Reconstruction of a 19th century dwelling
Russia, St. Petersburg, 5 Furshtatskaia Street
Design: 1996
Realization: 1997-1998
Client: St. Petersburg branch of Sberbank of Russia

Authors of the project:

Architects: Nikita Yavein, Nina Balazh
with the participation of Vladimir Zenkevich, Vladimir Parfyonov
Structural engineer: Veniamin Kuper

The building with its narrow street facade and a chain of well-like courtyards allowing a thorough-passage into the depth of the block is a typical 19th century St. Petersburg dwelling scheme. The client set a most challenging task of transforming this space into a contemporary bank building. At the same time, the historical front facade and the courtyards arrangement were to be preserved.

The spatial structure of the new bank is formed by the succession of two courtyards of equal area both square in their layout. As a result, the entrance area that originally opened up to the street was relocated into the 1st open-air courtyard. Its lower level evokes associations with St. Petersburg embankments – the quintessence of city-of-water metaphysics. As it extends further with a layer of columns, the architecture becomes more abstract with no evident relations to any local or classical motives. Rather, it returns to its archaic origins stemming from some megalith pre-forms embodied as stone thrilithons at the edge of the roof.

The 2nd courtyard is a three-leveled atrium that accommodates the main customer service space and is covered by a pyramid skylight. Ascending upwards, the architecture seems to be ‘melting away’ allowing more light and finally “vanishing into the air” through the pyramid skylight.

Architectural order is set by a modular grid of 40х40 and 80х80 sm that is pertaining to all the layouts and facades, and is embodied in the cubic and cylindrical shapes of the columns, and in checkered pattern of the floors and metallic railings. The principle of absolute symmetry and similarity of shapes characterizes the entire space. Thus, if theoretically continued, the pitch lines of the 1st courtyard mansard roofs will form a reversed pyramid with its faces converging on the courtyard centre – a sort of a negative image, or the inversion of the pyramid skylight of the 2nd courtyard.

The two courtyards are like Yin and Yang creating a unity of opposites, the two antipodes of one and the same metaphysical experience hidden behind the ‘curtain’ of a most ordinary facade.

Gross floor area – 4 161 sq. m
Structural volume – 14 530 cub. m