Prof. Dr. S.V. Zagraevsky
will receive a harsh and just portrayal,
Posterity will sneer with skilled and scornful verse,
A curse of bitterness from sons at their betrayal
By their own father's spendthrift purse.
of all, we ascertain the fact, that now
although Russian government is situated in
St.-Petersburg in contrast to
Thirdly, in bygone days swampy soils were a serious problem for construction of large modern offices in St.-Petersburg. Since then, Ingrian swamps also exist, but construction machinery has already learnt to manage with its’ insidious temper successfully.
St.-Petersburg has much more reserve territories for new construction than
Fifthly, there is a sea and a port in
St.-Petersburg, and generally the city is closer to
As a result, even if St.-Petersburg doesn’t
become the official capital of the country, the status of "the second
capital" or "a business-capital" is provided to it. It means
that investments into St.-Petersburg real estate, as well as its cost, will
constantly grow until won’t be balanced with
What will happen to the historical center of
St.-Petersburg in these conditions? Will it share the same fate of the
historical center of
To place all points above "I" at once,
we'll briefly characterize that has happened to
The destruction of the unique “city of forty
forties of churches” has begun for a long time ago in the end of 19th century,
It was the first "wave of reconstructions", but unfortunately, not the last.
The second "wave" has covered the capital in the end of the twentieth years when "the Communist Party and the Soviet Government" have made a decision to build "an exemplary communistic city" in the historical center. If Stalin had time to realize all his plans, that way, for example, instead of Zamoskvorechye District, there would be three wide "rays" the Prospekts like Kutuzovsky, which has been built up by buildings of "Stalin's baroque". What should we say about the historical building this way?..
Or, for example, the hotel “
These "false teeth" of Stalin's epoch are still stick out in the middle of Moscow, forming more or less harmonious ensembles (although aesthetically rather doubtful) only on Tverskaya Street, Kutuzovsky Prospekt and some embankments and even that is not entirely. Stalin's attempt to create new high-profile dominants instead of churches either demolished or "knocked down" by new houses has also failed. Seven eclectic imperial high-profile houses (so called “The Seven Sisters”) couldn't realize it neither in quantitative nor in the qualitative plan.
The following "wave" has come in the
1960-1970th. The Kremlin Palace of Congresses, The New Arbat Street, and a huge
amount of new multi-storey houses (at the best – brick, in the worst typical
panel) in the historical center of the city had become the examples of
What has remained from the historical environment
Frankly speaking, "the triumphal procession
of the Soviet authority" didn’t remain anything from
Therefore the fourth "wave" usually is
connected with the name of mayor Jury Luzhkov. Although in conditions of the
come "freedom of speech” this “wave" has caused a significant
negative resonance in a society, but it hasn’t rendered any essential influence
on the shape of the historical center of
There was essentially other situation in St.-Petersburg: first three "waves" have safely passed by it.
Before revolution the altitude of new
construction has been legislatively limited by the height of the
St.-Petersburg has not got enough money for
development also in 1990th. So, the fourth "
The author of this article made the report
"Architecture as an art" at the architectural forum in St.-Petersburg
in 2002. That time, the amount of new constructions of St.-Petersburg was
insignificant – some new houses on the backs of the Nevsky Prospekt, several
ugly reconstructed penthouses placed on the ancient houses, the occurrence of
the bright-white double-glazed windows among "classical" brown
windows… Nevertheless, the tendency was clear already then for professionals
and when discussion of the theme of my report at the forum has been continued
at "a round table" conference, I've suggested to restore all security
modes of Soviet age in
I repeat, it was 2002 and the demarche of Mr. Kharchenko
was one of "first signs". Now, six years later, the process of
Naturally, nobody touches and will not touch the
But the situation with the skyscraper strongly
starts to remind that has happened in the beginning of
Consequently, I don't doubt any more, that all
history with Gazprom’s skyscraper has been thought up with a view of derivation
of national attention of that now also imperceptibly appears among landscapes
of Petersburg historical center, as once the new building of Shilov's gallery
was included in ensemble of Borovitskaya Square. So, "the government of
St.-Petersburg adopts the best experience of the
What has been constructed without publicity in former security zones of St.-Petersburg during the discussion of the “loud” project of Gazprom? It was a lot of that.
There were two new high-profile buildings (at 16
floors each of them) on
Panoramas of Kirochnaya, Paradnaya and
Radishchev's streets have appeared essentially changed after the construction
of dwelling complex "Gala Quarter". So, the views from the
The building of the hotel Baltic Renaissance (on
Near the hotel St.-Petersburg there was constructed
complex "Mont Blanc" which has become a new high-altitude dominant
and, accordingly, spoiled the panorama of
On the background of these rough interventions in historical environment of central Petersburg, the elite cottages, which are under the construction and situated in immediate proximity from Peter and Paul Cathedral in Peterhof, and the high-altitude house near the metro station "The Old Village" (Staraya Derevnya), breaking the views of Yelagin Palace, seem as "trifles". The same impression of "trifle" makes the "creeping" increase of altitude in the center of the city meanwhile only owing to penthouses, by which decades of houses are built on top.
