The apartment house of I. Margulis at the corner of Marazlievskaya Street and Sabanskiy Lane belonging to the typical multi-family residential buildings of the 1910s is a vivid example of prevailing at that time large-scale, mania for great-scale projects and cold rationality in architecture inherent in dominant that time Art Nouveau. In Odessa there are several other ones (apartment houses of Novikov, Rud’, Asvadurov, Shestopal, etc.), but this house singles out by the revolutionary approach to the design and the largest number of storeys.
Type of building: apartment house
Style: Art Nouveau, Neoclassicism
Architect: F. L. Pappe
Date of construction: 1912
Status: local historical and architectural monument
Facade general view
Since the mid-1890s to mid-1900s, the area between Marazlievskaya Street and Kanatnaya Street, on the odd-numbered side of Sabanskiy Lane belonged to S. Rally. It was later bought back by S. A. Kumbare, but approximately in 1911, the part of the site, which faced Marazlievskaya Street, was sold to I. Margulis. Ignatiy Antonovich Margulis was known as a technical engineer, who was also the managing director of the Odessa telephone exchange and the tenant of the city power station at the beginning of Staroportofrankovskaya Street. The office of I. A. Margulis was located on 12, Pushkinskaya Street.
I. M. Margulis, who was engaged in grain operations, lived on 34, Remeslennaya Street in the 1910s as well, but in the reference book «All Odessa», 1914 edition, he was not mentioned. The Margulis’ with other names lived in the city, but also in other locations. In 1912 (according to V. P. Netrebsky in 1913) on the site of Margulis a huge six-storey residential building was erected, which apartments were intended for very wealthy tenants. It is indicated, for example, by a high level of presentable appearance in the interiors that, in addition, served as a visual advertisement of the owner. The building was designed by a civil engineer Felix Lazarevic Pappe who was the author of a small number of buildings projects in 1910s. In general, these projects suggest that F. L. Pappe followed Jugendstil in the design of his buildings and the house of Margulis is not an exception. In the stylistics of decorative items neoclassical tendencies inherent in the architecture of the 1910s can also be traced, trends of Empire style are noticeable.
The ground floor from Marazlievskaya Street goes into a semi-basement due to the rough terrain, but the section in Sabanskiy Lane has six storeys, owing to this fact the house was the highest in Odessa for many decades. Asvadurov’s apartment house at the corner of Pushkinskaya Street and Troickaya Street, having shift from five to six storeys as well, was inferior to Margulis’ house only in terms of height.
The building is characterized by strict rectilinear forms; the construction is not hidden behind the decoration and leads out. With the general view on the facades, there is an obvious tendency to rationalize in the architecture of those years. The mass use of new building materials and techniques led to the conception of pre-constructivist architecture in Odessa sooner than in other cities of the Russian Empire. By 1912, when Margulis’ house was building, rational Art Nouveau had been almost formed in basic canons.
The engineer applied the block approach to the design of the building, which consists of two sections, the most massive of which is available from Marazlievskaya Street side, and more extended — along Sabanskiy Lane with a space from the building line. To improve the insolation and ventilation, in the section on Marazlievskay Street a light well was made, where the windows of the utility rooms and entrance hall look. Block layout of the building is emphasized from Sabanskiy Lane side by a composition of risalits varied in form. Facades decoration tension decreases with moving away from Marazlievskaya Street deep into the lane (part of the facade, which abuts to the next building has a risalit height of only two storeys).
Right-side risalit in Sabanskiy Lane
It serves as the basis for a smaller area risalit, two storey high, with three facets on the facade, culminating in an open terrace of one of the apartments.
Small right-side risalit in Sabanskiy Lane
Thus, there is a complex in shapes pyramidal composition, balancing the comparative coldness of the facade design in Sabanskiy Lane. In the lower risalit the passage to a small courtyard of the building, flanked by two tall obelisks, was made.
Passage to the courtyard
Courtyard passage gates
To the right of the passage there is a modestly decorated doorway to the entrance hall
Right-side entrance door
A stronger emphasis makes a central risalit in Sabanskiy Lane, with a loggia on the fifth floor.
Central risalit in Sabanskiy Lane
The risalit is decorated with moulded elements in the form of bas-reliefs, which are concentrated in the panels, pilasters and between the loggia openings. The bas-reliefs in panels are traditional for Neoclassicism and depict baskets of fruits, symbolizing abundance and rods, decorated with flowers. More interesting compositions with images of eagles are located under the pilaster capitals.
