Fyodor Osipovich Shektel also famously known as Franz Albert Schechtel was a Russian architect. He was considered a master in Russian style of decorative art i.e. ‘Art Nouveau’. His projects were mainly in Moscow and are still standing tall. In around twenty years of his work he completed 39 private residences 5 churches and 5 theaters. Most of his career he practiced independently.
Franz Schechtel was born on 7th August 1859 to a family of Volga Germans(Germans who colonized and used to live near river Volga). His parents were engineers in St. Petersburg and had five children. Franz was their second child. Franz’s life took a sharp turn when his family had to shift to Saratov to support his uncle in his bad health whose name was also ‘Franz Schechtel’. But he died in1867. Sr. Franz’s death left the family in debts. Jr. Franz attended Roman Catholic Seminary in Saravtov and got graduated from their in year 1875.
Due to bad financial condition of the family Franz’s mother Daria Karlovna had to find work to support the family. She started working for a Russian businessman and art collector Pavel Tretyakov.
Instead of learning about architecture from a proper school, Franz learned mostly by assisting a great architect of 1860’s Alexander Kaminsky who was also a relative of Peval Tretyakov. In 1875, Franz went Moscow school of Painting, Sculptures and Architecture. He couldn’t complete his degree from there and eventually got expelled from the institution due to bad attendance. His mother’s illness is assumed as one of the factor for this.
One of the key factor for Franz’s success was due to his connections he made while working for Alexander Kaminsky. These connections and also being a known of Peval Tretyakov made his way easy in getting clients and made him recognized by Moscow’s artistic circle, especially Morozov family.
Before 1894, all of Schechtel’s work was credited to his mentor Kaminsky because he didn’t had a license for construction management. Finally Franz got his construction management license in 1894. Schechtel’s most famous works were Zinaida Morozova House and Kharitonenko Mansion on Sofiiskaya Naberezhnaya. He received great appreciation for both of them. He collaborated with famous painter Mikhail Vrubel for Zinaida Morozova House which they designed on Gothic architecture and Romanticism.
Introduction to Art Nouveau
This unique and magnificent style of design got popular throughout Europe between 1890-1910. Most of the designing in this art is done on the basis of natural things like plants and flowers.In 1900, Schechtel got fascinated by this form of design and he designed many projects in Patriarshy Ponds. Schechtel also made his two residences here in this rich neighborhood. He got global recognition from ‘Popov Tea House’ in Paris, for which he earned a silver medal.
Unlike many other architects, his works were never similar to each other, in fact, a totally distinguish designs were found in his simultaneously running projects. For Schechtel the most beneficial years in which he designed many of his works were 1899-1903. All these projects were within Moscow city.
Schechtel had already gained a reputed name within the ‘Old Believers’ community of Russia. This helped him in getting the project for designing of Belokrinitskoe Soglasie’ because government had removed all the prohibition on old believers after Russian Revolt of 1905. This project was financed by Maltsev brothers for whom Schechtel had designed many projects in past, So this was also a factor in getting the project.
After 1905, Schechtel designed many offices which had the Art Nouveau. Applying art Nouveau to the steel frame structures was one of his unique ability in that era and it was appreciated in Ryabushinsky Printshop project.
In 1909, Schechtel went slightly different to that what he used to do, he designed his third residence in Neoclassical Revival style which is a form of architecture of classical antiquity mostly popular in Italy.
This house was made on the name of Zinaida Morozov wife of famous businessman and philanthropist Savva Morozov. It was built from 1893 to 1898 by Schechtel and was completely designed in Gothic style. The house is present at one of the most renowned street of Moscow, Spiridonovka. The uniqueness of this site is due to the amazing combination and mix of various art styles like Rococo, French Renaissance and English Gothic.
The strict asymmetric geometric composition of three arched portals is so magnificent that it brings tourists from all over the world to see it. It was described as ‘Master and Margarita’ in the novel of Bulgakov. Currently, this mansion is the office of Russian foreign ministry.
Death & Legacy
After the initiation of first world war, Schechtel work was deeply affected by it. All the new construction within the country got paused due to it hence it brought a gradual end to Schechtel’s career as an architect. Moscow’s suburb Solomennaya Storozhka which was a wooden terraced church was his last project. Due to negligence the church went to bad condition and finally got demolished in the 1960s.
Schechtel’s end days were not as good as of his career, he was also made to vacant his house at Bolshaya Sadovaya. Both of his children became well-known artist. He died at the age of 66 on 7 July 1926. He was buried to Vegankovo Cementry.