The most ambitious museum building in Europe over the last 20 years

Details of the recently concluded the reconstruction of the General Staff in St. Petersburg.

This project is the called the most extensive museum construction site in Europe for the last twenty years. The historic building, which is one of the masterpieces of Russian classicism, strengthened the foundation, replaced the floors, renovated the interior is intact and fully adapted them for the museum needs. Now completed the construction and restoration, but there are still, as they say architects, commissioning of engineering systems (atria service, preparation for removing snow from roofs, etc.). Until the end of this year, they will be fully completed and the Hermitage will have at its disposal equipped with the most modern standards of building area of 46 thousand square meters — on the area close to the Winter Palace.

At full strength, with a permanent exhibition, which will move here from the Winter, General Staff will earn at the end of 2014, when the Hermitage will be celebrating its 250th anniversary. Prior to this, in the summer of 2014, there will be the "Manifesto" (in existence since 1996, the roving European Biennial of Contemporary Art — an exhibition that is not carried out twice in the same place), but now several rooms are devoted to temporary exhibitions.

Reconstruction of the East Wing of the General Staff (if you stand in front of the arch at the Palace Square, it will be on the left wing, on the right, in the West Wing, historically sit on the military, which gave the name of the building) is the last five years, although the premises were handed back in Hermitage 1988. Reconstruction has cost 15 billion rubles. Part has been allocated from the federal budget, and some — obtained from the World Bank for Reconstruction and Development.

What was

The General Staff building was erected at the Palace Square in 1819 till 1829 under the guidance of the brilliant Carlo Rossi, who Petersburg owes its appearance. Neapolitan by birth, he was in Russia in early childhood — his mother, Gertrude Rossi, was a famous dancer who was invited to the reign of Catherine II in St Petersburg stage. A distinctive feature of architect Rossi was that he thought not individual buildings, but the entire urban ensembles. It was he who designed the Aleksandrinsky theaters and street palace complex Elagina Island and the City Palace of Grand Duke Mikhail Pavlovich, which now houses the Russian Museum, with a garden area, houses in the area and the street leading to the Nevsky Prospekt. At the same time, Russia has received the order and the construction of the Main Staff. By the beginning of the XIX century on the Palace Square in front of the Winter Palace, built half a century before by Bartolomeo Rastrelli, there were houses of different height and style, and the area did not have the kind of due solemnity. In addition, Alexander I thought about a special building for the military. Finance Minister Dmitry Guriev persuaded the emperor to include it in his office building, as well as the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which was headed by his son Karl Nesselrode. All of these interests together in an order that was Rossi.

With the civil wing of Staff, and in particular with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, connected a lot of historical events and anecdotes. Apartment minister was one of the secular center of St. Petersburg, where foreign ambassadors were received and were given balls. The archives have moved here together with the ministry worked Pushkin. Prior to his departure ambassador to Persia, then served Griboyedov. Here censor worked Tjutchev deciding what of foreign literature can be tolerated in Russia, and what does not. And here he wrote the famous line: "It has long been known to all stupid — / Restless censorship / Koy-kak nourishes our flesh — / bless her!" In the neighboring premises of the Ministry of Finance headed by Yegor Kankrin graph, thanks to the reforms which in the middle of the XIX century, the ruble has become hard currency, and in St. Petersburg minted world’s first platinum coins.

What was the

The eastern wing of the General Staff — perhaps the first in our country sample museum restoration, in which every detail is compared not with the current owners taste or officials, and with the same look and historical logic. Against this background, the interiors of the palace in Tsaritsyno with their monstrous gold look disgraceful. It is said in St. Petersburg also wanted to do something like this — "prettier" and brighter, but the architects and restorers were able to fight back.

The architectural decision belongs to the St. Petersburg "Studio 44" (on account of its construction Boris Eifman Dance Academy in St. Petersburg, under which adapted the two buildings abroad XIX-XX centuries). Restoration of a group of companies engaged in "Intarsia" that the last twenty years of experience with major historical monuments like the Constantine Palace in Strelna and the Smolny Cathedral in St. Petersburg. The result of that is not often satisfied everyone, including the museum staff — Hermitage director Mikhail Piotrovsky said that the Main Staff managed to find a balance between the preservation of the most important architectural monument and its adaptation for the museum needs.


  • Ballroom of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs after restoration Photo: Eugene Asmolov
  • Ballroom of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs after restoration Photo: Eugene Asmolov

The most difficult part in the process of reconstruction, according to the president, "Intarsia" Victor Smirnov had to write all the modern utilities in the existing old walls and arches. Suffered from a similar problem a lot of houses — the same age headquarters in Moscow and other cities: break down and rebuild, repeating exactly the facade, easier and cheaper. In the Main Staff of the modern filling placed inside the old box. Many rooms have a bit of a double shell: inside the old walls built new ones, which can somehow transform the space in shape, size and color, adjusting to the exposure.