And what will happen, if Gazprom’s high-altitude
house all the same will be constructed? What comes "a trifle" in that
case? Will it be "the Exchange complex" and "
environmental protection is much more delicate thing than protection of a separate
architectural monument. This question is especially actual for St.-Petersburg,
because there are not enough of self-sufficient monuments, which are
independent architectural masterpieces and fully capable to exist practically
in any city environment (such as Dormition Cathedral of Aristotele Fioravanti
or the Cathedral of St. Andronik Monastery in
The government of St.-Petersburg tries to assure us of that the special attention is paid to protection of architectural monuments. Let’s consider that in general it’s true, although concerning of some monuments it is possible to result some information denying it.
For example, “
And here is one more monument of federal value – The House of Prince Lobanov-Rostovsky (its architect is Auguste de Montferrand). Now it is under the reconstruction in imitation of the hotel with penthouses and without the historical interiors and intradomestic building (palace court).
The house of General-Policemeister Chicherin also is a monument of federal value, but recently its status was reduced up to regional. One would think, it would stay as a registered monument anyway, but it is wrong. During the reconstruction, the considerable part of the building (including the unique oval wing of 18th century) has been demolished. Now there is a pool.
Recently, the architectural monument of 18th century – The Store of Lithuanian Market – has been destroyed during the demolition of the block for the second stage of Mariinsky Theatre. By the way, its architect was Giacomo Quarenghi.
It has been removed from protection and pulled down dwellings entirely, such architectural monuments as houses: at the corner of the Nevsky Prospekt and the Mutiny Street, also, the house near the hotel Nevsky Palace (the latter was destroyed because of construction of hotel’s underground parking).
And for the sake of the construction of the Complex "Gala Quarter", which we have already mentioned above, the barracks of Preobrazhensky regiment were removed from protection and pulled down on the Paradnaya and Kirochnaya streets.
So, the attitude of St.-Petersburg authorities to
architectural monuments to put it mildly, is not all that can be desired. In the
background of all listed destructions and "reconstructions" cracked
(probably, because of the next constructions) the
Probably, it’s possible to construct a model. Practically, the shape of building won’t change of it, although, concerning architectural monuments, the law orders to conduct exclusively scientific restoration. In any case, the destiny of each separate monument is similar to destiny of a person. There are also friends, enemies, sometimes the person is exposed to danger of death, sometimes he dies, sometimes he perishes from murderers' hands, sometimes these murderers are judged… But first of all, this article is about the city environment.
Let's imagine, that St.-Petersburg architectural monuments aren't ruined by anybody, on the contrary they are irreproachably protected in accordance with all laws, norms and rules. But let's imagine also, that instead of each building which isn't being an architectural monument in the city centre, something new is constructed. Let it be very interesting, may be ingenious from the point of view of architectural plastics. Let it be even with observance of altitude's norms. What will remain then from the historically developed city environment? Nothing.
Unfortunately, the situation in St.-Petersburg
develops precisely in this direction. For the last 2 or 3 years, even on Nevsky
Prospekt, where there shouldn't be any unprotected architecture at all, 6
buildings were destroyed there (although they weren't the monuments, but rather
essential town-planning elements in conditions of a regularity of
And, as it is sad, the situation is absolutely objective. Karl Marx wrote that any state power expresses the interests of the ruling circles. And it is not a secret for anybody, that now the private capital is prevailing and the state’s constant intervention in business doesn’t change true essence of the developed capitalistic public relations. On the contrary, it strengthens them together with "a vertical of authority", creates "a vertical of authority and business".
I can’t say if it’s good or
bad to build up such double vertical. This way, any comments for my part would
be so amateurish as though I have begun to speak about the
Therefore I have no confidence that authority and the business will consider the opinion of architectural historians and restorers, who are always standing up for preservation of the historical environment of St.-Petersburg. Also, I have no confidence that the authority and business will consider the people all around the world, which have got used to visit St.-Petersburg because of its architecture. Moreover, I have no confidence that process of the destruction of the historical environment of St.-Petersburg will be stopped by any applications of the international organizations, which devoted themselves to preservation of the architectural monuments (ICCROM, ICOMOS etc.), or even by deletion of the historical city center from “The List of universal cultural heritage of UNESCO”. When it passes for newspapers, Russian people will read it and will be surprised, that St.-Petersburg generally was in this list. If there is no serious response inland, then there is no reason to be relied on any assistance from the outside. Everybody is too busy with his affairs inland. The cost of oil is rising, investments are going up, business is developing and the majority of citizens doesn’t care about anything else.
I hope only that the authority and business will operate reasonably.
Now each investor, each builder tries to earn money by erecting elite office and inhabited real estate in security zones. It is a short-term prospect: “to construct – to sell – to earn”, then, “to construct again – to sell again – to earn again” and so on... But what shall we receive in a long-term prospect?
