Nikolaev Astronomical Observatory is an architectural complex with the reserved territory. The most significant feature of the complex is the Main building, which was built in 1821-1829 by an architect named F. Wunsch. The T-shaped Main building with dimensions 23,87m 32,57m is situated on a summit of the Spassky Hill, which is the highest point of Nikolaev with an altitude of 54m above sea level. Fortress architectural design is a leading principle of building composition in which each part and every element are functionally determined and expressed by their structure. Classic architectural style of the Main building corresponds with the classic canon, namely, all lower parts are bulkier and heavier than all upper parts. The building has a three-level structure consisting of a basement, a main floor and a rotunda.
The main floor has a form of truncated pyramid. Walls with the thickness of 1.5m are made of shelly limestone and clay. Massiveness of walls is emphasized by rustic stonework to create an appearance of stability. Facades of the building are decorated with stylish elements such as cornices, head moulds and pilasters. The main floor consists of four equal parts. Northern front door is decorated with the wide stairs and the six-columned classical portico of Tuscan order, which supports a fine fronton finalizing northern facade. The wide stairs are leading to the Round Hall - auditorium having square shape with floor space of 100m2 and dome-shaped ceiling, which is supported by sixteen columns placed in a circle of 8m in diameter. Each column is covered with a special mortar mixed with the egg yolks. The mortar has protective features and, at the same time, adds extraordinary solar glare to the columns. Eastern part of the main floor is occupied with a scientific library. Southern and western parts are occupied with administrative offices.
Iron art stairs located in southern part are leading to the roof. Metal and wooden parts of the railing are preserved in good state and intact. The cylindrical rotunda is situated on the flat roof above the auditorium. Four doors towards the four directions of the world and twelve rounded windows in rotunda walls were initially made. Several windows and doors were bricked up later. The rotunda floor is covered with marble panels, which are in good state. The rotunda crowns the building, adding final grandeur and harmony to the Spasky Barrow.
A protective wall made of limestone blocks is situated at the distance of twenty metres to the north from the Main building. Main entrance to the basement via an underground gallery is embedded in the wall. The basement has massive bearing walls with thickness of three metres along the whole perimeter, and occupies the same square as the main floor. Inside the basement, there are pier columns to install pendulum clocks and other devices, which need a stable foundation. The underground gallery is now in bad state and requires restoration.
An outbuilding number 2, built in 1875, with a floor space of 200m2 is situated at the distance of ten metres to the south from the Main building. At the distance of thirty metres to the west from the main building, there are two outbuildings with numbers 3 and 4, having floor spaces of 186m2 and 379m2 correspondingly, built in 1821-1822 and rebuilt in the 20th century. Under northern part of outbuilding number 3, there is a basement at a depth of four metres. In eastern part of the territory, there is an outbuilding number 6, built in 1938, with a floor space of 120m2.
Moreover, there are old and modern enclosures for astronomical instruments, namely:
1. stone pavilion with a floor space of 39m2, built in 1875 and rebuilt in 2006;
2. small stone pavilion with a floor space of 11m2, built in 1875;
3. metal pavilion with a floor space of 70m2, built in 1913, with two long focal length collimators using light pipes built in 1960;
4. metal pavilion with a floor space of 15m2, built in 1930;
5. wooden pavilion with a floor space of 94m2, built in 1955;
6. stone pavilion with a floor space of 28m2, built in 1960;
7. metal pavilion with a floor space of 188m2, built in 1996 and rebuilt in 2007.
Collectors for rain and fountain water, fresh-air intake for heating system have been preserved since 1830.
Surrounding landscape is a natural ecosystem having flora and fauna with distinctive features of the sand steppe in Northern Black Sea region. The virgin land occupies the most part of the territory. Thanks to this fact, the grassland steppe with inclusion of feather-grass is preserved. Many kinds of wild flowers grow among bushes of lilac, jasmine, currant. Thuja alleys and different trees such as pines, acacias, elms, maples, mulberries, apricots together with the virgin steppe create a beautiful piece of nature in the centre of southern city of Nikolaev.
A fence along northern side of the territory, rebuilt at the beginning of the 20th century, emphasizes originality of architectural complex. The fence is a combination of stone columns with cast-iron parts ornamented with figures.
History of the observatory is connected with an outstanding achievement in astronomy of the 19th -20th centuries. The achievement was a creation of the fundamental celestial coordinate system, which allows us to improve astronomical constants, to answer fundamental cosmological questions related with the origin and evolution of the universe. It was the largest international project in astronomical history. Five fundamental catalogues of stars were created during 200 years as the result of combined efforts spent by many observatories in the whole world. The catalogues were compiled on the basis of millions of observations and determinations of stellar coordinates. The celestial coordinate system was created on the basis of these catalogues. In 1935, this system was adopted as the reference coordinate system for astronomy and geodesy.
Moreover, the first director of the observatory, Karl Knorre added his name to astronomical history as an author of the fifth page for stellar map issued by Berlin Academy of Sciences. Using this page, minor planets number 5 – Astrea and number 8 - Flora were discovered in 1845 and 1847, correspondingly. The second director, Ivan Kortazzi added his famous stellar catalogue, known as Nikolaev equatorial zone, to astronomical history. He carried out observations with the meridian circle and compiled the catalogue of right ascensions and declinations for nearly six thousands stars up to 9 magnitude.
