Spartacus Alive / Richard Mitzman Architects LLP / UK, London
The city of Yaroslavl, Russia is located 250km north east of Moscow on the M8 motorway, the link between Moscow and the Northern sea harbour of Arkhangelsk.
Yaroslavl has a population of 600’000 and is a large transport node, at the crossroads of a number of national and regional roads, railways, and waterways.
Yaroslavl is one of the “Golden Ring” cities, a group of historic cities that plays an important role in Russian History.
The city lies on the bank of the Volga River that forms the eastern boundary of the old city. The city is organised on a north south axis that is also constrained to the west by the motorway.
To the south of the historic city centre is the Kotorosl River, a tributary of the Volga. The intersection of these two waterways creates a peninsula that forms the southern edge of the city and is the location of the Spartacus Alive competition site.
The site is currently used as an open-air athletics track that has been excavated into the natural sloping contour of the area. The remaining perimeter earth banks create a sense of enclosure for the sunken sports arena and are used as grassed terraces to view the track and field events.
Adjacent to the site are the three historic churches of: St. Nicholas, Our Saviour and the Cathedral of theAssumption. These important landmarks are accessed along the pedestrian park walkway that links the peninsula with the Soviet square and the city centre. The park walkway runs parallel to the river and the alternative pedestrian access route along the riverside path. Public vehicular, servicing access and parking remain from the south and the existing western road network and train station.
Prior to the development of the arena around the turn of the century, it is easily imagined, based on the levels of the surrounding building, that the site sloped gently from the parkland walkway down to the south west corner of the site. The site, prior to the arena excavation, would have resembled a city square, with perhaps with a central garden.
The existing surrounding buildings form a square that opens onto the pedestrian parkland walkway and the River Volga in the east and it is our intention to re-establish the visual and physical connections, previously been eroded by the arena excavations, to form a new city square.
The northern edge of the square is defined by a series of three storey classical buildings. The southern edge is a collection of two and three storey buildings that surround the Church of St. Nicholas and the western boundary is defined by the magnificent Church of our Saviour (1672).
Our pavilion sits in the centre of the site and largely fills the excavated void. The roof of the pavilion floats just above pavement level and is a reflective pool of water that reintroduces the visual connections between the perimeter buildings of the new square. When viewed from the surrounding buildings and from the original street level the pool roof will be seen as a unifying central element of the square.
We propose to build a multi purpose pavilion that can house the permanent city collection as well as a wide variety of other visiting exhibitions and other cultural events.Utilising the existing excavated ground level of the arena to house the main body of the building enables the pavilion to sit quietly below the level of the historic churches, pavements and surrounding buildings. Lowering the main level of the pavilion enables a new lowered pedestrian square to be formed.
The sloped transition between the pedestrian parkland walkway and the lower pavilion square pass through the pavilion and resolve the levels with the existing western road and pedestrian access.The pavilion therefore stands as a contemporary counterpoint within its historic context by re- introducing the upper street level square and introducing a new lowered pavilion square.
Flexibility and adaptability were the key drivers in the scheme, developing a space that can be easily altered to suit its user.
Moveable internal and external screens enable the interior volume to adapt and also allow the building in the summer to be fully open onto external pavilion square. This will allow the gallery to exhibit work both internally and externally, while maintaining connectivity.
Our scheme utilizes the existing pedestrian routes and transport network. There are two pedestrian points of access onto the site, the eastern edge of the site via the parkland walkway and the south western corner of the site that is adjacent to the existing car park.
Servicing for deliveries is also connected to the existing crossroads in the south western corner of the site.
The pavilion provides an open plan exhibition space of 36m x 36m x 6m high with an additional external exhibition area of 30m x 36m.
The visitor entrance, café, staff offices and shop are all located at the pavilion level, housed in two parallel wings that are located either side of the main exhibition space. An enclosed courtyard adjacent to the café provides additional dedicated external space.It is proposed that a series of lightweight folding or suspended partitions provide a method of dividing up the internal open plan space, retaining the building’s flexibility to accommodate various events such as exhibitions, fairs, concerts and festivals.
The pavilion level has been set to provide a clear height, within the exhibition space of 6m. This height will allow significant artwork and collections to be exhibited. Two expanses of glazing, either end of the pavilion, provide
a seamless visual connection with the adjacent outside spaces. The 6m high slim frame sliding glass panels at the front and back enable the exhibition area to be opened up completely to the external areas, providing a seamless transition from inside to outside.
This openness blurs the boundaries between inside and outside space.Storage for the permanent and visiting collections is located within the basement level. This lower service level is accessed via a ramp, directing delivery vehicles down into a loading bay, away from the public view. The landscape extends over this area, with a series of glazed floor panels that allow natural light into the loading area.
It is intended to take advantage of the existing topography to avoid the cost of mass excavation.
Our proposal alters the gradients and introduces new retaining structures, in order to enhance the connection with the surrounding buildings and pavements. The landscape proposal re-establishes the connection with the surrounding buildings and provides a new sequence of varied external spaces at pavilion level.
The preferred pedestrian access is from the parkland walkway that opens onto the newly formed grass bank that gently slopes down towards the pavilion square. The inspiration for this is the sloped area outside the Pompidou Centre in Paris and Kenwood House London that are both used for sitting eating and watching.
The pavilion square is a paved area with sporadic planting, street furniture and recessed linear lights that provides a lively transition from outside to inside. This area will form part of the exhibition area in summertime.
In summertime there is also the possibility to use the pavilion as an open air theatre with the square and sloped grass area used as informal seating.
The rear orchard garden is intended as a shady introspective space for picnics and rest, in contrast to the gregarious atmosphere of the pavilion square.
The trees in the orchard garden mimic the internal structural columns and further emphasize the visual connection between the pavilion and the outside spaces.
The roof is the most visually prominent feature. From street level it constitutes half the size of the visible building.
The combination of curved eaves extending beyond the walls, as well as the deliberate prominence of the roof is evocative of Japanese traditional architecture.
The dominance of the roof structure is further accentuated by the stretch of glass, which segregates the shadow pool from the walls, giving the illusion that the roof is floating.
Additional reference to the work of Walter Segal has provided us with inspiration to blend landscape with architecture, to ensure that a successful integration is achieved.
It is proposed that the pavilion is a lightweight steel structure with an exposed insitu concrete substructure. The walls to the pavilion are glazed using full height slim frame sliding glass panels and thermally insulated extruded fixed glass Linit cladding. The floor of the pavilion will be polished concrete.
The effect of the building is that it will be transparent during the day. The movable walls enable the pavilion to appear as a floating, unsupported roof.
During the night time the pavilion will glow and provide adequate ambient lighting to the adjacent open air public spaces.