Out-of competition proposal.
Another competition “Post-castle” for the reconstruction of the Central Square (near the House of Soviets) and possible restoration of the King’s Castle has recently been held in Kaliningrad. However, the proposed projects generally originate from the previous competition “Heart of the City” which initial terms of reference for the reconstruction of a large territory of the former Altstadt prescribed closing of Moskovsky Prospect and Leninsky Prospect at the place the roads cross. There is certainly a need to build new alternative roads, but, I believe, it should be done in addition to the main roads rather than in their replacement. What is the competition’s idea: to restore the beauty of the historic center on the empty spaces and make it interesting both for local inhabitants and for guests of the city, or for that beauty to destroy other buildings, arterial roads and create an array of problems, or to simply carry the idea to the point of absurdity, so that to successfully bury it.
The competition was preceded with a great research work that showed not only the beauty of these Konigsberg’s areas, but a real possibility for such reconstruction of historic developments illustrated through the examples of other European cities. The only thing is that apart from the beauty, not enough attention was devoted to the practical use of the restored objects in modern environment and, subsequently, the costs recovery.
I did not have a chance to participate in those competitions due to the fact that according to their conditions only professional architects and collective bodies could take part in, and I was correspondingly denied participation. That was the reason why I published my thoughts about the reconstruction of the historic center of the city (apart from my letter to the Mayor of the city and the chief architect) in the local press and on dgfproekt.ru. I would like to hear a criticism and additions, and approval, including statements and actions at different levels to implement an optimal final variant composed of the best both competitive and out-of-competition proposals.
I had offered and offer to restore the Konigsberg’s historic center in a volume essentially larger than prescribed by the terms of reference of the competition “Heart of the City”, for example, within the ring bounded with the city gates, but due to the volume, not in full-scale structures, but in a form of a mockup. And to place that mockup in the middle of the observation platform over Korolevskaya Gora (King's Mountain) in a way allowing not only to contemplate the surroundings of the Kaliningrad’s center, but to compare them with the past of Konigsberg on the mockup making links to the extant buildings and natural landmarks (river, lake and etc.). Korolevskaya Gora (King's Mountain) is greatly convenient for such observation platform, and, in my opinion, that must be used. It goes without saying that the new building shall dominate in that place and should be surely a presentable structure of the 21 century. (to return the dominant significance to the complex of the King’s Castle, which is intended to be recreated, is impossible without a demolition of the House of Soviets, Plaza shopping center and other buildings, but, I suppose, to demolish these or another structures is not the best idea).
In concrete terms, I offer with respect to that main building on the Central Square to erect directly close to the House of Soviets on separate foundations two stelae, which tops shall enter in the building openings of the House of Soviets, and to install on them a supporting-and-rotating mechanism for a spinning spherical structure of that dominant building. I propose to execute the stela-shaped supporting structures employing the style of Konigsberg’s buildings of the 17-19 centuries (North German Gothic style). This structure should represent a base of the Konigsberg’s buildings and the existing Soviet-era construction – the House of Soviets - should look growing out of it, and a spherical part of the building of the 21 century should overtop them. Consequently, seemingly non-combinable different architectural styles shall be symbolically united in one composition, and this complex shall give an existence of architectural structures of different eras in the city. The spherical rotating part shall be “strung” on a cylindrical fixed construction due to the structural considerations to ensure the stability for the construction that will have quite a large windage area, but have to resist any potential hurricane. Inside the cylindrical part there will be high-speed elevators, utility area with utility systems as a water supply system and waste water disposal system, hydraulic power unit for the sphere slow-rotation drive and etc. And on the upper end of the cylindrical part the very same mockup of the Konigsberg’s central part from King’s Gate to Brandenburg Gate (as at the end of the XIX century) providing an actual location of the buildings should be placed. And around (on the sphere equator) an observation platform should be developed. On the lower floors torus-shaped restaurant, bar and other premises shall be located. Consequently, it will be possible to enjoy an all-round view of Kaliningrad just sitting near a window of the restaurant or bar. In the upper part of the sphere it will be wise to locate a planetarium with a separate (inside the principal one) dome. The double dome having truss structures between two domes shall ensure the stability of the construction and technological maintenance of the sphere surfaces. (A modern planetarium, as the one in Olsztyn, Poland, is quite an interesting and actively visited place). To have more visual understanding of the construction and location of the indoor premises of the new building – see the Drawing.
