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Sergey Trukhanov: "The shape must be conditioned by its environment".

The leader of "T+T Architects" Bureau on his working fundamentals and the recent project done by his team.

author pht

Interviewed by:
Anna Martovitskaya
Translated by:
Anton Mizonov

03 June 2013
Interview
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Archi.ru: When was "T+T Architects" founded?

Sergey Trukhanov: From the formal standpoint, our company is quite young: it was founded early in 2012. But the team of which I am the leader, came together a lot earlier: for a number of years, we all worked as part of another bureau. Some of the projects that we had started back then were later on completed under the new brand and were rightfully included into the portfolio of "T+T Architects".

Archi.ru: As far as I understand, the name of the bureau is in no way associated with your second name?

Sergey Trukhanov: "T+T" stands for "transparent territory". This simple formula reflects the essence of our approach to doing our architectural projects. The transparency and openness of all our project solutions, their being motivated and understandable to our client, our contractor, and our end consumer is something that we place our main bet on. The architecture of the building, as well as its social and functional program, must be reasoned by its environment, its logistics, its aesthetic and social value, and everything that nowadays is usually referred to as "context". Probably it's mainly because of this that our projects cannot boast some outstanding style, characteristic of us alone. We do not have the goal of manifesting our "architectural ego" in each of our projects, even though I do not think this is such a bad thing.

Archi.ru: Then how would you describe your architecture?

Sergey Trukhanov: Speaking of our architectural and interior design projects, I would say that we try to make each one of them as dynamic as possible. We are not attracted by the structures that are sort of "a thing in itself" and exist apart from the city and its people; forts are definitely not our typology. We have a lot more of a soft spot for the projects like "White Square" - a complex on a tiny strip of land that feels like Manhattan on a miniature scale.

 

Courtyard of "Studio #8"

Archi.ru: In other words, you put the environment that you create above the shape that you do?

Sergey Trukhanov: I would say, interaction of the object with its environment is more important than its shape. The shape must be conditioned by its environment, not the other way around. In this sense, we are the big advocates of the approach when any project is regarded as a set of clear-cut, logical, and consistent diagrams - think Bjarke Ingels to mention but one name. It's a very simple process, actually: first we take a cube in a windswept field and then transform it with regard to the insolation, the wind rose, the viewing properties, the traffic and the pedestrian flow chart. Superimposing one group of factors over another, we are getting the required matrix, and architecture stops being something divine and mysterious - it becomes a logical science that can be learned and understood. In our work we try to guide ourselves by these fundamentals. As Kurt Vonnegut said, "any scientist that can't explain to a six-year old what he's doing is a charlatan".

Archi.ru: I was just about to ask you if the English name of your company signifies your adherence to the principles of the contemporary western architecture. According to my observations, you do have the principles of somebody who learned or practiced in a western bureau.

Sergey Trukhanov: There are no "western" or "Russian" principles of architecture, they are all the same. There is a context in which these principles are to be implemented, and this context can indeed vary dramatically. One must correlate to the other, otherwise your project, be it a building or an interior design, will inevitably turn into a mere "art object". And it doesn't matter what school you went to - what matters for us is whether our employee is really ready to learn and grow, whether he is committed to excellence. At T+T, we have the graduates of Moscow Institute of Architecture, and of Moscow State University of Civil Engineering - but this does not mean that we do not try to be always updated on the latest trends of Russian and the world's architecture.

How does you bureau work? Do you have working groups, or do you attend personally to each and every project?

Sergey Trukhanov: We are a full-cycle bureau, i.e. we start with the architectural proposals and concepts, and our job is finished when the last light has been installed. T+T Architects Bureau consists in fact of two independent divisions - the architectural design headed by Alexander Brovkin, and the interior design headed by Vladimir Chukanov. Each of these two divisions consists of several working groups with Alexander and Vladimir supervising the results of their work. As for myself, I, of course have to give the formal approval to each of the projects but I do not always elaborate each and every detail. We do not run an "author" architectural bureau, and one of the things that we surely don't have is the "stylistic dictatorship". What we do have is our common ideology and construction norms and rules. Our every concept is the result of joint discussions and making collective decisions.

Archi.ru: What qualities should an architect possess to get a job at your bureau?

Sergey Trukhanov: What I value in people most is their active attitude - from a personal and from a professional standpoint. Meaning - we do not hire the "give me the exact instructions for what to do" type. Plus - these should be people that are ready and willing to withstand the mad tempo of our work - simply because the basic pool of our orders is not supposed to stay in the pre-design phase for long. We have not yet designed large-scale agglomerations, our main specialty being the projects of redeveloping former industrial buildings to fit the current needs, office complexes, and commercial interiors, i.e. projects that have rigorous and contract-stipulated deadlines that we simply cannot violate. I am not the direct advocate of the age limit idea but we generally hire young people. The architects who are past forty and who have a Soviet "Project Institute" background generally cannot withstand our tempo.

Archi.ru: You mentioned redevelopment projects. When studying the portfolio of T+T Architects at you website, I noticed that they do prevail among your implementations. Do you consider this "genre" your main specialty?

