Spanish Architect Visits City to Monitor Project
It is difficult for foreign architects to adapt their projects to Russian safety standards, which differ from Europe’s.
Published: November 30, 2011 (Issue # 1685)
Spanish architect Ricardo Bofill visited the city earlier this month to check on his first creation in St. Petersburg, an elite business center and apartment complex on Novgorodskaya Ulitsa.
Bofill, or “Maestro” as he was referred to at a press conference organized in honor of his visit to the city, has designed more than 1,000 projects for more than 50 countries and owns the Taller de Architectura workshop in Barcelona. Together with his team of architects, Bofill has created Barcelona Airport and the National Theater of Catalonia, the head offices of Cartier and Christian Dior in Paris, the Shiseido Building in Tokyo and the Dearborn Center in Chicago, the latter two of which are both skyscrapers.
Although St. Petersburg was designed with the participation of many foreign architects, nowadays it is rare to find an architect from abroad working in the city. The primary reason for this lies in the architectural standstill that took place in the second half of the 90s, a period in which all buildings and apartments were designed to essentially look the same.
Another reason for the lack of foreign architectural projects in St. Petersburg, analysts say, is that it is difficult for foreign architects to adapt their projects to Russian standards — in particular, safety standards — which drastically differ from those in Europe. Therefore, the work done by Bofill — a Spanish post-modernist architect — and developed by RBI Holding looks set to stand out in St. Petersburg.
“It was both an honor and a challenge for me at the same time to receive an offer to create a project in the historical part of St. Petersburg,” said Bofill. “St. Petersburg is a unique city that for 300 years has been developed according to a single plan. It’s really lucky for us to be able to design a complex right in the center of this area.”
Despite the project’s central location on Novgorodskaya Ulitsa between the Alexander Nevsky Monastery and Smolny Cathedral, the neighboring buildings are not so appealing: The red-brick Document Center complex on one side, and a few non-functioning industrial enterprises adorned with numerous pipes on the other. A distant view of Smolny Cathedral can however be caught from some of the apartment windows.
“We adapted our project a bit to match the architectural style of the surrounding buildings,” said Bofill. “Our philosophy is that if a site isn’t yet at the same level as that of our architectural structure, it’s up to us to bring it up to par. We have to create a turning point for the future development of the area so that the whole historical center can reach its architectural potential.”
“We expect that in ten years this area will be fully transformed,” added Eduard Tiktinsky, president of the developer company RBI. According to Tiktinsky, 30 percent of the apartments have already been sold, along with 20 percent of the business space.
The finished complex, which is currently 70 percent complete, will consist of an apartment building and a business center, and is described by Tiktinsky as being of neoclassical style with between nine and 12 stories, brightly colored and with columns decorating the central facade.
“The complex combines different styles of the past and present, and it is a vivid example of modern classicism,” said Bofill. “It matches St. Petersburg’s atmosphere and its citizens, who are self-confident, ambitious, pragmatic and romantic at the same time.”
“I have a lot of experience and don’t need to do something too bold in order to prove myself. It is more important for me to understand the city. I don’t want to create something that won’t blend in,” he added. “We don’t like luxurious architecture — we like it to be elegant and sophisticated. Every building has to be a piece of art, but with a human face.”