По-русски

Vladimir Plotkin: these days, any contest is a guessing game

The main architect of "Reserve" Studio speaks about his new projects, international contests, and the contemporary Moscow.

author pht

Interviewed by:
Anna Martovitskaya
Translated by:
Anton Mizonov

25 April 2013
Interview
mainImg
Architect:
Vladimir Plotkin

Archi.ru: Vladimir, your studio has recently taken part in two high–profile international contests - one for the concept of developing the Berezhkovskaya Embankment, and the other one for the new building of the Polytechnic Museum. What is your general impression of these two competitions?

 

Vladimir Plotkin: I am a little bit disappointed with the results of both of them. And not exactly with the results but with the very fact of us having participated in these contests! Both of our projects seemed quite successful to us - that is, until we saw the proposals of our colleagues. And now it is quite obvious to me that in both cases we made a mistake submitting our works in the first place.

 

New building of the Polytechnic Museum. The contest project of "Mecanoo International B.V." and "RESERVE" Studio


Archi.ru: Frankly speaking, it is my personal opinion that the Berezhkovskaya Embankment was among the most impressive ones.

 

Vladimir Plotkin: As the outcome of this contest showed, what the commissioner wanted was not the detailed concept but only a few possible options, the vectors of development strategy - this early on, the commissioner simply did not want to commit himself with any specific plans having to do with the zoning and/or improvement of the territory. We came up with our concept pretty quickly, and generally it seems to me a successful in terms of the local, and not strategic, development of that place. What we should have done further on, though, was to concentrate on the overall analysis of the situation on the whole, and not developing a detailed and elaborate solution.

 

Concept for developing the former industrial park on the Berezhkovskaya Embankment by "RESERVE" Studio


Archi.ru: Well, ultimately it was a consulting contest that did not have any strict rules or criteria by definition. And, by the way, the commissioner is going to use the proposals of all the participants in the creation of the eventual project. How reasonable do you think is the idea of the architectural consortium for this place?

 

Vladimir Plotkin: Better ask me how reasonable seems to me the very idea of developing this land! Look at the map: this is a sack! It has a driving entrance but it has no decent driving exit. It is cut off from the most active part of the city by the railroad tracks, and from the normal communication with the embankment - by the territory of the power plant. In fact, there is only one tiny opportunity to "squeeze through" from the embankment side, and that is closer to the Third Ring Road. Under such initial circumstances, any large-scale construction will bring about yet another city-scale problem. The proximity of the thruways does not automatically mean their accessibility! And, even though all the participants of the contest tried to address this issue in their projects, you cannot change the situation by the pedestrian overpasses alone. What you need here is the comprehensive solution of the problem that means creating the new city matter and connecting it with the already existing - for example, we could re-route the railroad tracks or at least cover them with a platform. Even gradual development of this land presents in my opinion considerable risks for the investor because it can prove financially devastating.

 

Concept for developing the former industrial park on the Berezhkovskaya Embankment by "RESERVE" Studio


Archi.ru: To what extent, in your opinion, is today's Moscow generally ready for comprehensive solutions of its town-planning issues?

 

Vladimir Plotkin: With its financial turnover?! Technically, everything is possible! But what you need in the first place is the human will that will set in motion the sluggish machine of decision-making and the implementation of those decisions. And here I am referring not to the Moscow government alone but in the first place to the federal one. Of course, I do very well realize that even if such a decision is ultimately made the situation will not change overnight. Still, we cannot do without surgical intervention in this case. The palliative "pinpoint" treatment of the city problems is not enough - only if within the boundaries of its historical center.

 

Archi.ru: And what can the architects do in the absence of such will? Is there any help from the architectural contests that have recently become so frequent? Do they help the architects get the grasp of the state of things and communicate this information to those who make the appropriate decisions?

 

Vladimir Plotkin: The architects' conceptual town-planning initiatives never did stop. Thank God, the very contest situation has taken a significant turn for the better. The contests are widely advertised and the city authorities themselves delegate the experts for their competent organization and the analysis of their results. This certainly inspires optimism, if this is not yet another "playing democracy". At least, nowadays almost every professional architectural contest gets a professional program of its own, and there are now qualified experts capable of doing this - I am referring to "Strelka" Institute in the first place. And one must note here that these programs are developed on a really professional level (they might even be too detailed) - I think this is some sort of a reaction to the critical shortage of such programs of the previous years when the commissioners announced tenders on a ragged piece of tracing paper or as some blurry jpeg image without any specifications whatsoever. Back then, the evaluation criteria were something that nobody even talked about - at best, your projects were examined by the evaluation board that predominantly consisted of marketing consultants and realtors with an odd neighborhood-level architect among them. And there were lots of such contests! Last summer I was reading a lecture to the students of "MARCH" architectural school and I wanted to show to the students the specific projects that we did within the framework of various contests over the last two years. Frankly speaking, I thought that I would hardly collect more than 12-15 concepts but it turns out that they were 24! That is, exactly one contest a month!

