Kleinewelt Architekten: "In each of our projects we try to fix the world"
In this issue, we are speaking to Nikolai and Sergey Pereslegins and George Trofimov, partners and founders of Kleinewelt Architekten, about their outlook on what matters most in the profession of an architect.
Interviewed by: Elena Petukhova Translated by: Anton Mizonov
02 February 2017
The architectural company Kleinewelt Architekten was created in 2013 by three partners: Nikolai and Sergey Pereslegins and George Trofimov. Over the last few years, the company has been able to have its projects built in Moscow as well as in the regions, and won a few large-scale closed competitions for privately owned companies.
Archi.ru: – How did you choose your profession?
– Ever since I was a kid, the most exciting thing for me was coming up with some different worlds and creating some different spaces. The way I see it, the profession of an architect presents a great number of opportunities and fields for applying most diverse skills that you may have – including the ability to listen to your opponent, or, on the other hand, to prove your point. My parents graduated from Moscow Institute of Architecture, and my grandmother was also an architect. So, to me, the choice of my profession was based on a whole number of personal factors, one of them being my family background.
– As for me, I always wanted to create things - maybe of a completely different nature but things that I would be proud to show to the world, things that would be there to stay. I considered different options - including but not limited to microbiology. But at some point in time I realized that abstract or fundamental science just wasn't my thing. I wanted to see the results of my work, and I wanted people to see them. But "scientific research" approach was something that I tried to keep, and it helps us immensely in our work.
– My choice of profession was absolutely deliberate and by no means accidental. Ever since I was a kid, I loved drawing, making houses from a construction kit, and I seemed to be always making things. And it was my love of inventing and creating things that ultimately lead me to architecture. But before I became an architect I tried my hand at different creative professions. Among other things, I worked as a graphic designer and a photographer. Here is the takeaway from this experience: 99% of any creative product is short-lived and is designed for a really short service life, architecture being about the only exception. The very realization of the fact that you are working for a long-term perspective, that you are doing something serious, something that is meant to be there for ages, is a huge motivator that feeds your creative energy. And this, of course, leaves its mark on our approach to doing things.
What we don’t like is any "packaged" or "prefabricated" solutions. We always come up with new ideas, from simple things to complicated façade projects.
– And what is the subject matter of your research? Shapes? Scenarios of how human beings will live inside your projects?
Nikolai Pereslegin: As a prime mover, the subject matter of our research is, as a rule, the human beings themselves. The most interesting thing about all this is to see how totally different people will react to this or that solution of ours, how these solutions will affect their mood or worldview. This is really exciting – trying to model this or that scenario for the people in order to introduce new values into the reality, values that are important to us.
Sergey Pereslegin: Also, I would like to add that very often the subject matter of our research is information. The first stage of solving any task that we have is about collecting information that will help us to better understand what is required of our project and what makes it different. This can be information from totally different levels – from historical to social, from cultural to functional, or even from the day-to-day operation level.
George Trofimov: What we don’t do is mindless shape-making. Anything we do, we do it for a reason.
Nikolai Pereslegin: The first stage of any of our projects is the scientific survey. We process huge amounts of information; the first sketches come later on down the line.
Sergey Pereslegin: It is this survey that enables us to turn the project into a discovery or an invention.
– At which point do you get down to the design stage?
Nikolai Pereslegin: Our company has a rather strict set of management rules and all the workflows are clearly organized, first of all, in terms of meeting the deadlines. And this gives us the opportunity to work without distraction.
Sergey Pereslegin: Yes, you can go on accumulating your information forever. But at some point we realize that we have enough information and we can get down to actual work.
George Trofimov: And, of course, by all means, we do not downplay the role of intuition in our creative process.
– How does intuition fit in with the design project narrative?
George Trofimov: Well, and how are the great discoveries made? Nobody knows! We gather the information, we think it over, and then we start developing some ideas. The creative search begins.
– So how do you view shape per se then? How important is it to you?
Nikolai Pereslegin: We think discussing separately your shapes, your planning, and your materials to be an unprofessional approach. We do not consider ourselves as some creators of great art who can draw, say, a beautiful curve, and then everybody is obliged to come running to implement it. But we do our work really well. We bring together a huge number of really different elements and solutions in order to create a really interesting high-quality space. What is the most important, however, is the feeling, the mood that it creates for the people, which ultimately defines their lifestyle. We are the producers of life, no less.
– And what kind of mood should people be put into? What feelings are your projects supposed to inspire?
Nikolai Pereslegin: What matters to us are the basic human values, and we want our projects to make people kinder, make them think of building and creating rather than destroying and conflicting. We try to appeal to the highest feelings and values – these notions might be a bit on the abstract side but you still can get them across through these or those specific design solutions. Combining our knowledge of technology and the emotion that we put into our work, we try to build in such a way that the life that will take place in our buildings and spaces would make people happy every living second.
– Generally, what is Kleinewelt Architekten is about? What words would you use to describe your architecture?
George Trofimov: Of course, we all are individuals but any of our projects is the result of collective work of a whole team of specialists. Any solution that one can see in our projects is the result of repeated discussions and heated debates. We always organize our inner competitions when for about an hour the whole company goes wild, everybody doing his sketches, and then we pick what we think is the best solution and we choose the direction in which to go.
