A fascination with the forms of Gothic and Chinese art was a characteristic feature of Russian suburban and country-estate architecture in the 1760s and 1770s. A romantic garden was supposed to create the illusion of a journey through different lands.
The earliest Neo-Gothic edifices at Tsarskoye Selo are the Tower Ruin and the Admiralty Complex, both dating from the early 1770s. Later the Hermitage Kitchen was built to Vasily Neyelov’s design. In the eighteenth century this structure had two functions, serving not only as a kitchen, but also as an entrance gate to the Catherine Park. For that reason the pavilion is quite often referred to as the Red Gate.
The architectural concept of the Hermitage Kitchen is linked to the canal that was constructed in 1774 along the boundary of the Old Garden. The replacement of the former unbroken masonry wall with a canal and embankment was part of a wide-reaching programme for the reorganization of the Catherine Park.
In ground plan the Hermitage Kitchen takes the form of an elongated rectangle with two projections on the side of the park. The building culminates in a round two-tier tower. In the design of the facades [Click to enlarge] Neyelov used the motif of semicircular niches in which he placed decorative vases that were sometimes referred to as “goblets” in the eighteenth century on account of their geometrical shape and massive heaviness.
The decoration of the Hermitage also includes other devices typical of early Classicism, including the embellishment of the walls with panels and the garland of stuccowork above the arch of the gateway. The building gets its “Gothic” character from the crenellated parapet, the rectangular and triangular merlons crowning the lower and upper tiers of the tower and also the pyramids topped with balls placed on the corners. In imitation of Gothic edifices in England, the walls of the Hermitage Kitchen were left unplastered, while the joints between the bricks, the moulded details, the niches and panels on the facades were whitewashed.
Now restored, the pavilion houses a Catherine Park ticket office and the Hermitage Kitchen restaurant and café.