 

Archi.ru: How many of them won the contests? How many of them were actually implemented?

 

Vladimir Plotkin: Our western colleagues consider winning one contest out of ten to be a pretty successful rate. We won four but only one project was actually implemented. Plus it looks like some work is starting in connection with the residential complex at the Bukhvostova Street in Moscow. So, our efficiency factor is not really high. There was a number of situations when we actually won the contest but still the construction started by a different project. The saddest cases I think were the Moscow City triangle contest and the Savvinskaya Embankment tender. In these contests, none of the submitted projects did win, and eventually the architects were invited from the side. Why? For whatever reasons? These questions are doomed to be left unanswered because no clear rules of the game were ever there in the first pace. But then again, this refers not only to the contests and tenders alone...

 

The project of a residential complex on the Savvinskaya Embankment



Archi.ru: And what do you think is the reason for that?

 

Vladimir Plotkin: To a large extent, I think, this has to do with the consequences of the global economic crisis that undermined and changed for the worse the very structure of the development market in Russia. Because up until 2008 those companies were successful in construction that were originally created as the developer companies - over the 10-15 years of their work, such companies had the time to gain some experience, learn to make clear-cut specifications, and they did care about the quality of their work, plus-minus. In other words, they were real professionals. But then they went bankrupt, their employees joined other teams, and the construction market got new players - large banks that do have the financial resources but do not have the slightest idea of what it is that they want, hence the, let's say the "eclectic" organization of the construction processes. In fact, this leads to the fact that any contest turns into a guessing game where you have to guess the commissioner's tastes, and you are lucky if you only have to guess one person's tastes because more often than not you have to deal with a group of "creative consultants" each of whom has his or her own vision of beauty and the right typology.

 

So, every time, starting new work, the architect is forced to do an equation in a thousand unknowns. Specifically, you never know what kind of restrictions weigh down this or that particular land site. As a result, the designing process turns into a losing game of endless adjusting your project to the "unexpected" restrictions and fine-tuning it to the fickle requirements of the commissioner - creating, under such conditions, something that will reflect and change the city matter for the better, as well as charging this something with your teams creative and personal imprint, is quite a tall order, to be frank.

 

Archi.ru: Vladimir, you still seem to me one of the few Russian architects that over the years has been able to do exactly that.

 

Vladimir Plotkin: Our buildings are always a compromise, and, sadly, often a bitter one. This is why when I design a new building I always hope that this time I will make amends for sure but later on, when the building gets finished, I realize yet again just how naive my aspirations were... And I want so much to speak in the language of architecture not about conventionalities but about motion, about context, about the allusions that this or that place suggests. It is these things that make your building different, but under the conditions that we have here almost all of this remains a dream - you cannot even always build a well-proportioned thing, really.

 

Residential complex with an underground parking garage in the settlement of Zarechye



Archi.ru: What "Reserve" projects are being implemented right now?

 

Vladimir Plotkin: First of all, a few old projects have finally entered the implementation stage. This year, the Zarechye project will be completed, the one that was developed back in the day when no one even heard of the neighboring Science Town of Skolkovo. The building on the Valovaya Street is now being completed - it is a house with a history; it had a huge number of versions which I am planning to publish one day to get an impressive volume of projects. The residential complex "Tricolor" is also under construction now, even though things are slower there than I would have wanted, just as the Ivanovskoe project. The headquarters building of the United Aircraft Company in the settlement of Zhukovsky is being completed. Just recently they started the construction of a residential complex at Khodynskoe Pole for Capital Group. As far as the already mentioned residential complex at the Bukhvostova Street is concerned, we have entered into the design development phase but there are still a lot of unresolved issues there - both legal and territorial. Still unclear is the destiny of the residential area in the Patroclus Bay - as the commissioner recently put it, he "might use some of our ideas in the future". I really fear that ultimately they will make some pathetic caricature of our draft offer - but, regretfully, I am powerless to prevent that.


Конкурсный проект жилого комплекса на 1-й улице Бухвостова в Москве
Contest project of a residential complex on the 1st Bukhvostova Street, Moscow
Archi.ru: Why do you think today there is less demand for the "well-proportioned things" than for such "pathetic caricatures"?

