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Central district authorities proposes new theatres to be built in the Apraksin Yard


Today marks the world architecture day. And traditionally people of this profession gather today at numerous conferences to discuss issues of modern-day architecture. The most relevant one for St. Petersburg’s architects is reconstruction of the Apraksin Yard.


The authorities have made another attempt to turn the well-known marketplace into one of the Northern Capital’s landmark brands. The investments committee set up a competition for the best architectural blueprint of the new multi-functional site. Mariya Tikhonova found out what the residents of St. Petersburg want to see in the Apraksin Yard.

For years the city’s authorities have been trying to turn the Apraksin Yard into St. Petersburg’s pride and joy. The “Glavstroy” company took the reconstruction project 5 years ago, but dreams haven’t turned into reality – the project stalled. 

Yuriy Mityrev, first deputy chairman of St. Petersburg’s City planning and architecture committee: “That project meant a lot of buildings had to be demolished, in order to build a large parking lot underneath this space”.

The 2nd attempt to revamp the Apraksin Yard was undertaken this fall. The investments committee set up a competition for the best architectural blueprint with a million ruble prize. 

Irina Babyuk, chairman of investments committee: “As a result of this competition, we’re expecting the constructing company to provide us with a clear vision of the Apraksin Yard’s future outlay, its zoning. We need to have a wholesome idea of its concept beforehand”.  

While retaining its historic outlook, the Yard will become a multi-functional center with a highly-comfortable pedestrian zone. What exactly will be included in the “multi-functional” concept is currently being decided. Both official and personal ideas are voiced. 

Mariya Scherbakova, head of Central district’s administration: “There needs to be a place for civilized trade. And places for leisure too. We definitely need to have theatres here. Several theatres have already turned to us, asking to set up their stages in the Apraksin Yard”

Former chief artist of St. Petersburg Ivan Uralov believes that the Apraksin Yard must be turned into a graphic museum. Museum of St. Petersburg’s trade and household. He suggests looking at already existing blueprints, like, for instance, Boris Kostygov’s graphics. 

Ivan Uralov, artist: There could be a 1930’s communal flat on display. Or there could be a flat of a successful doctor or a lawyer of the late 19th century. A colonial goods shop or a janitorial room. We could show how the people of St. Petersburg lived in different times”.

Mariya Tikhonova, correspondent: The Apraksin Yard is 14 hectares of trade space in the very heart of St. Petersburg. In its 260-year-long history, it has survived two large fires and several coup-de-tae. Before the 1st World War it was the largest marketplace in Europe. The name and the architectural peculiarities are the only things reminding of the Yard’s former glory. Now it only attracts guests from closer neighbor countries.  

The marketplace inside the Apraksin Yard is a multinational city within the city, with its own rules and laws. Despite frequent raids by the police, the number of illegal migrants here doesn’t get any smaller, and unsanctioned trade continues to flourish.

Proprietors of the Apraksin Yard’s trade spaces are even willing to invest their own money into its reconstruction. However, they insist that part of historic buildings must remain in their hands. Head of a car center Elena Novolotskaya believes commercially profitable facilities must be the in the forefront of the Yard, but not expensive boutiques.  

Elena Novolotskaya, proprietor: “We are ready to attract Bona Fide lenders for our spaces. And those have to be middle-class stores, not high class that’s for sure. The Gostinnyi Dvor, the “Passage” and the Nevskiy avenue are all nearby. Is that even worth discussing? Its not worthwhile at all.

Whatever fate the Apraksin Yard will face, the decision on it will be a collegiate one. A working group to decide it consists of 40 people – representatives of all branches of local power, as well as proprietors of the Yard’s trade spaces. The readymade concept of the Apraksin Yard’s redevelopment plan will be made public in mid-December.  

Correspondent: Mariya Tikhonova