The Drama
in Veliky

Contest for Renovation

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Built in the 1980s, F.M. Dostoevsky Drama Theatre was designed in the 1970s by the architect Vladimir Somov. Today, we see a revival of interest in the architecture of this era. The buildings which seemed ordinary, are now on a map that tracks the world-class architecture masterpieces. Today, they are transformed into leisure places for citizens, tourist sights, a popular background for photoshoots, fashion shows, and contemporary art. Its extraordinary architecture would put the theatre in its rightful place among the most influential buildings of the second half of the XX century.

F.M. Dostoevsky
Drama Theatre

Veliky Novgorod, Russia
Year of construction: 1987
Architect: V. Somov

Boston City Hall

Boston, USA
Year of construction: 1968
Architects: Kallmann McKinnell&Knowles

Opera Theatre

Sydney, Australia
Year of construction: 1973
Renovation: 2020 – 2022
Architect: Jørn Utzon

The University of California library

San Diego, USA
Year of construction: 1962
Renovation: 1993
Architect: Robert Torbern

National Theatre

London, Great Britain
Year of construction: 1976
Year of renovation: 2015
Architect: Denys Lasdun

The Palace of Ceremonies

Tbilisi, Georgia
Year of construction: 1985
Year of renovation: 1993
Architects: Viktor Djorbenadze and Vakhi Orbeladze

“Surrealist,” “cosmic,” “out of the world,” – these definitions often characterized much of the architectural style of the drama theatre. But do Sofia Novgorodskaya or Georgievsky Cathedral of Yurievsky monastery in Novgorod seem less strange? The architect Vladimir Somov, who designed the building in the beginning of the 1970s, aspired to create modern Novgorod architecture. As a result, Novgorod received a strong architectural accent, contrasting with ordinary housing, that forms an ensemble with historical sights on the embankment of the Volkhov River.

You can learn more about the history of design
and architectural peculiarities of F.M. Dostoevsky Drama Theatre
in the essay of the architectural historian Anna Bronovitskaya.

The theatre in details

Theatre architect

Soviet architect, artist, designer of drama theatres in Novgorod and Blagoveshchensk, member of the Exhibition Committee of the International Federation of Artists. Vladimir Somov was born in Kherson in a multi-child household. His mother worked in the canteen. In her spare time, she enjoyed working on crafts. She was the one who instilled in Vladimir a love for drawing.

To the interview with Vladimir Somov

Façade lighting

The main idea of the architect was to get an audience ready to watch the performance not only with the help of three-dimensional geometry but with the façade lighting. Furnished with snow-white Karelian marble, it is ideal for this. For example, they planned to do façade lighting in the color scheme of the performance that was on stage the other night.

Universal structural elements

The concrete segment of the circle with an angle of 90 degrees, perforated in the centre, and a solid circle, as well perforated, became the universal structural elements of the theatre design. These elements, designed by the engineer O.G. Smirnov, were used everywhere: for the modules of ceiling slabs, ramp supports, even for the square paving slabs, sadly lost today under the layer of asphalt.

Water pressure tanks

The theater building is flanked by two water pressure tanks with arched staircases. Metaphorically, they represent theatrical props taken out of the stage. There were bowls of water in front of the towers. They were intended not only for fire fighting, but also for air conditioning in the building. There were also fountains in the bowls, now abandoned.


Two ramps 40 m long each were designed not only for the traffic convenience of an audience. They directly connect the square in front of the theatre with the stage. The ramps enable someone take a ride onstage either on a horse, in a car or even in a tank and ride back from the other side. Such monumental solutions regarding set design are not in demand today. The ramps are no longer in use and need rethinking.

Broken arches

The arches of the theatre facades serve at the same time as a reference to the traditional temple architecture of the city and an artistic metaphor: their curved line is fundamentally decorative, not constructive in its effect. The architect wanted to convey the nature of the theatre when props play a crucial role unveiling a set to the visitors before they even enter the building. The arches enabled to use the façade as a backing for open-air performances.

The driver for the urban growth in the 21st century

The cities of the world include the construction of unique buildings and structures in the strategies for socio-economic development. Landmark architecture attracts the attention of tourists and investors as it becomes a symbol of the future for the locals. Veliky Novgorod already has its architectural landmark. The Drama Theatre features unique architectural style and can become a symbol of the city growth in the 21st century. The renovation will give an impulse to the transformation of the theatre into the cultural and social hub in modern Novgorod.

8 times
The annual volume of tourists increased eight times


Bilbao, Spain
Frank Gehry, 1997

3 times
The cultural programme of the cluster slowed down 3 times the migration flow out of the city

Cultural cluster at the site of the mining company

Katowice, Poland JEMS Architekci,1989

15 times
The number of museum visitors exceeds 15 times the city population

New branch of Louvre

Lens, France SANAA, 2012

3 times
The number of visitors increased 3 times thanks to the new architecture

National Sea Museum

Helsingor, Denmark BIG, 2013

The big effect
of the project

The mission of the Architecture Competition for Renovation Concept is not limited to the selection of the best project. The global context integrated into the architecture of the building will result in a positive impact at the local, national and international level.

For the theatre

  • Expanding theatre audience among locals and tourists
  • New potentialities for the modern repertoire
  • Additional funding for the building maintenance

For Novgorod
and Novgorod

  • Improved quality of life
  • Building an image of the dynamically developing region in Russia and abroad
  • Growth of popularity among Russians and international tourists

For Russia

  • Competence development of the Russian architects
  • A model of renovation and architecture of the 20 century for other cities and regions

For the world

  • A new site at the map of the iconic architecture of the 20 century.

Unmatched design

A contest workshop is a new form created specifically for the development of architectural concept of the theatre renovation. It combines in itself the choice of the winning design project with an educational function. The participants include emerging Russian architecture firms that will be dealing with contest proposals with a curator — a global architect involved behind similar top ranked architectural projects. The preliminary selection of participants in the process of competitive negotiations will allow selecting the most promising ideas and guarantee quality results.

about a contest

Founders and partners