Last weekend, on 20 July, MVRDV and Kirasa Invest presented to the public their vision for the preservation and restoration of the Main Imperial Horse Stables in Saint Petersburg. MVRDV’s design for the disused 18th-century building brings out its historical features, adds green public spaces to the city, and introduces a variety of public and cultural functions with a sustainable focus. The design is now on display, alongside four other proposals for the building, in an exhibition hosted in the building itself.
The Main Imperial Horse Stables building occupies a full city block in the centre of Saint Petersburg, and was originally built in the 1720s for Russian ruler Peter the Great. In the 20th century, it was used as the headquarters of a series of transportation companies, and gradually fell into disuse before finally being fully closed to the public in 2017. Today, the building is a shadow of its former self, covered on its main façade with advertising billboards and surrounded by parked cars.
MVRDV’s proposed design includes a full restoration of the stable building, while the characteristic 7,000m2 angled courtyard will be transformed into an attractive, green public space that offers a calm, protected environment, in contrast to the city. The design of this space adapts elements of classical garden design to contemporary demands, allowing the courtyard to flexibly accommodate temporary events, exhibitions and festivals.
The building itself will host a mixed-use program that turns the Main Imperial Horse Stables into a major cultural, public, and social destination in Saint Petersburg. At ground level it will host an 1,100m2 concert hall, a 5,200m2 covered market, and 1,600m2 of restaurants, while 1,600m2 of office spaces will be located on the first floor. The seven pavilions incorporated into the building’s corners provide multiple entrances to the building, acting as focal points for these functions, while also allowing visitors to access the garden in the courtyard from all sides.
The public spaces around the outside of the building will also be rejuvenated. A new underground parking space will be created, freeing the ground level for pedestrian functions such as a public square for gatherings and terraced seating. These spaces will be unified by a new graphical paving pattern, created by projecting an image of the Stable building’s façade onto the ground around it. The public spaces, both outside the building and in the courtyard, will also be activated by a number of contextual additions that introduce cultural programming, including a permanent exhibition about the history of the building itself.
All interventions proposed in the vision have been done with great respect for the building as a major piece of Saint Petersburg’s heritage. In addition, there is a strong emphasis on sustainability: as an agency, MVRDV pursues the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, including the reduction of poverty, the economical use of food and water, and the promotion of health. By turning the courtyard into a garden and an event space at the same time, MVRDV wants to achieve these goals in a practical way.
The exhibition displaying the five proposals for the future of the Main Imperial Horse Stables is currently on display at the building, Konyushennaya Ploshchad 1, Saint Petersburg, until August 18th.