Among the palace-and-park ensembles encircling Leningrad in a green belt, the Pavlovsk complex of landscape combined with architecture was the latest to come into being. This is an outstanding landmark of the Russian culture of the late 18th - early 19th century. Work commenced on the grounds in 1777 to implement the project of a country house for Grand Duke Paul, the son of Catherine II, who was later crowned as Emperor Paul I. Outstanding architects, sculptors and artists were commissioned to lay out a huge park covering about 600 hectares and build the Palace and park structures. Their concepts were brought to life by landscape architects, gardeners and hundreds of workmen and peasants from local villages. The initial period when the park was taking shape was rather important though it lasted less than a decade. That time is associated with architect Charles Cameron who conceived the layout of the Pavlovsk Park. Ch. Cameron cleverly managed the wild wood growth thoroughly calculating major roads, avenues, paths, groves and lawns. Fine parterres similar to Dutch-style garden flower-beds adorn the Palace Area of the park - the Aviary patch and the Private Garden planned by Ch. Cameron and artist F. Violle.
Charles Cameron implemented his boldest conceptions within 1780-1786. He supervised construction of the pavilions known as the Temple to Friendship, Aviary, Dairy and Apollo Colonnade, laying of the Triple Lime Avenue and narrow walks lending special charm to the Palace Area scenery and building of bridges spanning the Slavianka River. The Pavlovsk Great Palace, a true jewel of Ch. Cameron's work, stands on a high hill visible from the most remote nooks of the park. Ch. Cameron also designed the Obelisk in honour of the foundation of Pavlovsk and basically mapped out the areas of the Great Star and the White Birch. The second stage of the park formation is tied with the Italian architect Vincenzo Brenna who designed exquisitely beautiful and original areas of the Old and New Sylvia. Vincenzo Brenna integrated bronze statuary into the landscapes of the Old Sylvia, laid the Great Circles in the Palace (or Central) Area decorated with marble statuary and flower parterres, built a large stone stairway called Italian, and finished both banks of the Slavianka River from the Visconti Bridge to the Pil-Tower Bridge harmonizing them with the Green and Stone Amphitheatres. The Pil-Tower Pavilion, Ruin Cascade and steps leading to it, the trellis and bridge by the northern wing of the Palace, the Centaur Bridge and the Stone Stairway descending to the Marienthal Pond, Theatre Gate and other structures built by V. Brenna made the scenery more versatile and poetic.
In 1796 Pavlovsk (the estate of the Heir to the Throne until then) became the Imperial property. On the orders of Paul, V. Brenna enlarged the Palace in 1796-1799 adding a second tier to the galleries running from the main block to the two symmetrically arranged square side wings turned into two-storeyed buildings. The third and most significant stage of the landscape park formation took nearly the entire first quarter of the 19th century. Three prominent masters - architects Andrei Voronikhin, Carlo Rossi and decorator Pietro Gonzaga - put finishing touches to the Pavlovsk Park and the Palace interior. Charles Cameron came back again and built the Three Graces and Fair Vale (Elizabeth's) Pavilions (1800-1801).
The outstanding painter and decorator Pietro Gonzaga made a large contribution to the emergence of subtly poetic nooks turning the northern Russian wood into a work of landscape art. Devising the flat and vertical arrangement of the scenery, P. Gonzaga set in order huge woody expanses to create new areas - the White Birch, the Parade Ground and the Pond Valley cleverly integrated into the Great Star quarter. A. Voronikhin and C. Rossi completed the park landscapes by building the Visconti, Pil-Tower and Iron Bridges across the Slavianka. The Open-Air Theatre, Turkish Tent and other natural compositions were incorporated into the landscape as green interiors. A. Voronikhin, P. Gonzaga and C. Rossi built and decorated the Rose Pavilion.
The building of the Pavlovsk palace-and-park ensemble lasted nearly half a century (1777-1824). Despite the differences in manner, concepts and approaches, all architects, sculptors and artists managed to produce a stylistically integral whole.
Seven major areas may be specified in the Pavlovsk Park, each having intrinsic traits of its own. The arrow-straight woody paths of the Great Star lead to the hilly banks of the Slavianka Valley; the narrow avenues of the Old Sylvia adorned with bronze statuary border on the mysterious thicket of the New Sylvia; the pompous composition of the Parade Ground melts into the broad space of the White Birch woods and fields. The Palace (or Central) Area almost fully designed in formal style is strikingly different from other parts of the park. "A step, and a new scene comes before my eyes...", wrote poet Vassily Zhukovsky admiring the inimitable versatility of the park.
Many well-known poets, writers and artists tied their fates in some way with Pavlovsk justly calling it "An Abode of Muses and Graces". Of special importance was the Music Vauxhall in which concerts and recitals were started in the 1840s as regular summer-time entertainments. In 1856-1870 it was a realm of the Strausses, Vienna composers and conductors, the King of Walts Johann Strauss enjoying special success.
A new page was turned in the history of Pavlovsk after the Great October Socialist Revolution when the ensemble was turned into a State national museum. Enormous damage was inflicted on the palace-and-park complex by the nazi invaders during the Great Patriotic War (1941-1945). The Great Palace, bridges and pavilions were ruined. Practically nothing remained of the Music Vauxhall and the Rose Pavilion. 70 thousand trees and 30 thousand shrubs were cut down. The Great Star area was nearly levelled with the ground. The enthusiastic efforts of the Soviet people gave another birth to the world-renowned Pavlovsk Park which was reopened to public in May, 1950. Scientifically-based reconstruction has been conducted in the park for decades with a view not only to heal the war-time wounds but to possibly rehabilitate the scenery created by the outstanding landscape architects 200 years ago. The harmony of the groves and woods, the smooth curves and outlines of the avenues and ponds, the interlacing well-balanced open and closed spaces, the seventeen pavilions, twelve bridges across the Slavianka and numerous ponds clustered into three systems - all this combined with refined Palladian structures and exquisite marble, bronze, iron and stone statuary makes the park a highly poetic and perfect piece of work of masters of the late 18th - early 19th centuries. "The charm of the Pavlovsk Park is hard to render. It is truly worth of special care", said Anatoly Lunacharsky about the artistic value of the park.
In 1983 the Pavlovsk palace-and-park ensemble was granted the status of a State museum preserve. The Pavlovsk Park today is a major centre of aesthetic education and a place of pilgrimage for numerous visitors.