Carefully but boldly reconstructing an ensemble of historical buildings, Nikita Yavein turned a former livery yard that used to belong to the Great Prince Mikhail Nikolaevich into a large academic complex. Now it looks half like a palace, half like a European university.
Written by: Julia Tarabarina Translated by: Anton Mizonov
The Mikhailovka Estate (or "Mikhailovskaya Dacha") that got its name from the emperor Nicolas the First's fourth son Mikhail, is located between the tourist site of Peterhof and the governmental Strelnaya. Since the days of Peter the Great, its territory has been occupied - sometimes consecutively, sometimes simultaneously - by the various residences of people established near the royal family: from Menshikov to the Razumovsky brothers, until in the mid XIX century the architects Stackenschneider, Charlemagne, and Bosse turned this place into a rather large and intricate, as was the fashion those days, country residence of the Great Prince. In the XX century, the building had a streak of bad luck - few people considered the architecture of the period of eclecticism to be of any value, and the building housed first a school for delinquent children, then a poultry farm, and, finally, a health and recreation center of Saint Petersburg's Kirovsky Plant; while the two former owners would first "rob the palaces" and then simply leave them to fall apart, the recreation center started by rebuilding the complex, and in the 1960's its buildings underwent the most significant changes. In the 1990's, the ensemble got neglected, and in 2003, together with Strelnaya, it went over to the competence of a management company that in 2006 handed Mikhailovka over to Saint Petersburg University, the latter using it to house its Higher School of Management.
Headed by Nikita Yavein, Studio 44 developed a grand-scale project of turning the considerably battered-up facilities of the prince's dacha into an elite management school by the year of 2010. We have already covered this project: it proposed restoring and remodeling six buildings of the estate in the eastern part of its territory, and building new ones in the western part that historically belongs not to Mikhailovskaya Dacha but to the village of Korkuli and a few other settlements. Presently, two important parts of work have been completed: the company has completely reconstructed and put into operation the Main Educational Facility situated in Mikhailovka's largest historical building (this being not the palace itself but the horse stalls). Also, the student cafe/club has been built. Dormitories for bachelors and postgraduate students are also under construction now; meanwhile, the management school is already operating in the new premises, takes in the students enrolling for the MBA programs; the buildings are functioning, and there are lots of things to share about.
Let us start with the reconstruction of the Livery that became the main educational facility. This spacious building was built later than the palace of the Great Prince, in 1859-1861, by the prolific architect Gerald Bosse in the spirit of reserved neo renaissance. The stalls, the carriage shed, the bathhouse, and other usable premises no more than two stories high were all grouped into elongated units and arranged in a symmetrical, even pristine, way that consisted in dividing the rectangles into equal parts placed around five courtyards. The large northern yard opens up in the direction of the Finnish Gulf, its entrance flanked by two respectable-looking units with triangular frontons. The southern half was divided into two minor courtyards closed by a unit stretching along the central axis, while from the outer side of the major rectangle it was adjoined by two identical yards, also "semi-open", meaning, with outside entrances - the bathhouse yard and the smithery yard. During the time when this place used to be a health resort, these two yards got two large two-story volumes - the public functions hall and the cafeteria, both of these later-on additions being designed in the style of the historical building by what Nikita Yavein called a "method of mechanical addition while observing stylistic semblance".
For Studio 44, the task of transforming the complex simultaneously clearing it from later-on additions is anything but new - the portfolio of Nikita Yavein bureau has in it a whole range of large-scale reconstruction projects with different degrees of renewal that allowed the architect to develop his own approach and even his own recognizable trademark style that is also to be clearly seen in Mikhailovka.
First of all, the architects removed the redundant towering elements of the soviet additions that even the conservation activists recognized as being dissonant, thus giving the livery complex the original "prostrate" silhouette. After that, they carefully planned and performed the restoration of all the surviving elements of the XIX century - the stuccoed rockface façades, fielded panels and stone detailing, and the elements of interior, out of which particularly good are the halls with cast-iron pillars: two of them are situated on either side of the octagon of the entrance lobby, and three - in the southern part of the building, closer to the Saint Petersburg Highway. The slim, exquisitely fluted columns with cubic column caps remind at once of the industrial architecture of this city of the period when Mikhailovka was being built and - quite unexpectedly - the late Byzantine "four-upright" temples (by the standard of our times, this comparison sound a bit on the daring side but it was in fact the strong point of architecture of the XIX century: wherever possible it referred to the elevated prototypes of the past, and one cannot rule out the possibility that Bosse also thought about one of such prototypes directly or indirectly). The upright columns inside echo the impressive open work grille of the stained glass of the entrance arch of the central axial building.
