Ivan Ovchinnikov: "Off-the-shelf mobile solutions are the way of life that I carry over to my architecture".
About the feasibility that gives you a competitive advantage, about life in the DoubleHouse, about the construction of MicroLoft, about the close of the festival era, and about the history of ArchFarm.
Interviewed by: Julia Tarabarina Translated by: Anton Mizonov
- At ArchiWOOD you went ahead and read out a sparking manifesto that was dedicated to DoubleHouse, one that probably even helped it to win in the popular vote. Could you please quote the main line of that manifesto?
- This was a manifesto of the "unpublished" category. I specifically prepared it for the vote in case somebody of my competition got the better of me - but never did have recourse to it. The main line probably was: "I am not asking you to vote for the author or for the project itself - I am asking you to vote for the very approach to the architecture and to countryside construction". And, to me, what is so special about this approach is its duplicability, accessibility, and its mass character. This is why I took an active part in the struggle for the popular vote, even though I never did this before.
- Do you yourself believe in your manifesto?
- Strange question! Why should I do this otherwise? Because DoubleHouse is not my first modular project and not my first project of compact housing. ArchPriyut ("ArchAsylum" - translator's note) - was quick-mount and feasible. Last year I organized "MicroHouse" Festival that also went a long a way to give birth to a lot of new ideas and the real experience in construction of quick-mount movable projects. A lot of our houses were built at ArchFarm, and then transported to Museon.
DoubleHouse. Photo courtesy by Ivan Ovchinnikov.
- As for DoubleHouse - does it sell at all?
- I will be totally honest with you - our main challenge now is how to produce it, not how to sell it. A lot of our customers would like to buy it as early as this summer but presently our production facilities and their workload enabled us only to make one sales-demo project that actually sold at once - in fact, in ten days after its construction began.
- Generally speaking, DoubleHouse is a beautiful idea: a ready house with all the communications and even furniture. We know, however, that in Europe such "traveling" houses are quite common, and they have a lot of modifications to them. Can you put your DoubleHouse into the European context? Is there anything that makes it different or does it recreate some western prototype? What did you proceed from?
- Of course, it would be wrong to say that our DoubleHouse is unique and that it was born without the influence of any European analogues. I have always been interested in the phenomenon of compact housing, I have collected a large library on the subject, and, of course, at the moment of the birth of DoubleHouse, all I had to do was put my knowledge together to come up with a new image. As for the birth moment of this idea, it stands out in my memory quite vividly: this was at ArchMoscow 2013, where the FutteralHaus by Maxim Kurenny was first shown. I was really impressed with this idea but then, based on my experience and understanding some of the limitations of the modular "pull-out" project of FutteralHaus, I immediately came up with a different building structure that was not to be pulled out but that was to be put together out of two halves. Maxim, probably, won't even remember our dialogue: I said that I came up with an idea how his project could be improved. And he was like "And how?" To which I playfully answered: "I will first do it, then show it to you, and then we will compete!" Today we are friends with Maxim, we work together, and promote this thing in Russia.
By the way, I am not making an accent on the mobility and the opportunity of moving from place to place. The quality of being modular provides an opportunity to assemble the house at the production facilities, raising its quality and lowering its cost, while its mobility is not that important, really: over this half a year nobody actually asked me about the possibility of a multiple move-over. DoubleHouse is the project that can be quickly assembled on your land site but it is not a trailer on wheels, after all.
DoubleHouse in the process of assembly. Photo courtesy by Ivan Ovchinnikov.
- And if we are to compare it to the typical panelized house that have been popular at the Russian dachas since the 1980's, or to the cheap offers of today's Russian market? Is it true that DoubleHouse is more expensive? Did you study the market before you actually started, and what conclusions did you draw from that study?
- Well, it's all pretty basic, really: the typical panelized houses require a lot of follow-up work - finishing, communications, furniture... Nobody ever gives a thought to the ultimate cost of the building, buying the sheer box, and the main resources are spent later on - countless trips to buy the finishing materials, figuring out where to house the workers, finding the electrician, the plumber, and such like. With DoubleHouse it's different - you buy it and you start living it. Just like with a car - you buy it and you drive it. Because you don't buy a car with no seats inside.
DoubleHouse. Interior. Photo courtesy by Ivan Ovchinnikov.
DoubleHouse. Photo courtesy by Ivan Ovchinnikov.
