First high-rise buildings in Norilsk were long-term projects

First high-rise buildings in Norilsk were long-term projects

March 02, 2024

It seems like they have always been here. But these buildings were once construction sites, and even long-term projects. Let's see how it was.


Octyabrskaya square is perhaps the most beautiful place in Norilsk, literally “postcard” one. The facade of the new city, the “lobby” for receiving guests and the showcase of socialism in the Arctic – such problems were solved by the authors-architects of this square: Nepokoychitsky, Minenko and Mazmanyan. And for the young Leningrader Vitold Nepokoichitsky, this was an exam for professional competence, his bid for victory. The buildings included in the square ensemble were awarded the third prize in the competition for the best residential and public buildings built in the RSFSR in 1951. It is worth noting that 87 cities, including the capital, fought for victory.

The Octyabrskaya square projects began to be developed back in 1943. In 1947, the builders commissioned the right wing, which later received the address Leninsky prospect, 2. In 1951, the left wing with a tower was built, where the scientific and technical library moved. The twin buildings became the high-rise accent of the new Norilsk. Their five-story base and tower superstructures rose to the highest height in the city at that time. Whereas just ten years earlier, a three-story building in Norilsk was considered the limit of urban planning possibilities on permafrost.

Builder Pavel Lebedin recalled: “With great love we built houses on Octyabrskaya square – it was the face of the young city. The two towers that crown the buildings of the technical library and the House of Political Education were difficult to install – we were not used to working at such a height. Now, when I look at it from the perspective of my 60 years, I’m so surprised: how did I climb there? Like birds on wires – that’s how we felt”.

In this photo from 1957, the right, long wing of house No. 2 on Gvardeiskaya square is under construction. This wing was built earlier than the central part. The entire ensemble of the building was conceived back in 1950, and already at the level of a deep 16-meter pit it became a long-term construction project. Initially, they planned to build a 12-story House of Industry in the style of Moscow skyscrapers. There was even an idea to install a hundred-meter antenna on its tower for the Norilsk television center. But the country’s new leader, Nikita Hrushchev, criticized Moscow’s high-rise buildings, and Norilsk city planners could no longer focus on them. First, they decided to cut down the 12-story House of Industry to a nine-story “model dormitory”. And then they completely “cut down” the tower superstructure, leaving only five floors.

This is how the city newspaper wrote about this construction in 1957: “Everyone knows the old fence on Gvardeiskaya square. The tallest building in our city is going to be built here. A large model dormitory will be located on nine floors of the building, equipped with elevators. The construction of a small semicircular hall with a stage is planned. Construction of this facility has already begun; in the first quarter, tower cranes will rise here and masonry work will begin. The house will be completed in 1958”. As a result, the shortened building was commissioned only in 1960, and it was neither the House of Industry, nor even a hostel located there, but the Norilsk hotel.

This photo was also taken on Gvardeiskaya square. Behind the Norilsk residents taking pictures, you can see that same “old fence” and the Gvardeiskaya, 2 building’s central part construction. But the main attraction for which this photo was taken is a round flowerbed with a flowerpot.

At first, the space of the square was empty. And in winter there was nothing in its center, not even a turning circle with a lawn, which made snow removal on the square much easier. In the summer, starting from the mid-1950s, a seasonal flower bed with flowers was created there. A tall plaster flowerpot was placed in the center of the flowerbed, which is seen in many old photographs in the photo albums of Norilsk residents. By the way, this was not the only flowerbed here: on the nearest lawn overlooking the square, a flower calendar was arranged, the numbers and letters of which were made from greenery and changed daily.

At the end of the 1950s, instead of the flowerpot, a city sculpture was placed on Gvardeiskaya square – a plaster bear holding a caught seal in its paws. The sculpture did not stand in the city center for long, it was again replaced by flower beds and small architectural forms. In June 1966, a block of gabbro-diabase appeared on the square with the promise: “An obelisk will be built here, always reminiscent of the feat of the Norilsk people who conquered the tundra and created our city and combine”. The monument to metallurgists was erected in the summer of 2020, while the stone, which itself had already become a landmark, remained with it in a single composition.

After the construction of a “truncated” building on Gvardeiskaya square, 2, the idea of a high-rise dominant on this square did not leave the minds of city planners. They proposed various projects for completing the building, but in reality everything turned out differently. In 1973, construction of the Norilskproekt high-rise began in the courtyard behind the hotel building. Its stylistic cubic solution not in the least coincided with the Stalinist classicism of Gvardeiskaya square. Even the fact that it was turned at an angle to the avenue’s axis did not save the situation. It was constantly criticized by the architectural community, especially by Vitold Nepokoychitsky, who had designed the square.

For some unknown reason, it was this building in the ensemble of the main avenue, which caused the most doubt, that became the most protracted long-term construction. It took over ten years to build and was completed by the mid-1980s. And all those years, the unfinished concrete box loomed in the perspective of the city’s main street. Norilsk residents of that time even had a joke about this building. “The guide is leading a bus tour, and the city guests ask him: “What building is this that is under construction?” The guide honestly answers: “I don’t know, they’ve been building it for ten years, and they still won’t finish it”. Of course, the guide was called “on the carpet” and reprimanded for his unpatriotic attitude. On the next excursion, he answered the same question in a different way: “Building? I have no idea, yesterday there was nothing, but today it’s being built”.

In the History Spot’s previous publication, we talked about Sevastopolskaya street.

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March 02, 2024

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