Central risalit decoration
Above, between the loggia openings, workers bas-reliefs are placed, intensifying the austere style of the building. The idea of the proletariat depicting in architecture refers to the trends that existed in the art of the early twentieth century in Odessa and also reflected in the design of the entrances to the Mendelevich’s passage.
In the central risalit the expressive doorway portal of the entrance is located. There are grotesque mascarones on the portal columns and two vases over the entablature. A similar portal leads to the entrance from Marazlievskaya Street.
Doorway portal to the central risalit entrance
A corner section represents a separate monolithic volume, but for compensation of the ruggedness, bay windows are arranged on sections of both street facades (facades facing Marazlievskaya Street and Sabanskiy Lane). However, the section is still less loaded with decorative elements from Sabanskiy Lane side and does not spoil accent of the central risalit (described earlier) in Sabanskiy Lane.
Corner section decoration in Sabanskiy Lane
The same pilasters with the eagles as on the central risalit are located on both bay windows however, small medallions with modest ornamentation are placed in the bay window from Sabanskiy Lane side as well, and a regular balcony on the bay windows of the corner section is in keeping with the central loggia on the central risalit.
A section facade on Marazlievskaya Street is smarter and dynamic; there are panels with rods in the bay window as on the central risalit from Sabanskiy Lane side and the bases of pilasters side are made in the baroque style. The windows of the two lower floors of the bay are aggregated in vertical groups by the decorative frame, and balconies lead to both sides of the bay window.
Facade decoration on Marazlievskaya Street
Basement level on Marazlievskaya Street
Under the bay window there is an entrance portal, decorated, as mentioned above, like the portal of the central risalit, but from Marazlievskaya Street it is equipped with three small oval windows, illuminating an additional flute in the sluice formed by the stairs.
Entrance portal on Marazlievskaya Street
From the second floor the building have balconies, which are varied in design. The second floor balconies have stone balustrade with metal edging on top; the third and fourth floors balconies also have completely metal fence, and the fifth floor balcony — metal fence on stone props. Balconies are placed in the space between the risalits, excepting balconies near to the end of a nearby building in Sabanskiy Lane.
The first two floors of the building are identified as a basement level by means of large blocks of roughly hewn stone imitating rustication. In the space formed by the indent of an extended section from the building line of the street, a front garden, separated from the pavement by a low metal fence on a stone base, was placed.
Front garden fencing from Sabanskiy Lane side
The building is substantial in size and occupies a large part of its site, but the yard is well lit owing to the separate building of the former Peasants Bank at a nearby area on Marazlievskaya Street. Undoubtedly, F. L. Pappe was aware of the nature of the adjacent building, which in those days probably was already building (completed in 1914), and was at a comfortable distance from Margulis’ house, and took into account this point in the draft. Therefore, the firewall of the house, turned to the Peasants Bank, not being designed for an extension to buildings closely, was treated with vertical decorative textured ribbons.
Perspective view from below, from Peasants Bank side
However, the limited size of the site forced the architect to bring the windows of the right entrance (facing Sabanskiy Lane) in the courtyard passage, and the windows of technical utility services rooms on Marazlievskaya Street — in a specially equipped light well. Some rooms overlook the same right-side passage. Left-side entrance, on the contrary, has a classic layout «lobby-staircase», and equipped with windows located on its axis, so that all the flights of stairs are well lit and landings are quite compact in size that also has a positive impact on insolation. Courtyard facades are made in rationalization design manner peculiar to Odessa.
Courtyard passage arch
Small risalits with faceted corners look in the courtyard, the facades are roughcast, and under the windows panels are arranged (similar design can be found in the buildings of the 1910s of such architects as A. I. Goltsvurm, M. S. Radbil, P. L . Slavkin). However, unlike most of the other architects buildings, courtyard facades, as well as outside, at the level of the first two floors are covered with rustic stone (but more primitive.) There is also a semi-circular risalit of the entrance staircase on Marazlievskaya Street, which led to the proper form of the staircase landings.
All three entrances of the building are decorated in a similar way; however, from the point of view of planning decisions and certain details, they are different. The most representative is the entrance from Marazlievskaya Street side leading to the apartments of a five-storey section only (starting with the first floor, which is accessible via a sluice stairs). The sluice is blocked by an arch vault with caissons and blades made of granite slabs are placed on the walls. Over the blades on the caisson vault there are six identical antique bas-reliefs; two more fragments of bas-reliefs are located near the doorway.
