As of spring 2020, MVRDV designed the largest timber building in the world for Saint Petersburg’s historic Okhta Cape. Once thick with trees and marshland, the site has been home to fortresses, a tree nursery, shipyards, and factories. After many years lying dormant, this design inspires its fruition as the commercial headquarters for Gazprom Neft.
- Saint Petersburg
- 155000 m²
- Gazprom Neft
A celebration of the embankment landscape context, its rich and storied history, the carbon-neutral building stands 28 meters high, and is supported by a forest of 119 wood columns. This “forest floor” is free and open to the public with a park and plaza that highlight the history of the site, while the office space lies above in the columns’ “tree” canopy. A roof-scape with native vegetation crowns this commercial complex, helping to rehabilitate the cape’s biodiversity, as in the landscaping of the park below. This way, building is landscape and landscape is building; a clear embodiment of the ‘green shift’ MVRDV strives for in all designs.
Designing an iconic architectural landmark headquarters for one of the top three global emissions producers dramatically contradicts with MVRDV’s radical and uncompromised dedication to sustainable design. So as not to surrender to contradiction, MVRDV committed to creating the most sustainable building design possible: a building that sequesters carbon, and does not consume fossil fuel energy. To do this, MVRDV looked to the history and landscape of the site, selecting a sustainable approach to make a truly high-performing building. The design also reflects Saint Petersburg’s heritage, drawing the Okhta Cape into connection with the natural ecosystem of the river embankment. A delicate approach to the landscape, in combination with the complex configuration of volumes, reinforces the profile and sophistication of Saint Petersburg, while adhering to the principles of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.
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Architect Winy Maas, co-founder of MVRDV: ‘After considerable debate as to whether MVRDV should engage with one of the top three producers of global carbon emissions, MVRDV decided to uphold our dedication to sustainable design, and pursue a radical and uncompromising design solution for Gazprom Neft’s new Saint Petersburg headquarters: a building that sequesters carbon and is powered entirely by clean energy, creating a truly new public park for the city.’
With an ambition to create an intelligent work environment, the building’s configuration takes its inspiration from the structure of traditional Saint Petersburg courtyard blocks. Individual office blocks connect to a central axis in a composition reminiscent of Wassily Kandinsky’s Russian avant-gardist style. Due to their controlled access, the blocks can therefore become independent entities, should future business needs require it. Inside the complex, workspaces are awash in natural light and ventilation, with a spatial organization that supports social interaction and vibrancy. Seen from afar, the combination of volumes creates a dramatic heterogeneous form that recalls the expressive silhouettes of Saint Petersburg’s baroque architecture.
The office program floats, thus sheltering the public plaza and park below. A health centre, a logistics centre, a museum, and a conference centre activate this public plaza, connecting the site to the city, and ensuring that the Okhta Cape becomes a social conduit, uniting the different threads of the city under its canopy.
The landscaped roof of the building reinforces revitalization of the river’s ecosystem. With a variety of native flora and fauna, its path system facilitates visitor access to breathtaking views of the Neva River, while the solar pergola provides abundant supplementary energy. This roof-scape enhances the complex’s highly sustainable design through xeriscape landscaping, reducing irrigation requirements. It also uses solar panel technology, wrapping from the roof pergola into the façade, to provide an abundance of supplemental solar power. This intelligent façade system tracks the sun to ensure optimal solar gain. Beneath the building, and plaza, a cavernous passageway and parkade respects protected archaeological zones, while providing secure parking and logistical access, and freeing the ground level for public use.
With its breathtaking Neva embankment location, this dramatic timber headquarters is a flexible and inspiring working environment that offers a new public green space to a city with comparatively few. Beginning at the very basic level of landscape, the building renews the ecosystem of the Neva under the cape’s influence, and the strategy repeats in each level and layer of the building, and in each part of its performance and function.
- Founding Partner in charge
- Design Team
- Strategy and Development
- Additional Visualisations
- Copyright: MVRDV