My House Is My Castle

  • contemporary architecture

While designing a residential compound in Moscow’s Preobrazhensky district, architect Sergey Skuratov introduces a new spin of two favorite themes of his – the brick fortress and the garden quarters.


The land site, on which the new residential compound will be built, is situated in the vicinity of Preobrazhenskaya square and is bordered by Krasnobogatyrskaya Street, 1st and 2nd Bukhvostova Streets, and an inner driveway. It would have had the shape of an elongated rectangle, had it not been for Krasnobogatyrskaya street – it is at this point that this street makes a sharp turn, thanks to which the North-Eastern border of the plot takes on an arched shape. Today, this entire area is occupied by warehouses and semi-abandoned factories hidden behind a blind concrete fence. Being of little or no value to the city, these facilities will be taken down in the nearest future. Actually, the contractor decided to launch a competitive bid particularly because he found himself an owner of a fairly large territory that needed to be given a lot of competent town-planning thought.
It was there, right on the future construction site that Skuratov made a firm decision that one of the main “magnets” of the future complex should be the inner automobile-free courtyard, saturated with light and protected from the noise of the surrounding streets, equipped with children’s playgrounds, green lawns, pedestrian bridges, and bikeways. Now he was to figure out how to make this idyllic dream become a reality.
The inner courtyard is formed by two r-shaped planes, pierced with vertical openings of various width and heights. The horizontal shifts of these openings create an effect of two elongated buildings standing on top of one another. This impression is also enhanced with the help of the connecting glass belt – as a matter of fact, this fully glassed storey includes the flats that are just the same as the ones in the other parts of the house, but, when viewed from a side, one gets the impression that the complex is divided into two independent parts vertically. The extra function of the openings that look like loopholes of sorts - only meant not for defense purposes but for softening the image of the structure – consists in providing the courtyard with extra light and air and improve the insolation of the flats. With this same purpose, some of the corners of the r-shaped planes get distinctly rounded; framing the entrance areas, the rounded facades are perceived as the obvious hint at castle towers flanking the entrance to the fortress.
The façade solutions are based on the so-very-much-like-Skuratov principle of “monomateriality”. On the outside, the building is dressed in a “shell” of red bricks of several shades – it has a unified modular grid but it changes its pattern depending on its current cardinal direction, its size and location in the overall composition of the complex. At some places, the window openings alternate with partition walls of the same size, at some places they are coupled, and at some places they form a rigorous grille pattern at the expense of their elegant intertwining.
The inner facades of the courtyard, in their turn, are faced with white bricks. This choice is pretty much self-explanatory because even though the courtyard has a substantial size, it is still a closed space, the kind that by definition needs a light finish in order to avoid turning into a mediaeval dungeon.
The same principle holds true for the kindergarten: its outer facades are coated with red bricks, while its three courtyards shine pure white. Skuratov places this facility between the residential complex and Krasnobogatyrskaya Street – following the latter’s laying logic, its layout takes on the predictable sector shape. The proximity of the noisy street made the architect rethink the traditional kindergarten layout: its outer perimeter sports the cafes and shops that serve the city, the next “layer” is given to the maintenance premises of the kindergarten, and the bedrooms and playing rooms are grouped around the center of the layout, next to the three playgrounds. The roof of the building is completely covered with green planting, thanks to which, when viewed from the windows of the upper floors of the neighboring buildings, the house looks like a landscape object with three playgrounds in the middle.
Text by: Sergey Skuratov, Anna Martovitskaya
Translated by Anton Mizonov

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