We hope you survived the holiday season and are ready to greet 2018 with renewed vim and vigor.
2017 was a very eventful year for us, we worked on some amazing projects with brilliant clients at
home and abroad. Our year came to an exciting close with a trip to St. Petersburg, Russia as we had
3 of our design projects shortlisted in the Architecture Design & Decorators Awards (ADD Awards).
working for COHN) and myself to attend the prestigious ADD Awards and experience the delights
of this beautiful city 100 years since the Russian Revolution started there.
After flights being re-routed and several delays our 6-hour flight had turned into a 30-hour extravaganza,
we realised that we would arrive at ADD Awards 2 hours late and may not make the awards ceremony at
all. We touched down in Pulkovo International Airport amid flurries of snow and made it our mission to
make the award ceremony.
Our introduction to St. Petersburg took my breath away with Baroque and Neo-Classical architecture lit
up with white and gold Art Deco style Christmas light accentuating every architectural ornamental
detail, we had somehow landed in Narnia – a mystical winter wonderland with sparkling lights and
twinkling snowflakes. We arrived at our hotel and transformed ourselves in a flash for the Russian Red
carpet and our stylish arrival at the ADD Awards.
Arriving late can sometimes be to your advantage, especially when you are fashionably late. Yelena
wore an elegant soft pink dress and I wore a tailored red tux and we made a great entrance turning
heads and smiling at the Russian Paparazzi. We were cordially rushed into the theatre to our seats,
as we sat down without a second to spare the ADD awards began, what impeccable timing.
Unfortunately, we did not take home any awards, but we were really honoured to have been nominated.
Exiting the theatre, we were immediately greeted at the reception by the design world of Russia who
fielded us with questions, thankfully in English. Wow, this impressed me because my current vocabulary
in Russian is, ‘thank you’ spasibo (спасибо) and ‘hi’ privet (привет) whereas Yelena is fluent in Russian.
We were invited to so many parties, bars and clubs, we decided to just go with the flow and see where the
night would take us. One of our stops along the way was this beautiful designer cocktail bar Godji with
a great atmosphere, DJ and very fashionable Russians. We must have been an exotic addition to the
Russian social scene because everywhere we went people kept approaching us to say hello and make
conversation with us. We were really struck by the stylish cosmopolitan feel of the city from the fashion
to nightclubs and the cocktails.
Maybe blame the Jet lag but the next day we did not have a hangover at all and we set out in top
spirits to see the sights of St. Petersburg.
After breakfast, we made our way to Food Hall Kupetz Eliseevs (Магазин Купцов Елисеевых).
This food and entertainment store was designed by architect Gabriel Baranovskii and it is a
beautiful example of Art Nouveau architecture. We were mesmerised by all the magnificent natural
curves in the Art Nouveau architectural details. They had really worked hard to retain all the
authenticity of the space by maintaining the original design and layout from when it first opened in 1903.
Heading out into the light snowfall of St. Petersburg we realised that the city was beautifully planned
with canals and neo-classical stone bridges embracing the canal banks. Classical architecture, also line
the canals with cobbled stone streets and lamp posts from another time.
This city was also full of cool cafes and trendy young people just hanging out and being themselves.
We were spoiled for choice, we loved this Jamaican Reggae Café complete with Bob Marley and
a ceiling filled with clear glass bottles.
Now it was time to tickle some feet. Yes, we were told that it is good luck if you rub the feet of the
large Atlantis statues at the portico entrance of Hermitage Museum. How big could these statues be?
Well, they were colossal stone carved statues of men with huge feet. As we arrived it seemed that
we were not the only one who knew about this good luck charm in fact everyone knew.
Well, when you’re in Rome or St. Petersburg do as the locals and we did …….Tickle, tickle, tickle.
What I was not prepared for was the sheer size and scale of the Hermitage. The building just went
on and on and on with all its architectural ornamentation and splendour. Founded in 1764 by
Empress Catherine the Great the Hermitage was only opened to the public in 1852, it’s the second
largest museum in the world for art and culture and is one of the world’s oldest museums wit
the largest collection of paintings in the world, as well as classical antiquities and decorative art.
It came screaming into the 21st century when the new contemporary art wing, in the beautifully
arched General Staff Building, was completed in 2014. We quickly realised that we did not have
the hours, days or weeks needed to go through the Hermitage, so we decided to enjoy it from the outside.
It was December and not a lot of daylight left so we decided to see another Cathedral close to the Hermitage.
The darkness came fast and so did the snow as we headed towards St. Isaac’s Cathedral. The largest Russian
Orthodox cathedral in the city, constructed in a late Neo-Classic Byzantine and Greek style by architect
Auguste de Montferrand and completed in 1858. As we entered we were greeted by one of the most beautiful
architectural treasures that we had ever seen.
It was a serious WOW moment, a golden moment as more than 100kg of gold leaf was used to cover
the 21.8m-high dome alone. I did not expect to be so awed by the use of colour, materials and lighting
not to mention the scale and proportion of the classical architecture, no photograph can do it justice.
The Cathedral was in the process of renovation and was about 90% complete so you really got a visceral
sense for what it must have looked like when the doors opened over 150 years ago. Just so you know,
they were not shy about the use of colour with deep and powerful blues, regal emerald greens and
luscious, captivating reds.
We sometimes think that the colours of interior architecture from the past are dull and monochromatic
but this was real life technicolour transported from the 19th century.
Finally, it was time to bid adieu and leave this beautiful city. It was an amazing cultural experience,
it felt like we had travelled through time from the historic Tsarist Empire to the futuristic clubs and
hangouts of the 21st century. The real highlight was the welcome we received from the people of
St. Petersburg. We will be back.
BTW: this bar a chocolate says: “It’s too cold to be pretty in St. Petersburg”. But as this observer noted,
the cold did not inhibit the city’s style, fashion or good looks in any way!