По-русски

Sergey Estrin: "Challenging tasks stimulate unconventional solutions".

The founders and co-owners of AMSE Bureau Sergey Estrin and Konstantin Levin share about their drive, growth, the customer's feelings about the architectural plastics and their unwillingness to work in the classic genres, and how they feel about participating in contests.

author pht

Interviewed by:
Julia Tarabarina
Translated by:
Anton Mizonov

04 September 2014
Interview
mainImg
Sergey Estrin Architects is twelve years old: it is still too early to think of marking the end but one can already reflect on what has been achieved, sum up the results and make future forecasts. We asked Sergey Estrin and his partner and the co-founder of the company Konstantin Levin a few questions. 

Sergey Estrin; Konstantin Levin © AMSE 

Archi.ru:
- Twelve years of work for your studio is a long enough time to start dividing your history into phases. What phase are you going through now? 

Sergey Estrin: 
- The first phase was the time when we worked with the nouveau riche clients, each of them wanting to make a bold statement, to make a parade of his or her accomplishments, to show his or her unlimited financial possibilities and to live his or her architectural fantasies. And we readily got into the swing of things. From the professional standpoint, it was an unbelievably exciting time; in terms of creativity, sky was the limit. 

Then there was a time of working with corporate clients and international customers - the phase of professional and organized work: steady commissions and steady revenue streams from them. Our studio "grew" its own Chief Project Architects and project managers. Their knowledge of the market, as well as their knowledge of manufactures of building materials, contractors and suppliers enables us to deal with practically any challenge and meet virtually any time constraints. A vivid example of that is our work for Russian Railways Group: 22000 square meters - from the schematic design that included almost 70 visualizations to the detailed project with all the engineering communications in five weeks! 

Now we want to go even further: besides continuing doing the interior designs, we are also going to do more volumes keeping the vector aimed at the imagery and emotions that are inherent to our projects. And - such movement delivers results: right now a residential complex in the city of Novorossiysk is ready to be built, it already was awarded in London the prize "Best Architecture Multiple Residence Russia"; we also recently did a concept of a residential complex in Astana and a very unusual concept of a city district in Novorossiysk. The work on residential houses in Moscow area in the south of Russia is also underway. 


Residential complex in Novorossiysk, 2011 © Sergey Estrin Architecs


Multi-functional complex in Astana © Sergey Estrin Architecs


Private residence in the town of Gorky © Sergey Estrin Architecs

Town-plannung concept, Kaluga region; 2013. Administrative building © Sergey Estrin Architecs



Town-plannung concept, Kaluga region; 2013. Top view © Sergey Estrin Architecs

Konstantin Levin:

- Over the twelve years, we made progress, the market became more professional, and the customer that grew with it became more experienced. On the one side, today's customer is hard to please because he has already seen a lot, on the other side, he is no longer afraid of unconventional solutions, he knows exactly what he wants but, curiously enough, he trusts his architect more. And, because of this trust, he gets a project that is tailored to precisely answer his personal needs. 

- Your portfolio seems to include ever more large-scale projects - buildings, proposals, and concepts. Is this a result of your deliberate intention to expand your circle of competence or is it just happening by chance?

Sergey Estrin: This is our deliberate intention to keep up the customers' interest to the work of our studio. This is what makes us move forward. It has always been this way: we designed private houses, interiors, a synagogue, a research center, an eye clinic, an entertainment complex with a casino, and even the interior design of the cabin of a private jet. And practically each project had a lot of special details about it: from the mandatory certification of the project (this was the case with the eye clinic) or certification of the materials (this was the case with the jet) - to the physical impossibility to complete the project within the given budget and the time constraints (each of our penthouses, actually). And besides, we had to constantly keep in mind the most various factors, even such exotic ones, for example, as the effect from selling apartments in the city of Astana, Kazakhstan. Seemingly, it had no direct reference to our work but we still had to consider it, and it influenced our design. However, all these conditions and limitations only did us good... Over the years if our work, we could see many times that there are no unsolvable problems, and challenging tasks stimulate ingenious and unconventional solutions.

- Meanwhile, the number of large-scale corporate interiors that you do does not grow any smaller. Where do you find the time?

Sergey Estrin: Our ranks have grown, just as our ambitious chief architects of the project did... As for the time, we always wish we had more of it. You lack the time even when you have little work on your hands and you are actually looking for work, and all the more so when you have found work and you have to go ahead and do it. 


Offices of Nord Star Development © Sergey Estrin Architects


Representation office of Diageo Company © Sergey Estrin Architects

- Sergey, it it you who sets the main theme in each given project? Or do you already have co-authors, chief architects of the projects whom you can trust to "whistle a tune"? Just how "monophonic" is your studio?

