St Petersburg halts controversial modern wing for historic Dostoevsky Museum

St Petersburg halts controversial modern wing for historic Dostoevsky Museum
Image: Evgeny Gerasimov & Partners

16 October 2018

Controversial plans to modernise the St Petersburg home of one of Russia’s greatest authors has been halted by officials.

Designs to extend the city’s Dostoevsky Museum were initially approved at the start of October, despite critics describing the wing as a “glass and concrete box.”

Yet second meeting between conservationists, architects and politicians then ground to a halt after the city’s deputy governor, Igor Albin, walked out before a vote could be approved, effectively suspending the ballot.

The Dostoevsky Museum in St Petersburg occupies the writer’s former house on Kuznechniy Pereulok, where the novelist wrote the famous Brothers Karamazov. Staff say they need the new wing to expand their programme and store the museum’s growing collections, saying that they simply lack space at the historic site.

Designed by local architecture firm Evgeny Gerasimov & Partners, the $9.8 million structure is earmarked for a plot of green land next to the existing museum building. Plans for the space, which has been under discussion since 2016, include a small theatre, cafe, lecture halls, a bookshop and a winter garden.

But many in the city’s cultural scene have slammed the modern design as an eyesore in an otherwise historic area of St Petersburg. Activists have called either for a more appropriate historical facade — or for the museum to expand into any of the other addresses that Dostoevsky lived in during his time in the city.

Local residents described the project as a “glass and concrete box”, while Alexander Kononov, deputy chairman of the St. Petersburg branch of the All-Russia Society for the Protection of Historic and Cultural Monuments, claimed that “the memory of the place is being exterminated.”

The building is due to be completed in time to mark Dostoevsky’s 200th birthday in 2021.