The building of the Eastern Wing of the General Staff of the plan is complex due to the topography of the city — two buildings stretching along the Palace Square and the Moika Embankment, converging at an acute angle of the Song of the bridge. Between them, Rossi made a five open courtyards. In the competition for the reconstruction involved four dozen projects, different architectural who solved the problem. Are encouraged to participate and international stars, such as Dutchman Rem Koolhaas, who eventually became a special consultant to the project.

The main feature of the project period — overlapping courtyards glass roof that made them great, in good weather, sun-drenched atrium (previously used the idea of Norman Foster in the courtyard of the British Museum). The St. Petersburg version turned out, maybe not so beautiful, but still impressive and practical. Five-atrium courtyards turned into a suite that echoes the halls of the Hermitage in the Winter Palace and easier navigation for visitors. As originally designed, the "Studio 44" in the atria should be hanging gardens, transforming the suite into a green alley. But they are so far refused to Hermitage — too expensive to service. But the big halls among households with high ceilings is the best suited for large-sc
ale installations of contemporary artists. Another original solution — halls of the fourth floor, which will house the Gallery storage Shchukin and Morozov. They collected before the revolution of the Impressionists and Post-Impressionists will be supplemented in the Hermitage large trophy collection of paintings of the same period of the private German collections. Together, it is about 250 absolute masterpiece by Monet, Renoir, Van Gogh, Gauguin, Cezanne, Matisse and other artists of that era. In these rooms are arranged special torispherical arches, ending no fixed ceiling and a window through which natural light penetrates. As the head of the "Studio 44" and the chief architect of the project Nikita Yavein, in these halls, "sees the picture of the sky." "If you look at modern museums, to distinguish natural from artificial light is almost impossible. And here we have tried to create a situation in which the picture "wakes up" in the morning light, lives in day and night, "sleep" in the warm evening light. What is different from the picture, and reproduction? The fact that she lives with the environment. " Here St. Petersburg can not resist another stud to the Muscovites — litigation Irina Antonova with Mikhail Piotrovsky for the return of the collections of Shchukin and Morozov to Moscow to re-create the Museum of New Western Art to nothing lead, but the sediment left. So now in the halls of the East Wing and museum workers, and architects necessarily say that they are much better than those which are hanging in Moscow Van Gogi and Matisse, and even the question of who should pay whom his collection.

Returning to the architecture, it is worth noting that the Main Staff of many non-standard solutions. For example, a huge loft above the arch for the first time in the museum practice adapted for the exhibition halls, and Yavein calls it the most emotionally saturated space of the new museum. The walls of the courtyards painted in gray mouse — so in the 1820s, looked on the idea of Rossi, the entire General Staff, but standing in front of Winter was yellow. We are used to seeing the headquarters of yellow and Winter — green. Change the usual appearance did not, but at least within the justice.

What will

Go to the front opening of the General Staff in its halls will move much of the core collection of the Hermitage. The Winter will be something like the Alte Pinakothek with art from antiquity to the end of the XVIII century. And in the General Staff will be on display XIX, XX and XXI century, from "Napoleon on the Bridge at Arcole" Jean-Antoine Gros to separate halls Ilya Kabakov and Dmitry Prigova. Besides painting will be presented here decorative arts from Empire to modern. The museum displays Faberge. This will open an exhibition of the Russian Imperial Guard, and this will be the second such museum in the world, the only analogue — Museum of the Royal Guard in London.

An important part of the East Wing — historic interiors of the ministries and state rooms ministerial apartments, luxurious, with colored imitation marble columns — the Foreign Ministry, and more modest in the Ministry of Finance. Interiors were lucky — they almost did not change in the XIX century and destroyed in the XX. The most valuable part of them — paintings on the walls and ceiling, the general idea of which belongs to Russia, and performance — Antonio Whigs and Giovanni Battista Scotti (they worked with Rossi in Elagin Palace and updates the interiors of the Winter, but that clearance of the General Staff considered the top of their work). The paintings are released from late pobelok and paint layers, and the truth is great, so that in a year visit the Chief of Staff will be no less interesting experience than going to the ‘old’ Hermitage.

Earlier, about reconstruction:

Was — was: the General Staff Building in St. Petersburg

Reconstruction of the Main Staff of The Hermitage extends the

In St. Petersburg, completed restoration of the General Staff Building

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