U-M launches celebration: "Projecting Petersburg"
The University of Michigan will launch its yearlong
celebration of St. Petersburg's tercentennial with a public
architecture symposium, "Projecting Petersburg," on
March 8, 2003.
The afternoon event will address the prospects
of this once-grand imperial capital to project its classical architectural
legacy and its contemporary cultural aspirations into the 21st century
through the revitalization of the city's historic center.
The focus of the event will be to examine the capacity of the city's
premier cultural institutions, particularly the Mariinsky Theatre
of Opera and Ballet, to invigorate that effort through the venturesome
expansion and regeneration of their own historic complexes.
The event on the campus of the University of Michigan
will be the first extensive public examination in the United States
of the issues pertaining to St. Petersburg, drawing upon the diverse
talents and varied perspectives of artists, architects, scholars,
authors and urban planners.
Four individuals comprise the speaker's
panel: renowned conductor Valery Gergiev, architect Eric Owen Moss,
and architecture authors and scholars Aaron Betsky of the Netherlands
Architecture Institute and Anatole Senkevitch, Jr. of University
of Michigan. Discussants for the symposium will include: Alexey
Leporc, assistant professor, Department of Art History, European
University at St. Petersburg and Valery Nefedov, professor of architecture,
urban planning and landscape architecture and director, Architectural
Institute, St. Petersburg State University of Architecture and Civil
Rare gathering of symposium participants
Los Angeles-based architect, Eric Owen Moss, has
designed and built many outstanding buildings that reflect an unorthodox
design vision. Labeled variously as a Deconstructivist and a Neo-expressionist,
Moss has been practicing an architectural alchemy of sorts. His
primary laboratory is the 70,000-sq.ft. Ince Complex in Culver City,
California. The 1940s industrial quadrangle reflects Moss's
conception of a post-industrial landscape that mediates between
past and present without forging an unbending allegiance to historic
preservation or wholesale transformation.
The participation of Eric Owen Moss adds a singular
perspective, in particular, by way of his insightful reading of
St. Petersburg's historic center and its prospects for a vibrant,
robust rejuvenation. Moss is one of eleven participants who are
part of an international design competition for the Mariinsky Theatre.
Valery Gergiev, one of the most
sought-after directors in the world, became director of the venerable
Kirov Opera of the Mariinsky Theatre in St. Petersburg in 1988 and
general director of the Mariinsky's complete roster of opera,
ballet and orchestral performances in 1996. Gergiev's appointment
inaugurated a new period in the history of the Mariinsky opera company.
Maestro Gergiev's involvement in the symposium provides a
unique and welcome opportunity to probe his vision and to contemplate
its capacity to propel the revitalization of the city's historic
core as a whole.
Aaron Betsky, director of the
Netherlands Architecture Institute in Rotterdam, was curator of
Architecture, Design and Digital Projects at the San Francisco Museum
of Modern Art from 1995 to 2001. He is active as a writer on design,
serves frequently as a critic and competition juror, and has taught
at several universities in the U.S. Among his publications on architecture
and design are Landscrapers, Architecture Must Burn, Violated Perfection:
Architecture and the Fragmentation of the Modern, and critical studies
of Zaha Hadid and Daniel Libeskind.
Anatole Senkevitch, Jr., is an
associate professor at the University of Michigan's Taubman
College of Architecture and Urban Planning, where he specializes
in the history and theory of Modern European and Russian architecture.
His publications on Russian architecture include a translation with
introductory essay of Moisei Ginzburg's "Style and Epoch"
and the articles "Albert Kahn in Rußland" and
"St. Petersburg, Russia: Designing a Monumental Urban Stage
Set for Imperial State Craft," "The Sources and Ideals
of constructivism in Soviet Architecture" and "Aspects
of Spatial Form and Perceptual Psychology in the Doctrine of the
Rationalist Movement in Soviet Architecture in the 1920's."
He is currently writing a book on the formation of a revolutionary
avant-garde in Russian architecture, to be published by the MIT
The University of Michigan Taubman College of
Architecture and Urban Planning (TCAUP), the Center for European
Studies (CES), and the Center for Russian and East European Studies
(CREES) are the organizing elements and sponsors for "Projecting
Examining an urban design and planning
legacy for contemporary relvancy
Founded by Peter the Great in 1703, St. Petersburg emerged
as a practical and symbolic vehicle for transforming parochial Russia
into a competitive European empire. The city's imposing physical
and spatial setting, represents an unparalleled achievement of urban
design, one fostered by enlightened sovereigns and realized by talented
architects. At the time of Peter's death in 1725, St. Petersburg
was, like the new Russian empire, still a work in progress. By the
mid-19th century, however, the city had crystallized under Catherine
I and Alexander I into a fabric of superbly integrated architectural
and urban ensembles, That earlier city is essentially contained
within the boundaries of today's historic center where it
maintains the authority of St. Petersburg's classical legacy.
St. Petersburg has gone through tremendous changes
since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. Founded as a window
to the West, it was largely ignored during the Soviet era once the
capital had been moved to Moscow in 1918. The city has made determined
efforts to revive its once-glorious standing as the preeminent Russian
city, and residents voted in 1991 to restore the city's name
to St. Petersburg. Its reform-minded municipal leadership embarked
on a program to refurbish the city's stature as a center of
cultural, economic, and scientific development, but initial efforts
were stymied by a lack of sufficient financial, transportation,
and communications and the shortage a qualified work force. In addition,
many of the city's historic structures were dilapidated and
only five percent of the rehabilitation projects deemed by World
Bank analysts to be of interest to the private sector.
With substantial funding and consultation from
the World Bank and the Russian government, St. Petersburg launched
a concerted rehabilitation program focusing on preserving specific
historic landmarks as viable functioning entities, not as museums.
It also developed a program of economic incentives for rehabilitation
projects in the historic center. The Mariinsky Theatre and the Hermitage
Museum were the recipients of the most comprehensive rehabilitation
projects, aptly reflecting their status as the city's premier,
world-class cultural institutions.
It is within this context that this symposium
seeks to consider the grand project to expand and modernize the
world-famous Hermitage Museum, headed by Mikhail Piotrovsky, and
especially the Mariinsky Theatre, home of the Kirov Opera and Ballet,
of which Valery Gergiev is artistic director.
Campus-wide initiative launched with architecture
During 2003, the University of Michigan Center for Russian and East
European Studies (CREES), representing faculty from various U-M
schools, colleges, and the International Institute (II), the University
Museum of Art (UMMA), and the University Musical Society (UMS) are
collaborating to assemble an extraordinary series of events to celebrate
the distinctive cultural life that flourished in St. Petersburg
from its founding to the present. These programs will explore the
city's enduring legacy in architecture, literature, music,
theater, and ballet and as the scene of a lavish and turbulent social
life that reached its peak in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
Complete details of the campus-wide celebration will be announced
in early 2003.
Contact: Peter B. Carzasty/Cohn Davis Associates
Phone: (917) 339-7101
Contact: Joanne Nesbit, U-M