After the Great Exhibition of the Works of Industry of All Nations had first been held in London's Hyde Park, fashion for all sorts of exhibition events was established throughout Europe. The most successful organizer of this new secular entertainment in St. Petersburg was the Russian Imperial Society of Horticulture. It was for them that an exhibition hall was builtin 1914 in Potemkinskaya Street, near Tavrichesky Garden. The project of the hall was developed by civil engineer N.N. Ignatyev, and the construction was entrusted to engineer E.F. Rydzevsky. The building met the all requirements of world exhibition practice: there was a huge glass lantern above the main hall, special ramps for unloading heavy tubs with plants and there were rooms for lectures. The exhibition hall immediately became a new fashionable location, taking the place that in the minds of secular public was associated with art galleries and showrooms.
In May 1914, it served as a venue for the International Jubilee Gardening Exhibition under the auspices of Emperor Nicholas II.
PANORAMIC CINEMA THEATER
After the exhibition hall had been closed, the building was left unattended for almost half a century. During the revolution, the place hosted an armored squadron defending the Smolny Palace. Later it was used as a garage and storages. In 1959, the building was rebuilt into a cinema theater.
Leningrad panoramic cinema theater seating 1,128 people, designed by architect I.I. Chashnik was one of the first large scale projects in this segment. The hall was equipped with the largest screen in the country and a stereo sound system. The most sensational first nights took place here. For a long time Leningrad panoramic cinema theater was a trend-setting venue in the city’s cultural life. By the end of the twentieth century, the technical part of the movie hall had grown out of date, while the city cinema life moved over to shopping malls.
Professionals with a worldwide reputation were invited to renew the movie theater building in order to create an advanced new generation theater therein. The reconstruction works were supervised by Spanish architect Ricardo Bofill, known for his projects of 1992 Olympic Games facilities in Barcelona and the famous Parisian quarter Les Espaces d’Abraxas.
Bofill preserved the building outlook; external changes touched only the mansard roof, which was set up with terraces. A large-scale range of works with the structure of the building was performed. Bofill got rid of some intermediate ceilings, which had been inherited from the Soviet period reconstructions, and thus recreated the original internal exposition. A great amount of work was carried out to fortify the building footing that is located on an underground river and is therefore jeopardized due to the nature of the ground. About 7,000 cubic meters of concrete were filled into its structure and 36 piles were driven to provide for perfect geometric parameters of the footing.
On December 25, 2014, Leningrad Centre – the first theater in Russia created for high recreational genre - the entertainment genre - was opened in the legendary building, that used to be an exhibition hall and a movie theatre in former times. The place hosts concert and theatrical venues, a gallery and a restaurant with a view.