Dom Soviet – remains of Azerbaijan’s Communist past

The Government House of Baku, known as well as Dom Soviet, is one of the most striking buildings of the city. This excellent example of fusion of Soviet and traditional, local architecture was designed by architects Vladimir Munts, Lev Rudnev and K. Tkachenko, and had been built between 1936-1952, in part by German Prisoners of War, to specific orders by Stalin. Today it houses several ministries and is one of the most visited tourist attractions in the city.

Dom Sovet

Image by Enrique Guerrero

Design

In 1934 The Communist Party of Azerbaijan issued a directive calling for a return to traditional style of architecture. Since then, until decree’s abolition by Khrushchev sometime in mid-1950s, many architects incorporated into the buildings of public use various elements characteristic to islamic design, such as arches, columns, inner courtyards and fountains. These influences are clearly visible in the design of Dom Soviet, the construction of which started in 1936. The House of Government was completed in 1952 but the works in the area continued into the 1970s – a large public square (then Lenin Square, now Independence Square) and a number of buildings, including the Absheron Hotel (today’s JW Marriott Absheron) were built in its vicinity.

Army day trend.az

Image from the last year’s Army Day. Parade in front of Dom Soviet and JW Marriott Absheron. Source: Trend.az

The building was designed to accommodate 5,500 people and over the years housed a number of different institutions and companies. However, after the last renovation (2006 – 2010)  it has been occupied mainly by various ministries,  including the Ministry of Culture and Tourism, the Ministry of Agriculture, the Ministry of Labor and Social Protection of Population and Copyright Agency of Azerbaijan Republic.

Useful links:

Baku Days: Khrushchev’s Architectural Legacy. Steve Hollier’s blog

Baku’s Architecture. Identity of Architects and Financiers Revealed. Farid Alakbarov for Azerbaijan International. 

Advertisements

Modern site of Baku – the futuristic architecture of Heydar Aliyev Center

Haydar Aliyev Center is undoubtedly the most exciting building constructed in Baku over the last years. This impressive 619,000-square-foot complex was opened to the public in May 2012  and is a clear symbol of the city’s rapid development and transition from the Soviet era into the 21st Century. Currently it houses the museum dedicated to the former president of Azerbaijan, Heydar Aliyev, and  is one of the main cultural venues in the city.

heydar aliyev center

Image by dezeen.com

Construction

Following a competition held in 2007, Zaha Hadid, the award-wining Iraqi-British architect was appointed the chief designer of the building. From the start her idea was to create a building that would break away from the rigid and heavy Soviet architecture, which dominated the city, and to capture the enthusiasm of a young nation that looks optimistically to the future. The design of the building establishes a continuous, fluid relationship between its surrounding plaza and the building’s interior. ‘‘Elaborate formations such as undulations, bifurcations, folds, and inflections modify this plaza surface into an architectural landscape that performs a multitude of functions: welcoming, embracing, and directing visitors through different levels of the interior” (ArchDaily). Interestingly, according to its creators, the fluid design of the building is also a modern interpretation of the islamic architecture of the region. You will find more information about this fascinating construction here.

The museum

helen binet

Image by Helen Binet

One of the floors of the building hosts the Heydar Aliyev’s Museum engaged in studying, promoting and protecting the heritage of the former president of Azerbaijan. Apart from the interactive exhibition about the history of Azerbaijan and different stages of Heydar Aliyev’s life and work, visitors can admire as well the gifts received by the former president from various world leaders and a collection of the cars used by him in different stages of his political career.

The cultural center

The museum is worth paying a visit not only because of its unique design but also because of the original exhibitions held there on a regular basis. Among the exhibitions currently shown at the center is the world premiere of the Cradle to Cosmos exhibition by the United States Space & Rocket Center where the exhibits include the spatial stations, original particles delivered from cosmic space and other planets, pieces and models of satellites, aeronaut suits and accessories, etc.

Heydsar

Image by bdonline

Getting there

The center is situated about 15 mins drive from the center of Baku and it’s best to get there by taxi (about 4 AZN, depending on the traffic) or by marshrutka (minibus, 20 qapik). It is open Monday-Saturday from 10-19. The entry fee to the Museum of Heydar Aliyev costs 5 AZN (students pay 2AZN). Visitors have to buy additional tickets to see the other exhibitions.

Useful links:

Heydar Aliyev Center – official site

 

Shirvanshahs’ Palace – the architectural gem of the Middle Ages

Located in the heart of the charming Icheri Sheher, the Shirvanshah’s Palace is with no doubt one of the pearls of Azerbaijan’s architecture. The Palace was built in the 15th Century  by the shahs of Shirvan, a historical region in eastern Caucasus, after Ibrahim I of Shirvan moved the capital from Shamakhy to Baku following a devastating earthquake.  The construction, despite having been built in different periods without a single plan, forms a beautiful, harmonious whole, which was classified by UNESCO as one of the places of outstanding value to humanity.

palace

The Palace. Image source: sheki blogspot

Construction

Originally constructed by the ruler of Shirvan, Khalilulla I, and his son, Farrukh, the palace had both religious and royal significance. Most of the construction work was done in the 15th century and it was stopped when Faruk was killed in a battle. The palace was also significantly damaged in 1806 when the shah of Shirvan, Mustafa, was forced to submit to Russian army.  However, despite Azerbaijan’s turbulent history, most of the buildings   – except the living premises and the hammam – are fairly well preserved.

Architecture

The complex consists of the main two-storey residential building, a small stone pavilion called Divankhana (Royal Assembly), a tomb for royal family members, the mausoleum of Seyid Yahya Bakuvi (a famous astronomer of the time), the Palace Mosque, the bathhouse (hammam) and the Murad’s Gate (Eastern Portal).

Divankhana

Divankhana is arguably one of the most impressive buildings in the complex. The pavilion, which consists of an octahedral hall covered with a cupola,  is situated in the center of a small courtyard surrounded by a gallery-arcade. The portal of the main entrance is decorated with fig and wine leaf ornaments and inscriptions in Arabic. The entrance is also adorned with two medallions containing inscriptions in Kufic Arabic. It is believed that Divankhana might have been meant as a mausoleum for Khalilullah I.

Divankhana

Divankhana

Royal Tomb

The building, known as well as the Turba, was constructed in 1435-1436 by Khalilulla I for his mother and his son Farrukh. His mother died in 1435 and his son died in 1442, at the age of seven. Additional tombs were discovered later on and it is thought that they might have belonged to other members of the Shah’s family,  including two more sons who died during his own lifetime. The Turba is the only building of the complex where we know the name of the architect – “Me’mar (architect) Ali” is carved into the design, but in reverse, as if reflected in a mirror.  This was a precautionary measure as putting the architect’s name openly might have been considered arrogant and severly punished by the shah.

baku_places_clip_image001

|Entrance to the Turba

Hammam

The palace bathhouse was discovered by chance in 1939 and it dates back to the 17th Century. It consists of 26 rooms, which are semi-underground  for coolness in the summer and warmth during winter. For more detailed description of the palace’s architecture follow the links below.

hammam

Palace hammam. Image by: allposters

When to visit

The palace is open daily from 9.00 till 18.00 and the entry fee costs about 2 AZN.

Useful links:

The complex of the Shirvanshahs Palace

The Palace of the Shirvanshahs by Visions of Azerbaijan

The Shirvanshah Palace. The Splendour of the Middle Ages. Azerbaijan International.

The Ensemble of the Shirvanshahs’ Palace