Rather metaphorically than literally

Rather metaphorically than literallyThe concept of the development of the Literary and Memorial Museum of F.M. Dostoevsky. View of the building of the museum from Marata Street © Evgeny Gerasimov and partners

Everyone known, studied by teenagers in school and widely read in the West, the writer Dostoevsky spent his life in St. Petersburg mainly on rented apartments – then it was accepted. Historians of his work number dozens of addresses. A museum in the city alone, where the writer lived in recent years and where he died – in Kuznechny Lane, 5, in the income house Kuchina. The entrance to the museum is at the corner with Dostoevsky Street, down the stairs, through the basement floor. The apartment itself on the second floor, with cast-iron balcony, the museum theater occupies the first and basement floors. The museum is extremely: performances, evenings, master classes; exhibitions for April-May 6 pieces. It is no wonder that he desperately does not fit in space; mobile users here have nothing to do but solid steps.

Rather metaphorically than literally

Entrance to the literary-memorial museum of F.M. Dostoevsky. Photo by Alena Kuznetsova

In December 2017, museum director Natalya Ashimbayeva and architect Yevgeny Gerasimov joined forces with businessman Andrei Yakunin (the son of the former head of the Russian Railways and co-founder of the company VIYM), creating the non-profit foundation “Petersburg Dostoevsky”. Yakunin engaged in attracting money, Gerasimov – made the concept of the new wing of the museum free of charge and plans to complete the project for free as well. The organizers emphasize that the project is non-commercial, the building will be transferred to the state. Collect charitable contributions, an approximate estimate of the cost of construction – 700 million rubles. In April Smolny approved the architectural concept.

The fund plans to build a new wing next to the museum: to the left of it in 1971, a house was dismantled – similarly profitable, very similar to Dostoevsky’s house museum – on this site a new wing was planned in dimensions close to the demolished house, that is, practically in the regeneration mode. The public reacted to the project sharply, claims two, the first – two lawns on the sides of the road to the courtyard fall into the spot of new construction. They have already been withdrawn from the list of ZNOP (green common areas), but the opponents of the project consider them a square, and the museum director Natalia Ashimbayeva specifies that the formal size of the park according to modern standards is from 400 m, and the lawns that are being built are smaller. A real small square with full-sized trees will be preserved and landscaped inside the courtyard.

Rather metaphorically than literallyThe existing gap in the building on the site of the house number 7 on Kuznechny Lane / Courtesy of Evgeny Gerasimov and partners

Rather metaphorically than literallyExisting yard of house number 7 on Kuznechny Lane. The tree to the right will be preserved / Courtesy of Evgeny Gerasimov and partners

Rather metaphorically than literallyRed marked the place of construction of the new wing. The concept of the development of the Literary and Memorial Museum of F.M. Dostoevsky © Evgeny Gerasimov and Partners

The second, more interesting problem was the modern stylistics of the architecture of the new museum building. Appeared in the fact that the project “kills Petersburg Dostoevsky”, since the corps invades the whole fabric of the old building. Proposals are made to restore the demolished house in 1971 and to settle the museum there.

Here there are several paradoxes, however, all of them are predictable. First – the Foundation wants to give the city a museum, it would seem to museums and non-commercial projects everyone is usually happy, but the public protests. The second one, Yevgeny Gerasimov, known for his many stylistic stylizations, wants to build a modernist museum building, and he is criticized for it. Architects would not criticize, probably because unlike the times of Roman Ivanovich Klein, who built the Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts, now museums in the style of historicism do not build – there are exceptions, but there are few, for example, a museum in Yoshkar-Ola.

Rather metaphorically than literallyNational Art Gallery in Yoshkar-Ola. Photo: Alkort via Wikimedia Commons. CC BY 3.0 License

The cautious attitude of Petersburgers towards modern architecture is well known; many believe that in the context of historical development, one can build only historicism, stylize, so as not to disrupt the integrity of the urban environment. However, on the one hand, over the past half century, the notion of environmental modernism, the architecture of modern, but not destructive, context is quite well-formed, enough delicate enough to adjust to it in terms of parameters – altitude, proportions, and neutral enough not to “scream”.

On the other hand, the museum – in some way the peak of modern culture, the place where it comprehends – and in every way emphasizes – its difference from the culture of the past, juxtaposes itself with it, studying authentic artifacts. If in the XIX century the museum often used stylizations in order to immerse the visitor in the atmosphere of the era, becoming a kind of theater, now museums are most afraid of fakes. Everything new in the museum is emphatically new, any stylization is perceived as a replica, an insult, an insult to the museum business.

