St. Petersburg Vows to Review
Controversial Preservation Plan

St. Isaac's Cathedral sits against the historic skyline of St. Petersburg, now tarnished by the large, ugly roof of a modern-day hotel

||| Back to the Royal Russia News Archive |||
||| Royal Russia Bulletin - Our Official Blog. Updated Daily With News Clips, Videos & Photographs |||
||| Royal Russia Video & Film Archive ||| Romanov & Imperial Russia Links |||
||| Our Bookshop: Books on the Romanovs & Imperial Russia ||| Gilbert's Books - Publisher of Books on the Romanovs |||
||| What's New @ Royal Russia - Updated Monthly |||
||| Return to Royal Russia - Directory ||| Return to Royal Russia - Main Page |||
During a recent visit to St. Petersburg in early June, I was dismayed by the number of historic buildings that had been demolished since my last visit, to make way for modern buildings. The once historic skyline is now dominated by large glass and steel towers and even more construction cranes whose operators await their cue to obliterate yet another piece of St. Petersburg's rich architectural history. -- Paul Gilbert, Administrator

The Program for the Preservation of St. Petersburg’s Historical Center will be completely revised, according to a press service representative from the Committee for Economic Development, Industrial Policy and Trade, which is in charge of the program.

The program, which is planned to be carried out between 2013 and 2018, has already produced multiple discussions concerning its expedience. The program was initially planned to be implemented in seven zones within the city’s Tsentralny (Central) and Admiralteisky districts in six different spheres: The restoration of cultural heritage sites and the renovation of buildings; planting and redevelopment of other sites; the reconstruction of engineering infrastructure; traffic mitigation; the reconstruction of bridges and embankments; and the enhancement of the areas’ appeal to tourists.

In recent years, Malaya Sadovaya Street has been converted into a tree-lined pedestrian mall, complete with outdoor cafes and European style coffee shops

“These spheres, as well as the funding of the program, are likely to be reconsidered,” the committee’s press service said.

The initial amount of 400 billion rubles ($12.3 billion) estimated for the program to be completed was later cut to 300 billion rubles ($9.2).

“There is no definite sum yet — amounts between 300 and 400 billion rubles were proposed as overall amount of necessary funds,” said a press service representative.

“The proposed funds would be enough to cover only infrastructure and traffic projects,” said Alexei Kovalev, deputy chairman of the St. Petersburg branch of the International Council on Monuments and Sites.

It was earlier announced that complete funding would comprise money from the federal budget and city and investment funding. Alexander Karpov, head of the ECOM environmental assessment center, said that St. Petersburg must apply to receive funding from the federal budget this September in order to be considered for the allocation of 2013 budget funds.

“But there is a problem: If there is consolidated funding, then there will be the opportunity to implement the program, but if all of those billions are allocated in separate sums to every department, we won’t be able to accomplish the program as a joint complex of measures,” Karpov said.

The program is being planned as unified measures for the preservation and reconstruction of sites. Which measures should be used for a particular site are defined according to specific criteria.

North Kolomna (the area around New Holland Island)has been designated a priority area for revelopment

“I think it’s quite reasonable to have the program operate in the city center as a whole and at the same time to divide it into model territories, as it allows us to test how the program should work within the areas of transport, ecology, housing, business, tourism and public spaces,” said Karpov.

Two areas — Konyushennaya (which includes the area around the Field of Mars and Konyushennaya Ploshchad) and North Kolomna (the area around New Holland Island) — were designated priority areas, and at the beginning of May, a contest for redevelopment ideas was announced. Eleven projects were submitted as part of the contest, whose winner will be chosen in September, taking into account public discussion.

“It’s necessary to start with these areas because it is only in these areas that investors can be found,” said Nikita Yavein, head of the architectural firm Studio 44, which proposed projects for both the Konyushennaya and North Kolomna areas.

Studio 44 proposes completely redeveloping these territories in a combined project, arguing that redeveloping the two areas separately would be pointless. Hence, their project would connect these areas and pay priority attention to the development of their cultural components.

