Introvert Colossus

The multifunctional complex "Lotus" stands out among Moscow's projects of recent years. In this article, we examine the end result, analyze its image, and try t -o sort out our impressions of it.

Julia Tarabarina

Written by:
Julia Tarabarina
Translated by:
Anton Mizonov

25 July 2016

We already shared in detail about the project of this multifunctional (still, predominantly office) center situated in the district of Zyuzino on the Odesskaya Street, next to "Nakhimovsky Prospect" metro station and the small Kotlovka River (the authors of the project being Sergey Tchoban, Sergey Kuznetsov, Aleksey Ilin, and SPEECH). By the end of 2014, it was implemented practically the way it was designed, got the name of "Lotus", and was nominated for numerous prestigious Russian architectural awards. In other words, this building is as high-profile as it is conspicuous, among other reasons, because of the fact that this is one of the projects that were designed right before the economic crisis of 2008, but still were successfully implemented when the recession was in full swing. But then again, this project is a high-profile one not only in theory: the complex is viewable from many sides, from long distances, and, of course, it makes a striking impression on those who drive down the Nakhimovsky Avenue, when, among the dusty vistas of panel buildings, shabby five-story affairs, the inevitable road repair, and abundant but still scraggy trees, they suddenly see a large but self-sufficient glittering volume, compactly packed, and at the same time looking as it it was spinning a little bit - sort of like a glass tornado. 

What first met my eye was the total "extraterrestrial" quality of this project. The crumbly and monotonous background of the "sleeping belt" area where five-story affairs and panel-house neighborhoods alternate with all-but-abandoned industrial parks and wastelands suddenly gives way to a smooth glittering dark-blue monster 85 meters tall that looks as if it had grown up (or, should I say "drilled up") from underground, if not fallen from the sky. The building is a total alien, and so it feels – it stays within its self-imposed circle – not timidly but quite confidently. The whole thing also feels a bit like the Ancient Greek fable about a dragon's teeth that would grow up in a field: what we are seeing here is a strong and self-sufficient edifice. In the Moscow contest, the only thing that it is emotionally on a par with is the complex of Moscow City – it also fills a casual observer with awe at its sheer magnitude and the quality of its surfaces. Yes, this building definitely seems like a distant offshoot of the host of skyscrapers of Moscow City. Most parallels can be drawn, of course, with the Federation Tower because it was built, with Peter Schweger as the co-author, by Sergey Tchoban – but it's not so much this likeness that's important – rather, both Moscow City and Lotus belong to one and the same genre of an "honest" office giant that does not even think of keeping a low profile, which implies huge glass façades, a giant scale, and the integrity of the 3D technology-born form. The thirty years of postmodernism have shown that mimicry is not something that such buildings should be about, and it is not their strong point either – honesty and straightforwardness are much more appropriate in such cases. 

Back to the topic of drilling from beneath the ground, though! First of all, the building's spiral plan consists of three blade-shaped buildings that do suggest some sort of a propeller, maybe the helicopter kind in the avant-garde spirit, or maybe of some other type. Second of all, the faceting of the two bottom floors reminds – particularly for a casual observer glancing from below - a jagged edge of some sharpened tool. It can be, of course, traced back to the classic attic with pylons alternating in a staggered order but the image of the building, which is rather on the technology side, brings more associations with some sophisticated machine rather than with an attic. And third: the glass façade springs directly from the ground, without any basement floor, and at some points it only opens the recession of the entrance, which suggests that there's plenty more of such matter left underground. 

Which is partially true: underneath, there are four levels of the parking garage. In its center, there is an atrium covered with a dome, inside of which it was planned, according to the project, to grow a tree – we already wrote about that. Right about that time, proceeding from the idea of a living tree planted in the middle of a "mechanical" building, a logical structure came about: the skyscraper is all about glass and concrete but the living tree went a long way to make it come alive. 

Yes, all this is true. Looking at the building for the first time, one, is, of course, impressed by its sheer size. On second sight, however, you notice a lot of signs of subtle silhouette play that unfolds on a superhuman scale but does not lose any intensity because of that – rather, gains extra momentum. 

First of all, the shape of each of the units - and they look pretty much alike – combines a cylinder and a cone, giving an interesting spin to the tension that appears between these different but still akin shapes. Each unit can be viewed as a third of a cylinder but this is not the whole of it. If we are to take a look at their sides, we will see that they are trapeze-shaped, one tapering and one widening towards the top. The entire volume is covered with some eternal ripples that bring associations with light waves or magnetic fields – on the one hand. On the other hand, it resembles the curvatures of the classical column adapted the post-Einsteinian language of modern architecture.  

