RUSSIAN INSPIRATION FROM STUDIO 44 , ST PETERSBURG
The façade has a number of striking geometrical features that will allow it to catch the light, and to glisten, Faberge -like , at the eastern edge of a dull stretch of Southwark Street. The triangular windows powerfully evoke a whole range of Muscovy influences - the decadent tapering headdresses, kokoshniks, are conjured up; the ornate, highly wrought turrets of St Basil’s Cathedral provide the structural undertones to the design; while the integrity and simplicity demonstrated in the design of Russia’s wooden churches provide a crucial template for the building’s composition.
Moscow’s oldest secular building, the Faceted Palace, is referenced in the diamond rustication of the façade. In the Gagarin Square plan, however, the stones will not provide a solid, impenetrable façade, but will instead have a lighter, more open character as a result of the stones being separated from each other by narrow embrasures in the wall.
The remarkable rocket-shaped tower will be the show-stopping centrepiece of the building. An exhilarating monument to the cosmonaut who first opened up the boundless possibility of space to all of mankind, Yuri Gagarin’s rocket remains today a timeless symbol of human aspiration and perseverance. 12th April 1961 marks the day that Gagarin made the first orbit of Earth, and that the image of the rocket became a cult figure of the modern age. The design of Gagarin Square will take the sleek lines and graceful outline of the rocket to provide an elegant and sophisticated space for apartments and offices, offering panoramic views of one of the most iconic areas of London.
After Southwark Street’s repetitious wall of renovated warehouse offices – so dressed up as to hide all the fine original Victorian iron columns, flitch beams, and wooden flooring - the breathtaking design of Gagarin Square is a welcome newcomer. The rocket homage to the space pioneer Yuri Gagarin and his vessel Vostok 1, as well as the bold, innovative façade of Gagarin Square will transport earthlings to a far off place of opulence and Russian enchantment. Like its Victorian neighbour, the unembellished Menier, it is a true “original”.
The Menier building at 51-53 Southwark Street is among the only local examples of authentic Victorian warehouse design with a character has not been destroyed through renovation. The original hoists and pulleys can be seen from the street, while the interior retains the original wooden floors and steel and wooden beams. The bustle of nineteenth century industry is evoked from the moment of stepping through the doors of the Menier Café or the Menier Gallery. They do not fall into the category of architectural pastiche.
The Kirkaldy Testing and Experimenting Works at 99 Southwark Street is one of the few of Southwark Street’s other strongholds against mindless renovation. It has retained not only its original façade and sign, but also the internal joists and beams that characterise Victorian industrial designs such as the Menier. The Kirkaldy Works, however, cannot be said to be a truly working building; it has preserved these elements of Victorian design by virtue of being a museum, rarely open, that memorialises rather than utilises these original features. The Menier has not suffered warehouse assignation from false ceilings and plasterboard partitions. Gagarin Square also will be a true example of buildings in action – dynamic, practical and valuable to the local community.
Its exterior appearance and the suspension bridging structural design will create the best new theatre since the National Theatre.
The National’s structural design firm (Flint & Neill) have designed a private 21st century arts space which enthusiasts predict will soar higher than the 1960s state-funded complex so beloved by leftish playwrights and establishment directors.
Studio 44 , St Petersburg were selected as architects because of Yaveyn’s 70 years of experience in restoration work in St Petersburg.They have unique experience gained following the destruction of WW2.
Nikita Yaveyn the owner/chief architect is a visionary who cares passionately about history and building context. On the first day of his visit to Southwark Street, he noted “We must design the façade fronting Southwark Street, so it displays the rich corner detail of the Menier, with its griffons chasing each other down each arch”.
He added “Why is this site and the ugly 60’s buildings to the west along Southwark Bridge Road within a conservation area? This site and its neighbours should be excised”
His design has been on public display since July 2012 at the on-site Art Café and been universally acclaimed by visitors. Visitors praise its street cred and locals especially shop keepers in Flat Iron Square praise it as a beacon for the crowds who throng the river path but do not venture “inland”. Others like its frankness, it is futuristic and a change from the adjacent landscape of “warehouse assassination” by use of false ceilings, gypsum partitioning and over-high mansards.
“Theatre is universal” he states. “Excitement must mount outside. Like for Wembley”.
For Studio 44 please visit www.studio44.ru