- You mentioned Maxim Kurenny's Futteralhaus; this year, at ArchMoscow was showcased its new modification - FH_25. How many more Russian analogues do you know?
- I do not know a single architect who would not at least once in his career propose to make a house "like in IKEA". There are many similar "paper" projects done by our Russian colleagues, a few projects are already searchable on the Internet and are offered for implementation but the end product was achieved only by me and Maxim.
- You and your family, you live in a DoubleHouse. How long ago did you move there? Have you been able to run into any issues over such a test period?
I've been living in my DoubleHouse on a permanent basis since December 2013. The main issues came up during the January frost when the water that ran along the outside walls froze. Now the project was has been fully redone, we hid all the layout and distribution behind the inside partition, so the water has no chance of freezing. Also, in my house I did not do the covered terrace and I now regret it - with a terrace, the house looks better, there is a place to sit outside when it rains, and you also need an awning above the entrance. Right now, I am testing my house in the "summer heat" mode - so far I am satisfied.
- The all-purpose park pavilion "UPP" is also designed to be transported around. Are such off-the-shelf mobile solutions a specialty of BIO-architects?
- This is also a way of life that I try to carry over to architecture, and the feasibility that gives me a competitive edge.
All-purpose UPP module. Photo courtesy by Ivan Ovchinnikov.
- When was BIO-architects founded and how does it work? Do you have partners or such like?
- The bureau came into being at the time when all my social projects got shut down. I had long since been into architectural design and since 2011 I developed my own production facilities, but, while I only used to invest part of my time between the festivals and other programs, now I formalized my activities as an architectural bureau. For solving my architectural tasks I often turn to some other outsource architects: last year, for example, we did together a few joint projects with Leo Anisomov. The production questions are solved by a close-knit team that works on a permanent basis. I've got guys that help me deal with the organization issues - for example, the great girl Katie Geraskina helps develop the furniture branch, and largely because of her efforts we have recently united with other young design companies to form the Club of Industrial Designers.
- Your furniture is very rectangular and laconic to the point of brutalism. The Three Bears (classic Russian folk fairy-tale - translator's note) would probably appreciate it... Is this a principle with you? You will insist on making rectangular stuff or maybe something else is also possible?
- And you are putting too fine a point on it. I do have a furniture series that is made of massive construction timber - these babies will last for centuries. But I do the light stuff as well. For example, we have now pioneered making Russia's first furniture of LVL-timber, and it has no right angles or massive parts - just because this material "plays" in a totally different way particularly in the curvilinear shapes, and its transparency enables us to make light structures.
Furniture. Photo courtesy by Ivan Ovchinnikov.
Furniture. Photo courtesy by Ivan Ovchinnikov.
Furniture. Photo courtesy by Ivan Ovchinnikov.
Production of furniture. Ivan Ovchinnikov is on the left. Photo courtesy by Ivan Ovchinnikov.
Production of furniture. Photo courtesy by Ivan Ovchinnikov.
- So, the festival period is over - what's next? Was MicroLoft your last festival project? (Where is it now, by the way?)
- I made a pause. Got some architectural "rehab". Nobody knows what's going to happen tomorrow. As for MicroLoft, it is now taken apart and lying in wait at my production facility near the city of Troitsk - I hope to assemble it there.
MicroLoft in Museon. Photo courtesy by Ivan Ovchinnikov.
MicroLoft in Museon. Photo courtesy by Ivan Ovchinnikov.
- Why did you leave ArchFarm? Did you have any regrets about that?
- It's ArchFarm that left Tula Region, not the other way around. It did so for a number of reasons, first of all, because further steady development became impossible there. Do I regret it? Not in the least! How can you regret the experience that you got? I hope that all the friends of ArchFarm also do not regret the time that they spent there. And as for the concept of ArchFarm, it is still alive - in my heart, and in the hearts of my friends. With God's help, one day ArchFarm will find a new venue where it will be implemented with regard to the acquired experience.
Graffiti at the ArchFarm. Photo courtesy by Ivan Ovchinnikov.
Polyphony of a Chaste Style
The “ID Moskovskiy” housing project on St. Petersburg’s Moscow Avenue was designed by the team of Stepan Liphart in the past 2020. The ensemble of two buildings, joined by a colonnade, is executed in a generalized neoclassical style with elements of Art Deco.
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.
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.