The story of the contest for development of the raised beach territories of Saint Petersburg's Vasilyevsky Island and about his project that shared its victory with the proposal by the consortium "КСАР+Orange" is shared by the leader of the architectural bureau "A.Len" Sergey Oreshkin.
Interviewed by: Irina Bembel Translated by: Anton Mizonov
Archi.ru:Please share about the contest in more detail. As is the practice recently, it took place without much media coverage?
Sergey Oreshkin: Yes, as a matter of fact, it took some time before I learned about this contest myself - yes, such things are common in this country. Actually, the organizers have a point here - simply because an open contest attracts a crazy number of participants, and this ends up in a waste of time and resources. Even for the most moderate-size team, this means at least two architects that must work two months, plus consider the software and whatnot. In terms of efficiently spending your resources, this is completely wrong. Basically, yes, this is a difficult question - based on which criteria you invite companies to participate. On the one hand, you must encourage the young talent; on the other hand, you want to work with established professionals, so you need to differentiate the process somehow.
The path that "Glorex Development" took was indeed civilized. The customer invited the company "TOPMARK" as the organizer, and "MARCH" as the consultant, and these all were the industry-renowned names - on behalf of "MARCH", for example, it was Eugene Ace that did the consulting; Elena Gonzales was the curator from "MARCH Lab".
The organizers invited to participate the companies with a good reputation and ones that were known to be active in the field of town-planning; such Russian companies being "Ostozhenka", "Studio 44", and us. We all constantly meet at contests of various levels and we have a lot of projects in construction. As far as our company is concerned, over the last ten years, our projects yielded about 450 000 square meters of residential housing stock built and launched into operation; almost a million square meters is being designed now, and we did more concepts and proposals than I care to remember, so, with all due modesty, we are professionals in this field.
The western companies were also carefully picked. Cino Zucchi is known for his creativity, and this is considering the fact that in Italy it's very difficult to become a "star" architect because the competition there is ten times as tough as it is in Russia. Zucchi came up with a truly Italian project - with its own unique understanding of the quality and coziness of residential space - at the same time reminding the sunny Italy in a barely perceptible way with some of its viewing angles.
"КСАР" has great town-planning expertise and large experience of working in Russia. For example, they developed the concept of developing Perm agglomeration - a huge chunk of work.
The only truly world-renowned company was "Snohetta"; that was a great incentive for us to take our work to the limit.
Was the contest organized at the customer's initiative or was it the recommendation of the city?
Sergey Oreshkin: Organizing this contest was the initiative of the customer, the company "Glorex Development", plus, there was an impulse coming from Vladimir Grigoryev, the chief architect of Saint Petersburg. The way I see it, we are now beginning to follow Moscow's path where for years now, at the initiative of the chief architect of Moscow Sergey Kuznetsov various contests are organized that draw interesting lineups of participants.
Such contests bring a very important thing into our routine: the necessity of elaborating the contest task to the tiniest detail. The western architects have a huge advantage over us because of our soviet "trail" when the depth of elaborating on the details in the project was negligently small. If we are to take a look at today's State Standards (soviet ones, in effect), it provides for the most superficial degree of project elaboration: the parapet unit, the basement floor unit, something else - but the exact degree of project elaboration is not defined. In Russia, this has always been the soil that spawned the conflict between the customer and the architect. While we have three phases of voluminous designing and two phases of town planning, in the rest of the world this number is from eight to fourteen, out of which four are only preliminary ones. I hope that thanks to global integration we will be able to bridge this gap one day.
Did the voice imagery preferences of any kind? Some of the participants, including yourselves, used the images of waves and sails, even though bionics is not characteristic of what you usually do...
Sergey Oreshkin: Nobody mentioned the stylistic preferences at all. Only the most general considerations were announced: a feeling of a seaside promenade was to be created, a feeling of wind, and vagrant marine life... To this or that degree, all the contestants tried to reflect that. Well, maybe Nikita Yavein came up with a brilliant idea of a theatrical production: the windows of his business center are designed as "television screens" through which people would watch the sailing ships go by. There is always theater and experiment about his work.
Alexander Skokan reflected the image of Saint Petersburg, tying in his modules to the height of the cornice of the Winter Palace and the rhythm of the Palace Embankment. "Snohetta" used the image of an iceberg as the generalized symbol of the northern sea.