With regard to the closely resembling restoration of the buildings of the Konigsberg’s ancient parts: Kneiphof and Altstadt, the study of the organizers of the competition “Heart of the City” convinced me to change my previous opinion and endorse such construction development, but only on an essentially modest scale taking into consideration a potential use of those buildings. I offer to confine ourselves to a restoration (at least at the first stage) of the buildings along the shores of New Pregolya and construction of a true copy of Blacksmith's Bridge (see the Plan). In this case, for example, in the reconstructed gymnasium’s building the Kant’s museum can be located, and in the rest - a city of craftsmen: amber craftsmen, glassblowers and other, including wrought-iron craftsmen that gave the name for the bridge. I promote the idea that the reconstructed buildings should have an exterior appearance exactly identical with the historic ones, but built using modern materials, and their interior may be adapted for new purposes. Concerning the Kant’s museum it would be logical to use the ancient Albertina building on the island (further east from the gymnasium), but this building architecturally does not look so interesting and shall close the east view of Cathedral. And surely there is no need to construct (as it was expected) an absolutely new building for the museum, if an opportunity exists to combine one with the other. Such construction may be extended till the traffic area of Moskovsky Prospect, however, the question remains open: how those buildings can be used taking into consideration narrow streets that essentially limit vehicular access to the buildings and other? For that reason I offer to save the park area rather than to erect other adjacent buildings and to install curbs along the exterior wall lines of the buildings existed here before. The parkways should coincide with the former streets, should be paved with sets and used for their intended purpose – for tourist walks. Along such reconstructed streets information stands may be placed with photographs of historic view of those areas.
The shores of Old Pregolya may be built up in a more modern style, but in harmony with Fish Village and other neighboring structures. I believe, it makes sense to make a decision on the reconstruction of Entrails Bridge (on the opposite side of the island) within the context of the construction development project for the shores of Old Pregolya.
Well, since the idea about the renovation of the Konigsberg’s historic buildings appeared, there is an obvious reason to reconstruct and its main sightseeing – King’s Castle. To base the building on the ancient foundation will be complicated, but the ancient structure may be drilled and new piles may be embedded in concrete for a new foundation, and then a reinforced concrete base plate may be installed over them, on which the erection of a true copy of the castle shall be performed. For the construction modern materials can be applied as well, but the configuration and finishing (both exterior and interior) must resemble the original to the maximum. In this case, under the base plate there will be an access to the original foundation allowing to continue archaeological excavations and to open an access to underground passages in the future. Besides, before the castle could be viewed from a lower angle than the current level of the roads, and, therefore, if the erected copy of the castle becomes higher than the original due to the base plate, it will let to come close to the previous angle of viewing. If be more specific, the King’s Castle was standing on a mountain, but after the erection of the Estacada Bridge that mountain can be hardly observed from Leninsky Prospect. But in 20th century photos it can be seen from the inner yard that at that time floors of some first-floor rooms were at the same level as the sidewalk or a little below it. It is entirely possible that the Konigsberg’s builders wanted to correct that peculiarity, but they had no opportunities for that. I consider the most suitable when reconstructing the King’s Castle to make the level of the floors of the lowest first-floor rooms ~0,5 meters higher than the current ground level in the inner yard. That, if taking into account the reconstruction of the sett paving, will guarantee the Castle’s floors level to be at least one step higher than the current sidewalk level. The only thing is that the front view of the castle was from Kaiser Wilhelm Square, but now at this place there is a junction of Moskovsky Prospect with Leninsky Prospect that will be a significant obstacle for the necessary pedestrian zone. And while Leninsky Prospect has a quite wide sidewalk, in the South the corner tower of the castle will almost abut the traffic lane running from Moskovsky Prospect to Leninsky Prospect. It is evident that this passway should be sacrificed and transmitted further to the East to the zone of today’s exit to the gasoline station, in other words, to enter from Moskovsky Prospect (in the westerly direction) to Leninsky Prospect along Zarayskaya Street and then through the traffic circle down Shevchenko Street. And back – on a parallel road. The traffic circle may be extended or shifted, if necessary, the place allows to do it.