Because of the geometry that makes each of the volumes make an unconventional twist from a usual trapeze to an inverted one, the outside walls are non-vertical almost at all points. This is clearly seen on the drawings and section views. And, if we are to take a walk around the building, one's eyes do not take in the details at once, and an impression is created as if the signal of the immanent complexity of this giant comes out from one's subconscious. Suddenly you realize that this building, however large, sturdy, and simple, has a soul, and it not just stands, it teeters, and not because of the wind but in time to its inner tune. 

That's not how the story ends, however. All the glass stories are grouped in twos, and the outside glass of the broad glass bands is tilted toward the sky; their bottom edge functions as a cantilever, forming a semblance of a marquee that protects each following pair of floors from the sun – the architects proudly stress. The tilted surfaces reflect the sky better, and this is why the building looks so navy blue, while the so-popular-nowadays rhythm helps to "eat away" the scale to a certain extent. The black shadows of the cantilevers dissect the volumes with graphic lines looking like they were made in black Indian ink. The outlines of the "strokes" smoothly change as they go into perspective, grow thinner and painted as a line skillfully drawn on Chinese silk (it looks particularly like silk on a sunset), and bring out the best features in the volume. And these features are so powerful that, while looking at them, one really starts having doubts about whether the cantilevers stick out evenly or whether they also take an active role in the game of light and shade. But – make no mistake – they stand out evenly, only the lines of the shadows deceive one's eyes inviting them to follow. The impression is very much like a watercolor painting, drawn with a feather: dissected by a regular grid pattern of thin joints, the façades serve as a canvas for broad "strokes" of cantilevers, at some places the circular ones from the curved surfaces meeting the straight ones from the sides – in these places the powerful tension of the volumes is felt particularly strong. Anybody who has ever applied strokes on a cylinder will get what I am talking about. The transparency of the corners seen against the light, just as the fact that the buildings reflect one another, adds to the complex's beauty and picturesqueness, due to the colorful spots of varying intensity getting fractured at the bends of the walls.

One should also say that, apart from the above-mentioned "drill", the complex looks like the mechanism of a clutch pencil: some of you must remember these pencils that hold the graphite with three-four tiny metallic paws. So, if you take away the graphite, push the button at the back of the pencil, and pry the petals open – they really look like this complex. And if we are to remember that both Sergey Tchoban and Sergey Kuznetsov – who also worked on this project when he wasn't yet the chief architect of Moscow - are passionate drawing artists, the resemblance ceases to look all that improbable.

The glass is a bit on the smoked side: it only lets in 45% of the visible ambient light and 30% of heat. It still retains its transparency letting an outside observer see the white strokes of fluorescent lights on the ceiling of each floor: particularly noticeable on an overcast day, they fall together to form a laconic pattern that makes the stripes of cantilevers come alive. At night, the building glows from the inside like an anthill of fireflies – this, incidentally, also reminds me of Moscow City. Visible from the outside, the lines of light add to the building's openness: for a person going down the street at night, the chandeliers shining on the ceilings of other people's apartments are a comforting sight to see; without being a peeping Tom, we still sort of feel as if we are a tiny part of somebody else's life, and, therefore, not so lonely anymore - the white strokes on the ceiling of the office complex explore this particular emotion – a technique that adds a soul to this multi-dimensional giant, making it closer, warmer, and more alive.

