Old Architecture: My Happy Place

I have spent the last several days hunched over fine print and my eyes are feeling crossed and my spirits a bit squashed. Finishing up my work for the day yesterday, I decided to cheer myself up by looking at the pictures I took when I travelled to Moscow for my dissertation. Since I study fifteenth- and sixteenth-century Russian architecture, I guess it will come as no surprise that I swoon over historic architecture, so my pictures from Moscow always make me happy. (See my post from last week about how truly multisensory architecture is—One of the many things I love about it.)

I love the many different ways architecture interacts with our lives. Take the Duomo in Florence, for example, or the Chrysler Building in New York. They are landmarks visible from far away, hallmarks of their home cities. But buildings are also powerfully intimate. After all, they serve as your host as you go about your business inside of them. And your activity within a building affects the light and sound and je ne sais quoi of the space. Even the largest buildings usually have an intimate corner somewhere to give you a respite from the world, whether it’s the rain or an overlarge group of tourists. I’m also awed by the history of old buildings. To stand in the same space where so much happened makes me feel somehow closer to history, as if providing a portal for me to access people and events long gone.

Old buildings are also often beautiful. They are beautiful when seen in their entirety from afar, but they also reveal surprising corners and vaults and hallways as we move through them that are little independent works of art that seem to exist just for us. To some degree they do, since buildings are designed to anticipate our needs.

I’ll admit that I have an embarrassing tendency to get a bit choked up when I visit historic buildings. In my defense, I often visit historic buildings when something else stirring is going on: monks chanting at San Luigi dei Francesi in Rome, a distant call to prayer echoing through the air at the seventeenth-century Suhaymi House in Cairo, the bells tolling in the campanile of St. Mark’s in Venice, profoundly beautiful medieval singing in St. Basil’s in Moscow. I defy even the steeliest of you not to be moved under such circumstances! Anyway, I could go on, but instead I’ll indulge myself by posting some of my favorite photos of Muscovite architecture. They make me happy at the end of a long, tedious day. I hope you like them too.

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Cathedral of the Dormition, Moscow, 1470s, Aristotele Fioravanti
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Cathedral of the Archangel Michael, Moscow, 1505–08, Alevisio Lamberti da Montagnana
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Cathedral of the Archangel Michael
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Church of the Decapitation of St. John the Baptist, Diakovo (outside Moscow), 16th century
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Church of the Decapitation of St. John the Baptist
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Church of the Ascension, Kolomenskoye (outside Moscow), 1532, Pietro Annibale
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Church of the Ascension
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Gallery inside St. Basil’s Cathedral, Moscow, 1550s
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Portal in St. Basil’s gallery
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Dome in centermost chapel of St. Basil’s
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Nikolskaya Tower, The Kremlin, Moscow, 1491, Pietro Antonio Solari
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Spasskaya Tower, The Kremlin, Moscow, 1491, Pietro Antonio Solari
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