Sergey Estrin: I take part in the development of ideas for each project. I often come up with an idea and make a detailed sketch of it myself. 

Konstantin Levin: We have an "author studio", so it is Sergey who defines just what the project will be like. After that, I come into play. We have a set routine for the implementation of a project: each phase requires the work of some particular people and/or their interaction. All the members of our team that take part in the design process must get into the swing of things at this or that point. Any negligence can lead to financial losses. And we work with large-scale investments, that's why we cannot just operate on the principle of free trust: well, you have worked here for six years, we trust you, you can have it your way from now on. 

Sergey Estrin: Nevertheless, I always give my architects an opportunity to come forward with their proposals. And, of course, every interesting idea gets implemented. 

- In what phase is the construction of the residential complex in Novorossiysk? Have you been able to find the materials and technologies fit for its implementation? 

Sergey Estrin: This is one of our favorite and most interesting projects over the last few years. We already got all the necessary approvals, we already have all the detailed designs and plans, and we are waiting for the construction to begin. I would not like to mention the political situation and the world crisis but they definitely influence our work - how can it be otherwise? We only hope that the complex, despite the situation, will still be built and will still be in demand. We are all entering the period of shifting the priorities. I could even predict that people are going to hide inside their shells and they will stop spending their money at all. On the other hand, I can easily envisage that this country will switch its attention back to its royal self, and we will be faced with the necessity to create the symbols of pride within Russia...

- You are definitely not afraid of complex and sophisticated shapes - suffice it to mention your "Vortex" in the atrium at the 1st Brestskaya Street or the wave-shaped aquarium in the apartment of your customer Sh; the reception desk executed in the shape of a human eye in Johnson&Johnson Visual Care Institute... What are you trying to get across by experimenting with the texture and shape? 

Sergey Estrin: Our principle of working in the interiors is finding an image that is vivid and bright from the plastic and sculptural viewpoint, and at the same time is custom-designed for this particular client - like a gift for him or her. Getting something that is personalized, something that you will love for years to come, is something that the customer really values nowadays. Today's interior design is all about creating a space that is emotionally charged. We are not speaking about decoration work here - we are speaking about the interior solutions achieved by architectural means. And, if, creating our "wave", we used the modern form, asymmetric composition and today's technologies, then in the "Vortex" at the Brestskaya Street we employed a classical composition, columns of gothic section, and even the material that we used was very conservative - armored plaster. 


"Best design of private residence interior", penthouse of Mr.Sh in "Moscow City"  © Sergey Estrin Architects


Public territories of a tower in Moscow City, Section 12. 2014 © Sergey Estrin Architects


Johnson&Johnson Visual Care Institute 2. 2013 © Sergey Estrin Architects


Interior of the entrance group of the office center of "Capital Tower" © Sergey Estrin Architects

- Your portfolio also has in it examples of projects designed in the spirit of the classic architecture: Zhukovka 2007, Krasnodar 2011. Later on, however, you did no develop in this direction - why? 

Sergey Estrin: We deliberately refrain from designing in the spirit of classical architecture. All the classics that we did, we did at the customer's order that we just were in no position to turn down. What we really enjoy doing for our customers is the contemporary architecture. It is important that you keep your integrity with the customer. We lead him - sometimes to the place where we have never been. The utmost pleasure for us is working with the customer when the customer is himself is into the project, he cannot wait to see what we are about to show him, then he sees something that he did not expect to see and he says that he's got to think about it... And then he gets back to us looking as if he already crossed the line inside himself, looking as if he is ready to take the plunge. And then the drives sets in - the type that leads to great results. This was the case with Astana and Novorossiysk. When the customer, on the other hand, starts telling us that "he is used to classical style" (When DID he have the time to "get used" to it, for crying out loud? Did he grow up in a palace or something?), and we need to collect our architecture for our Majesty the Customer, we can hardly believe into his aristocratic roots and his very need in the classical surroundings. And coming up with the architecture for the "noble" customers and creating fake "family estates" is not the most exciting experience for me...

But then again, when I travel around the world, I enjoy seeing the fine pieces of old architecture. People have built so many things - wise and wonderful! 

- You design a lot for the city of Novorossiysk: your portfolio includes a house of 2007, then this sophisticated volume encased in the curvilinear "grid", and a whole neighborhood of low-rise blocks. Why that city? 

Sergey Estrin: All these projects go back to one customer. We just like his plans and ideas. And, I hope, we appeal to him because of our experience in business architecture and our creative method. That is exactly the case I shared about: the person has the drive in them, he lives on these projects, he gains the design momentum and comes up with new ideas, and we take our work to a new level. This is a certain chemistry: business calculations, ambitions, the passion to explore and discover, the technical interest, and, ultimately, the philosophical approach behind it all. 


