The Tuchkov Buyan Park competition considers 16.6 hectares of land defining the northern bank of Malaya Neva River – between Birzhevoy Bridge and Tuchkov Bridge – with a vision to transform an abandoned site into a vibrant public destination for St. Petersburg’s citizens. The park’s outstanding location, offering extraordinary views onto the city’s most important UNESCO heritage landmarks, gave an identity to the public programs to come. The project sets several ambitious goals: first, to create a park seamlessly integrated into St. Petersburg’s historical context whilst simultaneously defining a new face for the city. Second, to use the park as a linking element to sustainably connect green public spaces at the scale of the city. Third, to reorganize urban flows in the park’s immediate context by reconfiguring the congested Likhachev Square, clarifying Dobrolyubova Avenue and improving Speranskogo Street. Finally, the project proposes a continuous embankment promenade from Petrovskiy Island to the original citadel of St. Petersburg.
A Layered Landscape
In traditional Russian stories, Buyan is a legendary island which appears and disappears with the ocean’s tides. Studying the history of the site, several historical maps were overlapped to reveal the gradual changes of its identity and geometry. Tuchkov Buyan Park intends to retrace the former shoreline of the Neva River, informed by the site’s existing conditions and specific topography, the project defines three layers of landscape: the Valley, the Woodland and the Upper Plateau.
Inspired by the picturesque paintings of Shishkin and Levitan, the Valley reinterprets the historic shoreline of the Neva River and the original ecosystems of St. Petersburg. The Valley is a strong, central linking element, connecting the park to its surrounding context from Petrovski Stadium to Peter & Paul’s Fortress. As a landscape inspired by the city’s surrounding alluvial forests, the Valley creates multiple opportunities of promenade and places of contemplation. The trail opens to the west, forming a plaza whereby a seasonal water cycle is revealed. In summer, the low-land acts as a play area and, in winter, the basin can host an ice-skating rink among islands of pine, larch and aspen trees.
The Woodland is the second layer to wrap the site, defining its urban edge and creating a buffer from the busy world beyond. Using species and typologies indigenous to the Russian climate, the park is natural and picturesque, appearing as though it has always been there. Playground areas for kids are integrated in the forest and a network of paths allows for Nordic walking or jogging under the tree canopy.
The Upper Plateau covers a series of subterranean spaces, mediating a relationship between the Valley and the Woodland. It accommodates generous open lawns for picnics, yoga, recreation and small gatherings, defined by formal rows of trees in reference to the site’s historic nursery. Directly responding to the specific conditions and unique ecosystems of the site, the formal layers of the park aim to create an atmospheric space embedded within the rich, panoramic backdrop of St. Petersburg.
A Cartesian Grid
Today, the site is a witness of its own history and its successive transformations. The park has lain abandoned for many years; a sunken concrete slab left behind from construction of the Juridical Quarter covers about 60% of the plot. Archaeological remains of former structures and piling reinforcements are also visible; a decision to preserve the existing concrete plinth was made to reduce the project’s environmental impact. By tracing these various remains, a Cartesian Grid emerges. Three main programs – a Multipurpose Pavilion, a Food Market and a Glasshouse – are allocated within a subterranean world, covered by picturesque landscape.
The Multipurpose Pavilion and Food Market are highly flexible, column-free spaces. Movable partitions and façade systems allow users to modify, subdivide or connect rooms according to their changing needs. The space has the potential to host a large conference, several small seminars, performances, experimental exhibitions or a flea market. The upper slab is perforated with courtyards and skylights, to allow for vegetation and daylight. Covered outdoor spaces of surrounding Salle Hypostyles are activated by shops, cafes and information points. The spaces are open and directly connected to the Valley and the Embankment.
Established on flat territory, with its continuous facades topping 25 meters, St. Petersburg can be understood as a horizontal city. This city skyline is punctuated by a series of recognizable peaks, spires and cupolas: St. Isaac Cathedral (101.5m), St. Peter and Paul Cathedral (122.9m), Kazan Cathedral (72m) and Admiralty (74m).
The Glasshouse (34m – the same as the adjacent Dance Palace) is an innovative vertical typology, offering residents a new public promenade with breathtaking views towards heritage landmarks and the picturesque roofscape of St. Petersburg. Emerging from the Cartesian Grid, its vertical volume is transparent and crystal-like, defined by a steel self-bearing grid, giving lightness to the whole envelope. The Glasshouse will become a lantern for the park and highlight the presence of new public space in St. Petersburg. The stepped volume accommodates different heights of vegetation; a sculptural rock lies at the center containing lush, tall species native to the warm climate of the Black Sea’s coast. An elevated café, on top of the rock, overlooks this Piranesian space fully inhabited by nature.
The Embankment creates a continuous stretch of public space. Its stairs, steps and ramps allow visitors a very close relationship to the water for views towards the Makarova Embankment and the city beyond. The ideal orientation will make it a very popular place, extending the St. Petersburg tradition of sun bathing in front of Peter and Paul’s fortress. A series of sitting areas along the river will create a perfect place to comfortably accommodate large crowds during city-wide celebrations. The Embankment is designed using a traditional pink Rapakivi granite to create continuity and coherence with historic embankments of the city. The specific color of stone, combined with the pastel color palette of St. Petersburg’s façades, catch the light and illuminate the city even on a rainy day.
Tuchkov Buyan Park formalizes Baranov’s masterplan, by completing and fully integrating itself into St. Petersburg’s green, recreational network. The new park, strongly driven by durability, flexibility, public health, economy of means and local needs, will provide St. Petersburg with a sustainable, comfortable and contemporary place to be.
Herzog & de Meuron, 2020