December 23, 2021

Alexander Nemo, Замки, построенные вручную / Hand-built castles

this picture and the next two: screenprints from the 
video by Yakov Shtopor (see documentation)

This post is about a self-taught Russian artist, who focused on building castles. In this post, two of his works, set in different locations in Russia, are presented in full. The other creations he made, are mentioned briefly, because there is currently too little information available.

Life and works 

Alexander Nemo, who used this name as a pseudonym, grew up in Yekaterinburg. After secondary school he went to the Higher Military School in Riga, specializing in aviation engineering. 

This school in Riga had classrooms in the towers of an old medieval castle, an architecture that made a great impression on the young Nemo and instilled in him a love for the Middle Ages.

Nemo served in the army as an officer, in various places of the USSR, but left this job to become a forensic expert at Yekaterinburg's police force, an appointment he most likely retired from at age 45.

In the early 1990s he acquired a plot of land in Yekaterinburg where he built a house with a curious architecture, probably referring to a castle, that did not comply with the official regulations. Rather than spending money to adapt the house, he sold it, and -meanwhile retired- made a trip around Europe from the money. 

Although he had initially considered this, he did not settle somewhere in Western Europe, because he did not like the over-polished approach to medieval buildings. in the Western world.

A castle in the woods near Yekaterinburg

Once back, he decided to build a shelter in the forest and continue his life there, in particular to test his own strength in taking distance from civilization. That happened around the year 2000.

Nemo did indeed succeed in continuing life in this way.  

On a forest plot he did not own, using stones, clay and wood available around, he constructed a building, kind of a castle, with three floors, towers and turrets, transitional galleries and bridges. It had terraces and various interior rooms, such as a bedroom, a sauna, a workshop and a library.

The castle could be heated with a wood stove. There was obviously no electricity, but Nemo had rechargeable batteries working on solar cells, so he even had access to the internet.

Nemo stressed that his building was a castle and not a fortress. He had improvised kind of a cannon that could fire fireworks and ward off strangers, but above all had a decorative function.

The newspaper articles published in the autumn of 2009, report that around that time the owner of the plot of forest had claimed his property and that Nemo had indicated he would leave. He said that he would find a new home, this time a cave in an area further away from the urban civilization.

Nemo's castle in the woods meanwhile has been destroyed by young hooligans from the area.

The castle in Politodel

Nemo's next site was not a cave, but the grounds of a holiday park in Politodel, 50 km north of Omsk in the Asiatic part of Russia ¹.

this picture and the next  six from website Tutu Art 2021,
that reports about a competition among non-professional
artists organised by the Tutu travel organisation

In Politodel his lust for building once more took shape after he and the holiday park made an agreement about the construction of a castle on the grounds of the resort. 

Nemo asked no salary, but was content with board and lodging.

The exterior of the castle

In 2010, Alexander Nemo set to work on the resort's grounds and the accompanying images show a result that stands out indeed.

Visitors now see a castle with an architecture very similar to that of medieval buildings. There is a two-storey towery structure that protects the main entrance to the castle, in architectural terms a barbican. This building also serves as Nemo's summer residence. 

There is a moat with a bridge over it. And there's the castle itself, which looks like a large fortress with seemingly impenetrable fortress walls.

To build the castle, waste was used such as can be found in the landfill, especially bricks from demolished buildings, parts of old pipes, old metal plates, and the like.

The inside of the structure consists of a large wooden infrastructure against which the exterior walls are laid. The remaining space between the frame and the outer wall is filled with cement mortar. 

The wooden infrastructure is set up in such a way that it also includes the interior design, such as stairwells, corridors and rooms, and even an internal balcony, as can be seen in the image at the bottom of this article.

The building process did not proceed according to a pre-established schedule, as Nemo explained in an interview: 

My construction technique is associative. Like a tree grows. Does a tree grow according to a plan? As a tree grows, so does the castle. I don't know what tomorrow will be. Every day can be different.. Built, rebuilt. Extended-narrowed. Here I broke something down, there I made it again. I do what comes to my mind

The interior

Nemo also put a lot of effort into the decoration of the interior. 

The ground floor of the castle has no windows, which means there is little light and one feels like in the twilight of the Middle Ages. The upper floor of the castle has many windows and is a lot lighter.

At the very top of the castle there is a throne room, with indeed a throne, but also a small organ, built by hand by Nemo. He taught himself to play the piano and the guitar, just because he liked it.

Nemo also made all kinds of weapons from scrap, such as swords, epees, sabers, pistols, halberds and crossbows. These weapons, indistinguishable from real ones, hang on the walls, and are sometimes used in a playful way.

He also makes knight armor and historical costumes. which he wears himself or are shown on mannequins.

The castle is protected by two cannons placed in front of an embrasure. Handcrafted from cartwheels and pipes, they face the river Irtysh in case enemy ships approach, which then can be repelled with fireworks.

 picture: screenprint from the NGS55 video below

Nemo's Castle in Politodel was selected in 2021 to participate in a Most Valued Non-Professional Creation competition organised by Tutu, a Russian travel organisation.

- about the site in the woods near Yekaterinburg
Article (October 2009) on news website
Article by olgavch (October 2009) on LiveJournal
- about the castle on the grounds of Politodel
* Entry (April 2021) on the website Tutu Art 
Article (September 2019) on the website of newspaper NGS55, with a series of photos
* Article (October 2019) on the website of newspaper 1-12-kanal-ru, with a video 
* Article (April 2019) on the website of newspaper RGRU

- about the site in the woods near Yekaterinburg

* Video by Yakov Shtopor (2'47", YouTube, uploaded April 2012)


- about the site on the grounds of Politodel

Video by newspaper NGS55  (YouTube, September 2019, 1'17")

* Video by Realii (April 2019, YouTube, 1'16")

 ¹ Characteristic sites in the Asian part of the Russian Federation are included in this weblog in order to give a balanced and coherent picture of the entire field of Russian art environments.

Alexander Nemo
Castle in the forest
in a wooded area between 
Yekaterinburg and Verkhnyaya Pyshmain
Sverdlovsk region, Russia
site demolished
Castle in Politodel
Politodel, Omsk region, Russia
visitors are welcome

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