Soaring glass for Mariinsky's modern second home

Tue Nov 22, 2011 9:02am EST
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By Nastassia Astrasheuskaya

MOSCOW (Reuters) - History and modern design will come together in a new $629 million, glass-walled concert hall to be built as a futuristic second home for St. Petersburg's 19th century Mariinsky theater.

The Mariinsky Second Stage expected to open next year across the canal from the grand original theater will be a contemporary performance space with soaring glass walls and a roof-top ampitheatre designed to attract younger and wider audiences to the performing arts in Russia's former imperial city.

The hall's elevated public spaces and floor-to-ceiling windows will take advantage of views over the golden cathedral domes which adorn St. Petersburg's dramatic skyline, according to the Canadian architect chosen to design it.

Jack Diamond, founder of Toronto-based Diamond and Schmitt Architects Inc, took over the Mariinsky II design in 2009 with a promise to submit a low-cost functional modern opera house in 2012.

Diamond told Reuters the design, inspired by his firm's creation of the Four Seasons Center for Performing Arts in Toronto, would forego the gilding and fanciful decorations in order to deliver a space dedicated to delivering the best atmosphere for enjoying the performances inside it.

"I believe you put the money where it's important and don't indulge in architectural extravagance that has nothing to do with the acoustics, the comfort of the audience or the comfort of the public areas," Diamond said.

The cost of the state-sponsored Mariinsky's expansion has risen sixfold from its 2003 estimate of $100 million -- and construction has been delayed over funding controversies.

Mariinsky's artistic director Valery Gergiev was so impressed by Diamond's Four Seasons building in Toronto, he invited the architect to St. Petersburg to seek his vision for the Mariinsky II.   Continued...

<p>Dancers from the Mariinsky Ballet of St Petersburg perform during a dress rehearsal of the ballet "Don Quixote" at the Esplanade theatre in Singapore September 16, 2011. REUTERS/Tim Chong</p>