St. Petersburg, Russia
Design: 2017
Client: JSC Center of Exhibition and Museum Projects
Competition organizer: The Committee for Urban Planning and Architecture

Authors of the project:

Architects: N. I. Yawein (project leader), I. V. Kozhin (chief architect), D. A. Andreyeva, V. I. Burmistrova, I. E. Grigoryev, K. O. Schastlivtseva

Visualization: A. A. Patrikeyev

Illustrations: E. A. Goryunova

THE CITY THAT REMAINED STANDING – the winning project of an international competition (2017)

The Siege of Leningrad was one of the most brutal episodes of World War II. Approximately a million citizens died from starvation, cold, and air raids in the course of its 872 days[i]. Every family in St. Petersburg has some memory of the Siege, and there is a growing need to revisit this horrendous experience and to recognize it not only as an act of war heroism on the part of the Soviet people, but also as an act of personal courage, pain, and suffering on the part of every citizen. This was the viewpoint behind the project of ‘The City that Remained Standing’.

The museum is an earth hill (mound) with a monumental group of volumes seemingly growing out of it. They are Buildings of the Besieged Leningrad: they are damaged by shell shards and burnt by fire; their windows are cross-taped—but they remain standing. The eight buildings can be categorized into two types. Empty hollow towers, five stories high, are intended for art installations on the Horrors of the Siege (Hunger, Cold, Fire, and Mourning). The other four buildings  (Industry, Sustenance, Science, and Culture) provide detailed information on where and how the Leningraders worked, how their everyday life was structured, and what cultural events took place in the besieged city.

The main space of the museum is a round hall located 1.5 m below ground. The hall is encircled with  a multimedia wall, Ring of Time Under Siege, with a dynamic collage of film chronicles, photographs, etc. The cornice of the Ring of Time Under Siege has 872 notches: a notch for every day of the Siege. Under corresponding dates on the Ring of Time Under Siege, there are doorways leading into the museum’s narrative blocks that protrude from the hill outline: The Road of Life (the ice road and navigation on Lake Ladoga), Operations to Break Through the Siege, and The Breakthrough of the Siege—a solid windowless cantilevered volume with a top-to-bottom glass wall moved far out towards the Neva embankment. After walking through this tunnel, museum visitors walk out into the light of day and see that the city is alive.

The heart of the main museum hall is the Space of Diaries of the Siege. Inside, there are six rooms, where the experience is narrated in first person. As we move from the periphery towards the center, from the official chronicles of The Ring of Time Under Siege  towards a more detailed picture in the blocks devoted to work and home life, the material becomes more personal both in terms of conveying and perceiving information. Finally, in the Space of Diaries, the theme of private pain, tragedy, and disaster is expressed to its strongest degree.

The climax of the museum is the Hall of Remembrance located on the first floor, above the diary area. It is a place of silence and shadow. The hall is covered with a dome with a small opening in the center. Daylight flows from the opening and the adjacent triangular courtyards. Candles flicker on the necropolis wall. Ghostly light illuminates the martyrology carved in stone—a list of many thousands of names of the victims of the Siege.

Project parameters

The area of the land plot – 1,73 ha
GFA – 24 800 sq. m

Open public access zones:

Entrance zone – 4 500 sq. m,
Cafe – 950 sq. m
Gift shop – 450 sq. m

Permanent exhibition – 7 350 sq. m

Temporary exhibition – 920 sq. m

Multifunctional learning centre – 710 sq. m

Conference centre – 1 450 sq. m,
Movies auditorium – 250 кв. м

Limited public access zones:

Memory institute – 2 050 sq. m,
Library – 170 sq. m
Reading room – 300 sq. m
Archive – 160 sq. m

VIP zone – 2 250 sq. m,
Restaurant – 350 sq. m
Conference hall – 200 sq. m

No public access zones:

Workshops – 610 sq. m
Administrative rooms – 580 sq. m
Depository – 2 730 sq. m

Technical spaces – 1 650 sq. m