Rust Outside, 'Gold' Inside

Ulf Meyer
25. August 2021
Photo © Ilya Ivanov

TCHOBAN VOSS Architects recently completed Ferrum 1, a seven-story office building in Saint Petersburg, Russia, that is highlighted by a sculptural Corten steel facade.

When the Rossiya machine factory was built in St. Petersburg's Polustrovo district in 1911, it occupied a famous former royal garden. But when the factory closed down, the buildings stood empty. Then the developer Teorema bought the site, knocked down the buildings, and turned it into a mixed-use campus for new offices and residences.

The latest addition to the former Rossiya site is an office building called "Ferrum 1." The facades and foyer (not the plan, unfortunately) were designed by Sergei Tchoban of Berlin's TCHOBAN VOSS Architects, a leading figure on the German architecture scene and a native of St. Petersburg.

Photo © Ilya Ivanov

The seven-story building is the first in Russia with a Corten steel facade. This corrosion-resistant and durable material gives the building its striking appearance of rust-red patina. The building’s name, "Ferrum," is Latin for iron and therefore a reference to the facade material as well as the industrial history of the site. 

The grid of Corten resembles a fabric of warp and weft threads. Three-dimensional stripes span the building horizontally and vertically. The alternating flat and protruding modules create the illusion of a plaiting. Especially when viewed from the side, the horizontal strips dive beneath the vertical lines and vice versa at the intersections. At the corners, where structural glazing alternates with the sharp-edged folds of the Corten, the steel plays around a body of glass. The building is crowned by a band of golden aluminum panels, whose sheen offsets the matte color of the lower facade. 

Photo © Ilya Ivanov

The main entrance is marked by a large central portal, while the foyer features double-sided structural glass that fills the lobby with light and visually connects it to the surrounding park. Shiny "golden" lift portals alternate with metal surfaces in cool grey. Wall coverings are made of printed glass.

The demand for office space seems to be strong in the Polustrovo district, considering that a matching office building — appropriately called "Ferrum 2" — will be built opposite "Ferrum 1." With an identical facade, there will soon two rusty red heirs to the Rossiya factory.

Photo © Ilya Ivanov

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