The architects simply could not limit themselves with the operation of clearance and restoration: the school of management required extra space. For this reason, after they were done with the soviet-time additions, the architects of Studio 44 threw roofs on four yards out of five including these yards into the volume of the warm school building whose usable space - no question about that - has considerably grown in comparison with the historical stalls. It is only the northern yard that was left open - it made a great "court of honor" of an almost regal aspect turned in the direction of the Finnish Gulf: it is here that the main entrance to the building is situated. On this side, the inclusions are but minimal, and it is all mostly about restoration: a person that comes in through the grand entrance is met by the original building set back to order. The habitable cells along the perimeter of the yard are occupied by the teachers' recreation rooms.
The whole inside reconstruction work was based on a few fundamentals. The planning makes perfect sense; the classes are grouped around the atriums lit by the ambient light. The central axial unit got a glass roof, its elongated inside space turning into an atrium as well - here we see a curious paradox because historically it never was a yard but this is exactly the impression that an entering person gets: what he sees is a courtyard covered with a glass roof, supported by an array of mullioned windows on the sides. This light hall with a pitched ceiling completely made of glass plays the role of the distribution nucleus and the public center of the school building. It must be said at this point that the "cloister" effect is very important here because it endows the school with a distant but still discernible resemblance to a European university for which such a courtyard is the indispensable part of its image. It is remarkable how Nikita Yavein was able to see and develop this "Hogwarts" theme in the pragmatic building of the horse stalls - but he ultimately was, and the idea turned out to be quite a success.
It must be noted that Nikita Yavein has a gift for taking the building that he reconstructs and finding in it new meanings that overlap with the old ones, thus transforming the building into something that it wasn't without having to give up what it was: once upon a time, Gregory Revzin wrote that the architect was actually able to take the renovated building of Promstroibank and place a Roman aqueduct inside of it. A more recent example is the perspective enfilade that "Studio 44" discovered inside the eastern wing of the Hermitage's Joint Staff building that the company was reconstructing.
The two southern closed yards (the ones that used to be open) are housing three mid-sized auditoriums (these are for the bachelors) without losing the daylight: along the axis of each volume, between the auditoriums, there is a glass roof (also pitched) that provides light for the space the above the staircases - a small elongated atrium stretching at 90 degrees to the main axis. A similar design approach is applied to the atriums in the outside lateral yards (the ones where the cafeteria and the resort's public events hall were taken apart), only here these yards connect/separate auditoriums of a smaller size, ones with glass walls and looking more like meeting rooms; this is the place where MIB and MBA students will study.
Yet another peculiarly of Nikita's approach: all his inclusions look ostentatiously modern and they enter into a dialogue with the elements of the historical building - no, he does not do this everywhere based on contrastive comparison but everywhere on the modernist principles of transparency, reflection, and large laconic forms.
Besides, in the spaces between the atriums - the transitions between the inner and outer ones - the elements of "interior coziness" neighbor on the façades that used to be outside but have now found themselves inside - such a combination possessed the traits of respectability of a palace lobby where you have sort of entered some place that's already under a roof, yet the magnitude of the edifice does not let you feel quite indoors. You get similar feelings in the lobby of Saint Petersburg's Admiralty with its interior rockface decoration or on the grand staircase of the Grand Kremlin Palace. In this particular case, in the school's atriums it is dictated not only by the author's vision but also by the circumstances of the reconstruction when the outside facade becomes part of the interior of the atrium.
The immanent contrasts of the transition zone are highlighted: the representatives properties (that make the person who enters the complex inwardly collect himself) are enhanced not only by the decor of the yesterday's facade walls and the double-height magnitude but also by the open extended staircases, and particularly - by their black color. The floors on the upper tiers of the atriums are pitch-black, while the floors of the first floors are dissected by a large gray-black zigzag pattern. The latter is, of course, not the classic checkered pattern but it still immediately puts you in the mind of the classic Ge painting that shows Peter the Great interrogating his son.
