Winter 1998 (6.4)
Architecture of the Oil Baron Period
Academy of Science Presidium
10 Istiglaliyat (Independence Avenue)
Left: The Presidium of the Academy of Science built by Musa Naghiyev between 1908 and 1913 to commemorate his son Ismayil (left) who died of tuberculosis.
Right: Interior. The building was originally called Ismailiyya.
The palatial Academy of Science Presidium is considered to be the most elaborate building in Baku. It is located near the twin gates of the citadel walls of the "Inner City" (Ichari Shahar).
Originally known as Ismailiyya, this mansion was built in memory of Musa Naghiyev's only son, Ismayil, who died of tuberculosis in his youth. Unfortunately, not even enormous wealth could cure his son of this dreadful disease which was indigenous to the region at the time. The building's original function was to house the Moslem Philanthropic Society House.
Musa Naghiyev (1849-1919) was considered the wealthiest Oil Baron of Baku. He began his career in oil as a cargo handler, just as many others had, but managed to accumulate his wealth incredibly quickly. Naghiyev employed the Polish architect I. K. Ploshko to design the building in a Venetian Gothic style reminiscent of the Palazzo Cantarini in Venice. The building was under construction from 1908 to 1913. Ploshko skillfully integrated the European style with Baku's decorative Oriental tradition. Of special note is the interior of the building, particularly the decorative gilt ceilings, which can be seen today in the office of the Academy's president.
In March 1918, five years after its completion, the building was set on fire and desecrated by Armenians and Bolsheviks. The Soviet government restored the building in the mid-1920s, replacing the Oriental ornamentation and inscriptions from the Quran on the front façade with golden stars, symbols of Communism. Fortunately, during the Soviet period, the building was not divided into smaller apartment units but preserved intact as a state building. In the 1930s, it served as the House of Turkic Culture and later as the Presidium of the Academy of Science, the function it still fulfills today.
From Azerbaijan International (6.4) Winter 1998.
© Azerbaijan International 1998. All rights reserved.