Fundamental Transformer

"Express-House" built by Gary Chang and Totan Kuzembaev in Pirogovo resort is a project that evolved from a quick-mounting pavilion up to a fundamental structure.

Anna Martovitskaya

Written by:
Anna Martovitskaya
Translated by:
Anton Mizonov

09 January 2013

Initially, "Express-House" was designed by the Hong-Kong architect Gary Chang who was invited by Totan Kuzembaev to take part in designing "Pirogovo" resort back in 2005. Gary is the master of transformations - in the "Commune by the Great Wall" he built the most winsome "Suitcase" hotel, and, having come to Moscow area, he decided to carry on with his exploits in this particular genre. Due to the fact that the initial task was to create not so much a house as a show room, the architect came up with a project where not only the interior could be transformed but the entire building could be transformed as well. Hence the name of "Express" (although initially Gary proposed to call it a "Matryoshka") - in this house everything was easily taken apart and put back together again in accordance with the visitors' needs. The Gary house was in fact a box, each wall of which could open up, so the building virtually merged with the environment, while the inner premises (for example, the staircase leading to the second floor, the bathroom or the closet) would turn into pylons, around which one could walk like he would walk around the park. An even more interesting solution Gary proposed for the furniture - it was "packed" into a special transformable module consisting of several cubes put inside one another - these would emerge out of the house on rails and unfold into a table, a bed, and even a spa.


Matryoshka ("Russian Nest Doll"- transl.) ("Express-House") by Gary Chang

In this aspect, the project enthralled the connoisseurs of the contemporary architecture, including Alexander Ezhkov, who dreamed of implementing Gary's idea in "Pirogovo" and make the "Express-House" one of the symbols of the resort. These ambitious plans were checked by the global economic crisis - implementing all of Gary Chang's ideas proved to be a task not only challenging but expensive too, and this is why the idea of building a pavilion "for everyone" (and season-adjustable, too, because it's obvious that in the wintertime the couch and the spa on rails are not really on the top of the needs list) - this idea was soon forgotten, and the project of the Hong-Kong architect found a new commissioner. The pavilion did not satisfy him as a place of permanent residence though, so it was now necessary to reconsider the entire project with the consideration of its new function, so it stood to reason that this work was commissioned to Totan Kuzembaev studio that had supervised the project from the very start. "At first we communicated with Gary rather actively on this issue, but gradually it became clear that adjusting the house for our climate and making it a place of somebody's permanent residence would incur some really radical changes, so we decided to carry on with this project unassisted", - the architect reminisces.


Starting his work on re-doing the "Express", Totan Kuzembaev tried to stick as much as possible to the principle of universal transformability that lies at the heart of this project - if not for the outer walls, then at least for the interior spaces. The overall composition was also preserved - the house that looks like a laconic rectangle on the layout, is augmented by a large terrace, again, of a rectangular shape. In the initial project, it was this "ship deck" that the pieces of furniture would proudly ride on, and initially Kuzembaev gave up only on the idea of the guideways - the terrace presupposed an open-air swimming pool, and on the south side it was equipped with a mobile fence; still more options were designed for the interior premises of the house. For example, one could get down into the basement by shifting out the floor panels of the first floor, and the double-height space of the living room could be transformed with the help of the mobile panel that formed a second level with an extra bedroom, and with the help of the folding stairway provided access to the roof area.

Regretfully, after the final cost sheet was drawn up, the commissioner considered even these "half-measures" too expensive, so the architects had to reconsider their project yet again. "Now it was clear that there was only one way left to make it still less expensive - by replacing all the transformable elements with fundamental ones - Totan Kuzembaev says, shrugging his shoulders - and so it turned out that two stained-glass panels in the living room, one of which was turned eastward and the other westward, turned into nine standard glass units grouped vertically into threes, the mobile panel was replaced with a fundamental floor deck of reinforced concrete; the folding stairway gave way to the usual one that connects the first floor not only with the second one but also with the accessible roof area. And because the new stairway in fact runs through the building, inscribing it into the original dimensions was quite a tall order - but the architects found a compromise by partially taking it out of the confines of the main rectangular volume. The laconic shape of the box was thus made a little more sophisticated - it looked as if the architects cut its south facade in the middle and bent out part of the wall, thanks to which the house got a diamond-shaped bay window turned westward and to the water. At the same time it is cut into the main volume in such a way that the "bulge" is reduced to minimum and plays rather a decorative part, signifying the house entrance, while over the flat roof, on the other hand, there is a small gazebo-turret that is the perfect spot for contemplating the vistas of the Klyazma Lake.