In these days and in this country (other countries excepted), few people are really willing to examine architecture. On the other hand, most people are quick to hang labels without ever seeing the project in question. An "office building" project is a "bad" project; a "compacted" or a "pointed" one – still worse. And, as for "building of glass and concrete" term, ever since the 1980's it has been as close to an insult as an architectural term could ever get. In such surroundings, office towers inevitably try to keep a low profile, try to make themselves inconspicuous – which, as we remember, is something they are not good at, anyway, and the awkward attempts at disguising themselves only ruin their looks. What we are seeing here is a totally different case: Lotus establishes itself as something that's glass and concrete – yes, this is all true, but that's only one side of the story. It still reserves the right to be agile and moving, or maybe even meditate on its own architectural genre, molding its thoughts, and maybe even controversies, into the barely noticeable subtleties of the design solution. This giant baby has a soul to it – which is what the whole project was all about. It has been proven many times: this is exactly the way one must work within this genre. 
Multifunctional complex "Lotus". Construction 2011-2014. Photograph © Aleksey Naroditskiy
Multifunctional complex "Lotus". Construction 2011-2014. Photograph © Aleksey Naroditskiy
Multifunctional complex "Lotus". Construction 2011-2014. Axis diagram © SPEECH
Multifunctional complex "Lotus". Construction 2011-2014. Photograph © Aleksey Naroditskiy
Multifunctional complex "Lotus". Construction 2011-2014. Photograph © Aleksey Naroditskiy
Multifunctional complex "Lotus". Construction 2011-2014. Photograph © Aleksey Naroditskiy
Multifunctional complex "Lotus". Construction 2011-2014. Photograph © Aleksey Naroditskiy
Multifunctional complex "Lotus". Construction 2011-2014. Photograph © Aleksey Naroditskiy
Multifunctional complex "Lotus". Construction 2011-2014. Photograph © Aleksey Naroditskiy
Multifunctional complex "Lotus". Detail of the facade © SPEECH
Multifunctional complex "Lotus". Construction 2011-2014. Photograph © Julia Tarabarina
Multifunctional complex "Lotus". Construction 2011-2014. Photograph © Julia Tarabarina
Multifunctional complex "Lotus". Construction 2011-2014. Photograph © Julia Tarabarina
Multifunctional complex "Lotus". Construction 2011-2014. Photograph © Julia Tarabarina
Multifunctional complex "Lotus". Construction 2011-2014. Photograph © Aleksey Naroditskiy
Multifunctional complex "Lotus". Construction 2011-2014. Photograph © Aleksey Naroditskiy
Multifunctional complex "Lotus". Construction 2011-2014. Photograph © Aleksey Naroditskiy
Multifunctional complex "Lotus". Location plan © SPEECH
Multifunctional complex "Lotus". Plan of the 1st floor © SPEECH
Multifunctional complex "Lotus". Plan of the 2nd floor © SPEECH
Multifunctional complex "Lotus". Plan of the 11th floor (offices) © SPEECH
Multifunctional complex "Lotus". Plan of the 20th floor © SPEECH
Multifunctional complex "Lotus". Plan of the 21st floor (offices, maintenance part) © SPEECH
Multifunctional complex "Lotus". Plan of the usable roof © SPEECH
Multifunctional complex "Lotus". Section view © SPEECH
Multifunctional complex "Lotus". Section view © SPEECH
Multifunctional complex "Lotus". Section view © SPEECH
Multifunctional complex "Lotus". Facade © SPEECH
Multifunctional complex "Lotus". Facade © SPEECH
Multifunctional complex "Lotus". Facade © SPEECH
Multifunctional complex "Lotus". Facade © SPEECH
Multifunctional complex "Lotus". Facade © SPEECH
Multifunctional complex "Lotus". Facade © SPEECH

25 July 2016

Julia Tarabarina

Written by:

