Andrew and Nikita Asadov: "An architect is very much like a doctor - he knows at which spots you must "press" to make the city come alive"
The curators of "Zodchestvo - 2015" Andrew and Nikita Asadov – share about the key role of architecture in transforming the minor cities, about an architect's synthetic thinking, and about the peculiarities of the Russian context.
Interviewed by: Nina Frolova Translated by: Anton Mizonov
- The first question that I would like to ask is both from us and our readers. The range of "new industries" that will be discussed at "Zodchestvo - 2015" is very broad indeed - it includes virtually all fields of human endeavor, not only urban but rural as well: agricultural industry is also represented. So it turns out that for today's Russia practically any industry, for the exception of the mining industry and the development industry are new, progressive, and worth supporting.
Andrew and Nikita Asadov:
- For the expo project of "Zodchestvo", this year we are trying to select everything that, at least from our standpoint, pushes forward the city's business activity without which it simply cannot exist. Today, the main problem - if we are to consider the nation's architecture as a whole - lies in the fact that active people from the regions have a tendency of first moving to the regional centers, then to one of the capitals, and then, if they are lucky, to the western countries. And one of the goals of the festival is to try and start the reverse process - as a matter of fact, it has already started, but without involving the people so far - I am speaking here about the minor cities turning into places that are attractive to live in thanks to, among other things, those "new industries". With their help, these cities get business activity of a whole new level because there is now a whole class of people that are tired of doing things in Moscow that can be actually done in a minor city but in conditions that are more comfortable. Both for these cities and for this country in general, this will be a salvation in many ways because it will launch a totally different mechanism of development, while architecture will be the ignition, the tool to start this mechanism.
This new industry is a means of attracting people to the new cities, while their architecture is a tool of making the people stay there to create a "new quality of life" because now the whole production process is not so much about the quantity as it is about the quality and about creating a new format that is creative, highly technological and highly intellectual. Another consideration why this theme is vital: today, because of the world economic crisis, the former sources of getting rich quick have virtually disappeared; new technologies of getting rich slowly but surely are starting to come into play. We view this situation as a chance for starting new industries, a chance to popularize and speed up this process.
By this "new industries" term we mean the whole spectrum of intellectual and creative activities. The future belongs to them. And just how soon Russia will switch over to this "new economy" will determine how soon it will be able to reinvent itself, including its culture and society. Actually, if as early as now the architects start thinking about how to readjust the existing city and rural spaces to this "new economy", then architecture can become one of the flagships of this transformation process. The fact that this process must begin in the upcoming year is already clear. And we propose to do this with the help of architecture.
- However, your list includes not only science and culture but also the service industry, the tourism industry, and even transportation.
- This all hits one and the same mark. These new industries are like "points of growth" for the Russian cities. What do you need to make such "point of growth" work in a city? You need to form a space for this effective growth at the same time renovating what you already have. With this purpose in mind, you can "re-format" the derelict factory buildings that are there of virtually any mid-size to small Russian city, "re-format" their both space and restart the production process - only make it creative, informative, and intellectual. Still further on, to make this city, working on "new production", attractive for the young specialists, you need to improve the quality of live there and create an environment comfortable to live in. And in order to do that, you need to renew and reform the public territories or create them from scratch. The tourism industry will also work for the same cause: if the city lacks a suitable factory building but has a great monument of architecture, a Kremlin or even a monastery - it can also become a "point of growth".
- A monastery as a museum or as a cult building handed over to the Orthodox Church?
- The monasteries that were handed back over to the Church are alright; they have become cultural clusters in their own right - and we have numerous examples of that. They form around them a community and do something that so far the post soviet municipal authorities have been unable to do: in the case of the monasteries, we have a strong spiritual power, thanks to which all the system start to work easier and more naturally.
As far as the transportation is concerned, in order to make the locomotion in such a "network" space of cities faster - because even if everyone is always online you have to pay offline visits to your friends and colleagues now and then - we will need the adequate transportation systems - fast and convenient, starting from the renovation of the highways and ending with alternative kinds of transport, including the hi-speed string transport systems.
- The manifesto of the festival makes stress on the "human capital". On the one hand, Russia has enough of it but, on the other hand, one cannot help but notice the deficit of this capital: this refers, for example, to the circle of your co-organizers of architectural events - exhibitions and festivals - because it is relatively small. This observation holds true for other fields of activity as well. The truly active people, people who think out of the box and people that are ready to break the viscous circle of "home-studies-work-family" still seem to be few and far between.
