The General Staff Building, one of the most famous architectural monuments in Saint Petersburg, was designed by the architect K. I. Rossi and was built between 1820 and 1830. The project revolved around the architect’s idea to unite two separate buildings with a triumphal arch, a monument to Russia’s victory in the war of 1812. This majestic arch is a symbol Russia’s glory and military triumph; it forms a symmetrical axe with the central part of the Winter Palace.
The appearance of the General Staff Building possesses a certain strictness and laconicism. The lower level is interpreted as a rustic basement, while the walls of the upper two floors are smooth. Modest cornices and architraves surround the windows of the third floor (the Parade floor). The smooth walls clearly emphasize the raised frieze, and three Corinthian porticos break up the 580m length of the building.
The eastern wing of the General Staff Building originally housed the Ministry of Finance, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and several other ministries of the Russian Empire. From 1917, different institutions and organisations occupied the building including People's Commissariat for Foreign Affairs; the General Staff was located in the western wing, but nowadays it is the headquarters of the Western Military District.
The reconstruction of the General Staff Building was started in 2008 and ended in 2014. Five big atriums were covered with glass roofs, so the New Big Enfilade appeared. After the restoration the collections of Russian and European decorative art, paintings and sculptures from the 19th and 20th centuries (including Impressionist and Postimpressionist paintings, Matisse, and Picasso), as well as contemporary art were displayed in the building. The exhibition includes the renovated historical interiors of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Empire and the personal apartments of the Chancellor Count Karl Nesselrode.