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Culture news, 02.07.2007 13:58

Mariinsky II Back on Track, Costs ‘Optimized’

mariinsky_II By Evgenia Ivanova

Staff Writer

Construction work on the Mariinsky Theater’s new building, known as Mariinsky II and planned as an additional, modern theater to run alongside the Mariinsky’s historic venue, will finally begin fully in July as officials gave the go-ahead to the troubled project on Tuesday.

The proposal for the new building for the famous St. Petersburg opera and ballet theater was approved by Glavgosekspertiza, the state body in charge of building permits, after 286 objections from experts were removed from the design, according to the web site of the North-Western Directorate for the Construction, Reconstruction and Restoration of St. Petersburg, or NWDCRR, the regional representative of the Federal Agency for Culture and Cinematography.

A design by world-renowned architect Dominique Perrault has been reworked by the Russian firm Georekonstruktsya-Fundamentproekt since a contract with the architect’s French practice, which won an international competition to design Mariinsky II in 2003, was annulled in January this year.

Responding to reports that the cost of the building had soared, officials said these had been “optimized” and the quoted sum of 9.535 billion rubles ($369.4 million) is significantly less than the one calculated by Perrault’s office.

The initial sum of 6.07 billion rubles ($235.5 millon) was “just a rough calculation of the architectural concept” prepared for the competition, not to be confused with the “serious document of the project’s detailed calculation of 11.2 billion rubles ($433.8 million), submitted by Perrault’s company in October 2006,” the NWDCRR’s head of public relations, Yekaterina Bogolyubova told the St. Petersburg Times on Thursday.

The estimate was improved through the calculation of cost of different materials and technology, she said.

As for the changes in the design, “you won’t be able to see the difference,” Bogolyubova said.

“It’s true that the building now looks rather different from its 2003 version, but these changes didn’t happen overnight,” she said.

“If, originally, the building’s dome looked airy, almost like a golden veil, now the structure looks much more solid, but these changes were made by Perrault himself long ago before the project was handed over to the Russian architects,” Bogolyubova said in a telephone interview.

After the project was improved by Russian planners, Perrault’s design remained almost unchanged with the exception of first floor open galleries designed to help visitor evacuation in case of fire, she said.

Other changes include making the theater’s roof capable of bearing heavy snowfalls and coordinating the dome with the building’s frame, NWDCRR’s website reported Wednesday.

In 2006, Perrault’s design failed to get approval from the Russian government due to “criticism of a serious nature,” according to a statement from NWDCRR, published in January.

The building’s safety, stability and the absence of coordination between the design of its different parts were among the prime concerns of the state.

After the approval was not given, Perrault called Mariinsky II “the abandoned project.”

In a statement published Jan. 29, Perrault said that from 2003 his company had been developing a detailed project, strictly adhering to the deadlines.

“Once again this situation clearly demonstrates the difficulties in organization of real cultural and technological cooperation with Russia,” Perrault said.

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