Kazansky Station, Moscow
Kazansky Station in Moscow is regarded as an outstanding example of Russian architecture, but it got off to a rather bad start.
In 1862, after the opening of the Kolomna section, the first on the Moscow-Ryazan line, Moscow newspapers wrote that: " the line's construction still suffers from many imperfections. Not one station building has been built properly."
Indeed, the Moscow-Ryazan line was put into operation despite sub-standard work. Passengers complained that "most platforms are not ready and we have to jump out of the carriages!" Even in Moscow, "passengers had to be taken off the carriage steps and ladies - by hand."
The first, temporary station building on the Ryazan line in Moscow consisted of a small wooden house.
A stone station building was only erected in 1864 by the architect M. Y. Levestam. It was the third station in Kalanchevskoe field. The small building at Ryazan station had one roof which covered both the lines and arrival platforms. A clock tower rose above the entrance.
The station was cramped, uncomfortable and from an architectural point of view not very impressive. Of the original railway station, only the one-storey à jour roundhouse in the Italian style has survived to the present day.
In 1893, the railway line was extended to Kazan, and the flow of passengers increased significantly. The need for a new station became obvious.
The railway's management board considered several projects to reconstruct the station building, but even the most successful variant had serious flaws and was not approved by the Ministry.
A second application for a new station was filed in 1907, but that also found no support. The situation was becoming critical, and in 1910 the old building was reconstructed in a hurry, but at least the areas for 1st and 2nd class passengers were greatly expanded.
However, this did not solve all problems, so a competition was quickly declared to design a new station. Out of all the projects submitted, the three most interesting were by the architecture academics F. O. Schechtel and A. Shchusev and the artist E. N. Feleizer.
The principal difference in the version proposed by Shchusev lay in the fact that he transferred the major architectural forms of the narrow Ryazan passage on the corner of Kalanchevskaya Square, "thereby turning the whole composition so that it's 'best side' faced the city."
Largely as a result, on 29 October 1911 the railway's management decided to build a new railway station according to Shchusev's design.
On 12 November 1913, after the necessary coordination and agreement, the project was approved by the Ministry of Communications. Shchusev himself supervised the construction.
Without awaiting the final decision on the new project from the Ministry of Communications, however, construction of a temporary two-storey station had already begun at the Moscow-Passenger station in July 1912.
In February 1913, the line's basic services were transferred there and the old building demolished. The new Kazan Station was scheduled to open on 1 November 1916.
The newspaper Moscow Vedomosti wrote:
"The new Kazansky Station, whose construction was based on a plan by Shchusev and supervised by the architect himself, will be a grandiose building whose facades will overlook Kalanchevskaya Square, Ryazan Passage and Ryazan Street. The entire premises will have a total area of 60,000 cubic Russian fathoms. The station's cost, including all its equipment, has been estimated at 7 million roubles. The central entrance leading to the lobby will be crowned by a tower of princess Syuyumbeka in Kazan with the coat of arms of the Kingdom of Kazan - a stylised golden cockerel. Immediately under the tower will be a large clock. The extensive lobby is to be luxuriously decorated, the walls adorned with panels by N. K. Roerich depicting the battle with the Kerzhenets Tatars and the conquest of Kazan. The lobby floor is executed in black and red porphyry. The octagonal waiting room next to the platform has a stellar vaulted dome whose gaps will be painted in the Oriental style. From the lobby and platform hall, the exits lead to a huge restaurant room with 1st and 2nd class to be furnished in the style of the Petrine era. The walls are covered with green with pink trellises. The carved wooden ceiling will portray in allegorical form the cities and peoples of those governorates which lie along the Moscow-Kazan Railway line. A special hall for arriving passengers is separated from the restaurant by office rooms and from the platform for incoming trains, which leads directly to Ryazan Passage. The right-hand side of the station building on Kalanchevskaya Square is given over to the baggage hall and the 3rd class hall. The entrance to the baggage hall is located near the main entrance and will be decorated with the coats of arms of Moscow, Ryazan and Kazan. 4th class passengers and military detachments will be given a special room. The central part of the station will consist of 6 covered platforms with a length of 80 Russian fathoms and with twelve tracks."
A Russian fathom equal to 2.13 metres.
Shchusev had indeed designed the station not only as functional building, but as a piece of architecture designed to beautify both Kalanchevskaya Square and Moscow.
Outstanding artists were invited to paint the halls: Alexandre Benois, B. M. Kustodiev, Z. E. Serebryakova, M. V. Dobuzhinsky, Nikolai Roerich, A. E, Yakovlev and I.A. Bilibin and later - E. E. Lansere.
However, not all of the plans were realised. The First World War began, followed by the Russian Revolution and Civil War.
In March 1918, all the railways of the RSFSR, including the Moscow-Kazan line, were nationalised. Work on the construction resumed, but there were not enough building materials.
In 1919, when electric lighting was installed in the main building, part of the station was opened. By June 1922, new passenger facilities were ready at Kazan station. The temporary wooden station which had served its purpose for 10 years was demolished.
In 1926, the first phase of construction was completed, followed by the second in 1940.
Early on in the construction, Shchusev insisted on chiming clocks, for which bronze zodiac signs were ordered in Petersburg according to sketches he did himself. However, the famous station clock by the watchmaker V. Pushkarev was only installed in 1923. It worked well until autumn 1941, when a bomb fell and broke the bell. It was only replaced in the 1970s.
In the second half of the twentieth century, Kazan Station underwent continuous development and modernisation. In the 1950s, an underground hall which provided access to the metro was built for suburban commuters.
In the 1970s, a large-scale reconstruction of the station began, during which its capacity was increased, while much was been done to implement and restore Shchusev's original architectural and artistic design.
In 1990, new waiting rooms were built, as well as passages from the trains to the underground stations and to Komsomolskaya Square. An underground tunnel connecting all three railway stations at Komsomolskaya Square was to became the longest in the capital. Above the platforms, a unique and large-span roof with an area 17,000 square meters was installed.
The reconstruction was finished in time for Moscow's 850th anniversary in 1997. New buildings were erected on Novoryazanskaya Street and Ryazan Passage which preserved the overall style of Kazan Station. Their design was based on surviving drawings by the original architect Shchusev.
Today, Kazansky Station is a modern complex offering passengers a variety of services and an architectural monument which brought its designer worldwide fame.