​Saving the Woodwork: Saint Petersburg

Studio 44 has developed a concept of preserving the monuments of wooden architecture of Saint Petersburg. What is particularly interesting about this project is the method of determining the value of buildings, as well as a parametric model that vividly shows which buildings must be saved on a first-priority basis.

Alyona Kuznetsova

Written by:
Alyona Kuznetsova
Translated by:
Anton Mizonov

30 May 2019
Studio 44

The task of developing the concept of preserving Saint Petersburg’s monuments of wooden architecture was commissioned to Studio 44 by the city council. Saint Petersburg had long since been in a desperate need of one: according to experts, it was high time to get down to this part of the city’s historical legacy, the number of its wooden buildings shrinking by the year. If we are to speak on a national scale, within a 20-year span, Russia loses about 400 monuments of architecture, and these figures must be still greater for background construction. We cannot help mentioning the Church of the Assumption that burned down less than a year ago in Kontupohja. According to reports, in Saint Petersburg something is aflame virtually every month.

There have already been some attempts to improve the situation: a few years ago the Ministry of Culture ordered a detailed concept for the entire country, while Saint Petersburg came up with the concept of developing the Kurortny Area, including preservation of the wooden buildings. Regretfully, none of these initiatives were to be implemented.

In its concept, Studio 44 seems to start small – seemingly, what the architects are proposing is not even a concept but rather a survey and systematization of all the existing data. However, this meticulous approach to making even the first step is exactly what you need to avoid getting overwhelmed by the sheer scale of the task. The authors of the concept – a group of young architects and restoration specialists working under the guidance of Grigori Ivanov – were consulted by the member of the International Council of Monuments and Sites of Saint Petersburg, Candidate of Sciences in architecture, Boris Matveev. At the defense of the concept, the reviewer was the member of the Council for Protection of Cultural Heritage of Saint Petersburg, the author of numerous books on the history of wooden architecture, Mikhail Milchik.

So, the first stage was about collecting the data. Totally, Saint Petersburg has 271 wooden buildings that bear a protected status, almost half of them located in the Kurortny and Petrodvortsovy areas with just a handful of surviving wooden buildings in the city center. The restoration experts of Studio 44 not only perused old documents and archives but also went to see each and every building in order to do on-site survey, evaluate the state this or that building was in, and make relevant photos.

Restoration of the Dobbert Manshion and adjusting it for the needs of Eifman Dance Academy
Copyright: © Studio-44
The current category of the historical and cultural heritage sites. The concept of preserving cultural heritage sites – monuments of wooden architecture in Saint Petersburg
Copyright: © Studio-44

As a result, each building got a card assigned to it that contained all the currently available information about this building. Such “passport” can become a starting point for further work because it provides an objective and rather detailed profile of the building.

The card consists of seven blocks, the first four of which systematize the already available data: trivia, historical information – how many times the house was rebuilt – as well as the evaluation of its authenticity; the modern state and the section devoted to the technical and economic features can be interesting to investors and developers.

The last three sections are of a “design” character: they include suggestions on saving, an attachment with photos 2018 with iconography, as well as the evaluation sheet. The latter is particularly important – it evaluates the monument of architecture in accordance with the method developed by Studio 44. Below, we shall describe it in more detail.

To ensure objective evaluation of an architectural monument, the architects decided to introduce two indexes: one of historical and cultural value, and one of the current state, which is formed as a sum total of a number of sub-indexes. For example, the historical and cultural value of the building is measured by its authenticity, memorial, architectural, and historical value. Each of these for criteria are assigned points scoring from 0 to 100, this figure also depending on a number of factors. For example, the total “authenticity” score is calculated based on four UNESCO-approved aspects: authenticity of material, mastery of execution, original design, and surroundings. A maximum on each criterion is 25 points. Further on, the points for each criterion are multiplied by the criterion’s “weight”. In the total score, authenticity has 40% of “shares”, all the other criteria owning 20% each. In the index of current state, 40% are owned by the technical condition, and 20% are owned by character of operation, building services, and accessibility.

