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Culture news, 17.01.2003 17:04

St. Petersburg's Mariinsky Theater launches competition to design new building

St. Petersburg's Mariinsky Theater launches competition to design new building Russia's famed Mariinsky Theater officially announced an architectural competition Tuesday for a new building in St. Petersburg to house its ballet and opera companies. Eleven entries five from Russian and six from foreign architects and firms have been offered for consideration by a 12-member international jury that includes Colin Amery and Joseph Clark, technical director of the Metropolitan Opera in New York City. "For years the creative potential of the Mariinsky has far outstripped its technical possibilities, so we really need a new building," said Mariinsky chief conductor and artistic director Valery Gergiev, who is also on the jury. The competition calls for a 39,000 square-meter (420,000 square-foot) building that can seat 2,000 people. The new building for the theater, formerly called the Kirov, is to be built by 2007, with the Russian federal government providing up to US$100 million. Entrants include Arata Isozaki, American architect Eric Owen Moss and Switzerland's Mario Botta. Moss wants to place a large glass cube resembling a crumpled plastic bag among the elegant facades of Russia's imperial capital. Gergiev said the city needs "a fresh spirit," adding, "so maybe it's worth taking a risk and surprising everyone with an interesting project." However, he said, "We don't need a woodshed or a box. Our new theater must have a face." St. Petersburg Governor Vladimir Yakovlev said the project must not damage the image of the city, which he said "managed to preserve its historical culture," and Russian Culture Minister Mikhail Shvydkoi said the building should fit into the city. The proposals will be on view in early June and the winner announced June 28. The new Mariinsky building will be close to the existing one, which dates to 1859, and they are to be linked by a passageway spanning a canal. The existing building is being renovated for St. Petersburg's 300th anniversary celebration in May.

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