BSR Smart-Up Challenge 2 Virtual Excursion: Creative Spaces of St Petersburg industrial belt

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BSR Smart-Up Challenge 2 Virtual Excursion: Creative Spaces of St Petersburg industrial belt

Hello and welcome to Saint Petersburg You may have rather heard about Peter and Paul Fortress, Nevsky prospect, the Palace Square or St Isaac’s Cathedral, but today we’ll venture into the less known periphery of the city and explore some creative spaces in the old industrial districts We’ll make a tour of seven locations, among which, a self-organized creative cluster of the former Red Triangle factory, a multimedia culture center “Planetarium One”, a recently closed “Tkachi” [“Weavers”] creative cluster, LenPolygaphMach Technology park in Petrogradsky district, Loft Project Etagi, one of the first creative spaces in St Petersburg’s Industrial Belt, Sevkabel Port, a major public space of Vasilievsky island, and, finally, an already well-known tourist destination – the New Holland island Since last 10 years, St Petersburg’s creative economy has made a great leap forward Public and creative spaces have entered the lifestyle of the urban middle class and young inhabitants of St Petersburg In the city’s cultural landscape, there’s a particular place for creative clusters and public spaces that have formed in the city’s industrial setting That’s what we call “The Grey Belt” The Grey Belt is a wide stripe of the late XIX – early XX centuries industrial districts that had a major influence on the city’s identity and history The Grey Belt has played an important role in the events of the Russian Revolution of 1917 and the first decades of the Soviet period, and since early 2010s they undergo a revival – this time related to culture, entertainment and creative economy Our journey begins on the southern bank of Obvodny canal – a former southern border and a major industrial artery of the city Its construction spanned over 50 years, between early 1780s and 1833 By mid-XIX century, plants, factories, railway tracks, tenements and worker’s barracks have grown in its banks The air here was thick with machinery noise, factory whistles, clattering of wheels and foul odors from numerous smokestacks – the popular name of the canal was “Stinky ditch” Since then, most of the industry was gone, but the historically formed urban environment takes its toll on the creative industries In daytime, streets are crowded due to proximity of railway and subway stations, the remaining industrial facilities and office complexes, however, the embankments are almost completely occupied by automobiles Lack of proper pedestrian and biking infrastructure, as well as of active facades of the buildings, is limiting the development of public spaces, local merchant and service businesses This is not the only problem, though Our first location has a tremendous potential for development, which hasn’t been yet realized – this is the infamous “Red Triangle”, once the largest rubber shoes factory in Russia, and nowadays the largest spot of urban decay in the city’s industrial belt The Red Triangle is a living example, or rather an “undead” one, of a troubled fate of St Petersburg’s industry Over the past 160 years, these walls have seen everything – an international expansion that made the Triangle one of the world’s leaders of rubber industry, the disaster of the Civil War, a renewal under the Soviets, hardships of war, and, finally, decline and collapse in the post-Soviet era Russian-American Rubber Manufacturing Trust, later renamed into “Triangle”, was founded in 1860 by Ferdinand Krauzkopf, a wealthy merchant from Hamburg It quickly took over the Russian shoes market, and then expanded abroad High profitability has allowed a quick scale-up of production, which was located in these huge buildings – first built in brick, and later in concrete

