The island of New Holland is one of the foremost historical monuments in Saint Petersburg. Founded by Peter the Great in 1719 – only 16 years after construction of the city began – the island has been witness to every major milestone in the history of this Northern Capital.
From this time on, New Holland has served as the site of warehouses and other administrative spaces for the Russian Navy; the first facility for ship-builders to test their models; a laboratory for advanced research in science and technology; a Naval prison, built to the standards of the best penitentiary systems in Europe; and one of the first radiostations in the country (It was from this very station that Vladimir Lenin made his famous broadcast, announcing the start of the revolution.) The planning of the island was carried out by the leading architects and engineers of each epoch, earning New Holland its reputation as an island of inventors and scientists.
As the property of the Navy, the island has been closed to the public for most of its existence. Only at the beginning of the 21st century, when the island was handed over to municipal authorities, could New Holland enter its next phase of development. In November 2010, New Holland Development (NHD) won the bid to restore and redevelop the island of New Holland. The primary objectives for these investors was both the restoration of monuments of industrial architecture, and the establishment of a new, mixed-use complex, that would become a center of cultural life for the city and a platform for the intellectual community from all over the globe.
Plans for the island include the opening of museums and exhibition halls, a research laboratory and educational facilities, in addition to commercial venues. While these larger projects are under way, the island of New Holland offers a space for experimentation, through the program Summer on New Holland. Kicking off in 2011, this program transforms the areas of the island that lack historical buildings into an outdoor park with a program of events that bring together elements of art and culture, arts, sports, urbanism, education, cuisine, among others. During this time, the island itself is populated by public art, cafes and athletic fields, where concerts, exhibitions, lectures, open air markets, children's parties and general celebrations can all take place. Once closed to the public, now this space has turned into a truly dynamic center of contemporary culture.
Summer on New Holland is organized by the Iris Foundation, which was founded by Daria Zhukova as a means for the support and development of the arts.