For the answer to the last question we shall answer one more question: why businessmen aspire to build exactly in a historical zone? It's natural, because the square meter there is more expensive. And why is it more expensive there? Because the area is historical, i.e. the prestigious one.
It turns out that, actually,
businessmen perfectly understand the value of the historical environment, but
in conditions of "spontaneous capitalism" in
But in fact, there is also a prospect except a momentary benefit. For example, one businessman has constructed a new house in the center, beside it another businessman has constructed the other house and then the third businessman has constructed his house, and a hundred twenty third one has constructed the one of his own… The historical center is gradually filled up with new houses and… it ceases to be the historical center, moreover – it becomes a place extremely discomfortable for living. It is not enough parks there, it's a lot of transport there, the streets are narrow, the houses are high, the air is gas-laden, there is no place for parking and there is no kindergarten or school... Briefly, there are all problems of the city center without its main positive component – “historicity”.
And will the same story happen
to owners of the elite real estate in the historical center of St.-Petersburg
as the one has happened to owners of penthouses of prestigious
I’ll remind: 3 huge
thirty-storey buildings above the Strogino floodplain of
But soon, in about two years, one more building was constructed nearby. It is about 40 floors. So, the owners of the previous buildings could drink-walk-have fun and sunbathe, but at the time while the population of another 10 floors looks down at them, and the sun and the broad lands of Moscow are thoroughly overlapped…
Approximately the same thing is taking place among the owners of the elite real estate in the historical center, if the center ceases to be historical anymore. Wouldn’t the same thing happen to the owners of the elite real estate in the historical center if the center ceases to be historical anymore?
Also, we should remember about
tourism. It isn’t only the most powerful stimulus to development of small-scale
and average-scale business. It is an improvement of country's image in the
world and, accordingly, of investment climate. And whether many tourists will
go in St.-Petersburg if its historical environment will be lost and it will be
deleted from "The List of the world cultural heritage of UNESCO"?
Certainly, it's impossible to demand from each separate businessman wishing to construct something in the historical center of St.-Petersburg to consider all these factors. Besides, many immigrants (first of all, the rich people from other regions, who often have "the psychology of conquerors" – such Genghis Khans and Timurs) think at a level “after us the deluge" till now. Besides, one generation of “conquerors” hardly can ruin the historical environment of the city completely, especially of such size (even Stalin, at all huge scales of his activity, has not had time finally to destroy old Moscow, and it should be finished to the subsequent heads of the USSR). So, all negative consequences of unsystematic and injurious new construction are shown not at once. Many people only after decades notice, that all around has changed and also the native city became another's...
But the state, irrespective of what class interests are expressed by its government, should consider historical prospect instead of goes on an occasion at momentary benefit. And owners of the real estate in fact are going to transfer the property to their children and grandsons. Whether isn’t it better to transfer it together with the unique historical environment essentially increasing value of this real estate?
For extremely constructive discussion of a
question of preservation of
The town-planning policy in St.-Petersburg should be directed first of all on development of tourism in the historical center. Accordingly, it is necessary to create the numerous networks of small hotels, restaurants, cafes and other objects of small-scale business. For a long time it is time to organize many new "pedestrian zones". A network of museums should be increased (actually, each architectural monument should have its "mini-museum"). It is possible to adapt historical buildings under small offices and elite habitation. But of course, it should be done with full preservation of its shape and protected interiors (if they there are), without white double-glazed windows and a superstructure of penthouses …
And the most important thing is the necessity to
It is necessary to establish the special mode of
It is necessary to create new centers at a
sufficient distance from a prohibited area for accommodation of the
governmental structures, large-scale business, big elite inhabited complexes
and inexpensive mass habitation (briefly, for new scale construction). There
still are free territories under such construction in St.-Petersburg. And to
make these new centers prestigious, it is necessary to construct there not just
buildings, but works of art, involving the best architects, including Western
"stars". Let them work in perspective surburbs, instead of
interfering in the historical center with the projects of new construction around
At first sight these offers can seem utopian. But
if the state and a society in the near future will not make truly titanic
efforts on rescue of the historical environment of St.-Petersburg, the situation
on the Neva banks will continue to develop as in
These cities are located in the same country, develop on the same ways. The mentality of inhabitants and "fathers" of these cities becomes more and more similar, and traditions of the attitude to a historical and cultural heritage are too practically identical. It means, because of absence of immediate state and public intervention in protection of the historical environment of St.-Petersburg (first of all by acceptance of corresponding laws and the strict control over their performance) the fine city-ensemble on the Neva River which is known and loved all over the world is possible to consider as doomed on destruction. Such situation can be named without exaggeration an approaching humanitarian accident.
Our duty is to leave to descendants "The City of Peter", instead of the depersonalized modern megacity. Presently, it isn't late to do it yet. Otherwise, there will be the only thing left for us – to recollect Lermontov's poem placed as an epigraph of this article.
Sergey Zagraevsky © 2008