The historical and cultural value of monuments of wooden architecture. The concept of preserving cultural heritage sites – monuments of wooden architecture in Saint Petersburg
Copyright: © Studio-44

The current state of monuments of wooden architecture. The concept of preserving cultural heritage sites – monuments of wooden architecture in Saint Petersburg
Copyright: © Studio-44

These indexes determine the situation of the monument in the frame of reference, where x is the historical and cultural value, and y is its current state. How specifically this space model visualizes the state of affairs with saving the monuments of wooden architecture, one can see on the example of the Pushkinsky district model. The district is subdivided into four groups of monuments of wooden architecture. In the first group, both indexes (the historical/cultural value and the current state) are high – such buildings are doing very well, in fact; all they need is monitoring. In the third group, the technical condition of the buildings is acceptable but their value as such is pretty low – such buildings do not require any urgent measures either. In the fourth group, both indexes are low – and the feasibility of restoring such buildings is subject to discussion. And, finally, it is the second group that requires most of attention because these houses are of high value but their technical condition puts them in the risk zone.

The space model of the Pushkinsky District heritage sites. The concept of preserving cultural heritage sites – monuments of wooden architecture in Saint Petersburg
Copyright: © Studio-44

The model helps to define the priority of work; it is flexible; changes in the indexes influence the position of the monument in the frame of reference. In accordance with these indexes, the architects developed a block of recommendations for each monument, and it also has some very interesting nuances about it.

For example, the architects are proposing to introduce a new legal term that sounds as “valuable object of historical environment”. Such objects can include buildings that are lost but recommended for restoration, or replicas that were built as such restoration projects, which is essentially new construction. This will help to define what’s authentic and what’s important, at the same time protecting newly built replica buildings, whose value is chiefly about creating a background for the integrated city context. Of course, the restoration of lost buildings must be governed by rigorous rules and regulations pertaining to their location, building materials, construction, appearance, and so on.

Recommendations of fedral protection measures. The concept of preserving cultural heritage sites – monuments of wooden architecture in Saint Petersburg
Copyright: © Studio-44

Recommendations of fedral protection measures. The concept of preserving cultural heritage sites – monuments of wooden architecture in Saint Petersburg
Copyright: © Studio-44

Recommendations of fedral protection measures in respect to unused monuments of wooden architecture. The concept of preserving cultural heritage sites – monuments of wooden architecture in Saint Petersburg
Copyright: © Studio-44

According to one of the key developers of this concept, Ilia Sabantsev, there is an opportunity to create a whole open air museum of wooden architecture in Lomonosov, in the area of the Eleninskaya Street. It scores as many as eight monuments, three of which were lost but can be restored based on the available iconographic materials. Also, there is information about two lost houses that did not have the monument status but they could also be restored in order to give the project more momentum.

Yet another proposal of this concept is to make an amendment to the existing legislation that restoration of monuments of wooden architecture could be privately funded, and to come up with a system of tax deduction for the investors.

Working on this concept, the architects found out that almost half of the buildings were not used in any way, a quarter of them is all but lost, and about 55 buildings are in need of urgent repair.

The current state of monuments of wooden architecture. The concept of preserving cultural heritage sites – monuments of wooden architecture in Saint Petersburg
Copyright: © Studio-44

The leader of Studio 44, Nikita Yavein, says that this concept is part of a bigger work. This concept is rather a systematic survey, the first tool for the State Inspectorate for the Preservation of Monuments, businessmen, and developers. In addition, he stresses that this method is only applicable for Saint Petersburg that does not have any monuments of wooden architecture in the traditional meaning of the term, and whose oldest wooden building is the house of Peter the Great.

The concept was presented at a board meeting of the Council for Protection of Cultural Heritage, where it got a positive feedback from the experts and the approval of the alternate governor of Saint Petersburg, Alexander Beglov. The next stage will be about developing some specific programs on the basis of the drawn conclusions.

