Krestovsky Island sits at the heart of St Petersburg, just one of several urban islets formed by the tangle of distributaries at the mouth of the Neva River. Its long-held role as a playground for Petersburgtsy and its emerging status as one of the city’s most desirable suburbs made it the ideal location for Il Lago dei Cigni, the new restaurant from the owners of Buddha Bar St. Petersburg.
The venue lies within a wooden space at the tip of the island. Situated, appropriately enough, on the shores of Lake Lebiazhie and next to the ‘Swan House’, a shelter for the island’s birdlife, it boasts floor-to-ceiling windows which look out across the water.
Gallery HBA – a studio within HBA London that is dedicated to high-concept bespoke interior design – was asked to create an interior scheme that would weave together this lakeside setting with elements of Russian folklore as well as Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake, the ballet from which the restaurant takes its name.
Gallery HBA worked alongside lighting design practice MBLD to ensure the finished installation achieved the right aesthetic. “There were atmospheric lighting effects we wanted to achieve, especially at night, so working with a lighting designer helped ensure we could bring the vision we imagined into reality,” explains Inge Moore, Principal and Creative Director of The Gallery HBA.
A key example of this collaboration is found in the main dining area where a central column and chandelier combine to form a stylised ‘maypole’ feature. A pillar clad in clefts of natural selenite rock crystal disappears into the circular backlit soffit in the ceiling, and ‘ribbons’ of crystals interspersed with geometric copper wire talismans cascade from the round ceiling canopy. Following advice from MBLD, these are illuminated by 2700K LED downlights from UK manufacturer Light Graphix.
The Gallery’s design concept for Il Lago Dei Cigni also references Peter the Great’s vision for his new capital, St. Petersburg. During his rule, the tsar transformed the city into a ‘Venice of the North’, investing in palaces, engineering and shipbuilding to create a glittering attraction for European architects, scientists and thinkers. This spirit of intellectual pursuit has been interpreted in the introduction of timber cabinets displaying an array of curiosities, as if scientific specimens meant for inspection. Bespoke art fixtures have been crafted from magnifying glasses placed in front of wine bottle labels, glass domes exhibit mounted beetles or butterflies, and bundles of timeworn French manuscripts have been bound together with string into parcels. Set amongst this eclectic collection are candle-effect lamps, selenite shades containing light sources created by Mike Stoane Lighting.
Tucked away behind sliding timber doors, Il Lago de Cigni’s private dining space is a cosy haven illuminated by a glass chandelier piece from Czech manufacturer Preciosa. This echoes a linear version of the piece installed above the bar. Both comprise semi-bespoke, tinted glass globes. Though similar to a standard offering from the Preciosa range, The Gallery worked with the manufacturer to develop the clusters’ colourations; individual sphere sizes, quantities and configurations; and the lengths of their mounting trays. In addition, The Gallery consulted with MBLD about any technical modifications required in the wattage, voltage, lamping and placement – in this case, 10 watt tungsten halogen sources from Osram were used.
As MBLD Managing Director Rob Honeywill notes, proper consideration of the lighting was essential in delivering a satisfactory finish. “The intensity and colour rendition of the lighting enhances the core narrative of the interiors by helping create the mood and atmospheric effects desired by The Gallery,” he says. “MBLD recommended lighting specifications that would embellish the furnishings and design elements such as the maypole, amplifying their prominence within the overall design. The vibe at Il Lago dei Cigni shifts throughout the day due to the lighting levels. During the afternoon, the abundant sunlight creates an airy, natural feel, even when it is fainter on wintery days. As the sun goes down, the interior lighting brings warmth, drama and sparkle to the ambience.”