I think that the use of the premises of the castle should be close to its historical one as much as possible, among other things, the Museum of History and Art (which, in fact, has artifacts of the castle museum), as well as the Art Gallery should be transferred there. (In the today's building of the Museum of History and Art a children’s theater may be located, what will be very convenient). The great part of the museum spaces is needed to reflect the rich history of our region, including not only the history of Konigsberg, but and the history of Prussia till the moment of its conquest by the Teutonic Order. And the idea to transfer the cabinet of the Governor of the region and Mayor of the city to the former throne room (as it was expected) looks interesting, but is not quite good. For the governmental premises the already constructed House of Soviets may be used, seeing that it was erected for that purpose. However, a number of rooms of the restored castle may serve to hold various cultural events; just some passages to the inner yard must be added on the basis of evacuation considerations. The proximal location of the Castle and House of Soviets shall be very convenient for that. An underground operating corridor from the House of Soviets to the Castle (the House of Convent) may be made as well.
The main entrance to the governmental part of the House of Soviets shall remain from the north side, when from the south side it will be suitable to make a staff entrance, and from the reconstructed east and west sides – entrance to the elevators to lift to the spherical part of the building.
I offer in addition to the King’s Castle and reconstruction of the House of Soviets to build on the Central Square a Concert Hall that, among other things, may be used for various mass events. The new Concert Hall should overlap the residential house down Zarayskaya Street and its exterior design may be approximately close to one of the beautiful modern Kaliningrad’s buildings – “Cinema Park” (Italian designer Giulio Baratelli’s, project). Such a building shall be in perfect harmony both with ancient German structures and with new ones. The similar style may be developed for the façade of the Plaza shopping center that with its today’s appearance shall disharmonize with the restored King’s Castle. On the place of the today’s gasoline station a multi-storey building for light motor vehicles parking may be erected, where, using the configuration of the ground, an entrance to upper levels can be made from Zarayskaya Street, while to lower levels – from Moskovsky Prospect. For sightseeing busses - to make a separate parking nearby. I propose to provide the pedestrian connection of all the restored squares (in addition to the passage along the sidewalk of Estacada Bridge) constructing three pedestrian covered footbridges and one underground passage (see the Plan). Concerning other things the Central Square must remain quite unoccupied, including for the traditionally held mass events organized on it out of doors of the Concert Hall. I think it should be used for those purposes and in the future, special instructions only must be given to the authors of the Pobedy Square reconstruction to develop a landscape project under the terms of reference consisting of the words: “don’t make it worse”.
The concept of my offer is that preserving the memory both about Konigsberg and Soviet-era Kaliningrad it is necessary to build a modern city with an outlook for the future. In my elaboration I tried to engage real opportunities, local inhabitants’ interests, making the city at the same time attractive for tourists, and modern traditions. Today, everyone, who is able to stand the climbing over the stairs to the top of the House of Soviets, reach its roof to admire the beautiful view of the city, but why not to make it more accessible for everyone who wishes it;
- comparison of the Konigsberg’s past with Kaliningrad of present days is interesting for many inhabitants and guests of the city, and to give them such an opportunity in a convenient form is also very important;
- masters of arts and folk crafts in the days of mass celebrations (for example, City Date) usually place their stalls on the island, so, let’s settle them there for a “permanent” residence in more comfortable reconstructed historical buildings;
- many Kaliningradians come to the conclusion that a restoration of the King’s Castle is necessary, and not partially, but in its entirety. The only thing is that the other part of the inhabitants consider important to remain the extant original elements of this castle’s foundation and to continue archaeological excavations. But both conditions can be met at the same time…
And if somebody adds something to that idea with the same approach and helps to convince the City Management Board to make such adjustments to the General Master Plan, it would be, in my opinion, the best solution of the set task. Besides, the implementation of such projects demands a participation of many specialists: architects, designers, when the engineering designing of the supporting-and-rotating mechanism for the sphere – participation of such structural engineers as I am and others.
Georgy Derkach (Design Engineer )