House of the book

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Now St Petersburg’s biggest and oldest bookshop, Dom Knigi (house of the book), formerly the Singer company of America’s corporate headquarters in downtown St Petersburg. The story is the company wanted a sky scraper, like their head offices in New York, but St Pete’s strict building code prevented it, so they went all out with a gaudy Art Nouveau exterior, heaps of glass (thanks to a steel frame borrowed from skyscraper design), air conditioning, lifts and a system to clean snow off the roof.

The building’s had a chequered history, it was the American embassy during WWI, but after the revolution it ended up as a bookshop and it’s been operating that way ever since (even during the siege). The two heroic but slightly cold looking winged ladies on either side of the windows are industry and navigation. Got a feeling we’re standing on the road bridge over Griboedov Canal, looking along Nevsky Prospekt.

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