Karl Ivanovich Rossi

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Rossi, Karl Ivanovich


(also Carl Rossi). Born Dec. 18 (29), 1775, in St. Petersburg; died there Apr. 6(18), 1849. Russian architect; representative of late classicism.

Rossi, the son of the Italian ballerina G. Rossi, grew up in an artistic environment. In 1796 he became an assistant to the architect V. F. Brenna, and in 1802 and 1803 he studied in Italy. In 1804, Rossi was appointed artist at the glass and porcelain factories in St. Petersburg. Two years later he was appointed architect of His Majesty’s Cabinet. In 1809 he was sent to Moscow on the Kremlin Construction Expedition. (Rossi’s buildings in Moscow have not been preserved.) Among Rossi’s early projects was the reconstruction of the Itinerary Palace in Tver’ (1809).

In 1815, Rossi returned to St. Petersburg, and the next year he became one of the chief architects of the Committee for Construction and Hydraulic Works. It was during this period that Rossi’s creative work flourished. He drew up extensive plans for a number of monumental structures in St. Petersburg that to a great extent determined the appearance of the central part of the city.

After the construction of the picturesque palace and park complex on Elagin Island (1818–22), Rossi carried out construction of the majestic Mikhailovskii Palace (1819–25; now the Russian Museum) and the triumphal group of buildings on Mikhailovskaia Square (now Arts Square) and on Mikhailov-skaia Street (now Brodskii Street), which connects the square with Nevsky Prospect. The interior decoration of Mikhailovskii Palace (for example, the White Hall) was designed by Rossi and bears witness to his great skill as a decorator.

Between 1819 and 1829, Rossi built the General Staff complex, boldly solving a difficult problem of composition and layout and creating a grand approach to Palace Square: he changed the direction of Morskaia Street (now Herzen Street), aiming it toward the center of the Winter Palace, and placed a mighty double archway over the street. Between 1816 and 1834, Rossi erected one of the most important building complexes in St. Petersburg. The project included construction of the Alek-sandrinskii Theater (now the A. S. Pushkin Leningrad Academic Drama Theater), Teatral’naia Street (now Architect Rossi Street), Aleksandrinskaia Square (now Ostrovskii Square), and Chernyshev Bridge Square (now Lomonosov Square). From 1829 to 1834, Rossi completed Senate Square (now Decembrists’ Square), with his last large-scale project—the buildings of the Senate and Synod (now the Central Historical Archive of the USSR).

Rossi’s work in St. Petersburg constituted the acme of urban construction in the period of Russian classicism. His ensembles are marked by grand scale, clarity of volume and spatial composition, and diversity and naturalness of design. A founder of the Russian version of the Empire style, Rossi was involved in a broad range of architectural tasks, from the planning of large building complexes to the working out of details of interior furnishing. His work is distinguished by expressive and diverse use of the classical orders, by a harmonious combination of architectural forms with allegorical sculpture (sculpture by S. S. Pi-menov and V. I. Demut-Malinovskii), and by innovative structural devices (such as metal ceilings). The emphatically triumphal nature of Rossi’s buildings patriotically reflects the greatness of Russia, the victor in the Patriotic War of 1812.

Other works by Rossi include the palace library (1822–24) and the Nikolaevskii cast-iron gates and fence (1826) in Pav-lovsk, as well as the bell tower of the Iur’ev Monastery (1838–41) in Novgorod. He also designed the Gallery of the Patriotic War of 1812 (1826; restored by V. P. Stasov after the fire of 1837) in the Winter Palace in St. Petersburg.

Rossi’s ideas on city planning, which he embodied in majestic urban complexes, were a qualitatively new contribution to the architecture of Russian classicism. However, features of the crisis of late classicism and elements of architectural eclecticism were apparent in his later works.


Veinert, N. Rossi. Moscow-Leningrad, 1939.
Grimm, G. G. Ploshchad’ iskusstv i ploshchad’ Ostrovskogo. Leningrad-Moscow, 1946.
Piliavskii, V. I. Zodchii Rossi. Moscow-Leningrad, 1951.
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.