Inspired by the Celestial Empire

  • contemporary architecture

Located near the Klyazminskoe Lake, “Pirogovo” health resort area got a new residential building with the intriguing name of “Makalun” (not a Russian word either – translator’s note). Its author, Totan Kuzembaev, has once again demonstrated his virtuoso skills in working with wood, at the same time endowing his creation with traits inherent to Chinese architecture.


The Pirogovo house got this unusual name from his creator Totan Kuzembaev, who, in turn, borrowed it from his commissioner. The latter once mentioned that, when translated into Chinese, his second name sounds as “Makalun”, where “Ma” stands for “horse”, “Ka” – for “sail”, and “Lun” – for “dragon”. The architect liked this ambiguity so much that he immediately dubbed his new creation with this name. This is all the more vital if one considers the fact that the project is predominantly based upon the modern interpretations of the traditional devices of Chinese architecture – thus Totan Kuzembaev paid tribute to the commissioner’s passion for the culture of the Celestial Empire.

The land site, on which Totan Kuzembaev was to build yet another of his wooden masterpieces, is located not far from the lake’s shoreline, on the main territory of the resort and next to the road that runs through the forestland. Consequently, it was the body of water and the road that became the starting points in the architect’s search for the optimum place of the future house. Totan Kuzembaev turned its southern façade to the lake thanks to which the house commands a fine lake view. At the same time, “Makalun” is neatly “inscribed” in between the trees and almost presses onto the road: the architect was looking to save as much as possible of the pine wood that occupies most of the land site; this is why the house “descends” down to the road in steps, getting around bypassing the numerous masts of pine trees.

All the exterior finish, for the exception of the glittering surfaces of stained glass windows, is executed of mahogany match-board. The breadth and the density of the array of the wooden strips vary, in some places turning into an openwork grille and in some places becoming a blank wall. The wood also is used for making the semi-transparent partitions that at night are backlit with a multitude of lights. Incidentally, this very interior element – the partition – quite the Chinese thing in spirit and origin, was introduced into the architecture of the house specifically thanks to its “nationality”.

The southern façade of the building that faces the water is predictably a more open one. An array of slender rusticated columns, belted along their length with thin wooden rims, gracefully supports the awning of the second floor over the wide terrace. The color and the slenderness of the columns almost perfectly match those of the trunks of the pine trees surrounding the building. Casting a fleeting glimpse over the house, one will hardly tell the “man-made” trunks from the natural ones.

The interiors of the house deserve a special mention. First of all, this is the fireplace that determines the entire space of the living room. Therein, the architect develops the main theme of “Makalun” exterior, skillfully and artistically combining wood and glass that arch in sophisticated waves. The undulating surface of the fireplace is, according to Totan Kuzembaev, yet another tribute to Chinese culture: on the one side, the smooth curves bear resemblance to the magnificent peaks of the Chinese mountains, while, on the other side, the glass clearances between the oak boards, especially when backlit, bring to mind the associations with the skyscrapers of the modern Shanghai or Beijing. The living room at the same time gets a light open-work leading to the second floor. It also sports, if remote, elements of traditional Chinese ornaments.

Text by: Totan Kuzembaev, Alla Pavlikova
Translated by Anton Mizonov

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