Whether Byzantine, Gothic, brutalist or baroque inspired, Eastern European architecture has a lot to offer. Frequently a mixture of styles and movements, buildings provide a unique insight into history and mentality of each nation. And while each building has its story and place in history, certain ones have became parts of national identity and made a mark that can’t be erased.
Peterhof Palace, Saint Petersburg, Russia
Listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Peterhof complex of palaces and gardens is one of architectural trademarks and main historical sites of Saint Petersburg. A must visit for any architecture savvy tourist, Russian Versailles (as it is frequently called) was made as a royal residency of Emperor Peter the Great. Inspired by his visit to Chateau Versailles, Peter himself came up with a significant part of the design for the Palace. Except him, famed architects Leblondt, Barunstein, Micchetti and Rastrelli also gave their contribution to the final look and feel of Peterhof. Noted for a large number of elaborate fountains, Peterhof was finalized in 1755.
Slovensky Rozhlas, Bratislava, Slovakia
Proclaimed to be one of the 30 ugliest buildings in the world, Slovak Radio headquarters remain one of the most noticeable examples of brutalist architecture in Bratislava. Shaped as an inverted pyramid, the 80 metres high building was designed by Slovak architects Svetko, Ďurkovič and Kissling in 1967. With plenty of space, Rozhlas building features many recording and editing studios and concert halls, including a large one with almost 600 seats featuring the largest organ in Slovakia. Despite years of ridicule by international public for its unusual shape and design, building of Slovensky Rozhlas has became a legendary piece of Slovak architecture, winning the title of Construction of the Century and National Cultural Monument of Slovak Republic.
Old Bridge, Mostar, Bosnia and Herzegovina
One of the most famous landmarks of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Old Bridge in Mostar was designed in 16th century by renowned Ottoman architect Mimar Sinan/Hajruddin. Bridging the Neretva river, 4 metres wide and 30 metres long Old Bridge connects two parts of the city. At each end of the bridge are fortified towers, Halebija and Tara tower. Little information about the building process itself has been preserved. However, the most famous remark of the bridge was provided by Ottoman traveler and explorer Evliya Celebi, “The bridge is like a rainbow arch soaring up to the skies, extending from one cliff to the other. …I, a poor and miserable slave of Allah, have passed through 16 countries, but I have never seen such a high bridge. It is thrown from rock to rock as high as the sky.” Damaged by Croat forces during the civil war of the nineties, Old Bridge was under repair between 2001 and 2004. Today, it remains one the most meaningful architectural wonders of Bosnia and Herzegovina, as well as one of the most beautiful and visited tourist sites.
Blok 21, Belgrade, Serbia
Residential block known for its distinctive brutalist appearance, Blok 21 is somewhat a legendary part of New Belgrade neighborhood. Consisting of six residential towers, two blocks and one large meander, it is one of school examples of socialist architecture. Especially noticeable is the meander, 972 meters long building featuring 789 apartments, the longest one in former Yugoslavia. Frequently called “Great Wall of China” by the locals, it was designed during 1960’s by distinguished Serbian architects Lenarcic, Mitic, Petrovic and Canak. A great constructional feat at the time, its primary purpose was housing of active and retired military staff. As one of the architects who designed the building remarked, the state wanted to get the biggest number of apartments possible for the investment it made, limiting creative freedom and informing the minimalist and somewhat unusual shape of the final building.
Dancing House, Prague, Czech Republic
Highly unusual for the generally traditional, baroque and Gothic styled Prague, Dancing House building certainly commands attention of everyone who visit the Czech capital. Designed by two architects, Milunic and Gehry, the building was finalized in 1996 as headquarters for the Dutch bank Nationale-Nederlanden. Envisioned as yin and yang, or movement and stillness by Milunic, Dancing House is mostly considered to be a part of deconstructivist movement in architecture. Since the bank was generous with the budget, architects could afford to be creative and even make construction decisions secondary to aesthetic ones. Today the building can be seen on a 2000 Czech koruna coin, proving its relevance and impact on the city of Prague and Czech culture in general.
Saint Basil’s Cathedral, Moscow, Russia
Possibly the first association to Moscow and its Red Square, the Saint Basil’s Cathedral is truly an architectural wonder like no other. Listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, its initial construction was ordered by Tsar Ivan the Terrible as a way to celebrate victorious campaign in the Russo-Kazan War. Mysteriously, it isn’t known who the architect of one of the globally most famed churches is, and very little is generally known about the building process. Another peculiarity regarding the Cathedral is the mystery of its style and inspiration. One of a kind when it comes to appearance, it doesn’t share any common traits with European or Byzantine architectural styles of the time, leading to conclusions its design is a mixture of Asian and traditional Siberian wooden church architecture. Characterized by colorful domes resembling flames rising into the sky, this 5 centuries old building has yet to be surpassed in both beauty and mystery.
Church of Saint Sava, Belgrade, Serbia
One of the largest Ortodox churches in the world, and one of the largest church buildings in the world, Church of Saint Sava is dedicated to the founder of Serbian Ortodox Church. Built on the place where his remains were buried by Ottoman Grand Vizier, the initial idea of building a sacred temple dedicated to a holy figure appeared in 1895. However, wars and other issues slowed the fruition of the idea for the next forty years, which meant the construction didn’t start until 1935. Stopped during the World War II, the building process was picked up again in 1985. Internally decorated with numerous mosaics and texts in Church Slavonic language, once finished, it will be the largest church in the world ornamented with mosaic technique. Today, it is the most monumental building in Belgrade and one of the most frequently visited by both tourists and locals.