- Well, according to our feelings, recently the Russian architectural community has been getting a whole lot more "proactive" projects. This, on the one hand, has to do with the growing popularity of urbanism and architecture-related movements. And the architects themselves have started to act as activists and "instigators" of renovating the city territories. Here is a living example of such initiative - the Environment Department, launched by the team of young architects "Megabudka". What they do is they come up with a project online, discuss it online and then go and implement it in their city. And we know a whole number of such initiatives.
- So, the main exposition of "Zodchestvo" will be showcasing the "new industries". What special projects will be augmenting it?
- Yes, the main place at the exhibition will be occupied by the real examples of architectural renovation of the city territories and separate buildings. It must be mentioned here that the lineup of the participants will be changing in the course of the expo tour of Russia that is scheduled to take place after the festival - the projects that we have now will be added by the local examples.
Another special project - "Anatomy of the City" by Ilia Zalivukhin - will show the city as a living and breathing organism with its own skeleton, nervous and blood-vascular system.
Traditionally, there will also be an educational special project that gathers the best architectural schools of Russia. It is prepared by Oscar Mamleev and MARCH School in the person of its leaders Eugene Ace and Nikita Tokarev.
We are also planning a project of unusual "non-verbal" format. This is our joint project with the so-called "Forum of Living Cities". We will put up a large poster with the principles of the Charter of Living Cities proposed by different experts, and any Zodchestvo visitor will be able to add his or her five principles. "Forum of Living Cities" is an initiative that's coming from the city of Izhevsk, proposed by Leo Gordon and his colleagues. At the example of their home city they showed that with the help of active people the city can come alive again, muster its hidden resources and transform its inner space. And this initiative is already spreading across the nation.
- In your interviews, you often say that "Zodchestvo" must be the PR platform to promote architecture in general. But this is the problem of any architectural exhibition - including Venetian Biennale - in essence, they are held for the intimate circle of colleagues and friends, which is certainly the case with "Zodchestvo", just as with "Arch-Moscow". How do we go about attracting more general public?
- In our opinion, one should start with a "non-architectural" theme. This "new industries" theme was devised in the first place in order to attract not only the architects but also the participants and the creators of the new industries, the creative class, and the city activists. Incidentally, to participate in the main exhibition we invited both architects and leaders of different creative projects and venues, and they all on equal terms are doing the models for this exposition which is also very interesting.
At the same time we want to demonstrate that the architects are experts who do a lot of systematic and integrated thinking, who can reconcile the interest of all the participants of the process.
- So, where does the boundary of the architect's responsibility lie?
- This is a whole new topic, also very important. In this country, architects are oftentimes perceived as mere "facade designers" of the ready-made volumes predetermined by the town-planning rules and regulations. What we demonstrate, however, is that an architect intrinsically has the potential of an "orchestra conductor", that he is somebody who organizes the city space and comes up with the strategy of its renovation. He is the author of the script upon which the whole concept of implementing the new industries must be launched - up to the fact that he can write a scenario of renovating a whole city. An architect is just like a doctor - he feels what spots must be pressed, which specific places must be renewed to make the city come alive - even within the limits of a very tight budget.
The architect keeps in mind the interests of all the participants of the process: the municipality of the city, the city people, the investors, the developers and whatnot. And, considering these interests, he creates a product that's beneficial for the entire city. This synthetic quality of architectural thinking can be the salvation specifically today when we need to come up with integrated strategies.
We have a feeling that this beginning process of "re-formatting" the minor cities may really be new for a lot of people, and this is why most people have a very vague idea of how to go about it. What do you need to do with the city territory to make it "restart" again - not some separate building or public area but the entire urban mechanism? The architects have a chance of initiating this process and showing that they are capable of a lot more that what they've been doing for the last twenty years.
- Your exposition will be situated next to the showcase of the nation's projects already traditional for "Zodchestvo". How do these two parts go together in your concept?
- Apart from our reasoning, one must understand the reality that we live in. And it is "Zodchestvo" that gives the necessary picture of the world. "Zodchestvo" is not about showcasing the most prestigious Moscow projects - it is about showcasing what "average" architecture in this country is all about. This "kills" any false pretenses possible. We have no illusions - we do realize that today our country is functioning in such conditions, with such consumers, and in such reality. This is very important because you always need to realize just what reality you are in, what context is that you need to consider, and this context, by the way, will not accept any super-radical changes, it will simply reject them.
There is this particular context but there is also the theme of this year. All of us - the curators, the expert board, and the festival on the whole - we are proposing a vector of development - what kind of future we see behind the reality of today - and propose to act and think in this direction in spite of any obstacles.
Dynamics of the Avenue
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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
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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.