Vladimir Bindeman: "The architecture that we have here is quite up to the western standards - what we are still missing is the respect for the architects"
On Thursday, Museum of Architecture opens the exhibition called "Gorod Architecturium" dedicated to the tenth anniversary of the architectural studio of the same name. What has the studio been able to achieve over these years - about this we are talking to its founder Vladimir Bindeman.
Interviewed by: Anna Martovitskaya Translated by: Anton Mizonov
Archi.ru: Vladimir, let us start from the start: who founded "Architecturium"? How did you come up with this name and which was the first project that your studio did?
Vladimir Bindeman: "Architecturium" was founded in May of 2004. By that day, it had almost been ten years since I quit working with official and municipal structures and was mainly doing private commissions with a group of like-minded colleagues of mine. In the spring of 2004, our team won the contest organized by "Modern House" magazine for the townhouse settlement of "Novo-Arkhangelskoe", and it was this victory that stirred us to found a fully-fledged studio of our own. As for the name, this was a "set piece" that I had up my sleeve - it rings of "impressive" Latin terms that end in "ium". Besides, back in those days I was a great fan of the Russian rock-band called "Aquarium"... So, now we have a way of telling out customers and colleagues that "Architecturium" is the place where architects and architecture live at peace with one another.
- In other words, "Novo-Arkhangelskoe" became for your studio the "kick-off" project that predestined your specialization in townhouse settlements?
- This project did not bring us any revenue but it did bring us recognition, thanks to which we later on got a lot of customers with orders for designing townhouse settlements. And even our today's "multisession" project - the Olympian Village Novogorsk - came to us thanks to "Novo-Arkhangelskoe". As for the subject of townhouses, I was into it ever since I embarked on my freelance career in the early 90's, and one can safely say that I am still exploring this idea - "from a cottage to a townhouse block". Back in the 1998-99 I was literally "burning" with this theme, offering it to every investor and trying to convince them that a townhouse is a lot more dependable than a villa and is a lot better suited for the Moscow suburbs. This resulted in the first three houses for "MIEL" company in Romashkovo, designed and built in 1999-2000.
After that, there was a contest with the same investor, only this time for "Barvikha-Club" and the already-mentioned "Novo-Arkhangelskoe". In the latter we did some serious work with the block planning options and came up with give different combinations. Then we did the settlements - "quarters" - for "METRA-Development" - "Ilinsky" and "Rizhsky" where we perfected our expertise and architectural style. And, as for the projects of "Olympic Village", they incorporated all the experience that we accumulated.
- What was it about the idea of townhouse that attracted you so much?
- First of all, its planning possibilities. The variability of its planning solutions that provided an opportunity to create a cozy little city. This type of opportunity is not provided by the cottage settlement. Townhouse planning is something that you can describe with the term "community" - which you cannot say about the heavily fenced villas. You can arrange townhouses to make streets, courtyards, and even squares. It was a truly exciting thing for me to do.
- You seem to be speaking about it in the past tense. However, "Architecturium" still does townhouses, it would be enough to mention the third stage of the "Olympic Village Novogorsk" or the settlement of "Andersen" that, along with the multi-story buildings, includes townhouses as well.
- I hope that these two projects will be out last statement on the subject of this particular typology. Now I am really sceptic about this subject because I think that the townhouse is just not meant for Russia. At least, at the present stage of development. Objectively, the townhouse is mean for tolerant communities, open-minded and friendly. Also, meaning-well and law-abiding people, simply because living in a block house presupposes respect of the neighbors to one another, as well as to the house itself. Living "wall-to-wall" at a plot that is on an average nine meters wide makes you learn how to say hello to your neighbor and learn how to be cool about his children playing noisy games. Respect means that you will not build a gazebo the size of the whole plot and getting in the way of everybody's light, that you will not uglify the house with "outlaw" annexes and all.
The thing is that the buyers of townhouses are a very specific segment of the country real estate market. For many people, a townhouse is "more than a flat, yet less that a villa" - but, because they still want to live in a villa, they treat this house that they've purchased as their own one. The percentage of the rebuilt and reprinted townhouses beats any power of imagination: neither us, nor our colleagues that build townhouses can be sure that they will see them in the original state half a year after the purchase. And it is not because the planning solutions leave much to be desired - it is about the buyers and the real estate agents. I once asked one of such customers a question: "If you want to remodel so much and build extra stuff worth half of the plot, why did you not go and buy an individual villa?" The answer could have knocked me down with a feather: "Actually, I did build a villa! And now I want a townhouse!" No comments.
So, generally, as the pioneer of the "townhouse" movement, I can safely say that over these years I've come to a complete denial of it. Simply because of the fact that your work on the project of blocked houses boils down to trying to figure out what the future owners might want to rebuild - and eliminate such a possibility. I cannot even afford a flat roof: take Romashkovo, for example - all the flat roofs were overbuilt...
- Perhaps, the expansion of Moscow could somehow improve the situation? As far as I understand, after the expansion of Moscow the proverbial "Andersen" turned into a Moscow project and it is common knowledge that Moscow is a lot more attentive to the process of implementation of the approved projects than its region is.
