Putin’s palatial McMansion?

McMansions are big but not usually too big. At some point, they become a mansion. Does it make sense then to compare a structure that may have been built for Vladmir Putin to a McMansion? Here is the argument:

Photo by Jo Kassis on Pexels.com

That film is Putin’s Palace, an expose of the Versailles-scaled estate Russian President Vladimir Putin has allegedly constructed for himself on the Black Sea. Produced and narrated by Alexei Navalny, the now-jailed activist and opposition leader, the film runs to nearly two hours and has been viewed more than 106 million times on YouTube — almost certainly record viewing for any film on architecture…

Located outside the seaside town of Gelendzhik, it is almost comically lavish, a virtual Kremlin-on-the-sea, surrounded by vineyards and protected by multiple levels of security, including a no-fly zone overhead. According to the film, it has its own church, a sculpture garden, a boulevard lined by rare trees, an arboretum (with 40 gardeners to keep it up), an amphitheater, an underground hockey rink (Navalny: “Who needs a palace in which you cannot play hockey?”), an amphitheater, a guest house accessed by a 260-foot-long bridge, a power station, staff dormitories, an operations center, a pair of helipads and its own gas station…

But Cirillo is no Rastrelli, and so while the palace apes the scale and grandiosity of the Hermitage, it lacks the essential dignity of the original, its sense of imperial grandeur. It is, in effect, a McMansion scaled up to palatial level, with the kind of amenities you’d find in an upscale suburban development in North Dallas: indoor pool, home theater, gym, bar, closet space galore…

Besides the tawdry detailing and construction, the essential difference between the palace and its historical models is conceptual. The great palaces were not just residences, but public expressions of an all-encompassing philosophical framework that reflected the monarch’s godlike presence across the entire physical and intellectual space of empire.

With this argument, a McMansion is defined less by its size but more in how it tries to imitate established styles or buildings and fails. Imitating the palaces of the past is not necessarily easy to do and the project can instead turn into a farce.

I wonder if it can also go the other way: can a McMansion be scaled down to a much smaller size? Imagine a McMansion tiny house that attempts to replicate a larger dwelling. Or, even a relatively small house that tries to do too much in borrowing elements.

Perhaps this argument works an additional way. Labeling any house or building a McMansion immediately casts the structure in a negative light. Putin and McMansion can be an easy link for those critical of his actions. Of course someone like that would live in a McMansion rather than a coherent architectural marvel? I have read many stories of how powerful people create outsized structures meant to display their prestige and power. Do such people often create architectural marvels or do they tend toward McMansion territory?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s