An artificial island in the delta of the Neva River in St. Petersburg, long closed while the city authorities were deciding its reconstruction’s fate, has opened to the public for the summer.
Along with the island itself, the city has opened a display of projects for its reconstruction at the Central Naval Museum. The display will be on until the end of July and will feature projects by the four competing architectural bureaus – the British-German David Chipperfield Architects, MVRDV from the Netherlands, Russian Studio44 and American WorkAC.
The island appeared in 1720 between the Moika and Neva Rivers by the order of Peter the Great and became the first military port of Russia. Then the shipbuilding needs prompted building two more canals – the Kryukov Canal and the Admiralty Canal – in the area between two rivers. Most of the architectural ensemble of the island was built between 1765-1780. The buildings were used for warehouses, a marine prison, and dislocation of military units. However, over the years many of the historical buildings were abandoned and fell into decay.
St. Petersburg’s city authorities have been planning the reconstruction of the landmark island since 2006, when they first launched a tender for a general investor in the project. It was won by Shalva Chigirinsky’s and Igor Kesaev’s ST New Holland. Under the company’s order, the British architectural bureau, headed by the world-famous Norman Foster, designed a complex project of the island’s reconstruction that featured building theaters, conference-halls, restaurants, galleries and even a hotel. But the businessmen’s company soon faced financial difficulties and had to leave the game.
In 2010, the new tender was won by New Holland Development, a division of Roman Abramovich’s Millhouse Company. New Holland Development is planning to invest not less than 12 billion rubles (almost US$430 million) for the reconstruction of New Holland Island, originally built 300 years ago. The project is due to be complete in 2017. The island’s preliminary development concept aims to introduce new infrastructure and yet preserve the unique historical and architectural face of this piece of land.