 

Vladimir Plotkin: Only today? That's an eternal question! Books and books have been written on the metaphysics of society's esthetic perception of architecture. Of course, you can try and console yourself with the classic saying that there are just as many types of beauty as there are ways to happiness for everyone. This does not mean, however, that there are no palpable and measurable reasons, including the architects' conformism (and here I do not exclude myself either), that make the architects take the line of the least resistance instead of being one step ahead of the philistine ideas of what is beautiful. A fair part of the blame lies on the so-called "consultants": they calculate and analyze just what their target group is willing to pay for and what styles are in at the moment, and the developers blindly follow their recommendations. But here is the question: what shall we leave to the generations to come? Yes, the question is vexed but still: what buildings shall we be able to show as the example of today's architecture in 20 or 30 year' time? The painted and seemingly expensive-looking atrocities that are now considered to be fine pieces of architecture? If we are to call a spade a spade, then it is nothing more nor less than the typical example of dumbing-down of the population: right before our eyes, there grows a generation that is used to the fact that the whole city media consists of such mock-ups, and it does not offend their eyes. And when I see this situation I realize that our point of honor is to stand up for at least those proverbial proportions, at least the materials, at least the right geometry.

zooming
zooming
zooming
zooming
zooming
zooming


Architect:
Vladimir Plotkin

25 April 2013

author pht

Interviewed by:

