26.07.2012

Canon vs Modernity: Mission Possible

  • contemporary architecture

This spring, Sergey Estrin studio was invited to participate in the closed tender for the design project of Sretenskaya School of Theology. One of the mandatory requirements of the bid was the one for up-to-date solutions for the public spaces of this educational institution.

Information:

The school of theology (or "seminary", as it is called in Russia) will be built in the very center of Moscow, in the immediate vicinity of Sretensky stauropegion ("reporting directly to the holy Sinod or Patriarch") monastery. For this purpose, the administration of the educational institution was allotted a former school building on Bolshaya Lubyanka Street. Built in the post-Stalin era, it is based on the appropriate architectural and layout solution that the architects are planning to keep generally intact, at least as far as the dimensions and the framework is concerned.

Sergey Estrin shares that the image of the interior spaces came to him once he got down to making his first sketches of the project. To a large extent, it continues the tradition of the ascetic interiors of the Sretensky Monastery itself, only this austerity here is "retold" in the language of contemporary stylistic devices and materials. An important part here was played by the initial condition of the building: along the central axis of the main lobby, for example, there are very massive rectangular columns that are impossible to take down. To offset these rigid verticals, the architect laid a special stress on enhancing the "hovering" - elevating - plastics of the walls and the ceiling. By using the plates of white Corian that run in waves over the smooth surfaces, Sergey Estrin not only softens the original geometry of the premises but also creates a contemporary interpretation of such characteristic features of Russian temple architecture as vaults and arches. The broad widths of this plastic material alternate with the plates whose width is equal to that of the columns. The former are interpreted as canvasses that can carry any "thematically appropriate" image, while the latter zone the room down into smaller segments, visually turning the monotonous corridor into a grand suite. This impression is enhanced by the lights installed behind the plates - the dispersed light, seemingly streaming from out of nowhere, not only adds to the solemnity of the lobby but also to its resemblance to the monastery interiors.

There are also other "borrowings" from the temple architecture tradition that can be traced here: the tall oval-shaped wooden doors, the apsis-shaped balcony, the backlit round recessions in the ceiling that serve to simulate the dome drums, and the layout of a canonic temple, inlaid on the marble floor. When it came to such an indispensable part of the interior decoration of any temple as wall painting, the architect offered two possible scenarios at once: for the authentic artifacts (or screens that will display them) spaces on the columns are reserved, while on the Corian "canvases" Estrin puts the conditional, almost sketchy images of Orthodox saints and temples, only he does it not with the help of narrow slits backlit from the inside.

Text by: Sergei Estrin, Anna Martovitskaya
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