In this issue, we showcase one of the most widely discussed interior designs of the year - the restaurant of the famous Central House of Writers, renovation of which was done by the famous architectural bureau WOWHAUS.
Written by: Anna Martovitskaya Translated by: Anton Mizonov
The restaurant of the Central House of Writers appeared in the 1930's as a cafe of the Writers' Union that was then occupying the Olsufievs Mansion built back in 1886–1887. This place gained an almost instant popularity: the famous writers not only dined here but also read their manuscripts, celebrated their birthdays, and had heated discussions as well. The walls of the CHW remember Tvardovsky, Zoschenko, Sholokhov, Okudzhava, as well as Nils Bor, Marlene Dietrich, Indira Gandi, and many other celebrities. After the fall of socialism, the restaurant for years retained the heavyweight aura of the stagnation era: it was quite an expensive place to eat in, and the interior "supported" the sky-high prices with the brazen luxury of the velvet curtains and oak panels. When the restaurant changed its owner last year, the issue of renewing its "face" was instantly raised. Developing a new groundbreaking gastronomic concept for the CHW, the restaurant owner Aleksey Zimin turned to WOWHAUS Bureau with a request to design a bright and dramatic but at the same time easily replaceable interior that would be oriented for the new clientele of the restaurant - workers of the creative industries aged from 25 to 45.
The challenge of this task consisted in the fact that the new design was not supposed to "cross out", let alone oust, the historical adornment. The monument architecture and just a milestone place of the nation's culture were to be kept completely intact, this is why all the authentic elements of the neogothic interior - the oak panels, the fireplaces, and the chandeliers (including the one that was originally going to become the jewel of "Komsomolskaya" Hotel) - were all in one bunch transferred into the project of its renovation, in fact, even before the moment that the architects actually got down to work. "The solution just what to do with all these things came to us rather soon - shares Dmitry Likin, partner of WOWHAUS. Due to the fact that nobody performed a fully-fledged historic and restoration inspection of the building's interior, any serious intervention could have possibly led to damages. It was decided to act in accordance with the logic of art-intervention - meaning, to put a new layer upon the old interior. It will switch the guest's attention onto itself, it will create a different atmosphere but, should this be necessary, it can be easily changed or even removed".
In other words, the choice was at once made in favor of several quick-mount materials - namely, gypsum plasterboard and MDF that, if needed, could be dismantled literally overnight. It is these materials that create in the historical interior the contemporary "layer" treating the originally set neogothic theme through the ornament and light-and-color effects. "The new image of the restaurant is based on the contrast of the interior's historical details executed from wood and the technologies that create a composition that is resonant of today" - Oleg Shapiro adds.
For example, the walls of the foyer that is the first to greet the guests if the restaurant - the architects re-painted them gray-blue, applying to this background a lot of circles with light-reflecting properties. Appearing here for the first time, the circle becomes the theme that runs through all the premises of the restaurant - this is generally one of the favorite techniques of WOWHAUS, and, one must say that it in the interior it sounds a lot more intimately than it does in the decoration of public outdoor areas.
The stairway that leads from the foyer to the restaurant, also underwent complete transformation. In order to give this structure a less massive look, the architects installed on each stair snow-white triangular frames with a backlight. Following the shift of the steps, these structures form an imposing-looking perspective portal: leading into the main premises of the restaurant, it unambiguously warns the guests not only about the drastic change of image of the place but also about the very nature of the transformation that occurred.
In thus sense, the corridors of the restaurant look particularly expressive. Their ceilings conceal the air chutes and ventilation ducts, while below them there are there is a layer of cylinder-shaped lights. They not only conceal the chutes but also make the ceiling look lower, giving extra intrigue to the passes from one hall to another.
The mantel rooms of the CHW, although situated on different floors, are still designed in the similar fashion. Their design uses multiple repeating elements: the same circles and the repeating damask pattern. At the same time, in the lower room, the latter - yet another "genre classic" for neogothic - serves as the background, upon which panels with perforation in the form of circles are applied. Also interesting is the fact that the architects also backlight their multilayer plastic panels with blue light, thus attracting all the visitors' attention to them and making a diversion from the heavyweight decoration if the premises. In the upper hall, these same elements become flat, repeating themselves in the pattern of the wallpaper. The wall lights continue to develop the "circle" theme as the leitmotif of the restaurant's decoration, while the main lighting is provided by the suspended chandelier that consists of a multitude of cylinders.
Probably, the place where the concept of a modern layer freely laid over the historical one manifests itself the most is the Oak Hall. Here, again, the task was to distract the guests from the all-too-high-brow interior, and the architects decorate the oak panels with a glittering pattern. Interesting is the fact that these screens run along the perimeter of the hall on a level with the faces of the people sitting behind the tables, which all the more enhances the independence and conditional status of the new "layer". The two-layer perforated false walls from MDF are decorated with a pattern that repeats, in an exaggerated way, the patterns of this hall's main pride - the immense stained-glass window. The outer layer is cut through with circles, and the outer layer - with diamonds, and they are backlit by a warm yellow glow that creates a peculiar play of geometric shapes that echoes the play of light in the stained glass.
Besides, the hall has in it white separation screens - white backlit partitions, also made from MDF and perforated with a pattern that freely interprets the neogothic language. In order to visually shrink a little the double-height hall and create here a more intimate atmosphere, the architects used, for lighting the tables, bulb lights suspended in a metal framework. In the central zone they are mounted onto the ceiling, while in the couch area they are fastened on the tall couch backs. As was already said, the architects were also able to preserve the CHW's special pride - the immense crystal chandelier: on the level of the second tier, the architects installed a huge panel picture dedicated to good, the very magnitude of which rhymes with the glory of the chandelier.
Developed by WOWHAUS, the concept of renovating the interior of the famous restaurant did not get universal critical acclaim: some people, to be sure, shudder at the very idea of marrying the "sturdy" wood and the plastic that does not even make an attempt to pay a lip service to this noble material. Probably, if one takes transformation seriously, such complaints would have made sense - but the key to understanding this interior lies in the very fact that one needs to realize that this renovation was not done "for ages to come". "The pattern was based on the "golden shields against the azure field" - almost childish interpretation of the chivalrous heraldry - Dmitry Likin explains - applied to the decorative panels, it starts to play with the pseudo-gothic historical interior, destroying its grandeur and thus performing its main task of creating a light and sharp-witted space".
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Stairway to Heaven
The project of a hotel in the settlement of Yantarny is an example of a new recreational complex typology, and a new format that unites the hotel, the business, and the cultural functions. All of this is complemented by 100% integration with nature.
Cape of Good Hope
In this issue, we are showing all the seven projects that participated in a closed-door competition to create a concept for the headquarters of Gazprom Neft, as well as provide expert opinions on those projects.