Anna Martovitskaya
Translated by:
Anton Mizonov
comments powered by HyperComments
Headlines now
​In Three Voices
The high-rise – 41 stories high – housing complex HIDE is being built on the bank of the Setun River, near the Poklonnaya Mountain. It consists of three towers of equal height, yet interpreted in three different ways. One of the towers, the most conspicuous one looks as if it was twisted in a spiral, composed of a multitude of golden bay windows.
​In the Space of Pobedy Park
In the project of a housing complex designed by Sergey Skuratov, which is now being built near the park of the Poklonnaya Hill, a multifunctional stylobate is turned into a compound city space with intriguing “access” slopes that also take on the role of mini-plazas. The architecture of the residential buildings responds to the proximity of the Pobedy Park, on the one hand, “dissolving in the air”, and, on the other hand, supporting the memorial complex rhythmically and color-wise.
​Dynamics of the Avenue
On Leningrad Avenue, not far away from the Sokol metro station, the construction of the A-Class business center Alcon II has been completed. ADM architects designed the main façade as three volumetric ribbons, as if the busy traffic of the avenue “shook” the matter sending large waves through it.
​Steamer at the Pier
An apartment hotel that looks like a ship with wide decks has been designed for a land plot on a lake shore in Moscow’s South Tushino. This “steamer” house, overlooking the lake and the river port, does indeed look as if it were ready to sail away.
The Magic of Rhythm or Ornament as a Theme
Designed by Sergey Tchoban, the housing complex Veren Place in St. Petersburg is the perfect example of inserting a new building into a historical city, and one the cases of implementing the strategy that the architect presented a few years ago in the book, which he coauthored with Vladimir Sedov, called “30:70. Architecture as a Balance of Forces”.
​Walking on Water
In the nearest future, the Marc Chagall Embankment will be turned into Moscow’s largest riverside park with green promenades, cycling and jogging trails, a spa center on water, a water garden, and sculptural pavilions designed in the spirit of the Russian avant-garde artists of the 1920, and, first of all, Chagall himself. In this issue, we are covering the second-stage project.
​Architectural Laboratory
A-Len has developed and patented the “Perfect Apartments” program, which totally eliminates “bad” apartment layouts. In this article, we are sharing how this program came around, what it is about, who can benefit from it, and how.
​“Architectural Archaeology of the Narkomfin Building”: the Recap
One of the most important events of 2020 has been the completion of the long-awaited restoration of the monument of Soviet avant-garde architecture – the Narkomfin Building, the progenitor of the typology of social housing in this country. The house retained its residential function as the main one, alongside with a number of artifacts and restoration clearances turned into living museum exhibits.
​LIFE on the Setun River
The area in the valley of the Setun River near the Vereiskaya Street got two new blocks of the “LIFE-Kutuzovsky” housing complex, designed by ADM architects. The two new blocks have a retail boulevard of their own, and a small riverside park.
​Celestial Tectonics
Three towers on a podium over the Ramenka River are the new dominant elements on the edge of a Soviet “microdistrict”. Their scale is quite modern: the height is 176 m – almost a skyscraper; the facades are made of glass and steel. Their graceful proportions are emphasized by a strict white grid, and the volumetric composition picks up the diagonal “grid of coordinates” that was once outlined in the southwest of Moscow by the architects of the 1970’s and 1980’s.
Clouds over the Railroad
In the stead of former warehouses near “Lyubertsy-1” station, a new housing complex has been built, which peacefully coexists with the railroad, with the flyover bridge, and with the diverse surrounding scenery, not only dominating over the latter, but improving it.
​Towers in a Forest
The authors of the housing complex “In the Heart of Pushkino” were faced with a difficult task: to preserve the already existing urban forest, at the same time building on it a compound of rather high density. This is how three towers at the edge of the forest appeared with highly developed public spaces in their podiums and graceful “tucks” in the crowning part of the 18-story volumes.
​The Towers of “Sputnik”
Six towers, which make up a large housing complex standing on the bank of the Moskva River at the very start of the Novorizhskoe Highway, provide the answers to a whole number of marketing requirements and meets a whole number of restrictions, offering a simple rhythm and a laconic formula for the houses that the developer preferred to see as “flashy”.
​The Starting Point
In this article, we are reviewing two retro projects: one is 20 years old, the other is 25. One of them is Saint Petersburg’s first-ever townhouse complex; the other became the first example of a high-end residential complex on Krestovsky Island. Both were designed and built by Evgeny Gerasimov and Partners.
The Path to New Ornamentation
The high-end residential complex “Aristocrat” situated next to a pine park at the start of the Rublev Highway presents a new stage of development of Moscow’s decorative historicist architecture: expensively decorated, yet largely based on light-colored tones, and masterfully using the romantic veneer of majolica inserts.
​Renovation: the Far East Style
The competition project of renovating two central city blocks of Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk, developed by UNK project, won the nomination “Architectural and planning solutions of city construction”.
​The Contact
The Istituto Centrale per la Grafica in Rome presents Sergei Tchoban’s exhibition “Imprint of the future. Destiny of Piranesi’s City”. The exhibition includes four etchings, based on Roman architectural views of the XVIII century complemented by futuristic insertions, as well as a lot of drawings that investigate the same topic, at times quite expressively. The exhibition poses questions, but does not seem to give any answers. Since going to Rome is pretty problematic now, let’s at least examine the pictures.
​In Search of Visual Clarity
In this article, we are reviewing a discussion devoted to the question of designing city space elements, which is quite complicated for the Russian expanses of land. The discussion was organized by the Genplan Institute of Moscow at the ArchMoscow convention in Gostiny Dvor.
​The City of the Sun
Jointly designed by Sergey Tchoban and Vladimir Plotkin, the VTB Arena Park complex can arguably be considered the perfect experiment on solving the centuries-old controversy between traditional architecture and modernism. The framework of the design code, combined with the creative character of the plastique-based dialogue between the buildings, formed an all-but-perfect fragment of the city fabric.
​...The Other Was Just Railroad Gin*
In their project of the third stage of “Ligovsky City” housing complex, located in the industrial “gray” belt of Saint Petersburg, the KCAP & Orange Architects & A-Len consortium set before themselves a task of keeping up the genius loci by preserving the contours of the railroad and likening the volumes of residential buildings to railroad containers, stacked up at the goods unloading station.
