Originally the space, taken by the park, was the hunting ground of Empress Elisabeth I. Later on the area was recultivated, since the Alexander Palace was being built. Alexander Park, which is encircling Alexander Palace, takes the space of about 500 acres, and can be divided into 2 different parts. The space which is located behind the palace is the New Garden and it is regular formal garden. It was shaped in 1790s. The rest has the English landscape design and is named Landscape Park. Most of this part of the park has got its shape later, under Alexander I and Nicholas I.
The central entrance to the park is situated by the parade ground in front of Catherine Palace. From here one walks across the exotic Chinese bridge enters directly into the New Garden.
There are several landmarks united by the Oriental influence in Alexander Park. Under Catherine the Great Chinese culture became fashionable in Russia and especially in St Petersburg. The entire Chinese-style ensemble was created in the garden by Charles Cameron. In 18th century this kind of stylization was named
chinoiserie. China was regarded by European philosophy as faraway exotic mysterious land populated by the wise men. Three bridges, connecting the area of Chinese village with the rest of the garden, are very interesting landmarks. The Dragon Bridge, constructed by Charles Cameron, is decorated with four sculptures of the dragons. The dragons have wings and ready to spring forward. The Chinese Bridge is the most impressive out of all three. It is made of pink granite, adorned with 13 pink vases and decorated with four statues of Chinese noble men and ladies. This is the brilliant example of European idea about the Chinese fashions and traditions of the 18th century. The Cross-shaped Bridge resembles the Chinese pagoda. The ensemble of the village was not completed because of death of Catherine the Great. The nice chinoiserie cottages were used as the guesthouses. They have the same usage today.
In the middle of the 18th century the focal point of the garden was the pavilion called “Monbijou” (“my treasure” in French). This was a fanciful Baroque structure intended for the short stay of Empress Elisabeth I during her hunting trips. By the 19th century this kind of architecture was out of fashion. The building was reconstructed in Neo-Gothic style by Adam Menelaws in 1830s. Emperor Nicholas I was very interested in military history and amassed the large collection of Western European armor of 16-17th centuries. This collection consisted of about 5000 items. It was decided to place it in the reconstructed pavilion and rename it into Arsenal. This exhibition was shown to the public, thus Arsenal pavilion was the first military museum in Russia. After many decades of neglect, Tsarskoye Selo museum has opened this pavilion after the extensive renovation. Just like in the old days, one can see the collection of armory there and other pieces, related to the life of the Russian emperors. The most interesting fact, probably, is that Nicholas I loved medieval legends and rather often arranged fancy-dress jousts in Alexander Park. Gentlemen were dressed up and acted like the knights from Sir Walter Scott’s books, and ladies were playing the part of their fair paramours. All the Gothic pavilions in the park were the perfect sceneries for these medieval-style tournaments.
The pseudo-Gothic style pavilion was constructed by Adam Menelaws on the orders of Alexander I. After Napoleon was defeated and the Congress of Vienna has taken place the shape of Europe has changed. All European countries, including Russia, were searching for the ideal in the good old days. Medieval style in architecture, literature and applied art became especially fashionable. The Chapel Pavilion initially looked like the Gothic Catholic chapel, abandoned and withered by time. This edifice had to bring about the air of romantic mystery, which suited the moods of the emperor. Later on, the next ruler of Russia Nicholas I, who was the younger brother to Alexander, continued to upkeep the Chapel. It was the kind of Gothic-style decoration in the royal games: jousts and tournaments, when the Imperial family and the entire court were dressed up like medieval knights and dames. The building has suffered greatly under the Nazis. The renovation was completed in early autumn 2018.
Elegant white structure is yet another Neo-Gothic edifice in the park. The white tower is the centerpiece of the architectural ensemble, representing the ruined medieval castle. The Tower is standing like a bastion, protecting the royal garden from the enemy’s invasion. The “guards” are 4 bronze ever-vigil lions, placed at the entrance doors. It was built in 1820s by the architect Adam Menelaws, who arrived to Russia together with Charles Cameron from Scotland. The White Tower had the kind of a “gym” on the ground floor, arranged especially for four sons of Nicholas I. Here the boys were doing athletic and military exercises. The top of the tower was the perfect place for the drawing lessons for the royal children. The structure was adapted for the longer stays as well: there were living room, pantry and library. Furniture was commissioned from Hambs factory. Museum “Tsarskoye Selo” has restored this building after the war and made it into the interactive classes for children, this way preserving the educational traditions in Alexander Park.