American New Holland Island in St. Petersburg

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New Holland is an artificial 8-hectare island bordered by two canals and a river in the heart of St Petersburg It is within 20 minutes walk of the Hermitage and the city’s other major cultural sites. The island was conceived by Peter the Great in 1719 and became the first military port of Russia. The triangular island took its name after a number of canals and shipbuilding facilities resembling Amsterdam. Until now, the island housed a naval depot.

Soon the shipbuilding needs of the city prompted the construction of two additional canals – the Kryukov Canal and the Admiralty Canal – in the area between two rivers. Most of the architectural ensemble of the island was built between 1765 and 1780. The buildings were used for warehouses, a marine prison, and dislocation of military units. Over the years many of the historical buildings fell into decay.

In mid-July 2011 St. Petersburg authorities held a tender for St. Petersburg’s New Holland Island reconstruction project, which was won by WorkAC company. Based in New York City, WORK Architecture Company is involved with numerous world-wide cultural institutions and urban planning projects. It is identified by Icon magazine as one of the 25 most influential design firms in the world. The company will develop a project to reconstruct St. Petersburg’s 18th century New Holland Island architectural monument.

The project will be implemented by New Holland Development, a division of Roman Abramovich’s (a Russian oligarch) Millhouse Company, which assumed an obligation to invest 12 billion rubles (almost US $430 million dollars) for the reconstruction of New Holland Island. The project is due to be completed in 2017 and the company’s master plan balances preservation with innovation, respecting St Petersburg’s past while paving the way for its continued artistic development and future.

WorkAC suggests the creation of a public park and will transform part of New Holland Island into an outdoor amphitheatre and performance space. The area will be developed into a park with an outdoor swimming pool, museums and concert halls, and educational / commercial structures. The Americans’ vision of the Island represents “a city within the city”. The company has developed a project based on the historic exteriors of the existing buildings and their great potential for the cultural life of the city. It is intentionally aimed at NOT adding any new structures. The vast park will make the heart of the renewed New Holland and there will be a huge pond with 3 “hemispheres” for outdoor swimming pools. In winter the pond will turn into a ice skating rink, while the heated water-filled hemispheres will be available for swimming even in January.

The existing structures will house winter gardens, restaurants with greenhouses on the roofs, a movie theater, multiple shops, art galleries, and offices. The former jail will be transformed into a hotel. In addition, there is a plan to establish a Center of Arts, added with a museum, a Center of Movies & Fashion, and a Gastronomic Center. Specialized educational entities will open at those centers, namely a School of Arts, a School of Cookery, and a Studio of young designers and artists. There will also be underground parking and an autonomous power plant with all necessary infrastructure.

At the moment there is a festival on the former closed territory, held under the title “Summer in New Holland.” There are concerts and exhibitions in the open air and visitors can walk around the grounds, suntan, and view the pre-construction view of New Holland. In autumn the island will turn into a construction site.

Additional photos are available at the company’s site: