The EUSP is housed in a historical landmark building known as Small Marble Palace, located in the historical city centre of St Petersburg. The building has a complex history of functional use, extensions and adaptations. The competition calls for an upgrade of the buildings and spaces that respects heritage, adapts the building to contemporary education requirements, and to bring it in line with its ambition to act as a centre of gravity of knowledge within and beyond Russia.
The design proposal very gently transforms the existing row of buildings into a fluid and elegant series of large and elegant spaces, revealing and enhancing the qualities of the original 18th century palace. The open and elegant layout facilitates contemporary education methods, fluidly connecting open and informal meeting areas, flexible study areas and places to take a break, offering attractive views for users. Two courtyards form the heart of the new university as they connect the whole program of the building. The first courtyard is covered with glass, incorporating the main reception space of the education complex, while the second courtyard will be open for all to visit, adding a high quality public space to the city. The courtyards and the centrally positioned library open up the rest of the building for various types of activities: formal and informal dialogue, creation of ideas and exchange of knowledge. The roof café, situated at the fourth floor, related with the library and the large conference hall, offers an excellent view over the roofs of St. Petersburg to the river Neva.
The remaining program is functionally distributed throughout the building with educational, administrative and management zones. Different pragmatic connections that were allowed by the original structure, such as an antique steel staircase, or that are the result of careful interventions, allow for very efficient and well connected spaces.
In the design proposal the fifth floor extension is removed and the silhouette of the building in the skyline of St. Petersburg is preserved. All spaces with historic value, the Vestibule and Grand staircase, the White Hall, the Golden Hall, the Blue Room and the Saxon Porcelain Room – and interior elements are kept and incorporated in the contemporary design. Some existing architectural elements are maintained as well, such as the atrium wall with three arched windows in its full height, the metal staircase and elements from the winter garden. The foundations and all structural elements of the existing building are preserved, and strengthened if needed. Considering the space dimensions and the assumed load of the new additions, steel frames are proposed.
This competition design proposal for the renovation and extension of the European University of St. Petersburg is characterised by careful interventions, a clean functional organisation and extensive usage of green surfaces which creates a pleasant atmosphere for the students and for the nearby residents. With spaces open to the public and an efficient configuration which can accommodate a variety of functions, with architecture that is recognizable but not pretentious, the EUSP building will improve its urban environment and become a new centre of urban activity.