Urban Design: Hermitage for the People

Workshop Leader: Quim Rosell, IED Istituto Europeo di Design, Barcelona.

Part #1 participants: Evgeniya Vasilyeva (architect), Anna Griffith (landscape designer), Olga Ponomareva (architect).

Part #2 participants: Evgeniya Vasilyeva (architect), Daria Tabachnikova (economist), Maria Demidenko (architect), Nikolay Pashkov (developer), Evgeniya Lopatina (architect), Elvira Gizatullina (geographer).

Location: Saint-Petersburg.

Duration: 2 months.


The main focus of this workshop is to understand the different roles of urban spaces in history, from representational to social, while fostering a complex vision of the city, in which residents, citizens and visitors share spaces and benefit from each other.

Goals of Workshop¹

  • To initiate a creative and critical thinking about ‘identity’ of a given place and the price of shedding place’s identity, particularity, tradition and heritage. Where does ‘identity’ come from, and who/what are its guardians? What are advantages of ‘identity’ or ‘character’ of a city, and conversely, what are the advantages of its ‘blankness’?
  • To confront issues such as: does ‘identity’ centralize by insisting on ‘essence’, and who knows what the ‘essence’ is? Can a tradition from which distinction of a place comes be a ‘trap’ for new generations or newcomers, as a place undergoes changes generated in political shifts, economy or demographics?
  • At what scale should reproduction of difference or homogenization occur? Is it possible that insistence on the center as the core of value and meaning is counter-productive?

¹ Taken from Master Program direction brochure ‘Building the City Now© – Workshops+Modules’.


Top view






Hermitage for the people.

This workshop will work with and around the Hermitage. Hermitage is a wonder that belongs to the world, the most effective icon of Saint-Petersburg. But it is a closed gigantic building, unable to generate activities or activate the public places around it. How can it be not only an interior but also an exterior? How will opening it up change in the perception of art? Is a museum just a fine storage or should it have a social dynamism that goes beyond its repository purpose?

Regarding the physical scale, urban icons are relevant architectonic realities at the scale of architectonic design, urban realm, urban architecture and urban structure. Regarding the social scale, urban icons have to serve simultaneously the immediate neighborhood, the inhabitants of the global city, the world tourist population.

Students will learn tools to operate with the role and impact of ‘iconic buildings’ in the working of the urban structure and the network of public spaces, and will reinforce their learning and understanding in previous workshops of design tools to approach multiscalarity and the transcalarity of specific urban realities. They will also learn tools and criteria for the specific ‘design’ of the relationship between built tissue and open spaces in the historic center, that blur the limits between public and private, between exterior and interior.

Part #1

Analysis layout: Industrial islands, Residential areas, Churches and chapels, Heritage, General diagram, Pathway
Top view. Principles of space organisation
Similitude reading. General diagrams
Similitude reading. Mood section


Wander ways
Wander ways collage by Olga Ponomareva
General scheme


Key words: heritage, landmarks, waterfront, sounds, smells, courtyards, yellow,
birds, industry, canals, shipbuilders, riverside, dock, submarines, art, graffiti, visual maze, labyrinth, view, bridges, wall, pedestrian.

Main points

  1. Preservation and development of the individual territory characteristics. Saint-Petersburg is not only a museum city but a living city with history, which is no less interesting. City for people and city “by” people. All areas have unique features, and these should not be lost or hidden. These areas have their specific non-visual characteristics such as smells, types of human behavior, some cultural aspects in addition to the visible architectural features. As an example, the residential buildings without personal bathrooms.
  2. Creation of new pedestrian paths of movement on the territory due to the peculiarities of this area. It is not the classic route from museum to museum but conditioned by the flows of life and newly acquired individual characteristics, for example: BIRD path — it’s a path in the city when people can enjoy birds singing like in a garden; or ART way — where classic art joins with street art and where people are not divided into groups according to preferences and/or their prosperity but are connected by the path.
    As said before: the city has visual and non-visual characteristics. Non-visual aspects can also be used for urban tissue transformation, creating new sensations, moods and impressions. How bad smells and noises can spoil the mood, so birdsongs, colours and varieties of plant species (rare for a big city) — improve mood.
  3. Creating a new net of city movement by paths which are connected with each other and not only developed by line. That net represents the journey therefore the territory turns from the conventional “City center” to self-suciency.
  4. Holding the significant city key points, such as embankments and plazas which currently have not lost their value but are not readily accessible in urban areas. When we talk about urban development, accessibility and openness are the most important factors that help renovate and improve territories for peoples’ use.

² Wander (verb.) — walk or move in a leisurely, casual, or aimless way. An act or instance of wandering.

Part #2

Analysis: daytime actively used spaces, nighttime actively used spaces, accessibility
General scheme by Maria Demidenko. Setting by Evgeniya Vasilyeva
Economic diagrams by Elvira Gizatullina, Daria Tabachnikova, Nikolay Pashkov. Setting by Maria Demidenko
Gostiny Dvor. General diagram
Gostiny Dvor. Before and after sections
Apraksin Dvor. General diagram by Evgeniya Lopatina


Apraksin Dvor. Before and after sections by Maria Demidenko
Strategy: daytime actively used spaces, nighttime actively used spaces, accessibility
Atmosphere collage. Setting by Evgeniya Lopatina