Sometimes referred to as the “Polar Star” of the city, the Admiralty is indeed the starting point of three radial streets (including the famous Nevsky avenue) going in different directions like rays of the sun. This aedifice with its remarkable guilded spire crowned with a weather-vane (one of the city’s landmarks) was designed as a headquarters of the Russian navy and also as a shipyard: shipbuilding was so important for Peter, that he placed the Admiralty at the very center of his city. Peter’s original plan was to create an absolutely regular city with straight streets intersecting with canals and rivers, which he envisaged to use as arterial roads, like in Holland he admired so much (sometimes the city is referred to as the Northern Venice: thanks to the presence of rivers and canals the city practically consists of 42 islands). Admiralty is one of the few remains of this bold plan, which never came true (probably, all for the better of the citizens, especially in the view of traffic in the XXI century); other vestiges of Peter’s ideas are for instance the main facades of many palaces along the Nevsky avenue, which face the rivers, not the street; or the counting of the avenues on the Vasilyevsky island, where each side of the street has its own number, 13 real streets being altogether 26 avenues: the artificial channels in the middle of the streets were filled up at the end of XVIIIth century. Although the city never came to be as regular as Peter would want it to be, it still resembles Hausmann’s Paris more than European cities with narrow and curved streets.
During the World War II the spire of the Admiralty was camouflaged as many gilded domes and spires of the city being reference points for the enemy’s airforces: it was painted grey or green depending on the season.