По-русски

OSA: “We are excited to work with human habitat”

The Ekaterinburg-based firm “OSA” presents itself as a freethinking community of creative personalities with equal rights to self-realization.

Interviewed by:
Anna Starostina
Translated by:
Anton Mizonov

19 September 2017
Interview
mainImg
We met one of its co-founders, Stanislav Belykh, and interviewed him about the ratio of the standardized and the individual in modern housing construction, the urge of architecture to submit humans, and the necessary skill to see things through the eyes of the end consumer of your product.

Buildings in the city of Tumen © OSA


Archi.ru:

– An inevitable question: why is your company called “OSA”? Is this connected in any way with the strong constructivist line in the architecture of Ekaterinburg?

Stanislav Belykh:

– I may surprise you but the name was the first thing that we came up with – we like it because it was so sharp, so resonant, and so stinging (“osa” is the Russian for “wasp”) – and it was only the next day that we remembered that back in the 1920’s there was the so-called “Obyedinenie Sovremennykh Arkhitektorov” (“Union of Modern Architects”) in this city. It was, of course, rather cheeky of us to just go ahead and borrow this acronym for our name, but our moral justification is that we wanted to follow in their footsteps and created the “Obyedinenie Samostoyatelnykh Arkhitektorov” (“Union of Independent Architects”), each of whom has the right to go their own way proving by his results that his way is the right way to go. Placing your bets on just one talent, even if it’s a great one, means subjecting the firm to a certain risk, and we wanted to create a strong and stable company. But, of course, all the members must share some common values – not stylistic, stylistic unity is not a rule – but at least some shape-making fundamentals.

zooming


Inside perspective © photograph by Maxim Loskutov


– And what does the structure of your bureau look like in this case? Is there any kind of inside hierarchy?

– Today we have 30 members in our company. The steady core consists of 5 partners. But it is already clear that about 5 or 6 employees are capable of going upwards once they accumulate the necessary knowledge and show their competence and skills. We don’t have a goal of creating and maintaining a caste of two, five or six chosen ones – it’s not about the numbers, it’s about the quality. You need a certain amount of time to go by for the person to “grow” into his profession and start using the design algorithms on the subconscious level – then he will become a part of the orchestra.

We started with designing small entrance groups, and now we design huge residential areas and large-scale housing projects virtually all over Russia. We deliberately try to stay away from going into some narrow specialization, and when we interview new people for the job we specifically stress that an architect must be a jack of all trades – only in this case he will be able to appreciate all the complexity and diversity of human life that he has to organize. At first this task seemed to us totally insurmountable but, at the example of the guys who came to work with our firm (we call them associate partners) we found that this task is quite achievable. After about five years of such active practice the architects can achieve the necessary level of versatility and successfully react to any challenges.

– Still, how close to you are the ideas of constructivism and functionalism? Do you see yourself as successors to a tradition?

– Only partially. You cannot call us “neo-constructivists” – we try to understand and feel different styles of architecture. What we try to borrow from our predecessors is the sense of purpose in our decision making and constant search for something new. When you work on something for a really long time you inevitably get tired and accumulate negative emotions, and it’s really important to keep up the positive attitude, not to lose this expectation of something new and beautiful with which we come into architecture when we’re young. The constructivists, by the way, were populists in the good sense of this word: they felt the social commission and they responded to it. In those maximalist years it was an easy thing to do. Today, when our society shows both the desire for law and order and at the same time appetite for destruction, search for something new and attention to tradition, this task is much more complex and much more interesting. We always try to intuitively find the style that our client needs. And, saying “client”, I don’t necessarily mean “developer” but the end buyer of the apartment or the end renter of the office. In many ways, we have to be actors – we have to imagine ourselves as a grandmother, a child, an elderly man, a young man who has just bought his first car, or a young family that has to pay off the mortgage. When you run all this through yourself, you start creating the environment seeing the world through the eyes of different social roles, and your chances for success are skyrocketing.

We do have conditionally “constructivist” projects, like “Malevich” housing complex where we took the modular idea to the level of aesthetic principle, totally stripping the architecture of any frills. This is a pretty scary thing to do for an architect. And there is also this apartment-hotel at Gorkogo, 79, and this housing project at Pervomaiskaya, 60, in our home city of Ekaterinburg, in which we resorted to quite a different pristine style and tried to feel how powerfully architecture can influence humans on every level. This is not, of course, the Stalin Empire style with its proverbial turrets but still a kind of architecture that makes humans unconditionally surrender to it. Today this style is not popular at all but it has some sort of historical integrity to it. Architecture possessed first power for thousands of years and it still didn’t lose it. Yes the ideas of constructivism and the social approach are more in trend today but we still wanted to remember that feeling and feel this limits of such influence. This is like an alternating shower if you like.

"Malevich" housing complex. OSA. Photograph © Maxim Loskutov


"Malevich" housing complex © OSA


Pervomaiskaya, 1 © OSA


Business-class apart-hotel "Everest" © OSA


– OK, and how important it is for you that identity of the city? To what extent are you a Ekaterinburg firm? 