By the early 1900s, the factory had 15 000 workers It’s been an entire “city within a city” The factory produced not only rubber shoes, but aerostats, car and bicycle tires, conveyor belts and many other items The company had state-of-the-art technologies, and in the 1920s, it became the first synthetic rubber producer in the USSR The factory survived in World War Two, but by the 1970s it became unprofitable even within the setting of Soviet planned economy The post-Soviet de-industrialization hasn’t spared the Red Triangle: in year 2000, after ten years of failed attempts of reorganization, “Red Triangle” went bankrupt, leaving behind numerous abandoned and crumbling buildings It wasn’t “dead” for long though: soon enough, an informal economy cluster appeared here, and “creative” businesses soon emerged There are five distinct domains of creative businesses in the “Red Triangle”: the first one is music (rehearsal and recording studios, concert halls), art (artist’s workshops), the third one is craftsmanship, including wood and metal working, as well as custom made electronics, the fourth domain is design and printing, and, finally, the fifth is extreme sports IGELS extreme sports club is a good example of creative business Right now it is rather empty, but every evening, 1000 sq.m. worth of training area attract amateurs of climbing, extreme sports, parkour and acrobatics from all St Petersburg IGELS has installed here in 2010 Creative businesses in the Red Triangle often cluster themselves spontaneously: this building hosts Oktava rehearsal studio, our current location, as well as several other rehearsal spots, recording studios and small concert halls These businesses are not exactly thriving, but they definitely make ends meet, despite this rather post-apocalyptic setting Yet, the Red Triangle will still need quite a bit of renovation and gentrification, before more people find it worthy of attention Time for us to leave the Red Triangle and to move east, towards Planetarium One The main landmark in this part of Obvodny canal is, of course, the complex of former gas holders of the Capital Illumination company This was a production site of lighting gas used in the street lamps of the city center, and later on, as the city transitioned to electrical lighting, one of the city’s first power stations was built nearby These reservoirs only lost their industrial function in mid-XX century As the market economy developed, such a landmark couldn’t remain ignored Its revival started in 2015 with the advent of Lumiere Hall Projection Museum In 2017, Planetarium One followed suit, and a year later, another resident moved in: Yota Lab startup cluster that specializes in IT, robotics and educational content This place offers a good illustration of an “interface” between the walkway and the space adjacent to the gas holder As you can see, the design includes a library pavilion, a large logo of Planetarium One, as well as this transition between the walkway and the courtyard with public art objects, benches around the trees, wooden floor, swings and other infrastructure Maybe, it is rather modest compared to the city center, but Obvodny canal has only too few places suitable for outdoor leisure Still, the most interesting part awaits within this gas holder The dome of Planetarium One is 37 m in diameter – it is the largest such dome in the world,

and total resolution of projected images is 256 million pixels Lumiere Hall is not only a projection museum, but an art gallery as well Today it hosts an exhibition called “New Urban Artists” This artificial Moon, 6 m in diameter, was spotted in the waters of Obvodny canal in November 2018 It was an art object installed for the Illumination Festival Unfortunately, this extraordinary scene only lasted for two weeks, but let us hope that Obvodny canal becomes home to new art objects, and the space around obtains new features Meanwhile, we’ve moved further to the east and reached the former Anisimov textile factory, which, until March 2020, hosted Tkachi creative space This former textile factory once was a cultural hotspot Since 2010, Tkachi hosted fashion shops, show rooms and artistic workshops, and TKACHI OPEN SPACE, an event space on the top floor, had a regular schedule of concerts, performances and lectures, and hosted remarkable events such as Cyberfest media arts festival in 2012, or ICONS exhibition organized in 2013 by Marat Guelman ICONS provoked an entire scandal because of its “disturbing” content, according to the opinion of religious and conservative public The building was sold to “Senator”, a chain of elite-class business centers, in March 2020 However, it wasn’t the COVID lockdown that sealed the fate of this creative cluster Some experts say it was an expected outcome of a process of excessive commercialization, Since 2015, culture and education gradually gave way to more lucrative activities, and Tkachi were less and less perceived as a cultural center The more demanding audience was gone, and creativity was replaced by consumption Some part of the former creative community still remains here from the old days, but the new management will certainly have very different interests If the Red Triangle is a bottom-up creative cluster in the making, Tkachi is a conspicuous, although not unique, example of a creative space that couldn’t withstand the market pressure The failed attempt to creatively appropriate this location is visible in the adjacent space: except for this rather dull lawn, hidden from the pedestrians behind the bars, Tkachi didn’t bring anything new to the embankment of Obvodny canal As seen from Borovaya street hat crosses the canal next to the building itself the building backyard has nothing except a large parking lot that the former creative space used to share with a nearby Auchan supermarket So regrettable It is time to leave Obvodny canal, and I want you to have a bright goodbye moment I invite you to enjoy this artwork made by two female artists of Yav’ [Reality] collective This mural is called “Feminine Power” These portraits of Egyptian queen Nefertiti, Elizabeth, Queen of England, and Russian empress Catherine the Great, are a gift to women of St Petersburg for the 8th of March Of course, this piece of street art won’t stay here for long, but I think it is the right kind of art that brings life to these shabby walls surrounding the embankment of Obvodny canal And now we’ve moved to Ligovsky prospect – one of the oldest and liveliest city’s avenues that connects the city center to the Soviet and industrial districts in its southern part Some 25 years ago, when Saint Petersburg was an infamous “capital of crime” in Russia,