Studio 44

30 May 2019

Alyona Kuznetsova

Written by:

Alyona Kuznetsova
Translated by:
Anton Mizonov
comments powered by HyperComments
Headlines now
​The Strategy of Transformation
In this article, we are publishing eight projects of reconstructing postwar Modernist buildings that have been implemented by Tchoban Voss Architekten and showcased in the AEDES gallery at the recent Re-Use exhibition. Parallel to that, we are meditating on the demonstrated approaches and the preservation of things that architectural legislation does not require to preserve.
In the Rhythm of Block Construction
Last week, the housing complex “Ty i Ya” (“You and Me”) was presented, built in the northwest of Moscow. By a number of parameters, it exceeds the originally stated comfort-class format, and, on the other hand, fully meeting the city block construction paradigm, popular in Moscow, demonstrates a few interesting features, such as a new kind of public spaces for the residents, and high-ceilinged apartments on the first floors.
​Five Nonlinear Ones
Recently, at the Moscow Urban Forum, they announced a large-scale project that Zaha Hadid Architects would do for Moscow – the multifunctional housing complex Union Towers designed for Quarter 82 of Khoroshevo-Mnevniki at the commission of KROST development.
​Etudes in Glass
The housing complex, located not far away from the Paveletskaya Railway Station, as a symbol of a sweeping transformation of this area: a composition of towers of different height, ingenious detailing of stained glass windows, and a green lawn in the yard.
A Flyover in Watercolor
For the 100th anniversary of Vladimir Vasilkovsky, the architectural office of Evgeny Gerasimov is reflecting on the Ushakov Flyover, which was designed with input from this artist and architect. In this article, we are showing its watercolors and sketches, including the preliminary ones that were not included in the final project, as well as speaking about the importance of architectural drawing.
​Walking on Clouds
A restaurant in the Khibiny skiing complex: 820 meters above the sea level, sweeping views, a levitation effect, and ingenious engineering solutions.
​Transformation with Multiplication
The Palace of Water Sports in Luzhniki is one of the high-profile and nontrivial reconstructions of recent years, and a project that won one of the first competitions, initiated by Sergey Kuznetsov as the main architect of Moscow. The complex opened 2 years ago; this article about it comes out at the start of the bathing season.
​Sergey Tchoban: “I believe it’s very important to preserve this city as a record...
Although originally we planned to speak in this interview with Sergey Tchoban about high-rise construction, the conversation turned out to be 70% about meditation on the ways of regenerating the historical city and about the role of the city fabric as the most objective and unbiased historical record. And, as for the towers, which manifest social contrasts and leave a lot of junk when torn down, the conversation was about the expected construction norms and regulations. We took this interview one day before the Lakhta-2 project was announced, and this is why this newsbreak is not commented upon in any way in this article.
​Courtyards and Constructivism
In this issue, we are examining the second major block of the “city within a city” Ligovsky City complex, designed and built by A-Len, and combining several trends characteristic of modern urban architecture.
​Inside of a Drawn Grid
Designing the apartment complex PLAY in Danilovskaya Sloboda, ADM architects placed their bet on the imagery of construction. The area where it manifested itself the most vividly was the sophisticated grid of the facades.
​Headquarters of the Future
The project by “Arena Group”, which won in an open competition of ideas for the headquarters of the Italian company FITT, combines futuristic forms, an interesting set of functions, energy efficiency, and subtle references to the archetypes of Italian architecture. Particularly beautiful is the “continuous” fountain. In this issue, we are sharing about the three winners of the competition.
​A Tiered Composition
A little bit of New York in Odessa: an apartment complex designed and built by “Archimatika” with towers, townhouses, a square, and swimming pools.
​The Yard Aesthetics
Organizing the yard of a premium-class housing complex, GAFA architects took care not just about the image that matches the project’s high status, but also about simple human joys, masterfully overcoming the construction regulations.
​MasterMind: a Neural Network for Developers and Architects
Created by Genpro, this software allows you to generate within half an hour dozens of development and construction options in accordance with the set parameters. At the same time, however, being more focused on the technical aspects, the program does not exclude creative work, and can be used by architects for preparing projects with a subsequent data export to AutoCAD, Revit, and ArchiCAD.
This Beetle Has Flown
The story of designing a business center in the Zhukov (“Beetle”) Drive: a number of attempts to preserve a hundred-year-old cold storage facility, at the same time introducing modern buildings interpreting the industrial theme. The project remained on paper, but the story behind it seems to be worth our attention.
​The Childhood Territory
