Completion Date: May 2016


Au Pont Rouge, Saint Petersburg, Russia

Au Pont Rouge, Multi-space in Saint Petersburg, Russia is conceived as an open exhibition retail space around a robotic system within the restoration of the 110 year old iconic department store.

Completed in 1907, Au Pont Rouge located along the Red Bridge on River Moika was built in the tradition of great European department stores such as Galleries Lafayette in Paris or Selfridges in London. Following the revolution in 1919, the building was renamed and converted into Volodarsky Sewing Factory and in the 1930s, the original cupola was demolished. In 2011, the cupola was reconstructed and the building underwent functional and architectural transformations to restore Au Pont Rouge to its original state as a world class department store in Saint Petersburg.

The origins of the department store lay in the accelerated economy expansion and growing affluent middle-class with the Second Industrial Revolution in the late 19th century. On the brink of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, which interlinks information technologies with automated processes in all aspects of life, there is an immediate need to rethink the core values of the future retail model. The Multi-space is a precedence to implement a robotic system to choreograph historical, architectural, technological and cultural values. The robotic system silently conducts all operational aspects in the background. The classical trading process between patrons and sales is replaced by informative consultation with strong focus on human interactions and intellectual exchange.

While the external envelope of Au Pont Rouge is restored to its original state in accordance with local regulations, the sensitive internal upgrades of the historic icon is designed to enable the transformation of the department store into a new centrepiece for commercial, social and cultural life. Heavily damaged structural parts, the distinctive art-nouveau staircase, balustrades and windows are restored and repaired to its historical conditions. Original non-structural elements were destroyed or removed over the last century of factory use and abandonment.

The new insertion is reduced to a sequence of translucent layers, organised and built upon the appreciation of the authentic craftsmanship so that the two can coexist to envision a new kind of connectivity between the urban fabric, architecture and people. Materials used are pure and light, both in their physical substance and poetic representations. The light industrial flooring and veil-like expanded metal ceiling reveals the support systems of the restored structural elements and newly integrated mechanical functions.

Layered interconnected rooms defined by luminous interceptions allow spaces to flow into one another. The simultaneous visual connections between rooms and passages change the perception of space to inspire curiosity to learn, observe, touch, and enquire through poetic senses.

The flexible and multi-functional space invites the public to engage in programs and events such as workshops, fashion shows, screenings, lectures, culinary functions, exhibitions and art performances, transforming Au Pont Rouge from a niche retail environment into an interactive social and cultural destination beyond its historical meaning to Saint Petersburg.

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