​Lions on Glass
While reconstructing the facades of Building 4 of Moscow Hospital #23, SPEECH architects applied a technique, already known from Saint Petersburg projects by Sergey Tchoban – cassettes with elements of classical architecture printed on glass. The project was developed gratis, as a help to the hospital.
Park of Sentiments
The project of “Romantic Park Tuchkov Buyan”, which was developed by the consortium of Studio 44 and WEST 8, and has won an international competition, combines sculptural landscape design and wooden structures, variety of spatial features and an eventful agenda, designed for diverse audience, with a beautiful and complex passeist idea of a palace park, meant to evoke thoughts and feelings.
​Architecture as an Educational Tool
The concept of a charity school “Tochka Budushchego” (“Point of the Future”) in Irkutsk is based on cutting-edge educational programs, and is designed, among other things, for adapting orphaned children for independent life. An important role is played by the architecture of the building: its structure and different types of interconnected spaces.
​The Gallery Approach
In this article, we are covering the concept of a Central District Clinic for 240 patients, designed by Ginzburg Architects, which won at a competition organized by the Architects Union and the Healthcare Ministry.
Health Constructor
In this issue, we are publishing the concept of a standard clinic designed by UNK Project, which took second place in the competition organized by the Union of Architects of Russia in collaboration with the Healthcare Ministry.
From Foundation to Teaspoon
Based on the taste of their friendly clients, the architects Olga Budennaya and Roman Leonidov designed and built a house in the Moscow metropolitan area playing Art Nouveau. At the same time, they enriched the typology of a private house with modern functions of a garage loft and a children’s art studio.
Continuation and Development
The second “office” stage of Comcity, the most popular business park of the “New Moscow” area, continues the underground street of the already existing part of the complex, responding to its architectural identity.
​The Flying One
Expected to become an analogue of Moscow’s Skolkovo, the project of the High Park campus at Saint Petersburg’s ITMO University, designed by Studio 44, mesmerizes us with its sheer scale and the passion that the architects poured into it. Its core – the academic center – is interpreted as an avant-garde composition inspired by Piazza del Campo with a bell tower; the park is reminiscent of the “rays” of the main streets of Saint Petersburg, and, if watched from a birds-eye view, the whole complex looks like a motherboard with at least four processors on it. The design of the academic building even displays a few features of a sports arena. The project has a lot of meanings and allusions about it; all of them are united by plastique energy that the hadron collider itself could be jealous of.
​The Aperture Effect
For a housing complex built in the town of Pushkino in the Moscow metropolitan area, KPLN Architects designed facades that adjust the stream of light by using the wall geometry.
​A Comfortable City in Itself
The project that we are about to cover is seemingly impossible amidst human anthills, chaotically interspersed with old semi-neglected dachas. Meanwhile, the housing complex built on the Comcity business part does offer a comfortable environment of decent city: not excessively high-rise and moderately private as a version of the perfect modern urbanist solution.
Moving on the Edge
The housing complex “Litsa” (“Faces”) on Moscow’s Khodynka Field is one of the new grand-scale buildings that complement the construction around it. This particular building skillfully tackles the scale, subjugating it to the silhouette and the pattern; it also makes the most of the combination of a challenging land site and formidable square footage requirements, packing a whole number of features within one volume, so the house becomes an analogue of a city. And, to cap it all, it looks like a family that securely protects the children playing in the yard from... well, from everything, really.
Visual Stability Agent
A comparatively small house standing on the border of the Bolshevik Factory combines two diametrically opposite features: expensive materials and decorative character of Art Deco, and a wide-spaced, even somewhat brutal, facade grid that highlights a laminated attic.
The Faraday Cage
The project of the boutique apartment complex in the 1st Truzhenikov Lane is the architects’ attempt to squeeze a considerable volume into a tiny spot of land, at the same time making it look graceful and respectable. What came to their rescue was metal, stone, and curvilinear glass.
Color and Line
The new successful techniques developed by A.Len for designing a kindergarten under budget constraints: the mosaic of irregular windows and working with color.
The Union of Art and Technology
His interest for architecture of the 1930’s is pretty much the guiding star for Stepan Liphart. In his project of the “Amo” house on St. Petersburg’s Vasilyevsky Island, the architect based himself on Moscow Art Deco - aesthetically intricate and decorated in scratch-work technique. As a bonus, he developed the city block typology as an organic structure.
The Countdown
The project that Evgeniy Gerasimov and Partners developed for Moscow’s Leningrad Avenue: the tallest building in the company’s portfolio, continuing the tradition of Moscow’s Stalin architecture.
White Town
In the project that they developed for a southern region of Russia, OSA Architects use multilayered facades that create an image of seaside resort architecture, and, in the vein of the latest trends of today, mix up different social groups that the residents belong to.
​Just a Mirror for the Sun
The house that Sergey Skuratov designed in Nikolovorobinsky Alley is thought out down to the last detail. It adapts three historical facades, interprets a feeling of a complex city, is composed of many layers, and catches plenty of sunlight, from sunrises to sunsets. The architect himself believes that the main role of this house is creating a background for another nearby project of his, Art House in the Tessinsky Alley.
​Part of the Whole
On June 5, the winners of Moscow Architectural Award were announced. The winners list includes the project of a school in Troitsk for 2,100 students, with its own astronomy dome, IT testing ground, museum, and a greenhouse on the roof.
Pedagogical Architecture
Yet another project of a private school, in which Archimatika realizes the concept of aesthetic education and introduces a new tradition: combining Scandinavian and Soviet experience, turning to works of art, and implementing sustainable technologies.
​Rational Arrangement
In this article, we are examining a complex of buildings and interiors of the first stage of the project that has recently become extremely popular – the Kommunarka clinic.
​Parallel Universe
In the “Parallel House” residence that he designed in the Moscow metropolitan area, the architect Roman Leonidov created a dramatic sculptural composition from totally basic shapes – parallelepipeds, whose collision turned into an exciting show.
​Breakwater
In the Istra district of Moscow metropolitan area, the tandem of 4izmerenie and ARS-ST designed a sports complex – a monovolume that has the shape of a chamfered parallelepiped with a pointed “nose” like a ship’s bow.