New St. Isaac’s in detail: concept of the staircases

A particularity of every office in New St. Isaac’s is the artist-led, designer finishings, as well as the preservation of historical features. However a no less important element of the common space of the building, which creates an atmosphere of comfort and hospitality, is the cozy inner courtyard and, of course, the grand staircases, which greet our tenants every morning.

The business center has three grand staircases, which have been finished in a historical and eclectic style. During the restoration and below a thick layer of paint and plaster, the architect-restorers discovered the original color of the staircase walls, which was actually much brighter than today’s. Umber, peach, pearl, and mustard – rich colors, which were made possible thanks to the usage of natural pigments – were hallmarks of the architecture of northern cities. By “natural” we mean “mineral” pigments (also used earlier in frescos), made from ground stone.

“In these staircases absolutely everything has been preserved: every step and tile, railing and bannister, as well as all layers of paint and plaster. Because these walls hadn’t previously been restored, the work turned out to be most interesting. At the present time, in contrast to palace buildings, ordinary construction is undervalued (although it’s precisely this that creates the atmosphere and character of a city) and when people pop up, who are ready to get involved with preserving and restoring such buildings it is wonderful; they really want to help. I was most interested and excited to take part in this restoration project.”

Svetlana Sergeevna Nalivkina, architect-restorer

In the 18th century building there are, of course, no elevators, but an elevator is often a reqiuirement for an A-class business center. But new St. Isaac’s found an innovative solution in this regard, placing pictures on the walls of the staircases to entertain tenants and guests as they ascend.

New St. Isaac’s in detail: concept of the staircases

The first staircase, reached from Konnagvardeyskiy Lane, is the widest. Indeed this was the grand staircase of the House of the Sarepta Society. That is evidenced by the architectural solution, as well as the vestibule, and all of the staircase cells, including the historically preserved and restored colored, vaulted plafond from the 1880s, decorated with molded cuts. Back to the present, the steps, which had suffered from the passage of the years, were restored using Putilov stone. It was possible to preserve the classical oak rail only on the first grand staircase; it was also saved using restored inserts. The carved barriers were preserved on all three staircases.

The 1812 war, which had such a strong effect on Russia and St. Petersburg, became the theme of the paintings on the walls of the main staircase. In general in the 18th and 19th centuries, staircase walls were not adorned with pictures, yet house plants in pots could be found in every staircase landing and entry as well as in vestibules. These were a sort of imitation winter garden, designed to engender ostentation and comfort.

New St. Isaac’s in detail: concept of the staircases New St. Isaac’s in detail: concept of the staircases New St. Isaac’s in detail: concept of the staircases New St. Isaac’s in detail: concept of the staircases

The “Petrovskaya” staircase is the second in New St. Isaac’s. Today the pictures on the walls speak of the founding of St. Petersburg during the Russo-Swedish war of 1703.

“We completed a lot of work. We chose canvases according to themes, dimensions, and chronological order. The first idea was to commission reproductions of originals, but finding a good artist who could do this proved very difficult. Therefore, in order to facilitate a more realistic and high-quality reproduction of famous works, we used canvas-printing technology with underpainting, carried out by a specialist artist. Finally, we chose appropriate fillings and frames for the pictures.”

Kseniya, designer-decorator

New St. Isaac’s in detail: concept of the staircases

The third grand staircase differs from the two others in that Elena Filimonova, a tenant of the business center and employee of “Tbricks”, took part in decorating it. It was Elena who suggested the theme of the staircase: black-and-white photographs of bridges at the beginning of the 20th century. The administration of the business center happily accepted and implemented this idea as, after all, bridges are one of the main symbols of the city on the Neva. The search for and selection of photographs was undertaken using various catalogues and pictures were ordered by request at the St. Petersburg Central State Archive of Documentary Films, Photographs, and Sound Recordings.

New St. Isaac’s in detail: concept of the staircases New St. Isaac’s in detail: concept of the staircases

But the unique features of the third grand staircase don’t end there. Few are aware that it is actually staircase number four, as staircase number three is hidden from view and black. It is interesting that in the second half of the 19th century, instead of Putilov stone, the no less famous, but relatively economical sandstone tile was used. Unfortunately this kind of tile can no longer be found in modern-day New St. Isaac’s, but it does feature widely in Petersburg grand staircases.

When the staircases were being decorated, we still weren’t aware of the history of the “mustard house”, but it’s possible that in the future one of the staircases will become a small museum to the Sarepta Society of Herrnh?ters and the old Petersburg 18th century mansion.