clashes between gangs happened here on an almost daily basis In the early 2000s, the city got rid of this bad reputation. The avenue became cleaner and attracted respectable establishments for tourists. The new “civilized” and “hipsterish” look was partly formed by one of the oldest creative clusters, Loft Project Etagi [Floors] Etagi, opened in 2007, are considered one of the oldest creative lofts in St Petersburg The former complex of industrial bakery hosts exhibition spaces, fashion shops, cafes and even a hostel Inner courtyard is used as an event space, and walls are decorated with murals A recent project in Etagi is called “Container Street”: it is a complex of 54 sea containers Among their residents are street food cafes, design and fashion shops, workshops and hair shops Container Street expands the commercial surface and brings more customers to its outdoor space Many elements of initial industrial interiors, such as ceramic tiles and metal bars, have been left intact The Green Room cafe is one of the oldest residents of Etagi Loft, and its outdoor terrace allows a clear view of the Container street below Here we can see a bit of Saint Petersburg’s skyline: the dome of Saint Isaac’s, spire of the Admiralty, Lakhta Centre, spire of Peter and Paul’s cathedral, Vladimirskaya church and the TV broadcast tower However, this view from the roof of Etagi is not free of charge As of today, Etagi is one of the most visited creative spaces in St Petersburg It is often criticized for the same faults as Tkachi – excessive commodification, lack of style and an “anything goes” approach Or, as many people say, “It isn’t the old good Etagi” The second day of our journey starts with the exploration of Petrogradsky district, more precisely – Aptekarsky island and Karpovka embankment Aptekarsky island is named after the “Apothecary garden”, currently known as the Botanical Garden It provides a decent amount of green space, but in the late XIX-early XX century Aptekarsky island was also considered as an industrial periphery of St Petersburg Behind me is located one of the largest industrial complexes in Petrogradsky district, that has been under re-development for the last 10 years This is LenPolygraphMach technology park, our next location LenPolygraphMach hosts both high-tech startups and creative businesses There are educational projects, architecture/design bureaus and fashion shops The key cultural location is the famous A2 Club, one of the major concert halls of the city, its most famous guest was none other than Nick Cave LenPolygraphMach technology park has long since promoted itself as a unified ecosystem, however, until recently it looked rather like a patchwork of buildings and functions, that didn’t have any uniformity of design Two years ago the managers of LenPolygraphMach developed a unified navigation system and design code within its space The history of LenPolygraphMach goes back to 1890s, when it was founded by the engineer Ivan Semenov Initially it produced equipment for tobacco and textile factories, and typography machines Under the Soviets, the factory diversified and benefited from large military orders After the dissolution of the Soviet Union, it had more luck than the Red Triangle

In 1990 it became a holding company, its facilities were partly relocated, and the location itself became one of the first technology parks in Russia Among the residents of LenPolygraphMach, a prominent “intellectual hotspot” is the “Boiling Point” educational space It hosts educational and business events attended by startu-ps and major Russian technology companies The national network of “Boiling Points” counts around 150 spaces in Russia LenPolygraphMach is a remarkable space in plain development, and it has a long history However, it faces the same issues as other creative spaces in former industrial facilities From the outside, it is hard to identify it as a unified creative and business complex – only the facades on Aptekarsky avenue and, to lesser extent, Medikov avenue have visual attractions, such as signboards and ground floor windows Other contours of LenPolygraphMach are much less attractive and recognizable We have left Petrogradsky district and moved to the south-west of Vasilievsky island, to the district that, before the Revolution, was called “Chekushi” This word means a wooden sledge hammer used to crush the bits of solidified flour – in the XVIII century, the food storages that the Naval ministry built here suffered from floods every other autumn In the XIX century, Kozhevennaya [Leatherworking] line got its name from leather tanning facilities This mansion belonged to the merchant family of Brusnitsyns, owners of local leatherworks It is unclear why the owners decided to build it so close to the production site, as on windy days, the foul smell of tanned leather reached the far side of Neva river Our next destination, though, is related to a much more famous family name Sevkabel plant that owns Sevkabel Port space was known before the Revolution as “Siemens & Halske cable plant” It belonged to the precursor of the industrial empire of Siemens Let’s take a closer look at what this place currently looks like These rotating gates are one of the landmarks of the whole Sevkabel complex, however, you can see that they are the only permeable part of this long solid facade that separates Sevkabel and the adjacent industrial spaces from the street Here again we’re observing the same issue of isolation and lack of connectivity as in many other places that we’ve seen before As in LenPolygraphMash case, the redevelopment of this area was initiated by the company owners In 2017, Sevkabel plant hired Miles & Yards, a company specialized in redevelopment for cultural and commercial projects. The company collaborated with a team of urban activists, who first came up with a concept of this cultural transformation They became project curators after Miles&Yards stepped down from management in 2020 Design objects and urban furniture create a double effect of spaciousness and interactivity Indoor spaces are spacious, too: this huge Soviet era cable workshop, from which the cables were unloaded to the freight ships, is closed for reconstruction, and before it was used as a marketplace, concert space and a skate park Sevkabel case is quite remarkable due to the fact that its location is an advantage and a disadvantage at the same time On one hand, it is located in a remote industrial part of Vasilievsky island, far from other attractions and with limited public transport On the other hand, Sevkabel is the only cultural facility in the industrial setting that has direct access to the wide waterfront – Neva River and the Gulf of Finland The owners are well aware of this fact, and they put much effort into developing water transport and new links with other cultural destinations Sevkabel, although popular in St Petersburg,

