По-русски

Rais Baishev: "I am a space packer".

One of the cofounders of "Ostozhenka" architectural bureau and the chief architect of such projects as the building of International Moscow Bank, a Residential Complex in Odintsovo, and the residential complex "Water Colors" in Balashikha shares about the role of the chief architect of the project and about his personal preferences as opposed to what is considered to be modern and fashionable.

Interviewed by:
Lilya Aronova
Translated by:
Anton Mizonov

28 October 2015
Interview
mainImg

Archi.ru: 
You have worked with this company from the moment of its inception. The story of Ostozhenka is well known in the architectural community to the point of being a classic example. What did this mean to you in the very beginning? 

Rais Baishev: 
By that time, when we already made the transition from the state-run design bureaus to a free market economy, this country already had the prerequisites for the appearance of such private bureaus. By that time we also had a considerable working experience, and the new economic situation could not exempt us from our obligations before the profession. So, for me a little changed back then. As a matter of fact, greater freedom imposed greater responsibility on us - proportional to our initiative. We started working and soon the team came together. You can put it this way: we took what was most valuable to us from our "previous" life and carried it over to Ostozhenka, the main thing being our commitment to working as a team. This remains the main value for everyone of us up to the present day. 

Do you have any specialties within the framework of your bureau? 

You know, this always comes naturally when people work together as a team. Sooner or later it turns out that somebody can do something better than somebody else, and this becomes his specialty or the cross that he has to bear. The time may come when the person really dislikes it - I don't want to limit myself with this - I can do more, I can do better! Here is the thing with architecture, however - you only have as many specialties as you have real architects on your team. Look at the real big-time masters - can you ever confuse their works or take them for someone else's? Never! They are the manifestations of their personalities and those manifestations are truly unique. You cannot really give up your personality, but then again, you don't have to. 

And what is personally closer to you? 

Here is the thing - the chief architect of the project is literally responsible for everything. This work is very hard to do but it's very rewarding at the same time. Any work consists of analysis and construction. The broader is your vision of all the prerequisites and constituent parts of this work, the more vectors of influence you can see before you get down to it - and not only in the narrow professional sense - the more exact your solution will be. And it is only further on down the line that some of your personal preferences - or should I even say "sympathies" - may come into play. Some people like working with planes, some are into structures that appear in the process of work. I know my toolbox. Most of all, I am interested in the space, the plastics, and the interaction with the context. What is an architect's material? An artist has his canvas and his paints, a sculptor has, say, a piece of clay in his hands, and we as architects get to work with the space, the void, the emptiness! I once asked myself a question - what's my job about? I am a space packer. I pack spaces. I pack the emptiness in accordance with economic laws, in accordance with the existing rules and regulations, but, above all else, in accordance with the laws of harmony - something that we had drummed into our heads back in the school of architecture...

zooming
"Water Colors" residential complex © Ostozhenka


"Water Colors" residential complex. The multicolored inner courtyards. Project © Ostozhenka


And if we are to speak about Ostozhenka on the whole - does it have a market niche of its own?

The architectural genre that Ostozhenka is into has long since been formed for us. We, of course, try to push these limits and avoid burying ourselves inside this shell - but we are still aware what is ours and what is not. For each of us, designing a private residence is a lot more challenging than a two thousand apartments residential complex. One way or another, this gets broadcast to the world outside, and we get "our" commissions - as a rule, these are large-scale urban projects. Simply because you are always a hostage of your initial success! 

The residential complex in Odintsovo. The yard facades © Ostozhenka


The residential complex in Odintsovo. The yard facades © Ostozhenka


Do you have any particular stage of your working process that you like better than others? 

The most fascinating experience for me is when you are one on one with the uncertainty in the very beginning. This is the moment when you can lose yourself completely in the face of the vistas of the possible solutions that spread before you. I sometimes even have dreams about this stage. And sometimes I catch myself thinking: how long has it been since I had this feeling of weightlessness, this beautiful feeling that maybe kids get when they are anticipating a new and exciting game. And this fleeting moment of intuitive solution is followed by long design and implementation. 

Did you ever regret things that you did or did not do? Or did you ever look at one of your already implemented projects thinking that had you had the chance to start all over again you would have done it in a different way? 

I think that the very idea that you can redo something is pretty naive in the first place. Generally, I always anticipate the moment between the end of construction and the beginning of distortions done to my project - because it is at that period of time that I have to find the time to explain at least to myself just what and where I did wrong. This is when the realization comes. By the way, I've already been through a situation when a building that I designed got torn down - with all the good things that it had inside and all the soul I poured into it. A different function was required in this place - and they tore it down. Oddly enough, I don't really have a problem with it. Probably, you just want to take it philosophically - it's just another lesson that life teaches you. The longer you live the more temporary everything around you becomes. While back in the good old days things were made to last forever, now it's almost a public disgrace if you don't change your old television-car-smartphone with a new one. And this applies to architecture as well. Nowadays, you can change the facades as easily as you put on a new set of clothes - which used to be unthinkable. But then again, this must be the sign of our time and you have to live with it. 

I am sure that in your career of chief architect of the project there were occasions when you ran into these or those unexpected obstacles and had to get around them somehow...

What you are speaking about is called "anecdote", a real-life story, funny, or pathetic, or both. Once a customer comes to me, all excited, and he goes: "Look, the top floor is selling so well! Let's add another one on top of it!"

Or, for example, the well-known story of the glass "pocket" fenced by the terrace of Moscow International Bank (now UniCredit bank)? 

Oh, yes, this is also an "anecdote", I mean, in a good way. A proverb. But this is not my story altogether. And I know rather many interesting people who can share with you a lot of such stories from their life. Or, maybe, from mine...

UniCredit Bank on the Prechistenskaya Embankment © Ostozhenka


UniCredit Bank on the Prechistenskaya Embankment © Ostozhenka


UniCredit Bank on the Prechistenskaya Embankment © Ostozhenka


UniCredit Bank on the Prechistenskaya Embankment. Section view © Ostozhenka


Ok, then I will ask a more serious question - do you have any style preferences in architecture?

Quite a lot depends on what values we believe in and what we appreciate from the reality that was there before us. The 1920's, for example, when this country was at the cutting edge of the world's avant-grade architecture. We were lucky to learn from the masters who had created a new picture of the world back in those days. Just imagine how much they were through only to hand us down the legacy that the whole world now values so much! The dramatic history of Russian architecture, thanks to my teachers, became to me something personal when I was still in college. And it defined, just as any truth or revelation should, my priorities in life and profession.

The residential complex in Odintsovo. The red arch that cuts the corner of the building; inside the arch, the same-type red residential building is placed © Ostozhenka
 

Could you put your creative principles in a nutshell?

Probably, they are still in the making. Of course, I have some certain beliefs; they come from my own practice and appreciation of everything that goes on around me. To me, it's very important that I create something new in the process of my work. All that we do is search for something that never was there before us. At the same time, what we try to do is avoid creating the so-called "fashionable" stuff. Because what is "fashionable", after all? It is something that is easily swallowed, easily copied and, ultimately, easily mass-produced. It is a lot more exciting if you can work at the level of typology of spaces, remembering that there is Heaven and Earth as God created them. 

What else is crucially important for you in your work? 

It is very important to build up the right kind of dialogue. First - with your customer. Then - with your colleagues. And ultimately there is a dialogue between your project and its context, and the project itself starts to dictate what is necessary for it. And if the city accepts what you've built, and your customer is willing to cooperate again - then you may say you've done a great job. But if something goes wrong at any of the levels, you cannot so much as pass the blame to anyone. All you can say is: "It's me who is the chief architect of the project. I take the responsibility!"

Aren't you afraid of that? 

As a matter of fact, no. You know, architecture is no place for cowards. 

Thank you very much for this conversation. Of course, I would like to ask what is there on your desktop at the moment. What are you working on now? 

More of the same, I guess. The good old space and their packaging. I think I will be doing this for the rest of my life. At least I sincerely hope I will. 
The residential complex in Odintsovo. Overview © Ostozhenka
"Water Colors" residential complex © Ostozhenka
"Water Colors" residential complex © Ostozhenka
"Water Colors" residential complex © Ostozhenka
"Water Colors" residential complex © Ostozhenka
"Water Colors" residential complex. Plan of the first floor © Ostozhenka


28 October 2015

Interviewed by:

Lilya Aronova
Translated by:
Anton Mizonov
comments powered by HyperComments
Headlines now
​Dialectical Manifesto
The high-rise housing complex MOD, whose construction has begun in Moscow’s district of Maryina Roshcha next to the site, on which the new Russian Railways headquarters will be built, is responding to the “central” context of the future city surroundings, and at the same time is positioned by the architects as a “manifesto of Modernist minimalist principles in architecture”.
​Near-Earth Space
The new terminal of the Leonov Airport in Kemerovo was built in record-breaking time, despite the pandemic. It became one of the important factors for the rapid development of the city, visually reflecting its dedication to the first spacewalk, both in the interiors and on the facades. Its main features are the “starry sky” effect and overall openness.
​Kasimir from Kemerovo
The project of the branch of the Russian Museum for the Siberian Art Cluster is based on the ideas of Suprematism: basic shapes, and dynamism of color and form.
​Stream and Lines
Stepan Liphart’s projects of Art Deco villas demonstrate technical symbolism in combination with a subtle reference to the 1930s. One of the projects is a “paper” one; the others are designed for real customers: a top manager, an art collector, and a developer.
​The Strategy of Transformation
In this article, we are publishing eight projects of reconstructing postwar Modernist buildings that have been implemented by Tchoban Voss Architekten and showcased in the AEDES gallery at the recent Re-Use exhibition. Parallel to that, we are meditating on the demonstrated approaches and the preservation of things that architectural legislation does not require to preserve.
In the Rhythm of Block Construction
Last week, the housing complex “Ty i Ya” (“You and Me”) was presented, built in the northwest of Moscow. By a number of parameters, it exceeds the originally stated comfort-class format, and, on the other hand, fully meeting the city block construction paradigm, popular in Moscow, demonstrates a few interesting features, such as a new kind of public spaces for the residents, and high-ceilinged apartments on the first floors.
​Five Nonlinear Ones
Recently, at the Moscow Urban Forum, they announced a large-scale project that Zaha Hadid Architects would do for Moscow – the multifunctional housing complex Union Towers designed for Quarter 82 of Khoroshevo-Mnevniki at the commission of KROST development.
​Etudes in Glass
The housing complex, located not far away from the Paveletskaya Railway Station, as a symbol of a sweeping transformation of this area: a composition of towers of different height, ingenious detailing of stained glass windows, and a green lawn in the yard.
A Flyover in Watercolor
For the 100th anniversary of Vladimir Vasilkovsky, the architectural office of Evgeny Gerasimov is reflecting on the Ushakov Flyover, which was designed with input from this artist and architect. In this article, we are showing its watercolors and sketches, including the preliminary ones that were not included in the final project, as well as speaking about the importance of architectural drawing.
​Walking on Clouds
A restaurant in the Khibiny skiing complex: 820 meters above the sea level, sweeping views, a levitation effect, and ingenious engineering solutions.
​Transformation with Multiplication
The Palace of Water Sports in Luzhniki is one of the high-profile and nontrivial reconstructions of recent years, and a project that won one of the first competitions, initiated by Sergey Kuznetsov as the main architect of Moscow. The complex opened 2 years ago; this article about it comes out at the start of the bathing season.
​Sergey Tchoban: “I believe it’s very important to preserve this city as a record...
Although originally we planned to speak in this interview with Sergey Tchoban about high-rise construction, the conversation turned out to be 70% about meditation on the ways of regenerating the historical city and about the role of the city fabric as the most objective and unbiased historical record. And, as for the towers, which manifest social contrasts and leave a lot of junk when torn down, the conversation was about the expected construction norms and regulations. We took this interview one day before the Lakhta-2 project was announced, and this is why this newsbreak is not commented upon in any way in this article.
​Courtyards and Constructivism
In this issue, we are examining the second major block of the “city within a city” Ligovsky City complex, designed and built by A-Len, and combining several trends characteristic of modern urban architecture.
​Inside of a Drawn Grid
Designing the apartment complex PLAY in Danilovskaya Sloboda, ADM architects placed their bet on the imagery of construction. The area where it manifested itself the most vividly was the sophisticated grid of the facades.
​Headquarters of the Future
The project by “Arena Group”, which won in an open competition of ideas for the headquarters of the Italian company FITT, combines futuristic forms, an interesting set of functions, energy efficiency, and subtle references to the archetypes of Italian architecture. Particularly beautiful is the “continuous” fountain. In this issue, we are sharing about the three winners of the competition.
​A Tiered Composition
A little bit of New York in Odessa: an apartment complex designed and built by “Archimatika” with towers, townhouses, a square, and swimming pools.
​The Yard Aesthetics
Organizing the yard of a premium-class housing complex, GAFA architects took care not just about the image that matches the project’s high status, but also about simple human joys, masterfully overcoming the construction regulations.
​MasterMind: a Neural Network for Developers and Architects
Created by Genpro, this software allows you to generate within half an hour dozens of development and construction options in accordance with the set parameters. At the same time, however, being more focused on the technical aspects, the program does not exclude creative work, and can be used by architects for preparing projects with a subsequent data export to AutoCAD, Revit, and ArchiCAD.
This Beetle Has Flown
The story of designing a business center in the Zhukov (“Beetle”) Drive: a number of attempts to preserve a hundred-year-old cold storage facility, at the same time introducing modern buildings interpreting the industrial theme. The project remained on paper, but the story behind it seems to be worth our attention.
​The Childhood Territory
The project of the educational complex within the second stage of “Spanish Quarters” was developed by ASADOV Architects. The project is all about creating a friendly and transparent environment that in itself educates and forms the personality of a child.
Man and the City
Designing this large-scale housing complex, GAFA architects accentuated two types of public spaces: bustling streets with shops and cafes – and a totally natural yard, visually separated as much as possible from the city. Making the most out of the contrast, both work together to make the life of the residents of EVER housing complex eventful and diverse.
​Andy Snow: “I aim for an architecture which is rational and poetic”
The British architect Andy Snow has recently become the chief architect at GENPRO Architects & Engineers. Projects, which Andy Snow did in the UK in collaboration with world-famous architectural firms, scored numerous international awards. In Russia, the architect took part in designing Moscow’s Stanislavsky Factory business center, iLove housing complex, and AFI2B business center on the 2nd Brestskaya Street. In our interview, Andy Snow compared the construction realities in Russia and the UK, and also shared his vision of architectural prospects in Russia.
​The Living Growth
The grand-scale housing complex AFI PARK Vorontsovsky in Moscow’s southwest consists of four towers, a “slab” house, and a kindergarten building. Interestingly, the plastique of the residential buildings is quite active – they seem to be growing before your eyes, responding to the natural context, and first of all opening the views of the nearby park. As for the kindergarten building, it is cute and lyrical, like a little sugar house.
Sergey Skuratov: “A skyscraper is a balance of technology, economic performance, and aesthetic...
In March, two buildings of the Capital Towers complex were built up to a 300-meter elevation mark. In this issue, we are speaking to the creator of Moscow’s cutting-edge skyscrapers: about heights and proportions, technologies and economics, laconicism and beauty of superslim houses, and about the boldest architectural proposal of recent years – the Le Corbusier Tower above the Tsentrosoyuz building.
​The Red Building
The area of Novoslobodskaya has received Maison Rouge – an apartment complex designed by ADM, which continues the wave of renovation, started by the Atmosphere business center, from the side of the Palikha Street.
​The Uplifting Effect
The project of Ostankino Business Park was developed for the land site lying between two metro stations (one operating and the other in construction), and because of that its public space is designed to equally cater for the city people and the office workers. The complex stands every chance of becoming the catalyst for development of the Butyrsky area.
​Binary Opposition
In this article, we are examining a rather rare and interesting case – two projects by Evgeny Gerasimov situated on one street and completed with a five years’ difference, presenting the perfect example of example for analyzing the overall trends and approaches practiced by the architectural company.
Raising the Yard
The housing complex Renome consists of two buildings: a modern stone house and a red-brick factory building of the end of the XIX century, reconstructed by measurements and original drafts. The two buildings are connected by an “inclined” yard – a rare, by Moscow standards, version of geoplastics that smoothly ascends to the roof of the stores lined up along a pedestrian street.