Julia Tarabarina
Translated by:
Anton Mizonov
Headlines now
Julius Borisov: “The “Island” housing complex is a unique project – we took it on with...
One of the largest housing projects of today’s Moscow – the “Ostrov” (“Island”) housing complex built by Donstroy – is now being actively built in the Mnevniky Floodplain. They are planning to build about 1.5M square meters of housing on an area of almost 40 hectares. We are beginning to examine this project– first of all, we are talking to Julius Borisov, the head of the architectural company UNK, which works with most of the residential blocks in this grand-scale project, as well as with the landscaping part; the company even proposed a single design code for the entire territory.
A Balanced Solution
The residential complex “Balance” on Moscow’s Ryazansky Prospekt is one of the large-scale, and relatively economical (again, by Moscow standards) housing projects. Its first phase has already been built and landscaped; the work on the others is in progress. Nevertheless, it has an integral internal logic, which is based on the balance of functions, height, and even image and space composition. The proposed solutions are recognizable and laconic, so that each of them was reduced by the authors to a graphic “logo”. To see everything, you have to flip through the pages and look through to the end.
Horror Vacui
In the city of Omsk, ASADOV architects took on a very challenging task: they are developing a concept of a public and residential complex, which involves reconstructing the city’s first thermal power station standing right next to Omsk’s first fortress. This territory has already seen a lot of projects designed for it, and the residential function of this land site has been the subject of heated debate. In this article, we are examining the project in question, aimed at developing a mid-scale city fabric suited for the historical center. We also examine the above-mentioned debate. Seriously, will this project save this place or will it bring it to ruin?
A Multi-Faced Grotto
This building, seemingly small, unremarkable, semi-ruined, and not even very ancient – the Grotto in the Bauman Garden – was restored by the “People’s Architect” architectural company with all the care applicable to a heritage monument. They preserved the romantic appeal of the ruins, added multimedia content, and explored the cascading fountain, which, as it turned out, was completely preserved. Brace yourself for a long story!
First among Equals
The building of a kindergarten in the town of Beloyarsky is more than just another example of a modern educational space. Its design began a long time ago; it is located in Russia’s Far North; it is also a state-owned facility that is subject to regulations, and had to cut costs during construction (as usual). However, the design is contemporary, the layout is modern, and the building feels very fresh. The project is planned to be replicated.
Gustave Falconnier
In the “ruin” wing of Moscow’s Museum of Architecture, an exhibition of “glass bricks” by Gustave Falconnier is open. These “bricks” are essentially the predecessors of glass blocks, but more complex and beautiful. The exhibition shows genuine “bricks”, buildings composed of them, the history of the destruction of Falconnier windows in the building of the State Archives, and it also became one of the reasons to revive this unique production technology.
​Streamline for City Canyons
Stepan Liphart has designed two houses for two small land sites situated in the area surrounding the Varshavsky Railway Station, which is being intensively developed now. The sites are situated close but not next to each other, and they are different, yet similar: the theme is the same but it is interpreted in different ways. In this issue, we are examining and comparing both projects.
​The Eastern Frontier
“The Eastern Arc” is one of the main land resources of Kazan’s development, concentrated in the hands of a single owner. The Genplan Institute of Moscow has developed a concept for the integrated development of this territory based on an analytical transport model that will create a comfortable living environment, new centers of attraction, and new workplaces as well.
A School of Our Time
On the eve of the presentation of the new book by ATRIUM, dedicated to the design of schools and other educational facilities, based on the architects’ considerable experience, as well as expert judgments, we are examining the Quantum STEM school building, constructed according to their project in Astana. Furthermore, this building is planned to be the first one to start a new chain. The architects designed it in full accordance with modern standards but sometimes they did break away from them – only to confirm the general development rules. For example, there are two amphitheaters in the atrium, and there is an artificial hill in the yard that is meant to make the flat terrain of the Kazakhstan steppe more eventful.
The Fluffy Space
Designing the passenger terminal of the Orenburg airport, ASADOV architects continue to explore the space theme that they first introduced in Saratov and Kemerovo airports. At the same time, the architects again combine the global and the local, reflecting topics inspired by the local conceptual context. In this case, the building is “covered” by an Orenburg downy shawl – an analogy that is recognizable enough, yet not literal; some will see the reference and some won’t.
The White Fitness Center
The white health and fitness center, designed by Futura Architects at the entrance to St. Petersburg’s New Piter residential complex, provides the developing area not only with functional but also with sculptural diversity, livening up the rows of the brick city blocks with the whiteness of its seamless facades, cantilevered structures, and dynamic inclined lines.
The New Dawn
In their project of a technology park to be built on the grounds of “Integrated Home-Building Factory 500” in Tyumen Oblast – the biggest in Russia – the HADAA architects preserve not just the industrial function of the giant hangar built in the late 1980s and 90% of its structures, but also respond to its imagery. They also propose a “gradient” approach to developing the available areas: from open public ones to staff-only professional spaces. The goal of this approach is to turn the technology park into the driver for developing the business function between the industrial zones and the future residential area in accordance with the Integrated Land Development program.
​Tame Hills for New Residents
T+T Architects have reported that they have completed the landscaping project for the yard of the first stage of Alexandrovsky Garden housing complex in Ekaterinburg – the landscape complements the contextual architecture, tailored for the buyers’ preferences and downtown standards, with bold neo modernist master strokes and lush and diverse vegetation.
The Crystal of the City Block