Nikolai Pereslegin: The identity of our architecture is formed thanks to the three layers that our every project consists of. The first layer is science. The second layer is all about our meditation and our emotions. And the third layer is actually about working on the project. Thanks to this approach, our every solution, our every façade, and our every space are rationally justified and individual.
Sergey Pereslegin: A huge mark is also made by the inner code of honor that has formed in the course of multiple discussions and that covers the basic principles and fundamentals of our work. For example, we know for sure that under no circumstances shall we do an imitation selling plastic as wood or stone. This is what I would call “material integrity”.
– Are you ever confronted with a problem of finding a unique architectural language of your own?
George Trofimov: This problem is solved within the framework of each individual project, and it is strongly dependent on the specific architectural task. For example, if the location or the function calls for some bold statement, we, of course, will not be shy to go ahead and make it.
Nikolai Pereslegin: In each of our projects, we try mend a piece of time-torn or time-worn fabric in order to help this fabric live longer. In each of our projects, we try to fix the world, and each time we try to find the right wrench or the right screwdriver so as to make things fit perfectly, and, God forbid, ни в коем случае не сорвать. But when we understand that there is nothing left to fix here, and the only option is to create something entirely new, we just go ahead and do it, creating this fragment of the world from scratch. And if we commit ourselves to making a new world, make no mistake, it will be a very good one!
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.
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.
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.
Hearing the Tune of the Past
The Church of the Beheading of John the Baptist in the park near the Novodevichy Convent was conceived in 2012 in honor of the 200th anniversary of the victory over Napoleon. However, instead of declamatory grandeur and “fanfare”, the architect Ilia Utkin presented a concentrated and prayerful mood, combined with a respectful attitude of this tent-shaped church, which also includes some elements of architecture of orders. The basement floor hosts a museum of excavations found on the site of the church.
The high-end residential complex STORY, situated near the Avtozavodskaya metro station and the former ZIL factory, is delicately inscribed in the contrastive context, while its shape, which combines a regular grid and a stunning “shift” of the main facade, seems to respond to the dramatic history of the place, at the same time, however, allowing for multiple interpretations.
Yards and Towers: the Samara Experiment
The project of “Samara Arena Park”, proposed by Sergey Skuratov, scored second place in the competition. The project is essentially based on experimenting with typology of residential buildings and gallery/corridor-type city blocks combined with towers – as well as on sensitive response to the context and the urge to turn the complex into a full-fledged urban space providing a wide range of functions and experiences.
The Fili Duo
The second phase of the Filicity housing complex, designed by ADM architects, is based on the contrast between a 57-story skyscraper 200 meters high and an 11-story brick house. The high-rise building sets a futuristic vector in Moscow housing architecture.
The Wall and the Tower
The OSA architects have been searching for solutions that could be opposed to the low-rise construction in the center of Khabarovsk, as well as an opportunity to say a new word in the discourse about mass housing.
An Office for Concentrating Ideas
T+T Architects have designed an office for a French IT company, where the employees in any point of the premises can discuss with their colleagues new ideas or even write them on the wall.
The Energy Family
The housing complex Symphony 34 will be built in Moscow’s Savelovsky district; it will consist of four towers from 36 to 54 stories high. Each of the towers has an image of its own, but they all are gathered into a single architectural ensemble – a fragment of a new high-rise urban space lying outside the Third Transport Ring.
The Fifth Element
The high-end residential development in the Vsevolozhsky Lane features a combination of expensive stone and metal textures, immersing them into a feast of ornaments. The house looks like a fantasy inspired by the theater of the Art Nouveau and Symbolism era; a kind of oriental fairy tale, which paradoxically allows it to avoid direct stylization and become a reflection of one of the aspects of modern Moscow life.
Springboards and Patios
The central element of the manor house in the village of Antonovka, designed by Roman Leonidov, is the inner yard with pergolas, meant to remind its owner about his vacations in exotic countries. The exposed wooden structures emphasize the soaring diagonals of single-pitched roofs.
Adding Up a Growing City
The housing quarter “1147” is located at the border between the old “Stalin” district in the north and the actively developing territories in the south. Its image responds to a difficult task: the compound brick facades of the neighboring sections are different, their height varying from 9 to 22 floors, and, if we are look from the street, it seems as though the front of the city development, consisting from long narrow elements, is forming some sophisticated array at this very moment in front of our eyes.
Agility of the Modular
In the Discovery housing complex that they designed, ADM architects proposed a modern version of structuralism: the form is based on modular cells, which, smoothly protruding and deepening, make the volumes display a kind of restrained flexibility, differentiated element by element. The lamellar and ledged facades are “stitched” with golden threads – they unite the volumes, emphasizing the textured character of the architectural solution.
Polyphony of a Strict Style
The “ID Moskovskiy” housing project on St. Petersburg’s Moscow Avenue was designed by the team of Stepan Liphart in the past 2020. The ensemble of two buildings, joined by a colonnade, is executed in a generalized neoclassical style with elements of Art Deco.
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.
In the Space of Pobedy Park
In the project of a housing complex designed by Sergey Skuratov, which is now being built near the park of the Poklonnaya Hill, a multifunctional stylobate is turned into a compound city space with intriguing “access” slopes that also take on the role of mini-plazas. The architecture of the residential buildings responds to the proximity of the Pobedy Park, on the one hand, “dissolving in the air”, and, on the other hand, supporting the memorial complex rhythmically and color-wise.
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.