is the only bright spot in this part of Vasilievsky island – at least seen from the street confined between solid residential and industrial walls Urban renewal here will require bold solutions in space permeability and connectivity We’ll look up some solutions in our last location, New Holland space. On we go! Here we are, so close to the city centre Vasilievsky Island is on the far side of Blagoveschensky drawbridge – the first one in St Petersburg St Isaac’s is only 10 minutes on foot from here, and Nevsky prospect is in ten more minutes However, this place is a borderland, and a very peculiar one This very embankment of Kryukov canal is the boundary between two districts – the Admiralteysky district, usually considered as part of city centre, and Kolomna – a part of the city which is as famous in literature as Dostoyevsky’s Petersburg The most remarkable and mysterious part of Kolomna is here, on the New Holland island The legend says that New Holland was given its name by Peter the Great himself The first Emperor of Russia ordered to dig canals and build warehouses for shipbuilding timber For nearly three centuries, until year 2004, New Holland was a property of the Russian Navy – it hosted not only the warehouses, but also an experimental basin for testing new equipment, and the most powerful naval radio array of its time, built in early XX century There’s a romantic touch to this arch created by a French architect, Jean-Batiste Vallin de la Mothe, whose name is, who knows why, often mistaken by the tourists for Lord Voldemort The New Holland ceased to be a hidden realm of the Russian Navy in 2004, when the property rights for the island were transferred from the Navy to St Petersburg After six years of investment negotiations and architectural contests, New Holland opened in 2011, for the first time in 300 years Except for brief openings, between 2011 and 2016 the island was closed for reconstruction, new parts being opened to the public use as the reconstruction works move forward Here we can observe a rather unusual solution for St Petersburg A part of the built-up perimeter was torn down to provide visual access from the outside and to open a part of waterfront for public use That’s what I’ve mentioned upon leaving Sevkabel It’s the second round building in our journey This time, it is not a gas holder, but a former prison, that was called “The Bottle” by the sailors Today, you may get stuck here as well, especially if you are hungry and have money – here, all kinds of food and drink are at your disposal Conceptually, New Holland is a “city within a city” There are lecture and exhibition spaces, an outdoor leisure zone, a playground for children , a beach and even a plant garden And, of course, various kinds of food outlets for all tastes, and nearly all budgets We have explored seven locations: six spots in the industrial belt and one near the city center, and thus have seen all the variety of creative projects in the industrial setting All these spaces have one thing in common – they have to interact with their surroundings, which are often not very attractive for visitors and require serious efforts for improvement In Planetarium One, Sevkabel, New Holland and Etagi, we have seen how creative spaces expand and turn the streets, embankments, beaches and roofs around them into public spaces Other locations, however, are less successful in their attempts to transform their surroundings In result, spaces may lose their creative identity, transform into business centers or even close down

Thus, the ability to fit into the environment, and sometimes to redesign it for their purposes, is a major factor of success or failure of the creative spaces