Accordingly, the floor deck is dissected in such a way that the second floor gets a fully-fledged balcony of its own. It rests upon square-section columns, the architects providing not two but even four rests, so the terrace gets a deep niche - visually, it is that same depot out of which the transformable furniture would exit in the original project. Incidentally, it is this awning that the spare furniture is actually stored under - sofas and armchairs. No more guideways are there of course, and the furniture pieces are not of the folding type but they can still be spread over the "deck" with no problem.


The railings of the balcony, just as the railings of the accessible roof area, are made of transparent glass and thin metallic truss rods that in fact make these constructions invisible - when viewed from a side, this house, coated with wooden panels, indeed looks like a set of boxes placed on top of one another. One gets a feeling as if the whole structure designed by Gary Chang got arrested while still partially taken apart - even though the architects had to forego all the technical intricacies, visually Totan Kuzembaev was able to implement the transformer idea even in the fundamental structure.


09 January 2013

Anna Martovitskaya

Written by:

Anna Martovitskaya
Translated by:
Anton Mizonov
Headlines now
Julius Borisov: “The “Island” housing complex is a unique project – we took it on with...
One of the largest housing projects of today’s Moscow – the “Ostrov” (“Island”) housing complex built by Donstroy – is now being actively built in the Mnevniky Floodplain. They are planning to build about 1.5M square meters of housing on an area of almost 40 hectares. We are beginning to examine this project– first of all, we are talking to Julius Borisov, the head of the architectural company UNK, which works with most of the residential blocks in this grand-scale project, as well as with the landscaping part; the company even proposed a single design code for the entire territory.
A Balanced Solution
The residential complex “Balance” on Moscow’s Ryazansky Prospekt is one of the large-scale, and relatively economical (again, by Moscow standards) housing projects. Its first phase has already been built and landscaped; the work on the others is in progress. Nevertheless, it has an integral internal logic, which is based on the balance of functions, height, and even image and space composition. The proposed solutions are recognizable and laconic, so that each of them was reduced by the authors to a graphic “logo”. To see everything, you have to flip through the pages and look through to the end.
Horror Vacui
In the city of Omsk, ASADOV architects took on a very challenging task: they are developing a concept of a public and residential complex, which involves reconstructing the city’s first thermal power station standing right next to Omsk’s first fortress. This territory has already seen a lot of projects designed for it, and the residential function of this land site has been the subject of heated debate. In this article, we are examining the project in question, aimed at developing a mid-scale city fabric suited for the historical center. We also examine the above-mentioned debate. Seriously, will this project save this place or will it bring it to ruin?
A Multi-Faced Grotto
This building, seemingly small, unremarkable, semi-ruined, and not even very ancient – the Grotto in the Bauman Garden – was restored by the “People’s Architect” architectural company with all the care applicable to a heritage monument. They preserved the romantic appeal of the ruins, added multimedia content, and explored the cascading fountain, which, as it turned out, was completely preserved. Brace yourself for a long story!
First among Equals
The building of a kindergarten in the town of Beloyarsky is more than just another example of a modern educational space. Its design began a long time ago; it is located in Russia’s Far North; it is also a state-owned facility that is subject to regulations, and had to cut costs during construction (as usual). However, the design is contemporary, the layout is modern, and the building feels very fresh. The project is planned to be replicated.
Gustave Falconnier
In the “ruin” wing of Moscow’s Museum of Architecture, an exhibition of “glass bricks” by Gustave Falconnier is open. These “bricks” are essentially the predecessors of glass blocks, but more complex and beautiful. The exhibition shows genuine “bricks”, buildings composed of them, the history of the destruction of Falconnier windows in the building of the State Archives, and it also became one of the reasons to revive this unique production technology.
​Streamline for City Canyons
Stepan Liphart has designed two houses for two small land sites situated in the area surrounding the Varshavsky Railway Station, which is being intensively developed now. The sites are situated close but not next to each other, and they are different, yet similar: the theme is the same but it is interpreted in different ways. In this issue, we are examining and comparing both projects.
​The Eastern Frontier
