Straight lines, or lack thereof

When photographing a building it is always important to try and keep vertical and horizontal lines straight. In this respect, Russian architecture frequently poses a serious challenge and often not by design!

Traditional wooden houses have a tendency, over time, to settle on the terrain over which they are built and the shape of the house starts to mimic the terrain itself and follow its contours. The results can be rather whimsical, as is the case of this house in Tver. You can see ornate woodwork on the door, a clear testament to the fact that the owner cared about the outside appearance of their abode, but the repeated cycles of freezing and thawing of the terrain underneath threw everything out of whack. In order to still be able to close it, the door has been moved all the way to the back of the jambs (two remaining hinges on the pillar testify that it used to be on the outside) and I really don’t want to think about drafts in the long, cold Russian winters!

On the left you can see that there are two doorbells (the lower one clearly added at a latter stage without too much attention to the aesthetics) and a little green mailbox that reads “for letters and newspapers”. The turquoise color of the house is a popular choice, with two of the most splendid examples being the Winter Palace in Saint Petersburg and the Cathedral Church of the Assumption in Smolensk.

Russians have being building over maps and bogs for over a millennia, as the most sought after locations for cities has always been where water abounds, especially on river banks (as is the case in Tver). They even erected their new Capital, Saint Petersburg, in a marshland  that had to be reclaimed by forced labour in just a few short years at the beginning of the XVIII Century. To avoid this sinking effect, which would be disastrous on masonry, all stone building rely on solid foundations, while the traditional wooden houses are still, more often than not, built directly on the ground. Today they are very rarely, if ever, built in cities and large towns, where only older ones remain, but this construction method is still a popular choice for dachas (or country houses) because of budget limitations.

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