photograph] (Mass-scaled Khrushchyovka in Talnakh: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Khrushchyovka)

Minsvyaz.ru. (2014). Technopark of Novosibirsk. [Photograph] (Technopark of Novosibirsk: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Khrushchyovka)

Diller Scofidio + Renfro and Woods Bagot. (2021). Diller Scofidio + Renfro and Woods Bagot update design for Adelaide Aboriginal Art and Cultures Centre. [Photograph]. (Adelaide Aboriginal Art and Cultures Centre: https://www.australiandesignreview.com/architecture/diller-scofidio-renfro-and-woods-bagot-update-design-for-adelaide-aboriginal-art-and-cultures-centre/)

Author

Muhammad Shafayet Hossain is an architect, artist, designer and researcher who is currently working at MSH Atelier. Remarkably making contemporary ideas and working as an artist in the contemporary art scene in Bangladesh. Also, he is associated with working in Research and related fields of Architecture.

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