Sergey Trukhanov: We never deliberately set a goal to specialize in this area but renovating old buildings proved to be just as exciting as designing new ones. Besides, what is always exciting is the challenge to preserve the already-formed house planning, breathe a new life into the old building in the contemporary reality. This is why our clients enjoy working with us in this genre. In particular, we highly value our cooperation with the company "KR Properties" for which we did a number of such projects. In 2010, for example, we did a concept for renovating a milling plant in Orenburg that was later on awarded the prize of International commercial property awards. Right now we are taking an active part in the renovation project of the "Danilovskaya Manufactura" factory building, doing both the exterior and interior remodeling. Plus right now we are finishing the implementation of a very interesting project of improving the courtyards of the building that is in fact the HQ of KR Properties themselves. The asymmetric elongated strip of land, practically "locked up" from all sides by the facades of the adjacent buildings - we were able to turn it into a thought-through cozy territory by virtue of using the various green zones, foot walks, partially exposing the sunk-in windows of the basement floor, and making recreation spaces.

 

Interior of the public spaces of the business center "Danilovskaya Manufactura 1867"


Territory of the office center of KR Properties


We are also very proud of the project of the loft block "Studio #8" that has just been awarded the honorary diploma of the "Golden Section 2013". This is a reconstruction of the factory building in the Airport driveway that will be turned into an apartment complex. According to the specifications, we were to keep the construction footprints intact and all of the buildings that were possible to keep and renovate. Plus - the land site is immediately adjacent to the residential complex "Triumph Palace" whose aesthetics and dimensions we were to offset in a graceful unobtrusive manner. We solved this challenge at the expense of the roof that we turned in fact into a new facade. And in order to avoid competing with this high-rise either in the grade of the housing or in the typology we did our project in the loft aesthetic, like an up-to-date European country house.

 

Loft block "Studio 8"


Reconstruction project of a milling factory in the city of Orenburg

Archi.ru: In this sense, there is a lot of charisma about your office - Roof Point on the Luzhnetskaya Embankment. Could you please share how it came about that the office of the architectural bureau is also a showroom and a media venue at the same time?

Sergey Trukhanov: We think that our office is the perfect reflection of our approach: it is transparent, laconic, and understandable at first sight. When we first found ourselves in that loft, we were stricken by its giant window commanding the view of the Luzhniki Stadium and the Moscow City, as well as by its open structures and the opportunity to use the roof. We removed all the partitions and the annexes that were left from the previous owners, and then we saw the girders of the wooden structure of the roof that ultimately became one of the key design elements, just as the original wooden floors from the floor boards that had been hidden under the carpet in their "previous" life. Why the media venue? Well, we thought that it would be a shame to hide such a place because it lends itself to meetings, panel discussions, and communication. Plus we wanted to create a venue where people could discuss various issues and prove their viewpoints unhindered by the constraints of the corporate culture.

 

Interior of the office "Roof point"

Interior of the office "Roof point"

Archi.ru: Generally, how important is the social function for you? Do you purposefully include it into you projects?

Sergey Trukhanov: We always try to do that if our customer goes for it. One of the main goals of the project "Studio #8" that we set for ourselves was making this block as open as possible to the passers-by, give the "address" to the object, turn the "squeezed" streets and territory spots into improved places where the tenants could take a rest or go for walks. Also, very interesting for us was the housing projects of the land site across from "Bagrationovskaya" metro station, along Barclay Street. today, this is a wasteland, through which the local people go from the metro station to their houses. The plot is "in the encumbrance", meaning - the investor is required to build something for the city here, and we were to come up with the idea just what it could be. First of all, we kept and legalized this already-existing passage along this axis, and placed a multi-level public space with cafes, shops, numerous passages, and terraces. What we ultimately got was a building that was all transparent, see-through, safe, and dramatic.

 

City square at Barclay Street in Moscow


Archi.ru: A very optimistic project for Moscow, don't you think?

Sergey Trukhanov: I believe that little strokes fell great oaks, you know. We will offer to build something of this kind. Other architects will. And ultimately somebody will get lucky to actually build a project like this. One day Moscow will start turning into a city that is convenient to live in. Like I said, the very context will start changing.

Archi.ru: Meaning - generally you are optimistic of Moscow's future?

Sergey Trukhanov: In today's Moscow, the architecture suffers a lot because the implementation budgets are always being cut. This is how usually it goes: you develop a concept, show it to your client, and he goes: "Wow! Fantastic! Uhh... Can we build this beauty for three kopecks?" You answer that, no, we cannot. That is, they have the guts to accept a daring concept but they do not want to spend the money. The companies that operate differently are very few indeed but they are there, and it inspires some certain optimism. The regions have a reverse problem: people are really afraid to approve daring projects to implementation while the budgets sometimes exceed Moscow ones. Such a vicious circle!

Generally, it is hard to speak about any quality of the project if it is expected to bring the return on investment within 5 years at the most. To me, this is an inconceivably short term. The ideology of "temporary workers" really has a negative effect - hence the total economy on implementation which ultimately makes a negative difference in the quality of the buildings. In Europe, there is a multitude of schemes that help bring the payback period earlier. I really hope to survive into the time when such schemes will work in Russia - and then we will be able to apply the "European" principles to the fullest.

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03 June 2013

author pht

Interviewed by:

Anna Martovitskaya
Translated by:
Anton Mizonov
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