Yevgeny Gerasimov has several more arguments against the building-repetition of demolished house number 7 on Kuznechny Lane. If you rebuild the house completely, it will not be suitable for the new building of the modern museum – at least baboutmost of the windows will be “blind” dummies, because two lower floors of the building are planned to occupy the hall of the theater, and the two upper ones – a lecture hall and a library. Of the entire set of functions, only exhibition spaces need sunlight, and even then, I must say, not always. The second argument is the environment around the historical, classic, but not all of it belongs to the time when Dostoevsky lived in Kuznechny: the building of InzhEcon – the neoclassic of the 1910s, the Forge market – the neoclassic of the 1920s. But this argument is secondary, it is noticeable that for the architect the museum typology is much more important, in our time not suggesting stylization in any way.

Gerasimov gives examples of modern museum buildings: small, built into the urban environment scale and proportionally, but different from it, do not hide their age. One of them is the Drawing Museum in Berlin, built by longtime partner of Gerasimov Sergey Cioban.

Rather metaphorically than literally

Museum of architectural drawing © Patricia Parinejad. Provided by SPEECH Choban&Kuznetsov

Rather metaphorically than literallyNantes Museum of Art © Hufton + Crow

Rather metaphorically than literallyGallery Hinter dem Hisshaus 1 (Am Kupfergaben 10) © Ute Zscharnt for David Chipperfield Architects

Rather metaphorically than literallyMuseum of Asian Civilizations in Sigapur © GreenhilLi

Perhaps these examples, which help the architect to put the idea in the context of the typology of museum construction, are still one of the main components of the concept.

In other respects, Yevgeny Gerasimov emphasizes, the draft is preliminary, “just a concept”; the internal device is currently better worked than the facades, “an active search is being made for their solution,” the architect said. So now we can only talk about “the interpretation of the metaphorical meanings of architectural solutions,” the bureau emphasizes.

What is known?

Contextual characteristics: the leveling of the height along the eaves of the old house, the cutting of the walls according to the floors, is apparently preserved, as well as the selection of the entrance by the vertical of the atrium.

The new wing will merge with the old building, but at the same time it will be separated from it by an atrium, inside like a small alleyway with a panoramic elevator in the end and a glass stained-glass window from the side of the street. “The atrium is the image of a well-yard as the back of human life, where the action of most novels takes place. – Yevgeny Gerasimov explains. “Dostoevsky pulled out the most secret corners of the human soul, something that is usually hidden – here we take the courtyard well to the fore,” the architect emphasizes. The windows of the two houses – the old profitable and new wing of the museum – look at each other through the narrow space of the atrium courtyard, reinforcing the sense of oppression. Between the buildings bridges are thrown – a symbol of the transition, a “teleport” between the old and the new or even the iconic mirror between the museum house and its modern “reflection”.

Rather metaphorically than literallyThe concept of the development of the Literary and Memorial Museum of F.M. Dostoevsky © Evgeny Gerasimov and Partners

“The original memorial part of the museum is preserved in the old building,” says the architect. “And the new wing is designed to attract readers of new generations.” There is Dostoevsky a realist and Dostoevsky an innovator; his work was, as it were, broken through the prism of time. We understand the bridge as a transition from one to another, a metaphorical teleport, and the atrium as a portal for crossing through space and time. “

Rather metaphorically than literallyThe concept of the development of the Literary and Memorial Museum of F.M. Dostoevsky © Evgeny Gerasimov and Partners

Rather metaphorically than literally

The concept of the development of the Literary and Memorial Museum of F.M. Dostoevsky. Atrium © Evgeny Gerasimov and partners

Architects prefer not to talk about façades yet – they are finalizing, – although it is obvious that the laconic-modern solution was fundamental for Yevgeny Gerasimov. I must say that the story of the Dostoyevsky Museum project is not the only case in the history of modern Russian architecture when the public stands for a copy of the lost building, and the architect for the modern version. Knowing St. Petersburg conservatism, we can assume that the concept is still a lot of difficulties – however, any idea must be defended, honed, perfected. And suddenly, when the project is ready, he will convince his opponents with his grace and bring Petersburg closer to the views of European capitals on the development of the context of the historic city, make the enriching environment of a non-conflict neighborhood of the new and old possible?

Now the fund is engaged in legal registration of the site. Further, according to the plan, the stage of the project and it for discussion at the Town Planning Council and the Council for the Preservation of Cultural Heritage. Construction is scheduled to begin in the first quarter of 2019.

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