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Opera House Mariinsky II
Dominique Perrault

July 07, 2003 /

Saint Petersburg, Russia

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Image courtesy Dominique Perrault architect

Dominique Perrault and his team won the international competition to design the new building for the Mariinsky Theater; the first major work of modern architecture to be built in the imperial capital.

Located next to the Mariinsky I Theater and on the bank of Kryukov Canal in St. Petersburg, the new opera and ballet auditorium will  seat 2,000 and increase the space available to the Mariinsky by 40,000 square meters.

A great opera should be an emblematic building that is visible in the city. The golden envelope is the symbol of all the great monuments of St. Petersburg./Dominique Perrault

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Model photo © George Fessy

The Mariinsky II will be linked to the main theater by a bridge over the Kryukov Canal that will be used by both visitors to the theater and to move scenery between the two buildings.

How can one fail to be moved by Saint-Petersburg's colors? Not only by the colors of the weather, but those of the city as well, of its silhouette punctuated by gold sparkles. For that is what they are: shimmering, gleaming reflections, so many signs radiating across the winter landscape, or the canals' surface.

The presence of these golden crowns contributes to Saint-Petersburg's radiance. This stage design on the scale of the city must not overlook the Mariinsky. At the heart of a complex network of canals and streets, the project for the new Mariinsky must speak to its origins, while showing it is also a work of the future, of the contemporary Saint-Petersburg protecting its heritage as a precious treasure, but also opening itself to the world so it can be admired.

/Dominique Perrault

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Model photo © George Fessy

perrault-opera_mariinsky (4).jpgModel photo © George Fessy

The design by Dominique Perrault envelopes an imposing volume of black marble in a translucent casing of gold-colored glass. Visible, like Saint-Petersburg's other major monuments, the golden shell of the new opera does not conform to the building's shape but, rather, keeps its distance, even managing to envelope the structure without touching the banks of the canal. It hovers over the halls, thus freeing up vast volumes, much like being under a cupola.

The glass cupola above the building will let in a lot of light, conjuring up associations with the White Nights, a symbol of St. Petersburg.

/Valery Gergiev, Artistic Director, Mariinsky Theater

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Model photo © George Fessy

Like a garment of light, it is broadly deployed "around the body", leaving free spaces, open to the city, prolonging the public space right into the interior of the building as a succession of foyers forming one generous covered gallery linking the main hall with the modern one, with restaurants, cafes, boutiques and other services.

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Model photo © George Fessy

Behind the golden mask, one penetrates into an imposing volume of black marble to discover the main hall, a mythical place, always sumptuous and eternally surprising. Here, the red and gold merge like an immense fresco, whose image has been projected onto the rows, balconies, walls and ceiling. One enters into a painting, a tapestry inspired by the ornamentation of our most beautiful classical opera houses.

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Image courtesy Dominique Perrault architecte

Hidden behind this immense "wallpaper" is the machinery of the "opera". The other side of the shell allows one to see into all the functions for putting on events: access for truck delivery and the personnel, an atrium in the form of a covered passage to rehearsal rooms, to the different scenes, to the vast technical and stage-set spaces, but also into the offices, dressing rooms, all the way into the ballet hall itself.

In this wing, everything is rationally organized so each space can be accessed easily and directly from this spinal column that crosses the length of the building.
This space of circulation and communication connects all of the Opera's functions.

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Image courtesy Dominique Perrault architecte

This private face of the building constitutes an architectural counterpoint to the flamboyant and public one.  Its architecture of black marble, with its faades in dark glass, "lined" by red fabric composed of pure and smooth geometric masses, is strictly organized according to the functional requirements of the of the Opera house's program.

The appearance of this reasoned geometry creates an architectonic articulation with the different architectural styles of surrounding streets. This difference in architectural writing qualifies the building's front and back, brings it closer to the Mariinsky across the way, and settles it into the urban fabric with a faade on the plaza, the canal and the streets.

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Image courtesy Dominique Perrault architecte
East Elevation

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Image courtesy Dominique Perrault architecte
North Elevation

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Image courtesy Dominique Perrault architecte
South Elevation

The contact with the existing opera is not merely visual, it is also physical: with this telescoping catwalk coming out of the golden shell  "plugging into" the historical facade on the other side of the canal.

This disposition respects the historic perspective of the St. Nicholas church and preserves the landscape of the canal.

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Drawing courtesy Dominique Perrault architecte
Ground Floor Plan

Facts about Opera House Mariinsky II

Client: 

Mariinsky Theater

Last updated: December 19, 2013

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