Entrance hall on Marazlievskaya Street
Stair landings with entrances to the apartments have a large size, but lighting is not enough. In addition to the entrances to two apartments on each floor there is a massive lift door, covered with metal strips and decorated with a simple oval medallion of a plain floral ornament. A similar medallion adorns the passage arch gate. The only surviving to the present day lift door is located on the first floor.
Entrance doors in Margulis’ apartment house are two varieties in width. Their wide option is present only in the entrance hall on Marazlievskaya Street; in Sabanskiy Lane entrances to the residential areas are equipped with doors of ordinary width. Unfortunately, not all doors were preserved: come to present times ones reveal similarities with the doors of rooms of Shestopal’s apartment building on Lev Tolstoy Street, but a similar design was common in the 1910s. On the whole, the doors are restrained in decoration, transom and five oval apertures are glazed, and one of the doors preserved the original (!) stained glass. The fine carving, decorating the door, was fulfilled with great skill.
The walls of the entrance hall are covered with ceramic tile on a third of height, such move does not occur anywhere else in the city, as well as the type of tile. This design was common in Europe, but within the Russian Empire was not widespread, although it might be present in apartment houses of St. Petersburg and Moscow. The edges of the tile lining are flat on the landings, and stepped parallel to the stairs. Most of the tile imitates cold grey marble or granite, part of its wall is mounted with, arranged in a row, the tiles with floral patterns (on the stairs are placed stepwise).
The ceiling is completely covered by a broad raised moulded frieze on the fifth floor which is made more emphatic, due to the presence of caisson fascia as a junction of walls and ceiling.
Frieze and ceiling
The entrance hall railings reproduce partly fencing elements of some building balconies: the upper part of the railings is a frieze of scrolls identical to insert of the second floor balconies and the front garden fence (in the latter this motif is made on a larger scale), which is interrupted by a vertical composition, reminiscent of a flower or a rod.
The windows of all the entrance halls have small geometric inserts of yellow glass. In the entrance hall on Marazlievskaya Street, on the top floor, on the entire area of the window there is a stained glass of geometric pattern that has been preserved almost completely. Large windows of the light well, looking at the entrance hall, have been preserved as well (now tightly boarded up as unnecessary).
Window between the first and the third floors
Stained glass on the top floor
Light well window
It is known as well that in the entrance on Marazlievskaya Street Margulis’ apartment was located, which layout was carried out in two levels. F. L. Pappe, applying such a move was the first of the city architects, who made the innovation come true.
In terms of design, entrances in Sabanskiy Lane are not different from the main one on Marazlievskaya Street. Left-side entrance in the lane is equipped with a long stair hall instead of a stairs lobby, similar to the lobby of the main entrance, vaults and bas-reliefs.
Left-side entrance in Sabanskiy Lane
The right-side entrance is decorated more interesting. The vaults are flat, but decorated in the same vein. Light windows overlook the passage arch (most of them are today boarded up or painted over, so it's hard to judge how well the entrance lobby was illuminated).
Right-side entrance hall in Sabanskiy Lane
The staircase is of a slightly oblong, almost square form. A beam between the staircase and the lobby is supported by a massive, square in cross-section, column with cut corners, crowned by the original form capital of geometric shapes. The lower part of the column is covered with metal bands with rough rivets (lift doors are decorated in the same style) that can also be attributed to unique elements of interior decoration. Here and there are remains of tiles, but otherwise the style of the entrance hall is similar to the previous two ones.
Frieze of the staircase
In some areas of apartments broad friezes with bas-reliefs depicting putti in scenes of hunting, harvesting fruits and crops, fishing have been preserved in good condition. Ceilings are ornamented like ceilings in the entrance halls, the composition is complicated.
Frieze, ceiling and bas-reliefs in one of the apartments (the entrance hall on Marazlievskaya Street
In general, analyzing the number of artistic techniques, a variety of finishing materials, unusual engineering and planning decisions and the degree of preservation of the decoration, the apartment house of Margulis can be attributed to the most outstanding buildings of the 1910s in Odessa.
Centenary history of the house can not be called intense. However, there are interesting pages in it. For example, in 1920 it housed editorial office of the journal «National Economy» — «the monthly organ of the Odessa Province Economic Council.» Later, some of the apartments were transferred to the KGB to place various offices and housing some employees. Next door, in the former Peasant Bank, since the 1920s there was a club of MGB, NKVD and KGB.
References and Archives
- «Architects of Odessa». V. Pilyavsky
- «Architecture of Odessa. Style and time». V. Pilyavsky
- «Buildings, structures, monuments of Odessa and architects». V. Pilyavsky
- An article on building in a blog Antique
- Reference book «All Odessa», 1914