Mask, by Perrault

Dominique Perrault - Mariinsky Theatre, St. Petersburg
Dominique Perrault - Mariinsky Theatre, St. Petersburg, Russia (Copyright DPA)

Last December the French architect Dominique Perrault has withdrew from further cooperation to the Mariinsky Theatre in St. Petersburg, as a protest against the commissioner who basically asked only Russian firms to further develop the plan. That happens all over the world, just remember the firing of Jorn Utzon at the Sydney Opera House project. Let’s just hope they don’t mess up.

Perrault won the competition for the Mariinsky in 2003, and the design has altered quite a bit if you compare the current design tot the competition-one. The metal façade looks different, and the building has shrunk by cost-cuts.

The design wears the signature of Perrault. His favorite material – a metal mesh – floats over his favorite elements – boxes. The space in-between makes a beautiful foyer. In contrast to other projects by Perrault, here the metal mesh is not a sheet-like, delicate fabric, but blown-up to giant proportions. The tectonic ‘weaving’ of a textile never has been this big.

Snowflake (Photograph: Gutenberg)
Snowflake (Photograph: Gutenberg)

The silver or golden façade has a complex iconography. At a distance from the air as a form the building has something of a diamond. In closer experience – especially from the street level – the building points first to the golden and silver theatre masks that are worn by actors, or by those invited to a masked ball. It is a fantastic metaphor for the play of looking and be looked at, which is one of the reasons people go out to the theatre. The glitter and glamour of going out is almost literally translated to this festive mask-iconography.

One question however arises: how the iconography holds up at night in the dark, the time the theatre opens. The interior will be shining, but how to illuminate the complex exterior? : |

The metal faces of the façade reminded me also to the form of a snowflake. All faces are triangular with triangular construction. In combination with other panels, at the joints a pattern emerges with 4, 5, or 6-armed star-forms. A snowflake, due to its molecular construction, has always six arms, and develops the similar angular branches as the Mariinsky façade. An amazing, and unique reference to the cold climate of the city. Snow is something else there.

Dominique Perrault - Mariinsky Theatre, St. Petersburg
Dominique Perrault - Mariinsky Theatre, St. Petersburg, Russia (Copyright DPA)

Dominique Perrault - Mariinsky Theatre, St. Petersburg 
Dominique Perrault - Mariinsky Theatre, St. Petersburg, Russia (Copyright DPA)

Dominique Perrault - Mariinsky Theatre, St. Petersburg
Dominique Perrault - Mariinsky Theatre, St. Petersburg, Russia (Copyright DPA)

Dominique Perrault - Mariinsky Theatre, St. Petersburg
Dominique Perrault - Mariinsky Theatre, St. Petersburg, Russia (Copyright DPA)

Dominique Perrault - Mariinsky Theatre, St. Petersburg
Dominique Perrault - Mariinsky Theatre, St. Petersburg, Russia (Copyright DPA)

Dominique Perrault - Mariinsky Theatre, St. Petersburg
Dominique Perrault - Mariinsky Theatre, St. Petersburg, Russia (Copyright DPA)

The project is added to the Representation and Architects pages.


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