Red Banner Textile Factory: File under “Real Estate”

Erich Mendelsohn's power plant for the Red Banner Textile Factory, July 31, 2016. The construction site of Baltic Commerce's dubiously named Mendelsohn Housing Complex is located immediately to the left of the plant. Photo by the Russian Reader
Erich Mendelsohn’s power plant for the Red Banner Textile Factory, July 31, 2016. The construction site of Baltic Commerce’s dubiously named Mendelsohn Housing Complex is located immediately to the left of the plant. Photo by the Russian Reader

ICOMOS Asks the Smolny to Reconsider Project for Redeveloping Red Banner Factory
Fontanka.ru
September 2, 2016

Russian and German specialists from the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS) have published an open letter requesting plans to construct a residential building next to Erich Mendelsohn’s power station at Pionerskaya Street, 53, in Petersburg, be reconsidered and the Red Banner Textile Factory be recognized as a federally protected constructivist-era landmark.

The letter was published on the website of the Petersburg branch of ICOMOS. It was signed by six specialists from Russia and Germany, including Petersburgers Margarita Stieglitz and Sergei Gorbatenko.

The Red Banner Factory on Pionerskaya Street is “the only major work by the great German architect Erich Mendelsohn in Russia. […] Globally, it is a key work of avant-garde industrial architecture,” the specialists write in the letter.

Nevertheless, the landmark is in poor condition. Neither preservation or restoration has been carried out, noted the experts. And next to the factory’s symbol, the former power station, the company Baltic Commerce is erecting the nine-storey Mendelsohn Housing Complex.

“The residential building will be considerably taller than the ensemble’s historic centerpiece, violate its visual integrity, and reduce its value in terms of urban planning and the ensemble’s composition,” the specialists from ICOMOS argue.

They call on “responsible parties” to review the existing project, develop a concept for restoring and converting the entire factory complex, and prioritize the restoration and conservation of the factory’s buildings, as well as make the ensemble a federally listed landmark.

Currently, the building housing the factory’s former heating and power plant and several sections of the Red Banner Textile Factory are federally protected. The rest of the block can be redeveloped with buildings up to 33 meters tall. Deputy Governor Igor Albin visited the factory in August, following complaints by historical preservationists. He assured them construction of the residential building was being carried out lawfully.

Translated by the Russian Reader. The article, above, should be read as a serious follow-up to the warning bells I tried wanly to sound in “Leningrad Then, Petersburg Now,” published on August 16, 2016.

Leningrad Then, Petersburg Now

Leningrad Then

Even with the Soviet visual propaganda, the city remained spacious and limpid. But the current [powers that be] have killed everything, although they did restore the gate of the Winter Palace.
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Leningrad 1974. Footage courtesy of Footageforpro.com

Leningrad (Alexei Uchitel, dir., 1978)

Petersburg Now
What follows is a annotated, partial pictorial record of a long walk I took recently in the northern parts of inner Petersburg with a group of local psychogeographers and historical preservationists. The immediate impulse for our walk was the news developers had begun constructing a block of flats cheek by jowl with the renowned power station for the Red Banner Textile Factory, designed by the Jewish German architect Erich Mendelsohn. Worse, it transpired that the developers had the moxie to dub their little contribution to catastrophic urban redevelopment the Mendelsohn Housing Complex, as if they had received the great architect’s blessing for their vandalism from beyond the grave. Continue reading “Leningrad Then, Petersburg Now”