The Kamenny Island Theatre renovation in St Petersburg

The project of the The Kamenny Island Theatre adjustment for the modern uses won the gold medal of the Europe’s leading trade fair for conservation, restoration and old building renovation DENKMAL under UNESCO auspices in 2010.  The medal was won in the category “for Outstanding Achievements in Heritage Conservation” for the impressive documentation of restoration and heritage conservation in Russia. The implementation of the project took six years.  

The project name:Renovation and repairs of the Kamenny Island Theatre
Customer: Committee on State Control, Use and Protection of Historical and Cultural Landmarks
General design contractor: Institute “Georeconstruktsia”  
Renovation part: Research Institute “Spetsproektrestavratsia”
Theatre equipment: CJSC“Teatralno-decorativnye masterskie”
Address: 13, Starogo Teatra sq, Yelagin island, Saint Petersburg
Commencement of work: 2006
Completion of work:  2012

The wooden theatre at Kamenny Island is a cultural heritage site of federal importance. The building, despite being constructed as a temporary construction, was preserved thanks to its “fine proportions” as it was described in the XIX century documents.  

The project received funding through the special program of the Committee on State Control, Use and Protection of Historical and Cultural Landmarks of Saint Petersburg, which conducted the design works and renovation.

The wooden theatre at Kamenny Island

Source: old Saint Petersburg photos

The following organizations took part in renovation work:

  • Institute “Georeconstruktsia”   (general design contractor, underground space design)
  • Research Institute “Spetsproektrestavratsia” (renovation part of work)
  • “Kamennoe zodchestvo” company (historical and cultural surveys)
  • “Kraski goroda” enterprise (City Colours LLC) (renovation work)
  • “Intarsya” company (renovation work)
  • GEOIZOL Group (underground space construction)
  • TDM Company (modern theatre technics)

Project summary extract:

The theatre is a rectangular construction. The four-story building is made of wood and stands on the high limestone base.

The main (Western) facade looking at the Srednyaya Nevka is decorated with 8 Corinth columns and triangle frontispiece. The Northern and Eastern facades are looking at the park. The Southern and Northern facades have the terraces with wooden balustrades.

The base and the porch of the main façade are made of limestone slabs.

The interiors are partly preserved.   

The Kamenny Island theatre after the renovation

The Kamenny Island theatre after the renovation 

The renovation

The project of the historical site adaptation to the needs of the second stage of the Tovstonogov Bolshoi Drama Theater offered reconstruction, repairs and renovation of the building as well as the space adaptation to the technical requirements of the modern theatre with 300 person audience.

The grand entrance is situated at its Western façade, facing the Srednyaya Nevka and the Emperor Palace at Yelagin island.

Underground space under the theatre

Project design  2009-2011. The historic building of the Kamenny island Theatre and new underground space under the theatre.  

The building consists of two parts:

  • The existing above the ground part, which was renovated,
  • The newly designed underground part, taking two levels. 

The above ground part had a total renovation and new theatrical equipment was installed. The orchestra pit was planned.

The auditorium was designed to be a transformer due to the change of the floor pitch. It can serve as the auditorium, the ball hall, the concert hall, etc. 

The miniature of the theatre with underground levels

The miniature of the theatre with underground levels

How to make the historic center modern without losing its architectural features? 
The only solution is to locate everything new underground.  

Underground space

Right under the historic building of the theatre the project required the development of the space exceeding the above ground space twice.  The specialists had the specific task: to find the non-standard geotechnical solutions allowing relocation of the modern technical equipment into the underground space.  

The unconditional preservation of the historic wooden theatre was the primary base for all the concepts development

The underground part is two-leveled. At the mark – 1.900 the base level was established, with the understage being possible to be leveled down to the mark – 2.600.

The technical equipment is located here. Another underground level at the mark – 6.000 accommodates the cloak-room, café, canteen for actors and stuff, stage property warehouse, stuff rooms, technical and engineering spaces. 

The underground level connected with the historic building with five stairs. Three of them are for the general public and two are for the stuff.

There are also three elevators for the public and three technical lifts. 

Underground floor plan

Underground floor plan at - 2.600 and 1.900

The building profile:

Underground space – 2,812. 62 sq. m.

Above ground space – 1,391. 05 sq. m.

Maximum height – 17.3 m

Total structural volume – 26,289 cu. m., including:

Above ground structural volume – 14,100 cu. m.

Underground part structural volume – 12,189 cu. m.

Number of floors – 4 above the ground, 2 underground floors

Total square – 6,731. 84 sq. m., including:

Underground floor at  - 0.6 – 2,660 sq. m.

Underground floor at – 1.900  – 2.500 – 1,131.55 sq. m.

Therefore, the half of the total square and structural volume is situated underground. The theatre received as much new space in addition as it was before, the auditorium included.

The auditorium and the scene of the theatre after the renovation

The auditorium and the scene of the theatre after the renovation

Basic technical solutions

At first, the creation of the well-developed underground space under the existing historic building seems to be risky solution.  Meanwhile, the world practice has many examples of historic building staying absolutely intact after the renovation.

Is it possible to safely construct such a volume of underground space in Saint Petersburg marshy soil in the delta of the Neva river, with the ground waters level being close to the surface and weak silty soils being as deep as 20-30 m and rock soil being deeper than 200 m.

The answer was reached with difficulty. The Institute “Georeconstruktsia” had to develop new unique technologies for the underground space development under the Kamenny Island Theatre.  

The special programme FEMmodels was used for the description of the clay soils behavior. This programme, developed by the Institute “Georeconstruktsia” basing on the 20 years of research work, allows solving the  difficult tasks  related to the correlation of the behavior of the bulding and the basement, surpassing the foreign similar IT soft.

The construction of the pit was implemented with the topdown method.

All the existing structures were transferred onto the bored and cast-in-place piles “Titan” made by international group “Ischebeck”. 

Vibropiling at the construction site Vibropiling at the construction site

Vibropiling at the construction site 

For waterproofing work the leave-in-place low-permeable barrier was used, no-voids concrete with waterstops (rubber edges) in the so called cold joints and waterproofing layers made of modern materials. 

As a result the underground space was created on the pile basement with the walls, columns, basement floor and floor slabs made of concrete, well protected from the ground waters. 

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