Petinsky overpass in Kharkov

The increased attention to the aesthetic problems of bridge construction has also manifested itself in the architectural solutions of some city overpasses. In the early 1910s. in Moscow, on Kalanchevskaya Square (now Komsomolskaya Square), the construction of the building of the Kazan railway station, designed by the architect A.V.Shchusev, began.

In the picturesque silhouette of the station, its elegant decoration, the traditions of Russian architecture of the 17th century were skillfully used. This building turned out to be one of the most original and expressive pieces of architecture of the early 20th century in the retrospective “Russian style”.

Near the station Kalanchevskaya square was crossed by a multi-span railway viaduct. Shchusev, who was not satisfied with the utilitarian appearance of this building, in 1912 turned to the Academy of Arts with a request to instruct him to develop a project for the reconstruction of the viaduct in order to achieve its ensemble relationship with the station building. Shchusev’s request was granted, the Ministry of Railways ordered him a project for the reconstruction of the viaduct.

In the initial version of the project, Shchusev conceived to design the viaduct like a fortress wall, completed with a series of battlements, but then abandoned such an overly “theatrical” solution and suggested simply revealing the viaduct supports with massive blocks of light gray granite.

This decision made the viaduct somewhat heavy and at the same time introduced into its appearance that “classicism”, which effectively set off the picturesqueness of the Kazan railway station. The technique of plastic and stylistic contrast, skillfully used by Shchusev, created optimal conditions for the perception of the main element of the ensemble.

A completely different task was faced by the designers of the Petinsky overpass over the railway tracks near the station in Kharkov, erected in the early 1910s. At that time, intensive construction was underway in Kharkov. The design of new buildings was often entrusted to leading Moscow architects, and therefore the new overpass, solving the transport problem, was to become an important architectural accent in the city’s panorama and symbolize its prosperity with its expressive appearance.

According to the constructive decision on the architectural composition, the Petinsky overpass is one of the most peculiar structures of pre-revolutionary Russia. The main aisle, about 39 m wide in the light, crossing the railway tracks, is covered by a three-articulated “inverted” arch, which is a hanging system with a rigid chain. Such a superstructure is less sensitive to dynamic loads than conventional hanging superstructures, however, it is more difficult to manufacture, which limited the use of such systems.

The overpass in Kharkov was the first in Russia and the fourth in the world with a superstructure of this type, however, neither the outlines of the belts, nor the grid system of filling the chain structure with blue repeated the previous structures.

The overpass approaches of the Kharkov overpass were constructed of reinforced concrete arches. Their spans increased as the roadway increased. Arched overpasses were separated from the main span by powerful anchor abutments, the facades of which were dissected by openings and niches.

In the composition of the overpass, spans of different types, made of different materials, were contrasted, and the properties of the materials used were clearly identified in the appearance of the structure in accordance with the aesthetic program put forward during the search for a new style – Art Nouveau.

In this respect, the Petinsky overpass has something in common with such structures as the Troitsky (Kirovsky) bridge across the Neva and railway bridges across the Moskva River at the Luzhniki Stadium. Attracting by the “originality of the form”, however, it is inferior to these structures in the overall rhythmic integrity of the architectural composition.