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We are building St. Petersburg. Restoration artist

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St. Petersburg is a young city in terms of history. But buildings which have been built over 300 years have long become monuments of architecture. And today they define the stern and gracious outlook of the Northern Capital. Restoration works are required so - that rain, wind and time do not destroy the beauty of the city’s ensemble. Its first stage is pre-project work, which is conducted by specialists of the “LenProektRestavratsiya” Institute. One of them is Oksana Andrianova. Right now she's measuring the interiors of the Pashkov building at Liteyniy Prospekt.

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After our works are completed, the building looks differently - it gets the St. Petersburg chic which it was supposed to have in the first place.

St. Petersburg is a young city in terms of history. But buildings which have been built over 300 years have long become monuments of architecture. And today they define the stern and gracious outlook of the Northern Capital. Restoration works are required so - that rain, wind and time do not destroy the beauty of the city’s ensemble. Its first stage is pre-project work, which is conducted by specialists of the “LenProektRestavratsiya” Institute. One of them is Oksana Andrianova. Right now she's measuring the interiors of the Pashkov building at Liteyniy Prospekt.

Oksana Andriyanova, technician and architect at “LenProektRestavratsiya” Institute: “I was born and raised in this city, and have been living here. Surrounded by all this architecture, I've always wanted to be part of it and work in the sphere connected to the monuments.

I will now take measurements from wall-to-wall. I'll use the roller for this. 6808

Oksana Andriyanova, technician and architect at “LenProektRestavratsiya” Institute: “We always begin with archive historical research on the building. We have to find out the cultural history of the place, which people lived here, and grasp the spirit of this place. As well as the construction history from the very beginning- how the building was built, because buildings live a nonstop life. They constantly change and you have to find the latest layers, it's history in entirety. It is researched, and becomes the necessary condition for the future project work

We take exact sizes of the building and based on that we will make blueprints, cuts and the entire documentation - which is necessary for the restoration work.

I'm creating blueprints based on measurements and photo-geometric shots. I draw all architectural details at 1:1 scale, so this is the real size. And then, in the final print, we make the necessary scale - those are the blueprints which the workers and subcontractors will be working with.

Svetlana Titova, head architect at “LenProektRestavratsiya” Institute: “People come here, and I would really like for the people who like restoration, the city and architecture to come here. This is something that's being brought up in people from their childhoods.

Project designers do not finish their work until the building is completely restored. The whole process is a collective labor or architects, construction workers, art experts, sculptors and many other specialists. The St. Petersburg union of restoration artists unites 46 organizations, which do substantial work every year on restoring the historical outlook of the city.

Alexander Leontyev, deputy head of St. Petersburg’s committee on state control, use and restoration of monuments: “It's clear that the priority buildings are situated on Nevskiy prospect, Dvortsovaya Square, all our landmarks, so to speak, ensembles and monuments. Besides that, there is a social spectrum. Those are childcare and healthcare facilities. And religious sites.

After all project documentation is ready, restoration and construction organizations take to the field. Valentina Gorchakova works at one of them. She's a painter with 35 years of experience. In the last couple of months, her crew has been engaged in restoration works at the bell tower of the Knyaz-Vladimirskiy Cathedral.

We come in the morning, go up, go down at lunchtime, then go up from the lunch, and go down in the evening. We are here all the time. They bring us the ready-made solution, we dilute it and paint.

Well we don't want only the rocks to be seen, we have to make sure everything is good, so that it's beautiful. Despite that this is only the interior of the bell tower, we still want everything to be civilized.

Bricks were laid in this way, and based on that we replicated this part. We changed the windows, all curves, all these arcs, did it all.

Valentina Gorchakova, painter at “Lapin Enterprise”: “I think painter is mostly a man's job. But I like it. Our family has five boys and me. We do everything together”

Igorek, be a friend and hand me the  solution 

I'm a woman when I walk in the street, I'm a woman at home, but I'm a construction worker here.

This is a painting decoration, which is the architect’s idea. So that the building looks fine, stands out from the others, not grim, but beautiful. There is painting decoration, there is sculptural decoration. This façade has both.

Konstantin Kiriltsev, technical director at “Lapin Enterprise”: “In my work, I have to give a lot of credit to the people working alongside me right now. The skilled, the patient, the determined. All this would have been impossible without them.

We have a difficult work, but it's interesting.

The Cathedral of Saint Duke Vladimir was built in the middle 18th century, based on architect Antonio Rinaldi’s project. The crosses on top of the cathedral have not been renovated a single time in more than two centuries. But in 2015 they were temporarily displaced and send to a workshop. In order to restore six vintage crosses, each weighing 400 kilograms, it required a total of 560 grams of gold and five months of thorough work.