The project of the educational complex within the second stage of “Spanish Quarters” was developed by ASADOV Architects. The project is all about creating a friendly and transparent environment that in itself educates and forms the personality of a child.
Man and the City
Designing this large-scale housing complex, GAFA architects accentuated two types of public spaces: bustling streets with shops and cafes – and a totally natural yard, visually separated as much as possible from the city. Making the most out of the contrast, both work together to make the life of the residents of EVER housing complex eventful and diverse.
​Andy Snow: “I aim for an architecture which is rational and poetic”
The British architect Andy Snow has recently become the chief architect at GENPRO Architects & Engineers. Projects, which Andy Snow did in the UK in collaboration with world-famous architectural firms, scored numerous international awards. In Russia, the architect took part in designing Moscow’s Stanislavsky Factory business center, iLove housing complex, and AFI2B business center on the 2nd Brestskaya Street. In our interview, Andy Snow compared the construction realities in Russia and the UK, and also shared his vision of architectural prospects in Russia.
​The Living Growth
The grand-scale housing complex AFI PARK Vorontsovsky in Moscow’s southwest consists of four towers, a “slab” house, and a kindergarten building. Interestingly, the plastique of the residential buildings is quite active – they seem to be growing before your eyes, responding to the natural context, and first of all opening the views of the nearby park. As for the kindergarten building, it is cute and lyrical, like a little sugar house.
Sergey Skuratov: “A skyscraper is a balance of technology, economic performance, and aesthetic...
In March, two buildings of the Capital Towers complex were built up to a 300-meter elevation mark. In this issue, we are speaking to the creator of Moscow’s cutting-edge skyscrapers: about heights and proportions, technologies and economics, laconicism and beauty of superslim houses, and about the boldest architectural proposal of recent years – the Le Corbusier Tower above the Tsentrosoyuz building.
​The Red Building
The area of Novoslobodskaya has received Maison Rouge – an apartment complex designed by ADM, which continues the wave of renovation, started by the Atmosphere business center, from the side of the Palikha Street.
​The Uplifting Effect
The project of Ostankino Business Park was developed for the land site lying between two metro stations (one operating and the other in construction), and because of that its public space is designed to equally cater for the city people and the office workers. The complex stands every chance of becoming the catalyst for development of the Butyrsky area.
​Binary Opposition
In this article, we are examining a rather rare and interesting case – two projects by Evgeny Gerasimov situated on one street and completed with a five years’ difference, presenting the perfect example of example for analyzing the overall trends and approaches practiced by the architectural company.
Raising the Yard
The housing complex Renome consists of two buildings: a modern stone house and a red-brick factory building of the end of the XIX century, reconstructed by measurements and original drafts. The two buildings are connected by an “inclined” yard – a rare, by Moscow standards, version of geoplastics that smoothly ascends to the roof of the stores lined up along a pedestrian street.
​Hearing the Tune of the Past
The Church of the Beheading of John the Baptist in the park near the Novodevichy Convent was conceived in 2012 in honor of the 200th anniversary of the victory over Napoleon. However, instead of declamatory grandeur and “fanfare”, the architect Ilia Utkin presented a concentrated and prayerful mood, combined with a respectful attitude of this tent-shaped church, which also includes some elements of architecture of orders. The basement floor hosts a museum of excavations found on the site of the church.
​Semantic Shift
The high-end residential complex STORY, situated near the Avtozavodskaya metro station and the former ZIL factory, is delicately inscribed in the contrastive context, while its shape, which combines a regular grid and a stunning “shift” of the main facade, seems to respond to the dramatic history of the place, at the same time, however, allowing for multiple interpretations.
​Yards and Towers: the Samara Experiment
The project of “Samara Arena Park”, proposed by Sergey Skuratov, scored second place in the competition. The project is essentially based on experimenting with typology of residential buildings and gallery/corridor-type city blocks combined with towers – as well as on sensitive response to the context and the urge to turn the complex into a full-fledged urban space providing a wide range of functions and experiences.
​The Fili Duo
The second phase of the Filicity housing complex, designed by ADM architects, is based on the contrast between a 57-story skyscraper 200 meters high and an 11-story brick house. The high-rise building sets a futuristic vector in Moscow housing architecture.
​The Wall and the Tower
The OSA architects have been searching for solutions that could be opposed to the low-rise construction in the center of Khabarovsk, as well as an opportunity to say a new word in the discourse about mass housing.