Waterfront is an international interdisciplinary project initiated by experts and activists. The focus of Waterfront project is the city's embankments, coastal areas and the problems related to their use.

The project is being realised by the Consulate General of the Netherlands in St. Petersburg and Danish Cultural Institute.

Many Russian cities are traditionally located near the water: some of them are situated on the shores of the seas and bays, the others are separated by rivers or stand next to artificial reservoirs. In each of these cities, coastal areas become a place of concentration of local residents and tourists. Water spaces are in the public domain, but they are generally managed and maintained by local authorities without the involvement of local residents. This authoritarian approach, when local communities are excluded from the landscaping and improvement process, results in controversial projects that do not always meet the real needs of residents.

In the framework of the Waterfront project, we strive not only to change the space of the city embankments, but also to motivate citizens to reconsider their role in the process of their improvement. We are eager to develop and establish different ways of interaction between residents and representatives of local government, business and the art community. The cooperation of these groups is the key to creating a comfortable and modern urban environment, which is open to all.

Сoncept and phases

The Waterfront project was initiated in autumn 2017. It started with the opening of the eponymous urban research exhibition, which took place in Sevkabel Port. The exhibition featured Russian (Moscow, St. Petersburg) and foreign ( Helsinki, Copenhagen) artists who by the means of their works tried to answer the main question of the project — how should the modern city near the water and its embankments look like? how does the proximity of water change the quality of citizens’ everyday life?
The second phase of the project started with an open-call for future participants. After studying the applications received, 40 participants were selected and divided into 4 groups. Each group explored a separate area chosen by the project experts as a platform for experiments:

  • Galernaya Harbour. Monument of fortification art on Vasilievsky Island
  • Okhta River. One of the least landscaped rivers of St. Petersburg
  • Pryazhka River. The river that flows in the historical center of St. Petersburg — in the culturally significant district of Kolomna
  • South-West Beach. The beach located in the South-Western part of the Gulf of Finland and situated right next to the promising areas of the latest development
Waterfront project combines theory and practice so that the participating teams started the final stages of work on their projects with the necessary set of knowledge and skills. The approach of each team to the problems associated with the landscaping and improvement of coastal areas is unique. However, the most important factor of cooperation is interdisciplinarity. Each team consisted of representatives of different professions — from architects, designers, artists and programmers to urban sociologists, theater directors and lawyers. This interdisciplinary composition allowed participants to use different methods (sociology, anthropology, social engineering, artistic practices) for research, which later became the basis of possible models and scenarios for the development of the selected areas.

At the beginning of 2019, the teams began field research in order to identify the needs and analyse the requests of local residents and propose concepts for collective design of coastal areas. Both Russian (St. Petersburg, Moscow) and foreign experts (from Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Iceland and the Netherlands) were involved to shape an expert attitude to the problems of landscaping.
Sharing experience

The key of the project is the constant exchange of experience between experts and participants. Working non-stop, we managed to conduct workshops with representatives of the Dutch studio Observatorium, as well as made a trip to Northern Europe, where we got acquainted with the strategies for the development of industrial areas and embankments.

During the study-trip teams:

  • Met with representatives of the administration of the Finnish city of Turku and learned about the long-term strategy of working with coastal areas, designed for 50 years
  • Studied Stockholm and got acquainted with one of the most ambitious urban projects — Royal Sea Port, located in close vicinity of the Strait of Värtan, as well as with the strategies for the development of remote areas of the Swedish metropolis
  • Went on a sightseeing tour in Malmö, where got acquainted with the self-organized creative space based on the territory of the former ship repair sites and formed a new attitude to the embankments improvement in small towns
  • Visited Copenhagen, the ship-workshop of the artistic community Illutron and the Museum of modern art Louisiana
Overall results

In the summer of 2019, we moved to the most interesting phase of the project. Within six months, our teams developed plans and concepts for the development of the selected areas. Since June, the plans have began to be implemented.

On October 10-11, Archclub hosted the annual urban Waterfront Forum in the Sevkabel Port, where experts from Northern Europe and Saint Petersburg (architects, urban planners, urban activists, artists, government and business representatives) took part.

In parallel with the forum, an exhibition of the same name was organised, which showed the results of the teams' work, as well as the stages and methods that the participants used in course of their research. The exhibition was placed in four cargo containers and consisted of four semantic blocks: methodology of territory research, "territory portrait", team experience, and art objects.

The forum and exhibition summed up the second stage of the project Waterfront: neighborhood&community and marked the beginning of the third stage — Waterfront: networks&tools.

What's next?

The third stage — Waterfront:networks&tools — started in February 2020. Over the past two years, we have managed to gather a lot of not indifferent people around the project and gain a unique experience. We are ready to share our networks and tools!

In 2020, we plan to make the project more public, turning it into an open platform for discussions between different actors of the city: representatives of local authorities, the professional community of urban planners, architects and urbanists, the artistic community, businessmen and citizens.
On February 15, we held an open meeting at the Mayakovsky Library's Center for Art and Music to discuss the project's agenda for 2020. Follow our social networks to be updated about our upcoming events!

  • Albina Motor
    Initiator of the project, philologist, researcher of urban everyday culture, author of artistic and educational projects, co-founder and curator of urban programs in the Street Art Research Institute
    She strives to make the city a more human-friendly space and has all the necessary skills for this. In 2014, she graduated from Strelka Institute of Media and Design, where she studied everyday urban life.
    «A modern architect is not a specialist with a big ego. First of all, the modern architect pays attention to social problems. And we, citizens, being very different people, can be co-authors of urban change. This is one of the ideas that we are trying to convey through the project».
  • Andrey Anisimov
    Deputy Director at the Danish Institute of Сulture in St. Petersburg
    «Our goal is to explore how industrial areas in the Baltic sea region are transformed into new cultural and public spaces. We strive to create continuous contacts between experts from Northern Europe and experts from the North-West of Russia and to build a dialogue that will lead to creation of comfortable coastal spaces in Russia».
  • Polina Shtanko
    Executive Producer
  • Ilya Davydov
    Art Director
  • Dmitry Pilikin
    Curator, art critic, art historian
    Dmitry has been working in the field of contemporary art since 1989. Since 1995 he has worked as the curator of the 21 Gallery, Director of the PhotoImage Gallery, the curator of the photographic section of the IV St. Petersburg Biennale of contemporary art (1996), the curator of videofestival Balkan answer (1999) and curator of the project Photography as a little death (2000). Currently, he is Deputy Director of the Museum of contemporary art of St. Petersburg state University.
    «In our project, everything and everyone are important. But it is the artists who can find unexpected solutions, that will be later implemented by other team members».
  • Olga Mnishko
    City activist, co-creator and coordinator of the Cycling of St. Petersburg, the festival Living streets and the educational project Right to water
    Over the years, I have managed to implement several important city initiatives, including the educational project Right to water, which aims to activate the water urban environment by citizens through events, communication, study and improvement of legislation.
  • Angelina Davydova
    Ecologist, environmental journalist
    Angelina writes for Russian and international media. She is director of the Bureau of Environmental Information. Lecturer of St. Petersburg state University and ITMO, organiser of courses in environmental journalism and communication. The observer of the UN talks in the field of climate change since 2008. Fellow of the Humphrey Fellowship program at the University of California, Davis in 2018/2019.
  • Maria Tinika
    City activist, founder of the initiative group Trees of St. Petersburg
    «For many years, I have been interested in the city and the laws under which it develops. I read a lot about it, and I was constantly traveling to see how megacities are arranged in other countries. In St. Petersburg, the process of creating open public spaces has just begun. To speed it up, I decided to go into activism».
  • Daniyar Yusupov
    Architect, urbanist
    Since 2004 specializes in the development of the urban environment of post-Soviet cities. He has launched more than forty master plans, development strategies and spatial planning schemes across the country. In 2012, Daniyar co-organized the SREDA Institute of urban studies in St. Petersburg. Since 2017, he has been managing the design::unit Studio, which focus is the design of open urban spaces.
    «We proceed from the fact that the complexity of the urban structure requires a corresponding complexity of decisions and interventions. Therefore, the quality of design solutions can be developed only in interdisciplinary teams. In the Waterfront project, we are committed to this approach».
  • Ksenia Kuzmina
    Sociologist, associate Professor at the HSE in St. Petersburg
    «Today, cities and territories are actively competing for resources. One of the most important mechanisms for attracting investment is the rethinking of already created facilities and territories. To do this, we need to put into practice the concept of collective imagination, which is the key factor of Waterfront project».

Organisers and Partners
  • Danish Cultural Institute in St. Petersburg
    The Danish Cultural Institute was founded in 1940. It is a self-governing organisation under the auspices of the Danish Ministry of culture. The main objectives of the Danish Institute of Culture are to promote dialogue, exchange of experience and ideas in the field of culture between Denmark and other countries and, through international cooperation between cultural institutions and artists, to promote cultural values both in Denmark and abroad.
    The Institute cooperates with cultural institutions of other countries under the auspices of EUNIC – Association of cultural institutions of the European Union (Goethe Institute, French Institute, Institute of Finland, Polish Institute, etc.).

  • Consulate General of the Netherlands
  • The Nordics
    A project created by the Nordic Council of Ministers. The idea of the Nordics is to get acquainted with the Scandinavian way of thinking and value system through international cultural exchange.
  • Observatorium (NL)
    Dutch studio working with public spaces. Using architectural and artistic solutions, Observatorium integrates meanings into functional objects and creates a new format, Art+Architecture=Artitecture.
  • Creative Industries NL
    Creative Industries NL is a Dutch Foundation that supports initiatives in architecture, design, digital culture and other creative practices. The purpose of the Foundation is interdisciplinary interaction between cultural, social and economic spheres and the development and implementation of project solutions for socio-cultural problems through grants.
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