A city district in Novorossiysk © Sergey Estrin Architects


A city district in Novorossiysk © Sergey Estrin Architects

- Recently, it has become a popular trend to work with public territories, do the landscaping, facade-painting, and other "architectural molding". You had an experience of such work back in 2011 for Vedis-Group, where you drew a lightening on the facade of a panel house. And now you don't seem to do landscaping at all... Why?

Sergey Estrin: Landscaping is a self-sufficient and very interesting topic. Besides the work that we did for Vedis Group, we reconstructed facades for Lanit. We also worked on the facade "image sign" for the projects built by Capital Group. We will be happy to do the landscaping part in our Astana project. But we do not consider landscaping as a fully-fledged branch of our studio. 


Facade proposal for a Vedis Group residential complex © Sergey Estrin Architects


Facade proposal for a Vedis Group residential complex © Sergey Estrin Architects


Lanit - facade proposal in the Murmansky Driveway 2011 © Sergey Estrin Architects


Residential building for Capital Group 2011 © Sergey Estrin Architects

- What are your impressions of taking part in National Center for Contemporary Arts contest? Do you plan on continuing with this practice? Because participating in contests, though interesting, is pretty expensive!

Sergey Estrin: Both expensive and emotionally draining. Doing a contest without a great and brilliant idea is a waste of time, and the development of such an idea is more often than not a painstaking process that takes you out of life for a certain period of time. You need the ultimate concentration. And you just cannot concentrate amidst your day-to-day work with its constant issues and challenges. But we will still do contests. It's just that you must have some big idea to take part in one. As far as our contest at National Center for Contemporary Arts is concerned, I am satisfied with the result. It was honest - that was our attitude to the stated theme of Russian modern art - a museum located next to the loading bay of a large shopping center. Both the image and the resulting surroundings were quite a success, to my mind.


National Center for Contemporary Arts. Contest proposal © Sergey Estrin Architects
zooming
zooming
Residential complex in Novorossiysk, 2011 © Sergey Estrin Architecs
Multi-functional complex in Astana © Sergey Estrin Architecs
Private residence in the town of Gorky © Sergey Estrin Architecs
Town-plannung concept, Kaluga region; 2013. Administrative building © Sergey Estrin Architecs
Town-plannung concept, Kaluga region; 2013. Top view © Sergey Estrin Architecs
Offices of Nord Star Development © Sergey Estrin Architects
Representation office of Diageo Company © Sergey Estrin Architects
zooming
"Best design of private residence interior", penthouse of Mr.Sh in "Moscow City" © Sergey Estrin Architects
zooming
Public territories of a tower in Moscow City, Section 12. 2014 © Sergey Estrin Architects
zooming
Johnson&Johnson Visual Care Institute 2. 2013 © Sergey Estrin Architects
Interior of the entrance group of the office center of "Capital Tower" © Sergey Estrin Architects
A city distric in Novorossiysk © Sergey Estrin Architects
A city distric in Novorossiysk © Sergey Estrin Architects
Facade proposal for a Vedis Group residential complex © Sergey Estrin Architects
Facade proposal for a Vedis Group residential complex © Sergey Estrin Architects
zooming
Lanit - facade proposal in the Murmansky Driveway 2011 © Sergey Estrin Architects
Residential building for Capital Group 2011 © Sergey Estrin Architects
National Center for Contemporary Arts. Contest proposal © Sergey Estrin Architects


04 September 2014

author pht

Interviewed by:

