The complex of three pavilions that has long been known as the Admiralty was erected to the design of the architect Vasily Neyelov on the bank of the Great Pond in the Landscape Park (the Catherine Park) in place of a wooden boat-shed. The ensemble was built in the summer of 1773 and the rooms inside were decorated in 1774–75.
The lower floor of the central block was used for the storage of the boats on which courtiers took trips on the Great Pond. It was this that gave the building its name. In the nineteenth century it contained a collection of rowing vessels from different countries of the world, including Catherine II’s barges and Nicholas I’s Turkish kayik (a gift from the Sultan). This tradition was passed on to Tsarskoye Selo from Peter the Great’s amusement fleet that once existed on the ponds of the Moscow Kremlin. A ride on the richly decorated vessels, brightly illuminated with lamps, was an invariable part of festive evenings. This unique collection associated with the history of the Russian Navy perished during the Second World War.
The towers of the central block contain staircases leading to a large, bright hall in the second storey. During Catherine II’s boat trips on the lake an orchestra would play here. The walls were hung with English prints of landscape parks that were acquired in Britain in the 1770s. In 1901 the celebrated Gottorp Globe was installed here. This globe, with a diameter of more than three metres, was constructed in the German duchy of Gottorp between 1654 and 1664 and given to Peter I as a present in 1713. It was removed to Germany during the war, but later recovered. The Gottorp Globe can now be seen in the Kunstkammer in St Petersburg.
Flanking the central pavilion are two blocks known as the Birdhouses or Aviaries. Various kinds of water birds (ducks and swans) used to be kept in them, as well as pheasants and peafowl. The main building and two wings are linked by a railing produced at the St Petersburg Mint. In the eighteenth century there were little gardens and two round ponds.
The architectural complex of the Admiralty also included the Sailors’ House, located to the right of one of the Birdhouses. This was the living quarters of the oarsmen who in the eighteenth century provided boat trips and ferried people across to the island in the Great Pond.
At present the central block of the Admiralty complex is used for temporary exhibitions, while the Museum's Visitor Information Center and a cafe named V-café work in one of the Birdhouses (left wing) and a restaurant named The Admiralty in the other.