Magnus Månsson: Method is the same everywhere

Interview with the head of Semrén+Månsson deals city blocks, energy efficiency and peculiar features of sweden architecture.

Interviewed by:
Natalya Muradova

08 September 2017
1.  How can you explain the growing popularity of Scandinavian design in the world and especially in Russia?
I believe that the popularity of Scandinavian design is much to do with its high functionality. It is not only aesthetically attractive but also practical, functional and comfortable for people. Another aspect is that Scandinavian architecture aligns well with the trends today concerning ecology and energy efficiency.
2. Which are the main features of contemporary Swedish architecture? Is there anything that distinguishes it from the architecture of the other Scandinavian countries?
Swedish architecture is very close in style to other Scandinavian architecture. However, Swedish architecture might be slightly more classical, restrained, and less experimental. Swedes are very focused on sustainability and timeless design qualities. We believe that you willeasily get tired of the extreme.
3. As far as we know, city blocks are now widely used in some Swedish cities. What do you think about this type of city planning? Which preferences does it have? Which weaknesses?
City blocks are our common European heritage and urban context. This way of living is widely spread and appreciated by people throughout Europe. It defines the urban spaces and, in a natural way,provides different dignities with public squares, streets and private yards. We use it and like it because it is a comfortable way to live. And for us architects, the convenience of residents is always a main focus. A weakness would be that the sun and light do notreach all apartments equally. This is an important challenge for the architect –  to manage to give all apartments sufficient qualities of light and sun. 
4. Is it possible to add any diversity to a city block? Which tools does Semrén & Månsson use for this?
I believe that it is important to keep the measures and proportions of the streetscape, and also that the first floor is used for public or commercial activities. Having ensured this, you can play more with volumes, for example adding taller buildings inside the block, or break it up so that more sun comes in. This is something that has to be studied in each specific case, to decide what solutions would bemost beneficial.
5. Does Semrén & Månsson manage to strike a balance between building aesthetics, convenienceof its residents and modest construction budget? How?
Yes, this is our focus in all projects! We have long experience of designing in both Sweden and Russia. The most successful projects are always the ones where we work in close dialogue with competent and visionary clients. In Sweden we have a full scale lab since we, beside the ordinary architectural business, design, build and finance our own projects. In these projects, we have really proved it possible to balance quality architecture and satisfied residents with financial success.
6. Which aspects are the most important for landscaping of city blocks?
Public parks and semi-public yards are important as well as the landscaping design of the streets with its squares and pocket parks. The aim is to create places for social contact and interaction as well as recreation. We even use rooftops for this purpose, creating space for recreation and socialization as well as cultivation of plants and vegetables.
7. Wooden architecture is widely spread in Sweden, wood is used even for public buildings and business centers. Am I right? Do you have any technical norms that regulate using wood in construction? Do you think that they are still necessary today?
You are completely right. Wood is already commonly usedas building material in Sweden, and the interestfor using it has lately grown stronger. Society is encouraging the use of wood because of its sustainable qualities and the fact that it is a renewable material. Furthermore, it is a material closely connected to our culture since we are surrounded by wood everywhere in Sweden. Not only is it a convenient choice, but also beautiful!
Fire regulations are very strict when it comes to wood, but we have good ways of ensuring fire safety. Following all norms and regulations, we are still able to build even high-rise buildings with both façade and construction made of wood.
8. Have energy efficiency requirements been revised in Sweden in recent years? How often does Sweden change them? Which norms do you have now?
Since the beginning of the 1970s, when Sweden suffered enormously from the oil crisis, focus has been on energy efficiency. Norms are constantly changing and in pace with technology they get more and more strict. In Sweden, it is quite common to build passive houses that require almost no energy, and there are even projects in which buildings themselves produce energy – so called plus energy houses.
9. Can you tell about the company’s work in Russia? When did Semrén & Månssonbegin to work in Russia? How did you start it? Which was your first project in Russia?Does Semrén & Månsson work abroad besides Russia?
We started to work in Russia in the 90s, but back then it was not on a regular basis. For about eight years we have had more steady projects, which led us to openingour first office in St Petersburg five years ago, followed by a second office in Moscow two years ago. In our St Petersburg office we now have 25 architects employed and we are continually growing. Our focus is a long-term commitment in Russia and we work all over the country, from St Petersburg and Moscow to Irkutsk, Krasnoyarsk, Tyumen, Yaroslavl and other bigger cities. The first project we did after opening in St Petersburg was a residential project in Kolpino, St Petersburg. It is now built and has come to be a great success for the client,SpbRenovation.
Besides our offices in Russia, we have one in Stettin, Poland, but it is much smaller than the one in St Petersburg. Apart from these countries we sometimes have commissions in other countries, but not with the local representation we have in Russia and Poland.
10. What is the difference between designingin Sweden and designing in Russia?
The method and approach is the same; we start by interpreting the site and the circumstances with its limitations and potentials, context and culture, and after that we create our project. This method is the same everywhere, but the outcome is of course different depending on diverse circumstances. Norms are clearly different, which is why we have our own Russian staff, and naturally, that effects the outcome. The aim for good architecture, however, is the same! Since many of our clients in Sweden not only build, but also manage their real estates, they may be more interested in long term qualities. This could be about energy efficiency, materials that age well or other aspects that influence good finances and quality over time. 

