St. Petersburg Dialogue Forum: Russian-German
Conference at the State Hermitage Museum
On 27-28 November 2007, at the Hermitage Theatre an exploratory Russian-German Conference was held, as part of the St. Petersburg Dialogue Forum. The agreement to run this series of cultural events was reached on 16 October 2007, during a forum under the same name in Wiesbaden (Germany).
The first conference was dedicated to two topics: the preservation of architectural heritage from the avant-garde and constructivism period (27 November) and the sharing of experience between members participating in such projects as Museum Island in Berlin and the Great Hermitage in St. Petersburg (28 November).
The first day was connected with the avant-garde architecture from the first half of the 20th century. The German guests had an excursion of St. Petersburg and then in the Council Hall at the State Hermitage Museum participated in a round table dedicated to this extremely pressing problem which as relevant to Russia as it is for Germany. The second day was given over to discussing two large scale projects the Great Hermitage and Museum Island in Berlin, beginning with a visit to the exhibitions in the General Staff Building.
Participating in the conference and round table were the chairmen of the Culture working group of St. Petersburg Dialogue Forum, the Director of the State Hermitage Museum Mikhail Piotrovsky and Professor Klaus Lehmann, Chairman of the Government Committee for the Use and Preservation of Monuments (GCUPM) V.└. Dementyeva, Deputy Chairman
GCUPM B.╠. Kirikov, St. Petersburg's Chief Architect └.P. Viktorov, Chairman for the Preservation of Monuments (Berlin) J. Haspel, the General Director of National Museums in Berlin R.-╩. Schuster, President of the Russian Architectural Academy └.P. Kudryavtsev, the Chairman of the St.Petersburg Union of Architects V.V. Popov, the Chief Architect for the State Hermitage Museum V.P. Lukin, the Director for Studio 44 N.I. Yavein and others.
The meeting concluded with an inspection of an exhibition of sketches, pictures and mock ups presented as part of the Great Hermitage project in the Foyer of the Hermitage Theatre, and a press conference summarising the Russian-German meeting.
The Hermitage and Museum Island are joined by a long history, which began as early as in the 1950s with the transfer of a series of exhibition items from St. Petersburg to the warehouse of the German Museum. With the development of the Museum Island and Great Hermitage projects this collaboration is gaining a new meaning, since both museums are running programmes for their development which are rightly considered to be among the largest in Europe and the world. There is much in common.
The Museum Island ˝omplex is located in the centre of Berlin and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The ensemble of Palace Square and the surrounding buildings of the State Hermitage Museum make up the nucleus of the central part of St. Petersburg which is protected by UNESCO. Both museums suffered loses during the Second World War, both possess large and unique collections, both at the end of the 20th century entered upon a process for the large scale and high quality development and reconstruction.
On Museum Island, on the site of the destroyed museum building (constructed by one of Schinkel's students, Friedrich August Stuler) a new museum will be constructed which will preserve the Egyptian collection and other treasures. The project designer is British architect David Chipperfield, who in 1997 won the tender to design the new museum and the sixth building on Museum Island, where the general entrance for all four museums is located (the Bode Museum, the Pergamon Museum, Old and New museums, with the exception of the Old National Gallery, which stands apart), and also the service entrances, the restaurant, library and conference halls.
In St. Petersburg the project for the reconstruction of the eastern wing of the General Staff Building is coming to an end, having been developed by St. Petersburg architectural office Studio 44 in collaboration with the Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas. The General Staff Building (1820-1830, architect C. Rossi), is one of the symbols of the Russian Empire and one of the finest examples of the Russian Empire Style, becoming a part of the State Hermitage Museum as a museum for the art of the 19th-20th centuries. The difficulty of this project is not only being confined by the strict regulations enabling the government preservation of monuments, but also the very task of turning a ministerial building (which is in essence, office and residential space) of the early 19th century into a museum complex of the 21st century.
In the process of archival and site research, comparative analysis of the General Staff Building and other parts of the Great Hermitage, a series of principles and ideas were chosen, whose execution would not ruin the ensemble created by Rossi, making the new museum a natural continuation of the State Hermitage Museum and St. Petersburg:
Large halls with a flexible system for transforming them into exhibition rooms (New Grand Skylight Hall by analogy with the Grand Skylight Hall in the building of the New Hermitage).
All of these ideas and principles have been concentrated on the New Grand Suit. It is an alternation of large exhibition halls, integrated throughout the General Staff building and, broken up with Hanging Gardens.
The Hanging Gardens are more a name and symbol than landscaping. It is the first in a series of garden sculptures from the State Hermitage Collection, it is a secluded rest area for people while at the same time broadening the interpretation of the entire complex. If the Hanging Gardens are in their own way opulent, then the New Grand Skylight Hall ľ is a vital necessity. The main part of the permanent exhibition of the future museum is to be located in three main suits, located around the perimeter of the building. But even the largest rooms in these suits are not appropriate for large temporary exhibitions. For these three halls will be constructed with a 12 metre ceiling and lamps providing overhead lighting. The various options for opening and closing collapsible doors and walls makes it easy to change expositions, and also isolate items from the halls or unite them again as a suit of rooms.
This suit is not straight but diverges, matching the perspective which often intensifies its enthralling and bell shaped effect. Furthermore, nothing new has been introduced, but have been in place from the very beginning in the building's designs, the gradient matches the shape of Palace Square. The angle of the similarity of lines of perspective is subordinated to the garden plans and the new halls, but the width of the large doors is reduced by these lines from hall to hall, leading into an endless sense of perspective, as if it were not brought to life in the cityscapes or in the Hermitage Suits, being a quintessential part of St. Petersburg space, creating an affinity with the most varied forms and styles.
The New Grand Suit is the pivot for the imaginative and functional structure of the new museum ľ it takes the dominating place in the spatial heirarchy. Located beneath it, the ground floor is maintained as a continuation of Palace Square, across the penetrating city forum with the accompanying museum goods and services, the main vestibule of the largest of the five courtyards and parade staircase amphitheatres. The main specialization of first floor is decorative applied art of the 19th century. On the second floor, where the majority of the Empire style suits are located, will be exhibitions of 19th century paintings until 1860. And finally, on the upper levels beneath skylights will be located artworks from the end of the 19th century to the beginning of the 20th century, including the famous Shchukin and Morozov Collection.