Off to one side of the main axis of the Landscape Park (the landscaped part of the Alexander Park) stands a complex of buildings that have something of the look of a mediaeval knight’s castle. It includes the Gate Ruin – two towers with a gate between them, the White Tower – a “keep” 37.8 metres high, and also a moat and rampart topped by a brick breastwork.
The complex was created between 1821 and 1827 to the design of the Scottish architect Adam Menelaws for Nicholas I’s children – Grand Dukes Alexander, Nikolai, Mikhail and Konstantin, who did military exercises and gymnastics here. The upper floor of the tower contained the studio of the court painter Alexander Sauerweid (1783–1844), who gave the imperial children drawing and painting lessons.
The facades of the tower are embellished with cast-iron sculptures that were made at the Alexandrovsky Works from models by Vasily Demuth-Malinovsky (1779–1846), one of the superb constellation of sculptors Russia produced in the first half of the nineteenth century. The four cast-iron lions on the terrace were made from a model by Camillo Landini.
In addition, to a design by Alexander Nikolayevich’s tutor, the outstanding Russian poet Vasily Zhukovsky (1783-1852), an earthwork fortress was constructed. Its eight-pointed star shape was inspired by the works of the great seventeenth-century French fortifications engineer Sébastien Vauban.
The rooms inside the White Tower are situated one above the other: on the ground tier a dining-room and pantry; above, the drawing-room; on the third and fourth tiers a study and bedroom; on the fifth a dressing-room and library. The pavilion is completed by an open platform which provides splendid views of the surroundings of Tsarskoye Selo.
Many prominent St Petersburg craftsmen were involved in the decoration of the tower’s interiors: Giovanni Battista Scotti and Fiodor Brandukov did the painting; the furniture was made by the Gambs brothers, suppliers to the court, the parquet floors by Mikhail Znamensky.
The White Tower was almost completely destroyed during the Second World War, with only the lower part of the structure surviving. Restoration of this edifice began in the 1990s and was completed two decades later. On October 10, 2012, the White Tower opened as an Interactive Center for children’s education and creativity, with an observation deck on its top.