The typology and plastique of large housing complexes move with the times, and you can sometimes find new subtleties in the scope of seemingly familiar solutions. The Sky Garden complex combines two well-known themes, forming a giant residential area consisting of tall slender towers, placed at the perimeter of a large yard, in which a crossroads of two pedestrian promenades is “dissolved”.
Sunshine, Air, and Water
The construction of the “Solnechny” (“Sunny”) summer camp, designed by ARENA project institute, has been completed, the largest summer camp within the legendary Artek seaside resort for children. It was conceived still in Soviet time, but it was not implemented. The modern version surprises you with sophisticated engineering solutions that are combined with a clear-cut structure: together, they generate Asher-esque spaces.
​Art Deco at the Edge of Space
The competition project by Stepan Liphart – a high-end residential complex executed in a reserved classicist style in close proximity to the Kaluga Space Museum – responds equally well to the context and to the client’s brief. It is moderately respectable, moderately mobile and transparent, and it even digs a little into the ground to comply with strict height restrictions, without losing proportions and scale.
​A Hill behind the Wall
The master plan of a new residential area in Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk, developed by the Genplan Institute of Moscow with the participation of Kengo Kuma & Associates, is based on the complexities and advantages of the relief of the foothills: the houses are arranged in cascades, and multi-level improvement penetrates all the blocks, continuing in forest trails.
Going, Going, Gone!
The housing complex “Composers’ Residences” has been built in accordance with the project by Sergey Skuratov, who won the international competition back in 2011. It all began from the image search and “cutting off all spare”, and then implementing the recognizable Skuratov architecture. It all ended, however, in tearing down the buildings of the Schlichterman factory, whose conservation was stipulated by all the appropriate agencies prior to approving Skuratov’s project. This story seems to be educational and important for understanding the history of all the eleven years, during which the complex was designed and built.
The Life of Iron
The building of the Vyksa Metallurgy Museum, designed by Nikita Yavein and Sergey Padalko, provides for the natural aging of metal – it is planned that the iron will gradually rust – at the same time utilizing the advanced type of construction, based on metal’s ability to stretch. The building will be constructed from pipes and rolled steel supplied by OMK company, as well as from recycled bricks.
​And the Brook is Flowing
ASADOV Architects have designed a master plan for developing a residential area at the outskirts of Kaliningrad: a regular grid of housing blocks is enriched by large-scale public facilities, the main “artery” of the new area being the fortification channel that regains its original function.
Off We Go!
The new terminal of the Tomsk airport is being designed by ASADOV bureau. The architects keep on developing its identity, building the imagery upon the inventions of Nikolai Kamov, whose name the airport bears. The result is laconic, light, and, as always, levitating.
Maximum Flexibility
The Multispace Dinamo, which recently opened within the Arena business center, is an example of a project that is entirely based upon cutting-edge approaches and technologies. It is managed via a mobile application, special software was created for it, and the spaces are not just multifunctional but carefully mixed up, like some kind of jigsaw puzzle that allows the office workers to mix their working routine for better efficiency.
A Factory’s Path
Last week, the new center for constructivist studies “Zotov” hosted its first exhibition named “1922. Constructivism. The Inception”. The idea of creating this center belongs to Sergey Tchoban, while the project of the nearest houses and adjusting the building of the bread factory for the new museum function was done by the architect in collaboration with his colleagues from SPEECH. We decided that such a complex project should be examined in its entirety – and this is how we came up with this long-read about constructivism on Presnya, conservation, innovation, multilayered approach, and hope.
The Savelovsky Axis
The business center, situated right in the middle of a large city junction next to the Savelovsky Railway Station takes on the role of a spatial axis, upon which the entire place hinges: it spins like a spiral, alternating perfect glass of the tiers and deep recessions of inter-tier floors that conceal little windows invented by the architects. It is sculptural, and it claims the role of a new city landmark, in spite of its relatively small height of nine floors.
Parametric Waves
In the housing complex Sydney City, which FSK Group is building in the area of Shelepikhinskaya Embankment, Genpro designed the central city block, combining parametric facades and modular technology within its architecture.
The Multitone
The new interior of the Action Development headquarters can be regarded as an attempt to design the perfect “home” for the company – not just comfortable but broadcasting the values of modern development. It responds to the context, yet it is built on contrast, it is fresh but cozy, it is dynamic, yet it invites you to relax – everything of this coexists here quite harmoniously, probably because the architects found an appropriate place for each of the themes.
Refinement No Longer Relevant
A few days ago journalists were shown the building of Bread Factory #5, renovated upon the project by Sergey Tchoban. In this issue, we are publishing Grigory Revzin’s thoughts about this project.
The Comb of Strelna
In this issue, we are taking a close look at the project that won the “Crystal Daedalus” award – the “Veren Village” housing complex in Strelna, designed by Ostozhenka. Its low-rise format became a trigger for typological and morphological experiments – seemingly, we are seeing recognizable trends, yet at the same time there are a multitude of subtleties that are a pleasure to go into. Having studied this project in detail, we think that the award is well-deserved.
A Tectonic Shift
For several years now, Futura Architects have been working with the “New Peter” residential area in the south of St. Petersburg. In this article, we are covering their most recent project – a house, in which the architects’ architectural ideas peacefully coexist with the limitations of comfort-class housing, producing a “multilayered” effect that looks very attractive for this typology.
Three “Green” Stories
In this issue, we are examining three environmental urban projects showcased by the Genplan Institute of Moscow at the Zodchestvo festival. The scale of the projects is really diverse: from gathering information and suggestions from the residents on a city scale to growing meadow grass between houses to paintings, which, as it turned out, possess power to cure trees, healing their wounded bark. + a list of kinds of plants natural for Moscow to help the developer.