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Wednesday, August 08, 2012

Russia's most notorious prison to become art center

Russia's most notorious prison to become art center

St. Petersburg’s infamous Kresty prison that once accommodated Tsarist prisoners and Soviet dissidents could be turned into a cutting-edge urban art space.

The prison complex including the two famed cross-shaped buildings that gave the prison its name is among several locations in St. Petersburg that could be chosen to establish the first creative quarter in the city. The other two possible areas include the Novo-Admiralteysky and Petrovsky islands.

According to the plan, the so-called creative quarter will accommodate offices for creative companies, art-centers, galleries, theatre studios and restaurants. The concept of the new area is due to be presented in September.

In 2006 the government decided to relocate the prison, which is due to be completed in 2014.

The people behind the project believe that transforming the prison into a creative area will help preserve the historic complex. It is a protected architectural landmark, thus few changes to the original design can be made.

It has been housing convicts since the 1860s when the former wine warehouse was turned into a prison. The cross-shaped buildings were designed by architect Antony Tomishko and were constructed between 1884 and 1892 by the prison inmates.

After the Russian Revolution the Kresty was packed with political prisoners, including ministers of the Tsarist government, non-Bolshevik politicians and the intelligentsia.

During the 1990s, when crime was on the rise the prison was overcrowded. It held ten times more people than it was designed. Cells originally meant for solitary confinement would hold over 20 people at once, who had to sleep in turns.

After the prison moves the Kresty will be sold at auction.


Given it looks similar to Hull Prison, perhaps Hull can learn something from Russia?

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