“The Eastern Arc” is one of the main land resources of Kazan’s development, concentrated in the hands of a single owner. The Genplan Institute of Moscow has developed a concept for the integrated development of this territory based on an analytical transport model that will create a comfortable living environment, new centers of attraction, and new workplaces as well.
A School of Our Time
On the eve of the presentation of the new book by ATRIUM, dedicated to the design of schools and other educational facilities, based on the architects’ considerable experience, as well as expert judgments, we are examining the Quantum STEM school building, constructed according to their project in Astana. Furthermore, this building is planned to be the first one to start a new chain. The architects designed it in full accordance with modern standards but sometimes they did break away from them – only to confirm the general development rules. For example, there are two amphitheaters in the atrium, and there is an artificial hill in the yard that is meant to make the flat terrain of the Kazakhstan steppe more eventful.
The Fluffy Space
Designing the passenger terminal of the Orenburg airport, ASADOV architects continue to explore the space theme that they first introduced in Saratov and Kemerovo airports. At the same time, the architects again combine the global and the local, reflecting topics inspired by the local conceptual context. In this case, the building is “covered” by an Orenburg downy shawl – an analogy that is recognizable enough, yet not literal; some will see the reference and some won’t.
The White Fitness Center
The white health and fitness center, designed by Futura Architects at the entrance to St. Petersburg’s New Piter residential complex, provides the developing area not only with functional but also with sculptural diversity, livening up the rows of the brick city blocks with the whiteness of its seamless facades, cantilevered structures, and dynamic inclined lines.
The New Dawn
In their project of a technology park to be built on the grounds of “Integrated Home-Building Factory 500” in Tyumen Oblast – the biggest in Russia – the HADAA architects preserve not just the industrial function of the giant hangar built in the late 1980s and 90% of its structures, but also respond to its imagery. They also propose a “gradient” approach to developing the available areas: from open public ones to staff-only professional spaces. The goal of this approach is to turn the technology park into the driver for developing the business function between the industrial zones and the future residential area in accordance with the Integrated Land Development program.
​Tame Hills for New Residents
T+T Architects have reported that they have completed the landscaping project for the yard of the first stage of Alexandrovsky Garden housing complex in Ekaterinburg – the landscape complements the contextual architecture, tailored for the buyers’ preferences and downtown standards, with bold neo modernist master strokes and lush and diverse vegetation.
The Crystal of the City Block
The typology and plastique of large housing complexes move with the times, and you can sometimes find new subtleties in the scope of seemingly familiar solutions. The Sky Garden complex combines two well-known themes, forming a giant residential area consisting of tall slender towers, placed at the perimeter of a large yard, in which a crossroads of two pedestrian promenades is “dissolved”.
Sunshine, Air, and Water
The construction of the “Solnechny” (“Sunny”) summer camp, designed by ARENA project institute, has been completed, the largest summer camp within the legendary Artek seaside resort for children. It was conceived still in Soviet time, but it was not implemented. The modern version surprises you with sophisticated engineering solutions that are combined with a clear-cut structure: together, they generate Asher-esque spaces.
​Art Deco at the Edge of Space
The competition project by Stepan Liphart – a high-end residential complex executed in a reserved classicist style in close proximity to the Kaluga Space Museum – responds equally well to the context and to the client’s brief. It is moderately respectable, moderately mobile and transparent, and it even digs a little into the ground to comply with strict height restrictions, without losing proportions and scale.
​A Hill behind the Wall
The master plan of a new residential area in Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk, developed by the Genplan Institute of Moscow with the participation of Kengo Kuma & Associates, is based on the complexities and advantages of the relief of the foothills: the houses are arranged in cascades, and multi-level improvement penetrates all the blocks, continuing in forest trails.
Going, Going, Gone!
The housing complex “Composers’ Residences” has been built in accordance with the project by Sergey Skuratov, who won the international competition back in 2011. It all began from the image search and “cutting off all spare”, and then implementing the recognizable Skuratov architecture. It all ended, however, in tearing down the buildings of the Schlichterman factory, whose conservation was stipulated by all the appropriate agencies prior to approving Skuratov’s project. This story seems to be educational and important for understanding the history of all the eleven years, during which the complex was designed and built.
