background project

State Hermitage Museum in the General Staff Building

6-8 Palace sq., St. Petersburg, Russia

DESIGN: 2002-2008
REALIZATION: 2008-2014
CLIENT: St. Petersburg Foundation for Investment Projects (FISP) MORE

State Hermitage Museum in the General Staff Building

6-8 Palace sq., St. Petersburg, Russia

DESIGN: 2002-2008
REALISATION: 2008-2014

Client: St. Petersburg Foundation for Investment Projects (FISP)

Project team:

Architects: Oleg Yavein, Nikita Yavein, Vladimir Lemekhov, Pavel Sokolov
with the participation of Vitaliy Antipin, Irina Golysheva, Sergey Dryazzhyn, Evgeniy Elovkov, Veronika Zhukova, Irina Krylova, Oleg Kuzevanov, Vladimir Parfenov, Sergey Sologub, Georgiy Snezhkin, Varvara Khmelyova, Natalia Shirokova, Anton Yar-Skryabin
Structural engineers: Vladimir Ioffe, –ěleg Kurbatov, Dmitriy Kresov, Irina Lyashko, Dmitriy Yaroshevskiy

Restoration project: Mikhailov Architectural Studio
Museum technology: Institute PRO ARTE
Engineering systems: ZAO "Petro Engineering"
Museum lighting: Cannon-Brookes Lighting & Design (UK)

The General Staff Building (1820-1830, architect Carl I. Rossi), one of the symbols of the Russian Empire and one of the peaks of the Russian Empire style, will become part of the State Hermitage, a Museum of 19th and 20th century art. The complexity of this project lies not only in the strict rules on renovations for monuments protected by the state, but also in the problem of adapting a ministry (i.e., office / residential) building constructed at the beginning of the 19th century into a 21st century museum complex.

In the course of surveys and archival research, and the comparative analysis of the General Staff Building and other parts of the Large Hermitage, a number of principles and ideas were developed, which must be realized without breaking the unity of the original Rossi design. This will make the new museum an organic continuation of the Hermitage and other Petersburg spaces:

  • Enfilade principle of exhibitions;
  • Baroque Petersburg perspective;
  • Hermitage trailing gardens structure;
  • Spacious halls with a flexible system allowing the transformation of the exhibition space (the «New Skylight Rooms» - by analogy to the «Big Skylight Rooms» of the New Hermitage Building).

All these ideas and principles have concentrated in the overall concept of the project - the New Big Enfilade. This calls for alternating spacious exposition halls which have been built at right angles to the length of the General Staff Building, and trailing gardens which do not reach to the longitudinal walls of the building.

According to the project, trailing gardens should be seen as a name and a symbol, rather than as places with real plants. Rather, they are sculpture gardens composed from the Hermitage collections, zones for visitors to find rest and solitude amongst other people, and, at the same time, a chance to get a wider view of the whole complex. If the hanging gardens can be seen as a kind of luxury, the «New Skylight rooms» are a bare necessity. The main part of the new museum permanent exhibition will be placed in three enfilades running around the building’s perimeter. But even the largest rooms of these enfilades do not have suitable dimensions for the large-scale temporary exhibitions. For this purpose, there will be three halls with a height of 12 metres and overhead lighting. They are supplied with a system of hinged shutters - doors and wall panels. Various permutations of opening and closing of folding doors and walls allow the flexible reconfiguration of exhibitions, and also make it possible to isolate each of hall-modules or to unite them all in enfilade again.

This enfilade is not composed of parallel lines but narrows, to produce a converging perspective which reinforces its involved and funnelled effect. The convergence is not imposed from the outside; it is there from the outset in the lay-out of the building, which is a wedge-shape pointing into Palace Square. The outlines of gardens and new halls follow the directions of this perspectival convergence of lines. On these same lines the width of big doors decreases from hall to hall. The lines disappear into infinity onto a backdrop of Petersburg cityscape or Hermitage enfilades, creating a quintessentially Petersburg space; it relates the most different forms and styles.

The New Big Enfilade is the core of figurative and functional-spatial structure of a new museum; it occupies the dominant position in the hierarchy of its spaces. The ground floor located under it is presented as a continuation of Palace Square itself which permeates though into the main lobby, the largest of five court yards and a smart ladder-amphitheatre bringing a new city forum with the commerce accompanying the museum. The main focus of the first floor is 19th century arts and crafts. On the second floor, where the majority of the Empire style enfilades are located, paintings of the 19th century up to 1860 will be presented. Finally, on the top levels, under neon lighting, art of the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th will be placed, including the well-known Schukin-Morozov collection.

The project realisation is due in 2014 (to coincide with the Hermitage museum 250th anniversary).

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