Waagner-Biro: contemporary steel-glass accents for a Russian theatre gem

20.12.2012
Mariinsky Theatre, Saint Petersburg (Fotocredit of the Renderings: Diamond Schmitt Architects)

The Mariinsky theatre in Saint Petersburg is globally renowned for virtuoso opera and ballet productions and is one of the most significant icons of Russian culture. Waagner-Biro Stahlbau AG was awarded the contract in the amount of EUR 5.2 million for a number of staircase elements, balustrades and a VIP bridge of a new building for which an invitation to tender was issued within the scope of an international architectural competition.  
The draft by Canadian architect Diamond Schmitt which is now being realised was selected because of his special respect of the architectural heritage of St. Petersburg’s historic city centre. The new building harmoniously fits into the historic block structure and is the modern mirror of the old adjacent theatre building. However, the formal simplicity does not mean that the interior is less impressive. The multi-storey foyer with its abundance of space is particularly awe-inspiring.
Waagner-Biro’s scope of performances includes the planning, production, delivery and assembly of a total of eight challenging and complex elements. In addition, to  one-flight and dog-legged stairs, they also include an oval staircase between several storeys suspended with ropes, a 35 m long glass stair which seemingly makes theatre goers float between storeys, as well as a VIP bridge leading high-class visitors to their seats to enjoy the view.
Built in 1860 by Alberto Cavo and named after the wife of Tsar Alexander II, Marija Alexandrowna, many Russian works premiered at this building. Many famous and world-renowned opera and ballet stars such as Anna Netrebko, Rudolf Nurijew or Michail Barischnikow have performed on the stage of this historic Russian theatre. The original magnificence of this establishment with its rich tradition was conserved in spite of war-related destruction and rebuilding and the expansion represents a contemporary transition into the 21st century.