The effect is maximized by the cool transparent green glass reflecting the details. On the long staircases standing along the walls of the southern building where on the one side there is a Gerald Bosse façade, and on the other side - an auditorium wall covered up by structured glass, the architects were able if not to duplicate this reflection (let's be honest here, this is an impossible thing to do), then at least to psychologically push the limits of the narrow space.
This "representative seriousness" of the atriums is quite appropriate here - if anything, this a place where people get trained for MBA - gets offset by the techniques that are reassuring to the human eye: the abundance of wood, from the roof beams to the railings of the glass balustrades; the light-colored gray-white paint on the walls, this paint being of the special interior type, different from the plaster simulating pale paint used on the outside. Meanwhile, in the rooms that are unquestionably "interior" - the auditoriums, for example - this "cold" geometry steps aside to give way to the techniques that are more modern and relaxed: suffice it to mention the wave-shaped ceiling made of wooden plaques above the contrasting black-and-white rows of seats.
Thus, the reconstruction looks rather bold and large-scale: the architects made the building over by changing its function and volume and adding a lot of new details to it. The feelings that will overcome a person entering this building will hardly let him guess, unassisted and without a clue, that the complex actually used to be in fact horse stalls - such a mental leap will not be possible for just any visitor. A lot of things have been revived and restored but, at the same time, a lot of new things have been introduced - the building changed to become something completely different than what it used to be. The resulting complex pays not that much homage to the old Livery that once was here; nobody "doted" on the monument, although nobody was trying to deliberately defeat it. This is a common issue with reconstructions: if we expect from them nothing but conservation, we are in for a serious disenchantment. No, folks - the resulting building is the new growing from the old.
If we are to speak with exactitude, here we see a perfect balance of three constituent parts. Everything that could be fixed - the walls and their decor on the inside and outside (wherever it survived) the cast-iron columns and the cast-iron grille of the arch stained glass - the architects did fix. This is the authentic historical part of the building; it constitutes as much as half of the complex, and it is (now) in a great condition. What is important is the fact that after the ten years of neglect the former livery was almost a ruin. The second part is all about the new things; these are numerous because four yards have been roofed to become in fact parts of the building while the middle building became an atrium; the structure of the building radically changed, and not only the structure but also the very impression that the interior produces, now filled with the texture of the modern things - cool, transparent, and metallic. Even the wood here is not the way that the XIX century saw it. The third part is about the silhouette and proportions. They are both new and old: due to the fact that the architects took apart the units built in the sixties, the complex returned to its original "prostrate" condition, and, besides, the roofs did not get any extra "lofts" - they are still of the gable type, even if made of glass here and there. There is also the restoration of the silhouette that did not, however, prevent the architects from adding quite a lot of useful floor space. All the three constituents - the old, the new, and the "dictatorship" of compositional justice that made the architects remove the dissonant buildings - fall in together, and this is what the idea of reconstruction is all about - because now the building has been revised and transformed to live a different life now.
The largest element of the modern part of the reconstruction "grows" on the outside, beyond the contours of the historical building, between the southern part of the former stalls and the Saint Petersburg highway. This a large 450-seat conference hall for which there was just no room in the historical building. Its pointed oval volume, with more than a half of it sunken into the ground, is topped with a simplified dome covered from the outside with triangles of geodesic appearance. It has been carried over twenty meters to the south, and placed deliberately at a slight angle as if to offset the rigid planning of the main complex, and is connected to the latter with an overpass completely made of glass. The whole picture produces 100% impression of a flying saucer that has space-linked to the orbital station of the instruction building. This volume is totally and unreservedly alien to the neo-renaissance historicism of Bosse, of which it makes no secret, even though it makes an attempt to partially hide underground "shrinking its head into its shoulders. The interior of the conference hall matches its outside look: the decorative panels on the ceiling are just as triangular as the outside cover of the dome, working to create a single image which is enhanced by the grid of strips of light reflected in the mirror metal of the VIP balcony. Meanwhile, as far as the conference hall itself is concerned, it turns out that it does not occupy the entire space under the dome at all - the lateral parts of the oval house the IT services and the computer classes.
