Biographies Russian Architects 18th Century Johann Friedrich Braunstein

Johann Friedrich Braunstein

Born: Nuremberg
Died: after 1728

After the death of Andreas Schlüter in 1714, his work was taken over by his student, Johann Friedrich Braunstein, whom he had had invited to Russia in 1713. Braunstein initially worked for Schlüter as a draughtsman, on an annual salary of twenty roubles, before accepting the task of completing the projects of his late master.

When Jean-Baptiste-Alexandre Le Blond was hired by Peter the Great in 1716, the French architect expressed his dislike of Braunstein’s projects, and the German was relegated to the role of contractor. But after Le Blond’s death in 1719, the tsar asked Braunstein to come to Peterhof with his blueprints and, after studying his designs, gave them his approval.

Although Braunstein created many projects in St Petersburg, he was mainly Peter’s “suburban architect.” He worked primarily in Peterhof, Tsarskoe Selo (Catherine Palace), Oranienbaum and Kronstadt (palace of Prince Alexander Menshikov and palace of Count Burkhard Christoph von Münnich).

In Peterhof, Braunstein laid out the Upper Gardens and the Lower Park and built the Upper (Grand) Palace, Monplaisir, Orangery, Marly, Hermitage and the Sun Fountain.

Braunstein had a bitter rivalry with Nicola Michetti, an Italian architect who was also invited to work at Peterhof. Although he eventually forced the Italian out of Russia in 1723, Braunstein did not reign long afterwards. In 1725, he was punished for a professional misdemeanour – miscalculating the arches of a structure in Kronstadt, which subsequently collapsed. He was fined the enormous sum of 1,400 roubles and all work on Peterhof was handed over to Mikhail Zemtsov.

In 1728, when construction work in St Petersburg had virtually ground to a halt, Braunstein was dismissed and returned to Germany. Nevertheless, he was far luckier than his other colleagues, whose designs either disappeared over time or were distorted beyond recognition by later reconstructions. Entering the Lower Park today, we can still admire Marly and the Hermitage as they were originally built by Braunstein, restored to their former elegance after the Second World War.

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