my st. petersburg connection…

September 20, 2007

st. petersburg was the next stop – and it gave me a chance to visit a recently completed project by the firm i interned for last year in shanghai, psa (pacific studio architecture). the building is called “the baltic pearl,” and it’s an exhibition and showroom that has been constructed as part of a larger master-planned development in the southwestern outer area of st. petersburg. it was actually quite easy to get to – right on one of the city’s many streetcar lines. it also seems to be one of the first projects completed in the new development, as construction is happening all around. the building design is very simple – an amorphous skin that minimizes the amount of surface area (plus a shanghaiese “pearl” element), and i’ve heard that the building was quite well-received. because i didn’t call ahead, we weren’t able to go inside, but it was really fun to see one of my firm’s projects realized so far from shanghai!

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the baltic pearl w/china flags!

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me at the baltic pearl/detail of “pearl”

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the front facade

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rear view

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side view

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sculpture detail/entry detail

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building context – streetcar rails in foreground

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we took the cheap train from moscow to st. petersburg – seven hours, but only $25! it was a pretty interesting ride…lots of people making long-term trips, judging by the size and amount of luggage they brought aboard. it was great to be able to see all of the countryside between the two cities. upon arriving in st. petersburg, it was immediately struck by how different it is from moscow – much more “european,” with a less formal city layout that is focused largely on the river and canal systems. many prominent buildings such as the hermitage, the stroganov palace, and the church on spilled blood have frontage on either the neva river or one of the many canals. in some ways, the city reminded me a little bit of amsterdam (though it’s not really a rival for my feelings about the dutch city…). the city has a great streetcar system – we only rode one line (out to the baltic pearl), but they’re everywhere and seem to serve the greater metro area quite well. the subway stations were also quite impressive (not quite as grand as moscow’s, but still very ornate). the underground here is actually the deepest system in the world…by the time the escalator got down to the trains, we couldn’t even see the top anymore! overall, the city is lovely – lots of trees, canals, squares, and european-style shopping streets (nevsky prospekt!). this was russia’s capital during czarist rule, and was a center for culture and arts…it’s really reflected in the streets and especially the buildings – many buildings have very ornate carvings, and attention is paid to the use of materials and colors on building exteriors. there were some really nice streets. also, we continued to enjoy delicious russian foods such as pelmeni (spiced-meat-filled dumplings), blinis (crepe-like pancakes…sweet and savory!), and borsch (sweet-and-sour beet soup). and delicious bread. had to throw something in about the food…yum! here are my favorite images of st. pete:

happy birthday, moscow!

September 18, 2007

so i’m going to try to catch up one city at a time…first: moscow! aaron and i happened to arrive for the celebration of moscow’s 860th birthday (mockba 860!) on the first weekend in september, which was great because it meant that there were lots of events lots of fun signage (which helped us with the learning of a little bit of cyrillic!), some parades…and extra security measures…happening all around the city. it also meant that we, as pedestrians, got to use the eight-lane-wide main city streets for the day (fun – mostly because the entire city is choked with cars the rest of the time!) but it also meant that red square was mostly cordoned off during the time that we were there (less fun, for photography reasons). i found moscow to be a really interesting city – especially having spent time in china, it was strange for me to see so many buildings and city forms that reminded me so strongly of beijing (though with lots of european flavor and lovely old buildings thrown in). it’s centrally planned with extra-wide ring roads…we walked one of the ring roads which was a boulevard one day, which was a great way to get a sense of the city.  and moscow is enormous (it’s the largest city in europe with more than 14 million people in its metro area)! my trip into moscow involved a 40-minute bus ride from the airport to the end of one of the metro lines, which i rode for an additional 30 minutes to get into the city center. crazy. okay, photo time…here are some images from moscow’s birthday party:

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some full-building birthday signage

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one of those enormously wide city streets sans automobiles

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red square being set up for a birthday concert event

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security screening and bag checks to enter the parade area

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the parade – a blue blimp!

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more parade security…

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around the event areas, those extra-wide streets were packed with people..

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students from an oil-drilling school with their mascots?/birthday fun for all ages untitled-2.jpg

celebration signage/paraders

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one really amazing thing about moscow is its metro system, which is by far the most lavishly designed and executed underground rail i have ever seen. the stations are beautiful – most are surfaced with marble, and many are decorated with some combination of chandeliers, ornate carvings, and mosaic work. it was hard to choose only a few photos to show, but here are my favorites:

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and finally, some random urban images from around the city: