The secret garden
Magda Chicon, Blank Architects
As Guy Debord has written, the spectacle of goods requires a programme, it has to create its own narrative landscape. The Akadem Park Shopping Centre appears to have taken this axiom to heart. The project created by Blank Architects, a Moscow-based practice led by Magda Cichon, is openly inspired by the natural environment. In particular, it emulates the splendid parks of the city in which it is built, St. Petersburg, renowned for Nevsky Prospekt, the Hermitage, the Winter Palace, its many beautiful churches, the Summer Garden commissioned by Peter the Great, Park Pobedy with its frozen lake, Mikhailovsky Garden with its splendid gates, the Alexander Garden and Primorsky Victory park and much more. These green oases set aside for recreation and socialisation play an important role in the life of Russia’s second-largest city. During the famous «white nights» of the bright arctic summer, they are illuminated by the diaphanous dusk, by the «moonless splendour» described by Aleksandr Pushkin.
The brief given to the architects involved radically converting an existing shopping mall and modernising its image as part of an extensive rebranding operation that included complete redesign of the interior spaces.
The project covered a surface area of 6500 square metres, including spaces with separate yet interconnected functions: the entrance hall, the galleries and walkways on the various levels, the transit areas, the vertical connections, the waiting areas, a new food court, the functional and service facilities, and last but not least the unified design of the sequence of facades of the retail spaces.
As the architects explained, the concept «was to create an original and unified space, a place openly inspired by the city’s relaxing green areas that would create a warm and comfortable yet memorable atmosphere for people wanting to make purchases, window shop or simply take a food break».
The result is a landscape populated by functional and decorative elements with a linear, contemporary design yet at the same time inspired by trees, plant forms and fresh, natural colours. All the details have been exclusively designed and built: from the branched lighting fixtures to the seating, from the planters to the furnishing elements, from the false ceilings reminiscent of treetops to the floor tiles portraying virtual shadows of trees based on the meticulous colour combinations of Granitogres series porcelain tiles from Casalgrande Padana.
As its name suggests, the Akadem Park project does not make explicit reference either to the historical Organic Architecture movement or to Biomimetics, at least as understood by contemporary ecogreen devotees. Instead it could be defined as «bioanalogical», focusing above all on the evocative nature of the formal choices underpinning the construction of this exclusive secret garden.
Casalgrande Padana, Granito 1 and Unicolore series
15x15, 30x30, 60x60 cm
Nebraska, Arkansas, Ontario, Bianco B, Grigio Cenere, Nero
Water absorpion (ISO 10545-3): ≤ 0,1%
Chemical resistance (ISO 10545-13): compliant
Resistance to deep abrasion (ISO 10545-6): compliant
Stain resistance (ISO 10545-14): compliant
Frost resistance (ISO 10545-12): compliant
Modulus of rupture and breaking strength (ISO 10545-4): 50-60 N/mm2
Thermal shock resistance (ISO 10545-9): compliant