Nina Shangina, chairwoman of St. Petersburg’s Restoration Artists’ Union: “St. Petersburg has always been a valued by any regime. The 1st decrees by Lenin also had those to protect cultural values of the city. Then the war began, and during the war it was not about restoration, but rather about preservation of as many art objects as possible. And this is the part of restoration work, which every resident of the city knows best. After the war we had a period which defies the laws of restoration work, because we had to restore the lost things as quickly as possible.

In the last several decades, only St. Petersburg's concept of restoration works has remained unchanged. It incorporates foreign experience adapted to research of local architecture by scientists. However, without the tools, the materials and the means of measuring buildings created recently, it's hard to imagine the working process of a modern-day restoration artist.

Nina Shangina, chairwoman of St. Petersburg’s Restoration Artists’ Union: “Different nondestructive methods of control, endoscopic methods of examining the buildings - all this allows us to process a huge volume of work in restoration. Much more convenient tools and materials - some of them are also historic in essence - but in terms of preparation methods and ways of doing work, they have changed a little.

This is the necropolis of artists belonging to the Museum of the city sculpture. The great writer and historian Nikolai Karamzin is buried here. December 2016 marks 250 years since his birth. A decision was made to restore the tombstone of the Karamzin couple to mark the date. This responsible task was given to sculptor Victor Lebedev.

We took pictures from different places - some of them were green, yes. We can see mold and deteriorative fungi. So, we made a picture of the texture with 500-times magnifying, and microscope allows this. Now what? Now we take it and use the method we have got accustomed to. For instance, we take a sample from a segment. Put it in a plastic bag. So we collect this biologic deterioration or, so to speak, pollutants. It is enough to conduct a thorough analysis and grow something. We grow it and see how bad it is. What kind of fungi it is, what kind of algae, are those dangerous and destructive or not. How they would affect the monument.

Viktor Lebedev, restoration artist at “Nasledie” restoration workshop: “A man comes to a doctor, and the doctor has to know what the man eats, how he lives, his lifestyle, peculiarities. A restoration artist has to have the same kind of knowledge about a monument”

The work on the Karamzin tombstone is only beginning for Viktor Lebedev, but another project-restoration of 2 centaur statues - is already at full swing in the workshop. Besides the sculptures, the pedestal on which they would be put also needs treatment.

We are using different tools in our work. Starting with a simple toothbrush, which is known even to the little kids, all the way through to tools which are very well known to adults - dental drills and other tools. A little more

We can see some fragments, in this particular case - fingers, are missing on the hand of the centaur. It means models were made this way by the sculptor, that's how it will look more or less. So, models are first made of clay, then clay is formed. After which we do a plaster model, and put it on. Finish the plaster model, make a seating place - a very thin one, that is. After which we again form the plaster model, and transfer all this into an artificial rock.

All this was lost, yes, but now we put it back in. This is relatively, exquisitely pretty and not too much on ones eyes. 

Viktor Lebedev, restoration artist at “Nasledie” restoration workshop: “The more difficult the work is, the more interesting it is. For instance, we had a sculpture from one museum in our workshop- it was broken. It was a sculpture made of plaster, very tall - 3.5 m high. It was broken into more than 300 fragments. It took about three months to restore it-and the work was very thorough, yet ridiculously interesting. It was my first experience in working with plaster, and with this particular style. First and foremost, with a monumental, huge sculpture. Restoration artist just has to be a creative person, he has to see the plasticity, feel the color, and his hands must be in the right place.

Alexander Leontyev, deputy head of St. Petersburg’s committee on state control, use and restoration of monuments: “They will always have a job, because time moves on and monuments get older. Somebody has to restore them and take care of their health, so to speak”

The big city is constantly changing and renewing. Worn-out pipes are being replaced by new ones, faulty mechanisms are fixed, while vintage buildings which have lost color are getting a new, vibrant and saturated life. Hundreds of thousands of buildings and millions of people. Every single one of us is part of the beautiful city. What will it be like tomorrow - it's up for us to decide. We are building our city together. Every single one of us is building St. Petersburg.

There is no such thing as a bad restoration worker, everybody is trying hard. You get more experience with time, you know more, and can do more.

You are working with a particular building, you know its history, the monument tells us what it has seen and what it has lived through. The monument continues living thanks to restoration workers.

We are living in a historic city. It has its well-formed historic fabric, and regardless whether we want this or not - it creates the spirit of the very place. St. Petersburg would not have existed without its historic center, it would not have been St. Petersburg at all.

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