The accentuated difference between the historical complex of the main educational building and the "flying saucer" of its conference hall became the nucleus of the entire concept of the campus of this management school as a whole. The tension of the contrast manifests itself here the strongest because the historical and the modern buildings stand literally next to each other. But, curiously, they still look like they are a perfect match. One of the buildings designed in the western part of the campus - the cafe/club - has already been completed and launched into operation. It deserves a special article which we will be sure to do a little bit later.
Agility of the Modular
In the Discovery housing complex that they designed, ADM architects proposed a modern version of structuralism: the form is based on modular cells, which, smoothly protruding and deepening, make the volumes display a kind of restrained flexibility, differentiated element by element. The lamellar and ledged facades are “stitched” with golden threads – they unite the volumes, emphasizing the textured character of the architectural solution.
Polyphony of a Chaste Style
The “ID Moskovskiy” housing project on St. Petersburg’s Moscow Avenue was designed by the team of Stepan Liphart in the past 2020. The ensemble of two buildings, joined by a colonnade, is executed in a generalized neoclassical style with elements of Art Deco.
In Three Voices
The high-rise – 41 stories high – housing complex HIDE is being built on the bank of the Setun River, near the Poklonnaya Mountain. It consists of three towers of equal height, yet interpreted in three different ways. One of the towers, the most conspicuous one looks as if it was twisted in a spiral, composed of a multitude of golden bay windows.
In the Space of Pobedy Park
In the project of a housing complex designed by Sergey Skuratov, which is now being built near the park of the Poklonnaya Hill, a multifunctional stylobate is turned into a compound city space with intriguing “access” slopes that also take on the role of mini-plazas. The architecture of the residential buildings responds to the proximity of the Pobedy Park, on the one hand, “dissolving in the air”, and, on the other hand, supporting the memorial complex rhythmically and color-wise.
Dynamics of the Avenue
On Leningrad Avenue, not far away from the Sokol metro station, the construction of the A-Class business center Alcon II has been completed. ADM architects designed the main façade as three volumetric ribbons, as if the busy traffic of the avenue “shook” the matter sending large waves through it.
Steamer at the Pier
An apartment hotel that looks like a ship with wide decks has been designed for a land plot on a lake shore in Moscow’s South Tushino. This “steamer” house, overlooking the lake and the river port, does indeed look as if it were ready to sail away.
The Magic of Rhythm or Ornament as a Theme
Designed by Sergey Tchoban, the housing complex Veren Place in St. Petersburg is the perfect example of inserting a new building into a historical city, and one the cases of implementing the strategy that the architect presented a few years ago in the book, which he coauthored with Vladimir Sedov, called “30:70. Architecture as a Balance of Forces”.
Walking on Water
In the nearest future, the Marc Chagall Embankment will be turned into Moscow’s largest riverside park with green promenades, cycling and jogging trails, a spa center on water, a water garden, and sculptural pavilions designed in the spirit of the Russian avant-garde artists of the 1920, and, first of all, Chagall himself. In this issue, we are covering the second-stage project.
A-Len has developed and patented the “Perfect Apartments” program, which totally eliminates “bad” apartment layouts. In this article, we are sharing how this program came around, what it is about, who can benefit from it, and how.
“Architectural Archaeology of the Narkomfin Building”: the Recap
One of the most important events of 2020 has been the completion of the long-awaited restoration of the monument of Soviet avant-garde architecture – the Narkomfin Building, the progenitor of the typology of social housing in this country. The house retained its residential function as the main one, alongside with a number of artifacts and restoration clearances turned into living museum exhibits.
LIFE on the Setun River
The area in the valley of the Setun River near the Vereiskaya Street got two new blocks of the “LIFE-Kutuzovsky” housing complex, designed by ADM architects. The two new blocks have a retail boulevard of their own, and a small riverside park.
Three towers on a podium over the Ramenka River are the new dominant elements on the edge of a Soviet “microdistrict”. Their scale is quite modern: the height is 176 m – almost a skyscraper; the facades are made of glass and steel. Their graceful proportions are emphasized by a strict white grid, and the volumetric composition picks up the diagonal “grid of coordinates” that was once outlined in the southwest of Moscow by the architects of the 1970’s and 1980’s.