08 September 2017

Interviewed by:

Natalya Muradova
comments powered by HyperComments
Headlines now
​The Yard Aesthetics
Organizing the yard of a premium-class housing complex, GAFA architects took care not just about the image that matches the project’s high status, but also about simple human joys, masterfully overcoming the construction regulations.
​MasterMind: a Neural Network for Developers and Architects
Created by Genpro, this software allows you to generate within half an hour dozens of development and construction options in accordance with the set parameters. At the same time, however, being more focused on the technical aspects, the program does not exclude creative work, and can be used by architects for preparing projects with a subsequent data export to AutoCAD, Revit, and ArchiCAD.
This Beetle Has Flown
The story of designing a business center in the Zhukov (“Beetle”) Drive: a number of attempts to preserve a hundred-year-old cold storage facility, at the same time introducing modern buildings interpreting the industrial theme. The project remained on paper, but the story behind it seems to be worth our attention.
​The Childhood Territory
The project of the educational complex within the second stage of “Spanish Quarters” was developed by ASADOV Architects. The project is all about creating a friendly and transparent environment that in itself educates and forms the personality of a child.
Man and the City
Designing this large-scale housing complex, GAFA architects accentuated two types of public spaces: bustling streets with shops and cafes – and a totally natural yard, visually separated as much as possible from the city. Making the most out of the contrast, both work together to make the life of the residents of EVER housing complex eventful and diverse.
​Andy Snow: “I aim for an architecture which is rational and poetic”
The British architect Andy Snow has recently become the chief architect at GENPRO Architects & Engineers. Projects, which Andy Snow did in the UK in collaboration with world-famous architectural firms, scored numerous international awards. In Russia, the architect took part in designing Moscow’s Stanislavsky Factory business center, iLove housing complex, and AFI2B business center on the 2nd Brestskaya Street. In our interview, Andy Snow compared the construction realities in Russia and the UK, and also shared his vision of architectural prospects in Russia.
​The Living Growth
The grand-scale housing complex AFI PARK Vorontsovsky in Moscow’s southwest consists of four towers, a “slab” house, and a kindergarten building. Interestingly, the plastique of the residential buildings is quite active – they seem to be growing before your eyes, responding to the natural context, and first of all opening the views of the nearby park. As for the kindergarten building, it is cute and lyrical, like a little sugar house.
Sergey Skuratov: “A skyscraper is a balance of technology, economic performance, and aesthetic...
In March, two buildings of the Capital Towers complex were built up to a 300-meter elevation mark. In this issue, we are speaking to the creator of Moscow’s cutting-edge skyscrapers: about heights and proportions, technologies and economics, laconicism and beauty of superslim houses, and about the boldest architectural proposal of recent years – the Le Corbusier Tower above the Tsentrosoyuz building.
​The Red Building
The area of Novoslobodskaya has received Maison Rouge – an apartment complex designed by ADM, which continues the wave of renovation, started by the Atmosphere business center, from the side of the Palikha Street.
​The Uplifting Effect
The project of Ostankino Business Park was developed for the land site lying between two metro stations (one operating and the other in construction), and because of that its public space is designed to equally cater for the city people and the office workers. The complex stands every chance of becoming the catalyst for development of the Butyrsky area.
​Binary Opposition
In this article, we are examining a rather rare and interesting case – two projects by Evgeny Gerasimov situated on one street and completed with a five years’ difference, presenting the perfect example of example for analyzing the overall trends and approaches practiced by the architectural company.
Raising the Yard
The housing complex Renome consists of two buildings: a modern stone house and a red-brick factory building of the end of the XIX century, reconstructed by measurements and original drafts. The two buildings are connected by an “inclined” yard – a rare, by Moscow standards, version of geoplastics that smoothly ascends to the roof of the stores lined up along a pedestrian street.
​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.
​Semantic Shift
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.
​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.