Our image line includes, first of all, the image of the wind. I proceeded from the image of the Finnish Gulf with which my bright childhood memories are connected: these are the towns of Zelenogorsk and Pesochnoe, the clean sand, the glittering ripples of the sea, and the warm shallow waters. But our main leitmotif was the search for the pure "skyline" of the sea wash-in - by analogy with the famous skylines of the city's main seaside views. If we are to build the virtual outlines of the buildings standing on the streets leading to the Neva embankments, it will turn out that these silhouettes, limited though they are, do carry some interesting esthetics. With the use of today's 3D technologies, these silhouettes can be united into skyline envelopes which we did on the basis of pre-calculated modules of the development of the Vasilyevsky Island. The skyline surfaces created unique silhouettes standing along all the streets of our project. Furthermore, by using the 3D design software, we achieved the result where all the cornices are interconnected by a common cornice line.
As for the bionics, what we always have is a fight between imagery and rationalism. In fact, we turned to bionics many times, even though we did not really let these projects go public: town-planning commuters usually reject this kind of stuff. But in this particular case we could afford to sacrifice some functionality in favor of the image per se. What is a different thing, however, is the fact that we anyway create the technical rationale for it: what kind of housing it must be, how it should sell, and so on. And it was only after that that we looked for and calculated the best possible angle of roof inclination. In order to do that, like I already said, we covered the whole Vasilyevsky Island with a "virtual blanket" that gave us the scale of that wave.
The Vasilyevsky Island has on it a few zones of buildings of different scale: it's northeast part was built upon Trezzini project, then there is the houses on the Smolenka River built by Lenproject; the riverside quarter built by Eugene Gerasimov, buildings by Ivan Fomin of the 1910... We were just a little short of time to make a real "bomb" out of it.
Besides, we really wanted to hint, one way or another, that Saint Petersburg is a trading town, and a trading town is always about red-brick warehouses. In Amsterdam, there used to be hooks on the facades of the warehouses; when the ship would come in, the owner had a negotiation on the bottom floor, and then the sacks were hoisted down - meaning, the trade was honed to perfection. So, we also wanted to reflect that element of the trade port period. Hence the brick brown buildings with cut-off corners - these are business centers, while the residential houses are of lighter color.
All the projects, including ours, were based on some brilliant idea. All the participants were experimenting, all were taking risks, and I cannot say that a single project was a "failure". All the works were decent, as was said at the after-contest press conference; there was no significant difference in the level of the submitted projects.
Did the master plan by "Gensler" get in your way?
Sergey Oreshkin: Upon closer inspection, the master plan that was developed by the American company "Gensler" back in 2006 for the raised beaches is not at all as harebrained as it might look at a first glance. Since we did some serious research of the problem, we found out that all the radii were drawn from justified, and not arbitrary, points. The members of the expert board who considered that master plan back in the day - they also say that, from a formal standpoint, you cannot really find a single flaw in that project. Probably, its most serious issue is the engineering networks - they do not go well together with acute angles because this requires some serious extra resources to be spent. This would lead to huge extra expenses that would come up further down the road.
What will be the future of your cooperation with "KCAP + Orange" consortium?
Sergey Oreshkin: It is planned that our team will be adapting the project developed by "КСАР+Orange. We also work up to European standards, which, I think, was a bit of a surprise for the customer. Before sanctions were imposed on the Russian economy, our technical base was even a little better than that of our western colleagues because we, unlike many other companies, annually updated our software, just as a normal company should. Now we cannot affords to do that, so the odds are getting even. We will definitely use the experience of "КСАР+Orange" consortium, and their focus on creating a comfortable environment for the people to live in - but their specific proposal needs to be revised significantly in terms of the planning borders. From a formal standpoint, it is rather difficult going beyond the borders of the site, changing the shape of the embankments, and digging channels, even though today's technology allows for providing a decent streamflow. By all means, we will their idea of spires - it's a brilliant one. The channels are also a great idea, only we will have to figure out how that could be technically implemented.
Designing the embankment is a separate subject: it takes some serious work, coordination with the designers of the other land sites, and you need to tie it all in with the existing embankments. I think that within the framework of one common town-planning cause, you need to invite different architects to do the work. This is a common practice in Moscow - for example, on the territory of the ZIL Factory. Me personally, after the town-planning phase is completed, I would invite different architects, close in spirit and ready to work within a common architectural concept of the overall style and particularly the facades. This idea was also voiced by the chief architect of Saint Petersburg Vladimir Grigoryev. Where large complexes are built by one and the same hand, there is always a feeling of loss in the environment. In particular, all these modern quarters over 100 000 square meters, "single-handedly" built, all look, as if they were undernourished in terms of getting architectural care and attention.
What will be your working schedule on this project?
Sergey Oreshkin: There are no specific terms yet but the customer is looking to do some serious work in Saint Petersburg. You can make this conclusion from the sole fact that "Glorex Development" is launching several projects at once in Saint Petersburg, each being developed by established architectural bureaus, and this in spite of the fact that, essentially, most of these projects are social commission and do not entail any commercial profit. We will sure take a rest during the Christmas season, and then we will resume the consultations.
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.