One of St Petersburg's most important historic sites is set to be redeveloped as part of a 12 billion ruble project. Originally built on the orders of Peter the Great, the island of New Holland has also been opened to the public for the first time in 300 years, with an accompanying exhibition of architectural proposals entitled 'New Ideas For New Holland' from the likes of David Chipperfield Architects and MVRDV, as well as local names.
New Holland - so-called because of the Dutch shipbuilders brought in by the Russian ruler to help create his model city from reclaimed swamps - has always been off-limits to the public, its towering galleries and imposing arches the domain of the Russian Navy.
Over the course of its 300-year history the 8-hectare man-made island has been home to lumber yards, barracks, a water tank used for testing ships and submarines, a naval prison and one of Russia's first radio stations.
In recent years, however, this important cultural heirloom has been allowed to fall into disrepair. In December 2010 New Holland Development (NHD) won a competition to redevelop the site over a seven-year period, creating a multi-functional complex that will include culture, retail, hotel and leisure facilities as well as public space.
In January of this year Daria Zhukova's Iris Foundation, brought in as creative consultants, announced an invitation-only competition for the best architectural concept for the island. Out of the eight original proposals, four finalists have been selected: David Chipperfield Architects (UK/Germany), MVRDV (Netherlands), Studio 44 (Russia) and WORKac (USA).
Models and renderings of the proposed schemes are now on display at the Central Naval Museum, directly opposite the island, until 30 July when the winner will be announced. The 'New Ideas For New Holland' exhibition, curated by The Architecture Foundation and designed by David Kohn Architects, showcases the work of all eight practices that took part in the competition.
While the exhibition is running, New Holland is open to the public, allowing visitors to evaluate both bids and their context. The derelict areas have been cleaned up and the island now boasts a lawn space, a fire pit and large marine shipping containers, which have been repurposed as pop-up spaces to host a range of cultural activities as part of the 'Summer on New Holland' programme.