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Germans Share Ideas on Renovating Soviet Buildings

Published: April 17, 2009 (Issue # 1466)



  • Pre-fabricated panel buildings were unpopular after reunification in Germany, since they had come to be regarded as a symbol of typical Soviet architecture.
    Photo: For The St. Petersburg Times

  • Techniques for modernizing panel buildings include the addition of balconies to create space in often cramped apartments.
    Photo: For The St. Petersburg Times

The ubiquitous pre-fabricated panel buildings that sprang up around the Soviet Union have become one of the calling cards of the former Eastern Bloc. Considered unattractive and outdated at best, and at worst in a poor state of repair and barely conforming to modern standards of living, the question of what to do with the buildings is a burning one, not least for their inhabitants.

The solution may lie partly in the experience of Germany, which faces the same problem in federal districts of former East Germany, and during the past 15 years has actively worked on renovating its panel buildings. Architects from Germany and Russia will gather to discuss the issue of modernization and exchange ideas at a conference next week entitled “Modernizing Pre-Fabricated Panel Buildings,” followed by an exhibition entitled “Modernizing Pre-Fabricated Panel Buildings. Germany’s Experience” organized within the framework of the Week of Germany in St. Petersburg.

A TARNISHED IMAGE

“The concept of pre-fabricated panel buildings is in Germany primarily associated with the former German Democratic Republic,” said Christina Grawe, the exhibition’s curator in Germany.

“After the fall of the Berlin Wall, the image of such buildings rapidly deteriorated. Many consider them to be the embodiment of standard, unappealing East German architecture, but this is a false conception. There were such constructions in West Germany too. In Berlin, there are apartments as well as clubs and other entertainment venues in pre-fabricated panel buildings that remain popular even after reunification,” she said.

Having gradually overcome their reputation as architectural pariahs, the potential of such buildings is now recognized in Germany and they are continuously modernized in a variety of ways that will be showcased at the exhibition.

“The exhibition will present the most successful examples of how, during the past 15 years in Germany, panel buildings and their surrounding territory have been transformed, along with the architectural and design methods used to make them more attractive” said Grawe.

Home Sweet Home

The German projects on display will include residential buildings, public buildings and infrastructure, some of which were realized as part of large-scale city reconstruction programs.

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ALL ABOUT TOWN

Friday, Oct. 24


SPIBA’s ongoing “Breakfast with the Director” series continues today, featuring Tomas Hajek, Managing Director of the Northwest Division at Danone Russia. Hajek will be discussing collaborations between businesses from different cultures. The meeting is at 9 a.m. at the Domina Prestige St. Petersburg hotel and all who wish to attend must confirm their participation by Oct. 23.


Get your gong on at “Sounds of the Universe,” a concert at the city planetarium this evening incorporating six different gongs to create relaxing songs that will transport you upwards into the stratosphere. Tickets are 700 rubles ($17).



Saturday, Oct. 25


AVA Expo, the eighth edition of the event revolving around all things pop culture, returns to Lenexpo this weekend. Geeks, nerds, dweebs and dorks will have their chance to talk science fiction and explore a variety of international pop culture. Tickets for the event can be purchased on their website at avaexpo.ru.



Sunday, Oct. 26


Zenit St. Petersburg returns home for the first time in nearly a month as they host Mordovia Saransk in a Russian Premier League game. Currently at the top of the league thanks to their undefeated start to the season, the northern club hopes to extend the gap between them and second-place CSKA Moscow and win the title for the first time in three years. Tickets are available at the stadium box office or on the club’s website.



Monday, Oct. 27


Today marks the end of the art exhibit “Neophobia” at the Erarta Museum. Artists Alexey Semichov and Andrei Kuzmin took a neo-modernist approach to represent the array of fears that are ever-present throughout our lives. Tickets are 200 rubles ($4.90).



Tuesday, Oct. 28


The Domina Prestige St. Petersburg hotel plays host to SPIBA’s Marketing and Communications Committee’s round table discussion on “Government Relations Practices in Russia” this morning. The discussion starts at 9:30 a.m. and participation must be confirmed by Oct. 24.



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