Julia Tarabarina
Translated by:
Anton Mizonov
comments powered by HyperComments
Headlines now
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 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.
​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.
​Waves of Sound
The conceptual design of a music school: proximity to an Alvar Aalto building, expressive organics, and an attempt to draw public attention to a “low-profile” competition.
​The Outer Space
Honoring the 300th anniversary of the Kuznetsk coal fields in 2021, a new passenger terminal of the Aleksey Leonov Airport in the city of Kemerovo will be built, designed by GK Spectrum and ASADOV Architectural Bureau.
​The Pivot of Narkomfin Building
Ginzburg Architects finished the restoration of the Narkomfin Building’s laundry unit – one of the most important elements of the famous monument of Soviet avant-garde architecture.
​Wicker Vitality
Next to the Dubrovka metro station, ADM has designed a Vitality housing complex with a polychrome mixture of Klinker brick on its ridged facades.
​Freedom Factory
The housing complex “Respublika” is so large that it can be arguably called a micro-town, yet, at the same time, it easily overcomes most of the problems that usually arise with mass housing construction. How could Archimatika achieve that? We are examining that on the example of the first stage of the complex.
​The Flowing Lines
The five houses of the “Svoboda” block belonging to the “Simvol” residential complex present a vivid example of all-rounded work performed by the architects on an integral fragment of the city, which became the embodiment of the approach to architecture that hitherto was not to be seen anywhere in Moscow: everything is subjected to the flow of lines – something like a stream, enhanced by the powerful pattern of the facades akin to “super-graphics”.
​A City by the Water
The concept of a large-scale housing development at the edge of Voronezh, near the city reservoir, or “the sea”, as it is locally called, uses the waterside height difference to create a sophisticated public space, paying a lot of attention to the distribution of masses that determine the look of the future complex if viewed from the opposite bank of the river.
A Journey to the Country of Art Deco
The “Little France” residential complex on the 20th line of the Vasilyevsky Island presents an interesting make-believe dialogue between its architect, Stepan Liphart, the architect of the New Hermitage, masters of the Silver Age, and Soviet Art Deco, about interesting professional topics, such as a house with a courtyard in the historical center of Saint Petersburg, and the balance between the wall and the stained glass in the architectonics of the facade. Here are the results of this make-believe conversation.
​A House in a Port
This housing complex on the Dvinskaya Street is the first case of modern architecture on the Gutuevsky Island. The architectural bureau “A-Len” thoroughly explores the context and creates a landmark for further transformations of this area of Saint Petersburg.
​Balance of Infill Development
Anatoly Stolyarchuk Architectural Studio is designing a house that inadvertently prevails over the surrounding buildings, yet still tries to peacefully coexist with the surrounding environment, taking it to a next level.
​The Precious Space
Evolution Design and T+T Architects reported about the completion of the interior design project of Sberbank headquarters on the Kutuzovsky Avenue. In the center of the atrium, hovers the “Diamant” meeting room; everything looks like a chest full of treasures, including the ones of a hi-tech kind.
​Big Little Victory
In a small-sized school located in Domodedovo in Moscow metropolitan area, ASADOV_ architects did a skillful job of tackling the constraints presented by the modest budget and strict spatial limitations – they designed sunlit classrooms, comfortable lounges, and even a multi-height atrium with an amphitheater, which became the center of school life.
​The Social Biology of Landscape
The list of new typologies of public spaces and public projects has been expanded yet again — thanks to Wowhaus. This time around, this company came up with a groundbreaking by Russian standards approach to creating a place where people and animals can communicate.
​Watched by the Angels from up Above
Held in the General Staff building of the Hermitage Museum, the anniversary exhibition of “Studio 44” is ambitious and diverse. The exhibition was designed to give a comprehensive showcase of the company’s architecture in a whole number of ways: through video, models, drawings, installations, and finally, through a real-life project, the Enfilade, which the exhibition opens up, intensifies, and makes work the way it was originally intended.
​A New Version of the Old City
The house at Malaya Ordynka, 19, fits in perfectly with the lineup of the street, looking even as if it straightened the street up a little, setting a new tone for it – a tone of texture, glitter, “sunny” warmth, and, at the same time, reserved balance of everything that makes the architecture of an expensive modern house.
Stepan Liphart: “Standing your ground is the right thing to do”
A descendant of German industrialists, “Jophan’s son”, and an architect, speaks about how studying architectural orders tempers one’s character, and how a team of just a few people can design grand-scale housing projects to be built in the center of Saint Petersburg. Also: Santa Claus appearing in a Stalin high-rise, an arch portal to the outer space, mannerism painting, and the palaces of Paris – all covered in an interview with Stepan Liphart.
​Honey and Copper
In the Moscow area, the architect Roman Leonidov designed the “Cool House” residence, very much in the spirit of Frank Lloyd Wright, spreading it parallel to the ground, and accentuating the horizontal lines in it. The color composition is based on juxtaposition of warm wood of a honey hue and cold copper blue.
​The Ring on the Saisara Lake
The building of the Philharmonic Hall and the Theater of Yakut Epos, standing on the shore of the sacred lake, is inscribed into an epic circle and contains three volumes, reminiscent of the traditional national housing. The roof is akin to the Alaas – a Yakut village standing around a lake. In spite of its rich conceptual agenda, the project remains volumetrically abstract, and keeps up a light form, making the most of its transparency, multiple layers, and reflections.
Architecture of Evanescence
On the Vernadskogo Avenue, next to the metro station, appeared a high-rise landmark that transformed the entire area: designed by UNK Project, the “Academic” business center uncovered, in the form of its architecture, the meanings of the local place names.
The Theater and Music Circles
The contest-winning ambitious grand-scale project of the main theater and concert complex of the Moscow area includes three auditoriums, a yard – a public area – a higher school of music, and a few hotels. It promises to become a high-profile center for the classical music festivals on a national scale.