Ogee: From Russia with love

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Examples of ogee are prevalent in many countries, particularly in Russian historical architecture. Russia’s palaces and churches provide the clearest indication of the country’s love affair with the ogee – where it is also known as a "Kokoshnik" which is a type of ancient headdress with similar curves.

112 2547856Examples of ogee are prevalent in many countries, particularly in Russian historical architecture. Russia’s palaces and churches provide the clearest indication of the country’s love affair with the ogee – where it is also known as a "Kokoshnik" which is a type of ancient headdress with similar curves. There is even an architectural term called the "Russian Kokoshnik" (tent style), which refers to a circular architectural feature, rising to a diminishing point and framed by decorative mouldings which often includes ogee arcs.

This Byzantine type structure first became popular in the 16th and 17th centuries, producing buildings such as St. Basil’s Cathedral in Red Square, Moscow. Another prime example is the Transfiguration Church (Preobrazheniya) constructed for the Russian royal family in the sixteenth century, featuring a decorative tent shaped tower, adorned with a riot of copulas, ogee arches and gables.

However, one of the most impressive examples of the ogee (kokoshnik) is the wooden summer palace built in 1668 by Semen Petrov and Ivan Mikhailov for Tsar Alexei Mikhailovich. In its time, the palace was said to be considered the "eighth wonder of the world", bursting with "Kokoshniks", ogee shaped roofs, cupolas, towers and globes. Unfortunately, the original building is no longer standing, but it’s possible to get an idea of its impressive architectural lines from a replica model at Kolomenskoye, a former royal estate located near Moscow.

Whether it’s an "ogee" or "kokoshnik" Russian architecture is all the richer for the inclusion of these incredible decorative arches.