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.
Written by: Alyona Kuznetsova Translated by: Anton Mizonov
30 May 2019
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.
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.
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 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.
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 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.
Who is Alexey Shchusev? In the last couple of weeks, since the architect’s 150th birthday, different individuals have answered this question differently. The most detailed, illustrated, and elegantly presented response is an exhibition held in two buildings of the Museum of Architecture on Vozdvizhenka. Four curators, a year and a half of work performed by the entire museum, and exhibition design by Sergey Tchoban and Alexandra Sheiner – in this article, we take you on a tour of the exhibition and show what’s what in it.
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The restoration of the Salt Warehouse for the Zvenigorod Museum, on the one hand, was quite accurately implemented according to the design of the People’s Architect, and, on the other hand, it was not without some extra research and adjustments, which, in this case, was quite beneficial for the project. The architects discovered the original paint color, details of the facades, and studied the history of rebuilds of this building. As a result, the imposing character of the empire building, the oldest one in the city, and the differences of later additions were accurately revealed. Most importantly, however, the city got a new cultural and public space, which is already “working” in full swing.
From Moscow to Khabarovsk
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Harmonization of Intentions
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Cité for Naro-Fominsk
The new neighborhood on an island in the center of Naro-Fominsk continues the ideas of developing the territory of the silk-weaving factory, around which the city actually formed. The authors skillfully mix different formats of mid-rise development and make the most of the island location, offering a variety of formats of interaction with water, available to all citizens. No wonder that the project is considered exemplary and worthy of duplication in the region. It is also an example of rare synergy between the client and the architects.
A Tower and a Manor House
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The Warm Stone
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For All Times
The modular technology combined with the building material of glued wood allows the architectural company Rhizome to create quick-mount hotels (no less!) that are highly rated by the architectural community: last week, the new hotel “Vremena Goda. Igora” scored three awards. Below, we are examining the project in detail.
The Other Way Around
Few awards instead of many, the award ceremony conducted on the first day instead of last, projections instead of sketch boards, trees inside and art objects outside – the renewal of the Architecton festival seemingly took the sure-fire path of turning all the professional traditions upside down – or at least those that happened to be within the scope of the organizers’ attention. There’s certainly a lot to pick on, but the exhibition does feel fresh and improvisational. It looks that pretty soon these guys will set trends for Moscow as well. We shared with you about some elements of the festival in our Telegram channel, and now we are examining the whole thing.
ArchiWOOD-14: Building Bridges
This season, the festival’s jury decided not to award a grand prize: judging by the fact that the shortlist included several projects that had not reached the award in previous years, and the “best house” was pronounced to be an undoubtedly beautiful but mass-produced model, the “harvest” of wooden buildings in 2023 was not too abundant. However, there were many unusual typologies among the finalists, and restoration and revitalization projects received their share of recognition. Let’s take a look at all the finalists.
The Chinese Symphony
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Ensemble of Individualities
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Black and Red
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The Mastery of Counterpoint
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In memory of Jean-Louis Cohen
Marina Khrustaleva – about Jean-Louis Cohen (20.07.1949-7.08.2023), French architect and architectural historian that specialized in modern architecture and city planning.
On the Hills
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The Magic Carpet
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A Copper Step
Block 5, designed by ASADOV architects as part of the “Ostrov” (“Island”) housing complex, is at the same time grand-scale, conspicuous thanks to its central location – and contextual. It does not “outshout” the solutions used in the neighboring buildings, but rather gives a very balanced implementation of the design code: combining brick and metal in light and dark shades and large copper surfaces, orthogonal geometry on the outside and flexible lines in the courtyard.
The Light for the Island
For the first time around, we are examining a lighting project designed for a housing complex; but then again, the authors of the nighttime lighting of the Ostrov housing complex, UNK lighting, proudly admit that this project is not just the largest in their portfolio, but also the largest in this country. They describe their approach as a European one, its chief principles being smoothness of transitions, comfort to the eye, and the concentration of most of the light at the “bottom” level – meaning, it “works” first of all for pedestrians.
Spots of Light
A new housing complex in Tyumen designed by Aukett Swanke is a very eye-pleasing example of mid-rise construction: using simple means of architectural expression, such as stucco, pitched roofs, and height changes, the architects achieve a “human-friendly” environment, which becomes a significant addition to the nearby park and forest.
Ledges and Swirls
The housing complex “Novaya Zarya” (“New Dawn”) designed by ASADOV Architects will become one of the examples of integrated land development in Vladivostok. The residential area will be characterized by various typologies of its housing sections, and a multitude of functions – in addition to the social infrastructure, the complex will include pedestrian promenades, shopping malls, office buildings, and recreational facilities. The complex is “inscribed” in a relief with a whopping 40-meter height difference, and overlooks the Amur Bay.
Agglomeration on an Island
Recently, an approval came for the master plan of the Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk agglomeration, which was developed by a consortium headed by the Genplan Institute of Moscow. The document provides for the creation of 12 clusters, the totality of which will give the region a qualitative leap in development and make the island more self-sufficient, more accessible, and less dependent on the mainland. We are inviting you to examine the details.
Ivan Grekov: “A client that wants to make a building that is “about architecture” is...
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Grasping and Formulating
The special project “Tezisy” (“Abstracts”), showcased at Arch Moscow exhibition in Moscow’s Gostiny Dvor, brought together eight young “rock stars of architecture”, the headliner being Vladislav Kirpichev, founder of the EDAS school. In this article, we share our impressions of the installations and the perspectives of the new generation of architects.
The White Tulip
Currently, there are two relevant projects for the Great Cathedral Mosque in Kazan, which was transferred to a land site in Admiralteiskaya Sloboda in February. One of them, designed by TsLP, was recently showcased at Arch Moscow. In this article, we are covering another project, which was proposed during the same period for the same land site. Its author is Aleksey Ginzburg, the winner of the 2022 competition, but now the project is completely different. Today, it is a sculptural “flower” dome symbolizing a white tulip.
The architectural company ATRIUM opened a gallery of its own in a metaverse. Inside, one can examine the company’s approach and main achievements, as well as get some emotional experience. The gallery is already hosting cyberspace business meetings and corporate events.
From Darkness to Light
Responding to a lengthy list of limitations and a lengthy – by the standards of a small building – list of functions, Vladimir Plotkin turned the project of the Novodevichy Monastery into a light, yet dynamic statement of modern interpretation of historical context, or, perhaps, even interpretation of light and darkness.