- I cannot help but admit: things became a bit more organized after the southeast area was annexed by Moscow. And the same client of "Andersen", for example, really hopes that his buildings will be kept in the original shape and form, while we, in turn, hope that we have a right to expect that the territory planning that we designed will be implemented in full measure - which will give our project the desired integrity and the comfort of the environment that is great to live in.
- If you are through with the townhouse then what typology is the most interesting to you today?
- This is still the idea of integrated development of the territories, only now it's low-rise and medium-rise housing. In particular, I would really like to overcome today's poverty of planning solutions offered by the developers. It's pathetic that now it is only studio and double-room apartments that are designed - just because they are easier of all to sell. The developer's reasoning is really on a grassroots level: "If somebody needs more, they are going to buy two apartmnents". But we do realize that the house is not elastic! A great three-room apartment is not equal to a studio and a double welded together: in the bearing walls the owners will be at best allowed to make a standard doorway. This is why, by the way, I always ask my designers to foresee these things in advance and design more columns and fewer pylons. In Novogorsk, for example, we had to move the reinforced-concrete pylons.
- In one of your interviews you said that now architecture could be bought and sold - the way I see it, this is a very accurate description of what you seem to be describing...
- It is enough to hear the modern developers speak about architecture. The things that we put out souls into - they just call them "product", no more, no less. And this "product" is only considered successful if it sells quickly. Generally, I have to mention at this point that the average project is influenced by the sales departments and their leaders all but totally, and the final decisions is made not by this or that person but by a "board if directors". Besides the obvious fact that it is very inconvenient and the fact that it takes them forever, it speaks about the level of trust to the professionals: today it's simply non-existent. And, while the main purpose of the designer is quality architecture, the purpose of the developer is selling the product as quickly as possible. Probably, it is always the case with the forming capitalism. I am reading right now "Delirious New York" by Rem Koolhaas - in the 1930's, in the USA, it was the same, even the Rockefeller Center was many times rebuilt to satisfy the leaseholders. I think that fighting it is only possible by personal connections and convictions.
- So this means that there are customers out there that can be persuaded into doing the right thing?
- Very few and far between. There are too many heartless manages out there that will listen politely to everything you have to say but then will fall in with the decision of their board. Today, regretfully, there are no bright personalities in the developer business. The "authoritative" leaders have their weak and strong points - but one thing us certain: creative people form a trend, and passive people follow suit in its wake without caring too much about things.
- How is the working process organized in "Architecturium"? Is this all about the team work or is it a team that only works under your supervision?
- Initially, of course, it was only one team. Speaking, again, of "Novo-Arkhangelskoe", we did it as a team of five people. Right now we have a few teams - but they do not a fixed lineup because they are formed for each specific project. Right now, there are 30 people on our studio, 4 of them being designers, 4 office managers, and the others are architects, including five chief architects of the project.
- How actively are you personally involved in the development of the projects by your studio?
- I, as always, am responsible for the general architectural and planning solution, going through the options and choosing the best one. And, since I am the "playing coach", I do the sketches myself. This applies to the town-planning, as well as the architectural projects. At the same time the chiefs, as well as all the architects of our studio that want to propose an idea of their own, are entirely welcome to do so, furthermore, I always encourage them to do that - the way I see it, this is about the only way to come up with a worthy solution. Generally, the more I live, the more I am convinced that the modern architecture simply cannot be based on the architect's taste alone. Especially when it comes to town-planning! I will give you a simple example here. There was a time when I thought that all the roofs of low-rise housing must be blue. "Novo-Arkhangelskoe" is done in this way, as well as the Sochi health center, and I always insisted on that point, making the customers comply with my taste and overpay for the building materials. Now, looking back, I think that that it was voluntarism in its pure form! So, generally, it is a better thing to do trying to find rational, and not emotional, justification for your architectural solutions.
- Are there orders that "Architecturium" chooses to turn down?
- Actually, we all but never get to do stand-alone projects. So it turned out that we mainly work with territories doing integrated housing projects. Now I would probably feel strange getting down to work on some separate project. Well, I might do so in Moscow, maybe. Even in this case, however, we would have started our work from the inevitable survey of the town-planning context and would have ended with the landscaping. Oh, yes, by the way, if the customer is not ready to commission us with the landscaping job - this is when we turn the project down. We firmly believe that landscaping is the fifth facade of architecture, even more important than the roof, and it needs to be the direct continuation of the ideas and visions that are there in the very soul of the building.
- What qualities must an architect possess to be admitted to work in your company?
- Our main requirement is that this person should love and understand modern architecture. And we do not like the "I've-seen-it-all" type.
- And, speaking of the modern western architecture, which examples of it would you like to bring over to the Russian soil?
- I think that the architecture that we have here is quite up to the western standards. The quote-unquote classicism has long since stopped being a mass trend and this seems to me almost the most important achievement of the last two years. Remembering back to the time when we exhibited with "Romashkovo" at "Under the Roof" show back in 2002, our stands were all surrounded by castles and chalets - and now they are very few and far between. So, if we are to borrow something from the West, this must be the respect to the architect's work - both from the customers and the society.
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.
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.