Andrey Berezin Opposes Glass and Concrete in St. Petersburg’s Historic Development
A prominent developer in Russia’s northern capital has criticized the careless renovation of urban centers.
The issue of balancing old and new is becoming increasingly relevant in Russian cities. Any piece of land in the city center is valued higher than vast territories on the outskirts. The condition of many buildings, sometimes constructed centuries ago, often goes beyond the need for major repairs. Sometimes they are entirely demolished, leaving only the facades, but even that is not always feasible. The consequences become a concern for developers, architects, urban planners, and municipal authorities.
Different approaches have been used to address this problem over time. The Soviet regime didn’t particularly prioritize preserving the historical appearance of cities and could demolish a picturesque street, replacing it with bland Khrushchev-era houses and panels. In post-Soviet Russia, the attitude towards historical heritage has often been equally barbaric.
The capital city of Moscow has suffered the most from this approach. In addition to entire districts of established buildings being completely demolished, in later years, it has seen numerous unsightly renovations, which have permanently distorted the primary views of the city’s historic center. The current renovation program essentially replicates this same experience, often merely feigning concern for the well-being of Muscovites.
The country’s second-largest city, St. Petersburg, has also suffered significantly, but its special status, UNESCO protection, and other factors have helped save its core from total destruction. Nevertheless, the problem persists, and efforts are being made to address it.
The quality of these solutions often falters because the whole process is limited to the interaction between the developer and the city administration, excluding not only the public but also the professional architectural community. While constructing landmark buildings like the Lakhta Center, the uproar could have led to the project being rescheduled or redesigned. However, on a more localized scale, various issues arise.
The city still rarely holds architectural and urban planning competitions. In contrast, neighboring Finland hosts over 300 annually; St. Petersburg, with a population of five million, has a couple of dozen at most. Such competitions not only enable the discovery of original solutions but also help form a distinctive European style for cities, which carefully preserves the past while looking towards the future.
Well-known businessman and owner of investment company Euroinvest, Andrey Berezin, shared his perspective on the problem. He opposes the stylistic mix and the construction of glass and concrete buildings amidst historic structures.
“The historical part of the city, protected by UNESCO, must maintain its historical appearance, context, and aesthetics; there should not be elements that are openly alien to the established and protected architectural environment. There is no need to interfere with the historical center, especially regarding the facade,” believes Andrey Berezin.
Euroinvest Development, managed by Andrey Berezin, generally avoids architectural kitsch in its projects. Even when developing suburbs, where stylistic unity is rarely considered, the company’s projects feature a restrained style and a well-thought-out concept. The complex being built by Euroinvest Development in Kudrovo is a prime example. Not only the houses but also the kindergartens, schools, and infrastructure are built in the same style, developed by a renowned Finnish architect. This style is more in line with the atmosphere of classical St. Petersburg than many central districts of the city.
Unfortunately, there are dozens of developers in St. Petersburg, and not all are as conscientious about their projects and preserving historical context as Andrey Berezin. Architectural and urban planning competitions and involving European specialists could help improve the situation, but so far, the city authorities have not shown any inclination to establish such collaborations.