The observatory made a significant contribution into mapping of the Black Sea shore, and took part in reconnaissance work for extension of the first accurate measurements of a long segment of a meridian from the river Danube to the island of Crete. This Russian-Swedish project was carried out in 1816-1855 and now known as Struve arc.
One can follow the development of large and small architectural forms in astronomy of the 19th-20th centuries, using presented observatory as an example of historico-cultural monument. Combination of observatory as the historico-cultural monument and working scientific institution provides preservation of unique ancient astronomical instruments and devices, which increase the importance of the monument up to the level of the world heritage.
The property has exhibited influence on development of science and technology in South-Eastern Europe for last 200 years. Development of the Naval observatory, having wide spectrum of activities in hydrography, geodesy and astronomy, fostered growth of science knowledge and strengthened close cooperation with Europe in the fields of science, technology and culture. Development of scientific institution also favoured a transformation of uninhabited steppe into a civilized region with industrial and economic infrastructures, marine and land routes.
Nikolaev Astronomical Observatory is an architectural complex. Buildings and constructions on its territory relate to unique technological ensemble having functional trend. Starting from initial idea to final design, development of the ensemble was exclusively aimed at astronomical usage. The Main building is a classic example of architecture for scientific institutions of the 18th-19th centuries, such as astronomical observatories of Upsala, Tartu and Pulkovo. The Main building was simultaneously used for different needs, such as, astronomical offices, enclosure for telescopes and dwelling for astronomer’s family. At the same time, the scientific staff in Nikolaev was presented by one person, who was simultaneously in charge of an astronomer and a director. Moreover, the Main building is an illustration of architecture of Nikolaev as the capital of the Black Sea Navy at the first half of the 19th century.
Observatory activity made a significant contribution in scientific ideas having outstanding universal importance. Comparatively small observatory has carefully preserved scientific and cultural traditions for two centuries, and now represents itself as one of the oldest scientific institution of South-Eastern Europe. Moreover, the property is an example of outstanding aesthetic importance since it exerts influence upon development of human spirituality.
The Main building of the observatory is an architectural monument of national importance under registration number 535. Thanks to that protection, it has been preserved without constructive changes for nearly 200 years. Preventive repairs did not break its integrity. Although, original decorative elements of rotunda were lost. Some windows of the rotunda and the main building were bricked up. The art fence along Observatornaya street was substantially damaged. It is worth mentioning that original and new elements of the fence, waiting for restoration work, are kept in the observatory storehouse. These elements are the following: one half of the main gate made of art cast-iron; cast-iron balls, which were placed on the tops of stone columns for the main gate; seven out of twenty two sections of the fence.
The property has very high level of authenticity. Initial architectural forms and primary designation of the main building are preserved. The roof, walls and foundation bed are in a satisfactory state. Some windows and doors are bricked up. In the past period of time, interior of the Main building was partly changed, but decoration elements were preserved in the course of maintenance work. Wooden window frames and doors, made originally, are preserved in good state. Outbuildings were partly renovated because of production needs. A basement under northern part of outbuilding number 3, original elements of the heating system as well as the rain water collecting system are preserved intact. In 1912, an original observatory territory was expanded by two times after handing over of the observatory from the Naval ministry to Pulkovo Observatory. The observatory territory of about seven hectares has been the same since 1912. Restoration has not been carried out during the whole observatory history. Original architecture, technological ensemble, place of dislocation have been preserved. Authenticity of the whole property and authenticity of different elements is certified by documents of the observatory archive. Some kinds of trees like acacia, thuja are partly preserved on the territory of park founded at the beginning of the 20th centuary. The Main building and complex are preserved in general, but structural deformations and atmosphere factors negatively influence on their state. The Service for Preservation of Cultural Heritage (SPCH) under the Regional State Administration made a condition survey and issued the inspection certificate that confirms deterioration of their state.
The observatory as the monument of architecture has the Agreement on Preservation with the SPCH.
In 1988, the research institute UkrRestavratsiya prepared estimate documents for repair-and-renewal operations of the whole complex, but force-major circumstances such as change of state system and further political instability have halted this project for 20 years.
The RI Nikolaev Astronomical Observatory (RI NAO) is a legal entity based on the state form of ownership. The Ministry of education and science of Ukraine is a superior body as well as a managerial authority over assets. NAO is a nonprofit institution funded from the state budget. NAO has a permanent right to use the land plot of 70818m2 in accordance with the State act #191936, issued by the decrees of Nikolaev City Council #12/14 on June 13, 2003 and #24/14 on October 27, 2004. The observatory carries out its activity on the basis of the Statute of NAO and in accordance with the Law of Ukraine, titled: On Scientific and Scientific-Technical Activities. The goverment of the UkrSSR inscribed the Main building as the monument of architecture #535 in the state registry and issued the decree #970 on August 24, 1963. The Service for Preservation of Cultural Heritage under the Regional State Administration and the RI Nikolaev Astronomical Observatory concluded the agreement for protection of the monument of cultural heritage on July 6, 2005. The observatory territory is preserved by the Statute for keeping historico-cultural reserved territory, named: The Observatory. The Statute was elaborated on the basis of the administrative determination #169 issued by Nikolaev regional executive committee on July 9, 1991.
The nominating property is an active scientific institution, because of this the Main building is used without cardinal changes of the building plan and interior. A satisfactory state of the Main building and the observatory territory in general has been kept by own resources of the observatory. Legislative base of Ukraine is used for guarding of the property by using enrollment of four night watchmen in the observatory staff.