BAZHENOV, Vasily
(b. ca. 1737, Dol'skoye, d. 1799, St. Petersburg)

Biography

Russian architect. Bazhenov and his associates Matvey Kazakov (1738-c. 1812) and Ivan Starov were the leading local architects of the Russian Enlightenment, a period dominated by foreign architects (Charles Cameron, Giacomo Quarenghi, Antonio Rinaldi and others).

In 1753 Bazhenov volunteered (but was not formally hired) into the Kremlin-based architectural company of Dmitry Ukhtomsky (1719-1774), then the only Moscow institution providing basic architectural training. There Bazhenov acquired practical construction skills; poverty forced him to seek paid work instead of classroom training.

In 1755 Bazhenov joined the first class of the newly opened Moscow State University. In 1758, the University dispatched a group of sixteen students, including Bazhenov and Ivan Starov, to St. Petersburg to continue training at the newly established Imperial Academy of Arts. Three years later Bazhenov was awarded a scholarship and trained in Paris at the workshop of Charles de Wailly. Bazhenov's entries to the competitions of the French Academy of Architecture were a success; he "triumphantly concluded" the scholarship, being elected to the Roman Academy of St. Luke, Academy of Fine Arts of Florence and Academy of Fine Arts of Bologna. Later, Bazhenov became the principal promoter of French Neoclassicism in Russia and set the stylistic canon of Neoclassical Moscow along the ideas of De Wailly. He returned to Russia in 1765.

Catherine II wanted to have the centre of Moscow, the Kremlin, completely rebuilt. He entrusted the planning of the scheme to Bazhenov who worked for five years on a grandiose design that incorporated the urban environment around the Kremlin. But just two years after the foundation stone was laid in 1773, work was halted for political and economic reasons.

Tradition of the first half of the 20th century, credited Bazhenov with designing numerous high-profile private buildings in Moscow. Later research has shown that in most cases his input cannot be reliable ascertained. Pashkov House, most likely, has been designed by Bazhenov while other residences once credited to him are now listed under "unknown architect" heading.