New Holland Island has witnessed many significant periods of Russian history and was under authority of the Russian navy until 1918. It served as a mixed-use facility for the army until 2004. Eventually, Millhouse, LLC won the 2010 reconstruction competition, and opened the island to the public for the first time in 2011. The challenge that presented itself to West 8 was the transformation of this worn-down, deserted and yet monumental island into an urban oasis which does not separate itself from the city but rather provides an effort-less transition. Together with the client, West 8 envisioned a multi-functional district and the creation of an ambient public realm that is open to everyone. Their vision was based on experience and data gathered during the ‘Summer on New Holland’ events from previous years. The island should become a venue which accommodates events and attracts a wide range of visitors.
The aim for West 8 was not only to restore New Holland Island, but to reinvent its role in the city. It is enveloped in a dense urban district which was in desperate need for a vital green space in its heart. The island is a cultural heritage from the times of Peter the Great. When the city of Saint Petersburg was founded by him in 1703, the island and its buildings were originally erected to store ship lumber for his fleet, making them an essential part of the city’s history. The classicist facades, which most people could only marvel at from across the channel, were state-of-the-art creations at their time. They were designed in 1765 by Vallin de la Mothe, along with the iconic arch framing the southern gateway of the island. Next to the former marine prison, referred to as “the bottle”, the warehouses, the commandant’s house and the foundry, it was one of the charming structures subject to the renovation project. From the outset, restoring these buildings and the bright red color of their bricks was one of the principles for honoring the original architecture. Although the soil on the island was contaminated, it is now replaced, so that the island can provide a safe environment for its visitors. The design by West 8 follows an adaptive reuse approach and provides a generously inclusive space which invites visitors of all generations and raises the quality of life in the district. Based on research and experience, the design is directly aimed at satisfying the needs of the people living in Saint Petersburg. The project sets an example for the future of revitalization and the creation of livable and safe environments. A visit to New Holland Island is always an enriching experience, as it incites interaction with the site. By raising awareness for the meaning of the island for the city, it serves as an educational tool as well. Children can capture the recreated Petr and Pavel ship on the playground, built at 80% of the original scale and measuring 26 meters in length. Together with their parents they can explore the different smells of the herb garden with its 30 different species of herbs, helping the grown-ups to escape the hum of city life. The island is surrounded by verdant slopes leading into the water, which in summer you can see people tip their toes in. Maples, willows and sturdy oaks can be found along the island sides. The quay walls have been adapted to withstand the threat of rising waters and the historic basin in the center of the island was renovated, where during the winter months, an ice rink is installed.
The entire island, including the structures on it, serves a multitude of uses. Culture spaces, exhibition areas, office spaces and restaurants are located in the old warehouses which are key to accommodate visitors during the many events. Nowadays, this landmark is one of Saint Petersburg’s most cherished places and as such it is a constant hub for interaction and creative expression. Since the opening of the island, it is host to a variety of concerts, festivals, exhibitions, temporary installations and pop-up events all year round. The City of Saint Petersburg turned to Millhouse, LLC, and the Iris Foundation for the restoration plans of the island. Since 2014, West 8 was engaged as the lead project designer for the master plan design of the island (the island architecture guideline) and the design and construction supervision of New Holland Island Park and the public realm of the Bottle House. Collaborators were Spectrum Group, Ooo Ni & Pi, Nekuchny Sad and SPETSRESTAVRATSIYA. In August 2016, the first construction phase came to completion and the park was opened to the public. Development of the buildings continues to date.
Entrant office name: West 8 urban design and landscape architecture b.v.
Role of the entrant in the project: Lead project landscape architect for the master plan design (island architecture guideline) and design and construction supervision of New Holland Island Park and public realm of the Bottle House.
Collaborators: Spectrum Group, Ooo Ni & Pi, Nekuchny Sad and SPETSRESTAVRATSIYA.
Construction Firm: WorkAC
Project location (Street, City, Country): New Holland Island, Saint Petersburg, Russia
Design year: 2014
Year Built: Park and Public Space completed in 2016.
Client: Millhouse, LLC & Iris Foundation (New Holland Development)