Clouds over the Railroad
In the stead of former warehouses near “Lyubertsy-1” station, a new housing complex has been built, which peacefully coexists with the railroad, with the flyover bridge, and with the diverse surrounding scenery, not only dominating over the latter, but improving it.
Towers in a Forest
The authors of the housing complex “In the Heart of Pushkino” were faced with a difficult task: to preserve the already existing urban forest, at the same time building on it a compound of rather high density. This is how three towers at the edge of the forest appeared with highly developed public spaces in their podiums and graceful “tucks” in the crowning part of the 18-story volumes.
The Towers of “Sputnik”
Six towers, which make up a large housing complex standing on the bank of the Moskva River at the very start of the Novorizhskoe Highway, provide the answers to a whole number of marketing requirements and meets a whole number of restrictions, offering a simple rhythm and a laconic formula for the houses that the developer preferred to see as “flashy”.
The Starting Point
In this article, we are reviewing two retro projects: one is 20 years old, the other is 25. One of them is Saint Petersburg’s first-ever townhouse complex; the other became the first example of a high-end residential complex on Krestovsky Island. Both were designed and built by Evgeny Gerasimov and Partners.
The Path to New Ornamentation
The high-end residential complex “Aristocrat” situated next to a pine park at the start of the Rublev Highway presents a new stage of development of Moscow’s decorative historicist architecture: expensively decorated, yet largely based on light-colored tones, and masterfully using the romantic veneer of majolica inserts.
Renovation: the Far East Style
The competition project of renovating two central city blocks of Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk, developed by UNK project, won the nomination “Architectural and planning solutions of city construction”.
The Istituto Centrale per la Grafica in Rome presents Sergei Tchoban’s exhibition “Imprint of the future. Destiny of Piranesi’s City”. The exhibition includes four etchings, based on Roman architectural views of the XVIII century complemented by futuristic insertions, as well as a lot of drawings that investigate the same topic, at times quite expressively. The exhibition poses questions, but does not seem to give any answers. Since going to Rome is pretty problematic now, let’s at least examine the pictures.
In Search of Visual Clarity
In this article, we are reviewing a discussion devoted to the question of designing city space elements, which is quite complicated for the Russian expanses of land. The discussion was organized by the Genplan Institute of Moscow at the ArchMoscow convention in Gostiny Dvor.
The City of the Sun
Jointly designed by Sergey Tchoban and Vladimir Plotkin, the VTB Arena Park complex can arguably be considered the perfect experiment on solving the centuries-old controversy between traditional architecture and modernism. The framework of the design code, combined with the creative character of the plastique-based dialogue between the buildings, formed an all-but-perfect fragment of the city fabric.
...The Other Was Just Railroad Gin*
In their project of the third stage of “Ligovsky City” housing complex, located in the industrial “gray” belt of Saint Petersburg, the KCAP & Orange Architects & A-Len consortium set before themselves a task of keeping up the genius loci by preserving the contours of the railroad and likening the volumes of residential buildings to railroad containers, stacked up at the goods unloading station.
Lions on Glass
While reconstructing the facades of Building 4 of Moscow Hospital #23, SPEECH architects applied a technique, already known from Saint Petersburg projects by Sergey Tchoban – cassettes with elements of classical architecture printed on glass. The project was developed gratis, as a help to the hospital.
Park of Sentiments
The project of “Romantic Park Tuchkov Buyan”, which was developed by the consortium of Studio 44 and WEST 8, and has won an international competition, combines sculptural landscape design and wooden structures, variety of spatial features and an eventful agenda, designed for diverse audience, with a beautiful and complex passeist idea of a palace park, meant to evoke thoughts and feelings.
Architecture as an Educational Tool
The concept of a charity school “Tochka Budushchego” (“Point of the Future”) in Irkutsk is based on cutting-edge educational programs, and is designed, among other things, for adapting orphaned children for independent life. An important role is played by the architecture of the building: its structure and different types of interconnected spaces.
