Rafael de Cárdenas brings a touch of retail theatre to St Petersburg’s Au Pont Rouge
Constructed in 1906 by architects Konstantin de Rochefort, St Petersburg’s impressive Au Pont Rouge building was opened in 1907 as an eight-level, world-class department store. Owned by European retail magnate Stefan Esders and located along the Red Bridge over the River Moika, the glamorous Russian Jugendstil store, with its impressive central atrium, cupola and winding art nouveau staircase, once counted the Romanov family among its many clients.
When the department store’s doors closed for good in 1919 it was converted into a sewing factory, then in the 1930s its original cupola was demolished. Now 109 years after its original completion, Au Pont Rouge has been restored to its former glory as a lifestyle destination for St. Petersburg’s growing creative class by architects Lifschutz Davidson Sandilands.
Inside, New York architect Rafael de Cárdenas has thrown his own unmistakable brand of retail theatre into the mix with a daring refurbishment that spans the store’s third and fourth floors, which house the men’s and women’s departments.
Sculptural fixtures grounded by concrete bases and highlighted with contrasting, brightly-coloured anodised aluminum define the space, while circular clearings that can be used for hosting designer pop-ups and events punctuate the floor plan.
Eschewing the tradition for placing changing rooms around the floor perimeter, Cárdenas brings them into the centre of the space, placing them within the floors’ centrally anchored translucent ‘spine’. Here, the space is divided into two distinct zones by layered walls of expanded metal and coloured glass, that play with transparency and privacy.