– Of course, studying in a city with a rich cultural later and a strong school of the 1980’s helped us a lot. But today a significant part of our work is about analytics, accumulating information and analyzing the international expertise, and I do not want to say that we have “outgrown” this city, because this would be an ungrateful thing to say. It’s just that our interests have become broader; it’s interesting for us to have a taste of different cities, in Russia and abroad. We are already actively working in Tumen, there are projects for Novosibirsk, Sredneuralsk, Vologda, Perm, Moscow’s Odintsovo, but we are still hungry for more. Yes, this is a slightly consumerist approach: we love eating and we love the taste of new dishes.

– What can you generally say about the town planning situation in Ekaterinburg?

– The situation is difficult, as it’s difficult all over Russia. As sad as it may sound but we – and I am deliberately using “we” – so far cannot offer our society and our cities town planning, compositional and aesthetic solutions that we might be proud of. And as paradoxic as it may sound, this degradation was triggered by the ultimate freedom that the architects got. We as architects were told “go ahead and do as you please” and it turned out that we really had little to say.

– To what extent will the program of organizing the territories developed by “Strelka” together with Housing Mortgage Finance Agency for 40 Russian cities (in which, by the way, you are taking part) help to improve the situation?

– It surely can make a positive difference, in spite of the fact that Strelka’s very ideology – as rude as this may sound – is ultimately slightly offensive to Russia: it turns out that a huge 150-million country cannot create megalopolises that are capable of so much as developing and landscaping their own land. And it turns out that the 25 years of freedom failed to form people who are ready to make decisions and take responsibility for them. We all sit around and wait hoping that some Strelka will come along or some foreign experts will teach us what to do with our cities.

To do Strelka justice, I must say that it really makes an effort to get as much feedback as possible from the local people, let them have their say. For example, our project of the waterfront of the Iset River underwent significant changes based upon public discussion. Never mind the fact that all these comments and suggestions often sound unprofessional, are hard to implement and are contrary to the good of the majority. The important mechanism – that is a habitual thing in Europe and the rest of the world – is still having a hard time getting implemented here but it’s great that they’ve started listening to people, and, possibly, at the next stages they will be more active, and they will get across their ideas more effectively.

Project of organizing the waterfront of the Iset River from the Malysheva Street to Kuybysheva Street © Strelka+OSA


Project of organizing the waterfront of the Iset River from the Malysheva Street to Kuybysheva Street © Strelka+OSA


Project of organizing the waterfront of the Iset River from the Malysheva Street to Kuybysheva Street © Strelka+OSA


– The solutions that Strelka comes up with are basically the same for any geographical location. Is there a danger that the cities, and specifically Ekaterinburg, will lose its identity, even in spite of the fact that numerous local firms take part in developing the projects?

– I do not see any danger in implementing what you might call “Strelka aesthetics”, this is just the trend of the times. This project of organizingg waterfronts that we are taking part in, as a matter of fact, was discussed as early back as in the 1970’s. Already at that time there was a desire to build the city’s main green artery from the Verkhneisetsky to the Nizhneisetsky creeks. In the soviet time they tried to solve this problem by applying town-planning fundamentals, i.e. building classic embankments and surrounding houses, which was to take a long time and was expensive. And now it turned out that at the first stage it is enough to simply bring people here and provide them with comfortable recreation at the riverside – and this doesn’t incur any huge expenses. As for the prospect of losing the city’s identity, I don't think this is something to be afraid of because the local character is sure to show through anyway. Curiously, in the soviet time even the images of Lenin were slightly different from one republic to another under the influence of the local traditions, and Strelka’s projects will not lose the local character either, even in spite of the fact that all the architects will work along the same aesthetic lines. 

– Your desire to try your hand at different projects is quite understandable but still what typology is interesting to you most of all? 

– Most of all we like working with housing projects – not even with housing projects as such but with the human habitat, if you like. And if this doesn’t necessarily have to be architecture but any abstract meditation on where and how we as humans feel comfortable... At the end of the day it all comes down to the material implementation anyway but the philosophical rationale is still very important for us.

And today this theme has stepped into the foreground. For example we are really interested in the problem of standardization of housing – including the corporate type. Large developers are trying to understand how to structure their product better, how to make it more typological and ultimately more affordable. And from our side we have an opportunity to sit down with ourselves and just think – people of today, people that buy the housing – what are they like? How do we reconcile the requirements of tomorrow with the necessary standardization? By the way, this subject always comes up during the major cultural turnarounds. Slowly, step-by-step we are trying to convince the developers that we work with in the necessity of applying the city-block approach and in the necessity of developing a line of what we could call “housing cells”. The housing market is extremely conservative in Russia.

– And how exactly are you going to reconcile the standardization process and a very clear demand of the modern people for individuality?

– As a matter of fact there is no contradiction here. Talking to our clients we came to a slightly and expected conclusion: by “individuality” creative people mean the freedom of self-expression, but for most people, come right down to it, this word means “security” or minimum influence of the world outside of their lives. If you feel secure if your needs are met, you feel strong and you perceive yourself as an individual. This is what matters.


19 September 2017

Interviewed by:

Anna Starostina
Translated by:
Anton Mizonov
comments powered by HyperComments
Headlines now
​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.
​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.