“If we talk about the problems in these territories, one of the main ones is that they haven’t been used to their full potential,” said Sergei Oreshkin, head of architectural design bureau A.Len, which also developed project ideas for both territories.

Konyushennaya (which includes the area around the Field of Mars and Konyushennaya Ploshchad)has also been designated a priority area for revelopment

“There are various interests for these territories — commercial, cultural and emotional — but there are also barriers that inhibit their implementation. Our main goal is to resolve this question. City Hall and other architects have the same goal,” he added.

According to A.Len’s project proposal, the architectural bureau would build a covered parking lot by the Field of Mars and make the traffic around it and along Millionnaya Ulitsa one-way. They also suggested making Konyushennaya Ploshchad a pedestrian area with cafes, museums, shops and an exit to the Church on the Spilled Blood, the Russian Museum and the Summer Gardens.

“This part can be modified very easily: Traffic should be completely removed from the area, while a cultural aspect should be added to the territory,” said Oreshkin.

In the North Kolomna area, the bureau suggests fully reconstructing the English Embankment and the areas around it in order to turn the territory into a major tourist zone.

“We’ll try to restore destroyed [transportation] connections between sites of public interest and considerably enhance the quality of life in these areas, understanding that it’s just the first step toward preserving the city’s unique character,” Oreshkin said.

“Without proper public transportation — the nearest subway station is several kilometers away and the tramlines here have all been shut down during the last decade — this area has begun to gradually decline,” said Philip Nikandrov, senior architect at the Gorproject design institute, which is participating in the contest for the North Kolomna development project.

“Despite attempts by the federal government to revitalize this territory by investing in the development of cultural objects such as the Mariinsky Theater’s new stage and the new Naval Museum, the lack of interest from developers and operators is obvious: Just a couple of hotels, no class A or B business centers, no restaurants or boutiques whatsoever, very few shops and the strong presence of pharmacies already tells us that something is not really healthy here,” he said.

Vsevolod Yakovlev, head of the St. Petersburg branch of Spectrum Holding construction company, which also proposed a project idea for North Kolomna, said it is not necessary to reconstruct the territory, but to revitalize it by making Ploshchad Truda and Konnogvardeisky Boulevard a pedestrian area, while traffic should be redirected through a tunnel under the square.

“We want to connect two points of public interest: Teatralnaya Ploshchad and Ploshchad Truda,” said Yakovlev. “We need to bring back public spaces and open up the inner squares [to the public]. The courts in the Parisian district of Marais should be used as an example. This will form another quality of life in the city.”

According to the Genproekt group of companies, both territories are about equal in terms of their historical basis.

“The changes we have planned have local character and are aimed at improving the quality of the areas,” said Dmitry Verkhotin, general director of Genproekt. “We will preserve and emphasize existing town-planning structures and create new features key to improving the areas’ functionality and composition,” he added.

Other companies participating in the project proposal contests include the construction company Sodis Story and Litvinov Architectural Association. The latter has received the most criticism so far for its project, which proposes redeveloping the Field of Mars, which is currently classed as a monument of federal significant and is the burial place of those who died during the 1917 February Revolution, to resemble a Greek amphitheater.

“Plaza Lotos Group, whose contractor is the Litvinov Architectural Association, has already bought the Pavlovskiye barracks next to the Field of Mars,” said Alexander Margolis, head of the St. Petersburg branch of the National Society for the Protection of Cultural and Historical Monuments.

“Experts have determined that the area is of historical and cultural importance, but the company declined to accept this report. They want to build a five-star hotel on the land with a view of the Field of Mars. I have no doubt that they will succeed in carrying out their project.”

Experts agree that another area of criticism is camouflaging reconstruction by calling it preservation.

“Every time we look carefully at the terminology, all of the insincerity becomes clear,” said Margolis.

“There is a fundamental disparity between preservation and reconstruction. I think in this case we are talking only about reconstruction.”

Source & Copyright: St. Petersburg Times
18 July, 2012