The Gallery Approach
In this article, we are covering the concept of a Central District Clinic for 240 patients, designed by Ginzburg Architects, which won at a competition organized by the Architects Union and the Healthcare Ministry.
In this issue, we are publishing the concept of a standard clinic designed by UNK Project, which took second place in the competition organized by the Union of Architects of Russia in collaboration with the Healthcare Ministry.
From Foundation to Teaspoon
Based on the taste of their friendly clients, the architects Olga Budennaya and Roman Leonidov designed and built a house in the Moscow metropolitan area playing Art Nouveau. At the same time, they enriched the typology of a private house with modern functions of a garage loft and a children’s art studio.
Continuation and Development
The second “office” stage of Comcity, the most popular business park of the “New Moscow” area, continues the underground street of the already existing part of the complex, responding to its architectural identity.
The Flying One
Expected to become an analogue of Moscow’s Skolkovo, the project of the High Park campus at Saint Petersburg’s ITMO University, designed by Studio 44, mesmerizes us with its sheer scale and the passion that the architects poured into it. Its core – the academic center – is interpreted as an avant-garde composition inspired by Piazza del Campo with a bell tower; the park is reminiscent of the “rays” of the main streets of Saint Petersburg, and, if watched from a birds-eye view, the whole complex looks like a motherboard with at least four processors on it. The design of the academic building even displays a few features of a sports arena. The project has a lot of meanings and allusions about it; all of them are united by plastique energy that the hadron collider itself could be jealous of.
A Comfortable City in Itself
The project that we are about to cover is seemingly impossible amidst human anthills, chaotically interspersed with old semi-neglected dachas. Meanwhile, the housing complex built on the Comcity business part does offer a comfortable environment of decent city: not excessively high-rise and moderately private as a version of the perfect modern urbanist solution.
Moving on the Edge
The housing complex “Litsa” (“Faces”) on Moscow’s Khodynka Field is one of the new grand-scale buildings that complement the construction around it. This particular building skillfully tackles the scale, subjugating it to the silhouette and the pattern; it also makes the most of the combination of a challenging land site and formidable square footage requirements, packing a whole number of features within one volume, so the house becomes an analogue of a city. And, to cap it all, it looks like a family that securely protects the children playing in the yard from... well, from everything, really.
Visual Stability Agent
A comparatively small house standing on the border of the Bolshevik Factory combines two diametrically opposite features: expensive materials and decorative character of Art Deco, and a wide-spaced, even somewhat brutal, facade grid that highlights a laminated attic.
The Faraday Cage
The project of the boutique apartment complex in the 1st Truzhenikov Lane is the architects’ attempt to squeeze a considerable volume into a tiny spot of land, at the same time making it look graceful and respectable. What came to their rescue was metal, stone, and curvilinear glass.
The Union of Art and Technology
His interest for architecture of the 1930’s is pretty much the guiding star for Stepan Liphart. In his project of the “Amo” house on St. Petersburg’s Vasilyevsky Island, the architect based himself on Moscow Art Deco - aesthetically intricate and decorated in scratch-work technique. As a bonus, he developed the city block typology as an organic structure.
The project that Evgeniy Gerasimov and Partners developed for Moscow’s Leningrad Avenue: the tallest building in the company’s portfolio, continuing the tradition of Moscow’s Stalin architecture.
In the project that they developed for a southern region of Russia, OSA Architects use multilayered facades that create an image of seaside resort architecture, and, in the vein of the latest trends of today, mix up different social groups that the residents belong to.
Just a Mirror for the Sun
The house that Sergey Skuratov designed in Nikolovorobinsky Alley is thought out down to the last detail. It adapts three historical facades, interprets a feeling of a complex city, is composed of many layers, and catches plenty of sunlight, from sunrises to sunsets. The architect himself believes that the main role of this house is creating a background for another nearby project of his, Art House in the Tessinsky Alley.
Part of the Whole
On June 5, the winners of Moscow Architectural Award were announced. The winners list includes the project of a school in Troitsk for 2,100 students, with its own astronomy dome, IT testing ground, museum, and a greenhouse on the roof.
Yet another project of a private school, in which Archimatika realizes the concept of aesthetic education and introduces a new tradition: combining Scandinavian and Soviet experience, turning to works of art, and implementing sustainable technologies.