​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.

Elena Petukhova

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.

– How did you choose your profession?

Nikolai Pereslegin:
– 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. 

Sergey Pereslegin:
– 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. 

George Trofimov:
– 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!
The founders of Kleinewelt Architekten: Nikolai Pereslegin, Sergey Pereslegin, and George Trofimov. Photo © K. Shelukhin
Reconstruction of the the former building of a communal kitchen at the Novokuznetskaya Street, 2014 Kleinewelt Architekten. Photo © I. Ivanov
Reconstruction of the the former building of a communal kitchen at the Novokuznetskaya Street, 2014 Kleinewelt Architekten. Photo © I. Ivanov
Reconstruction of the the former building of a communal kitchen at the Novokuznetskaya Street, 2014 Kleinewelt Architekten. Photo © I. Ivanov
Reconstruction of the the former building of a communal kitchen (built in 1932) at the Novokuznetskaya Street, 2014 Kleinewelt Architekten. Photo © I. Ivanov
A winery in Haykadzor (Armenia). Construction, 2013. Kleinewelt Architekten. Photo © I. Ivanov
A winery in Haykadzor (Armenia). Construction, 2013. Kleinewelt Architekten. Photo © I. Ivanov
A winery in Haykadzor (Armenia). Construction, 2013. Kleinewelt Architekten. Photo © I. Ivanov
A winery in Haykadzor (Armenia). Project, 2013. Kleinewelt Architekten. Photo © I. Ivanov
A winery in Haykadzor (Armenia). Project, 2013. Kleinewelt Architekten. Photo © I. Ivanov
Velikan Movie Theater in Gorky Park. Project of reconstructing the multifunctional movie theater situated in the administration building of Gorky Park, 2015 © Kleinewelt Architekten
Velikan Movie Theater in Gorky Park. Project of reconstructing the multifunctional movie theater situated in the administration building of Gorky Park, 2015 © Kleinewelt Architekten
A pavilion at VDNKh, Construction, 2014. Kleinewelt Architekten. Photo © A. Belov
A pavilion at VDNKh, Construction, 2014. Kleinewelt Architekten. Photo © A. Belov
Dealership center of Mercedes-Benz and Audi on the territory of ZIL Plant. Project, 2016 © Kleinewelt Architekten
Dealership center of Mercedes-Benz and Audi on the territory of ZIL Plant. Project, 2016 © Kleinewelt Architekten

02 February 2017

Elena Petukhova

Interviewed by:

Elena Petukhova
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.