The Life of Iron
The building of the Vyksa Metallurgy Museum, designed by Nikita Yavein and Sergey Padalko, provides for the natural aging of metal – it is planned that the iron will gradually rust – at the same time utilizing the advanced type of construction, based on metal’s ability to stretch. The building will be constructed from pipes and rolled steel supplied by OMK company, as well as from recycled bricks.
​And the Brook is Flowing
ASADOV Architects have designed a master plan for developing a residential area at the outskirts of Kaliningrad: a regular grid of housing blocks is enriched by large-scale public facilities, the main “artery” of the new area being the fortification channel that regains its original function.
Off We Go!
The new terminal of the Tomsk airport is being designed by ASADOV bureau. The architects keep on developing its identity, building the imagery upon the inventions of Nikolai Kamov, whose name the airport bears. The result is laconic, light, and, as always, levitating.
Maximum Flexibility
The Multispace Dinamo, which recently opened within the Arena business center, is an example of a project that is entirely based upon cutting-edge approaches and technologies. It is managed via a mobile application, special software was created for it, and the spaces are not just multifunctional but carefully mixed up, like some kind of jigsaw puzzle that allows the office workers to mix their working routine for better efficiency.
A Factory’s Path
Last week, the new center for constructivist studies “Zotov” hosted its first exhibition named “1922. Constructivism. The Inception”. The idea of creating this center belongs to Sergey Tchoban, while the project of the nearest houses and adjusting the building of the bread factory for the new museum function was done by the architect in collaboration with his colleagues from SPEECH. We decided that such a complex project should be examined in its entirety – and this is how we came up with this long-read about constructivism on Presnya, conservation, innovation, multilayered approach, and hope.
The Savelovsky Axis
The business center, situated right in the middle of a large city junction next to the Savelovsky Railway Station takes on the role of a spatial axis, upon which the entire place hinges: it spins like a spiral, alternating perfect glass of the tiers and deep recessions of inter-tier floors that conceal little windows invented by the architects. It is sculptural, and it claims the role of a new city landmark, in spite of its relatively small height of nine floors.
Parametric Waves
In the housing complex Sydney City, which FSK Group is building in the area of Shelepikhinskaya Embankment, Genpro designed the central city block, combining parametric facades and modular technology within its architecture.
The Multitone
The new interior of the Action Development headquarters can be regarded as an attempt to design the perfect “home” for the company – not just comfortable but broadcasting the values of modern development. It responds to the context, yet it is built on contrast, it is fresh but cozy, it is dynamic, yet it invites you to relax – everything of this coexists here quite harmoniously, probably because the architects found an appropriate place for each of the themes.
Refinement No Longer Relevant
A few days ago journalists were shown the building of Bread Factory #5, renovated upon the project by Sergey Tchoban. In this issue, we are publishing Grigory Revzin’s thoughts about this project.
The Comb of Strelna
In this issue, we are taking a close look at the project that won the “Crystal Daedalus” award – the “Veren Village” housing complex in Strelna, designed by Ostozhenka. Its low-rise format became a trigger for typological and morphological experiments – seemingly, we are seeing recognizable trends, yet at the same time there are a multitude of subtleties that are a pleasure to go into. Having studied this project in detail, we think that the award is well-deserved.
A Tectonic Shift
For several years now, Futura Architects have been working with the “New Peter” residential area in the south of St. Petersburg. In this article, we are covering their most recent project – a house, in which the architects’ architectural ideas peacefully coexist with the limitations of comfort-class housing, producing a “multilayered” effect that looks very attractive for this typology.
Three “Green” Stories
In this issue, we are examining three environmental urban projects showcased by the Genplan Institute of Moscow at the Zodchestvo festival. The scale of the projects is really diverse: from gathering information and suggestions from the residents on a city scale to growing meadow grass between houses to paintings, which, as it turned out, possess power to cure trees, healing their wounded bark. + a list of kinds of plants natural for Moscow to help the developer.