- contemporary architecture
Working with the Match Point housing complex, ABV Group, headed by Nikita Biryukov, was able to neatly “pack” a considerable amount of floor space, distributing the height of the complex and its imagery among the main functions: a sports arena, a residential building, and a small office one.
The Vasilisy Kozhinoi Street stretches along a railroad line northward from the Pobedy Park, not far away from the Kutuzovsky Avenue. North of the avenue, there is a strip of an apple garden that has survived into the present day, then there is a Byelorussian-bound railroad line, and still further away, behind the Kozhinoi Street, there is an area of brick 5-story houses interspersed with 12-story prefabricated buildings. The strip of land about 100 meters wide which runs between the railroad line and the street was once occupied by private single-story houses; in the seventies it housed a few small-sized industrial parks, a hotel belonging to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and the open-air stadium “Bagration”. Today, the spot of the stadium became the construction site for the multifunctional complex “Match Point” – built upon the project of ABV group, it inherits the stadium’s sportive function; it will also unite housing stock – over 1600 apartments – a certain number of offices, and an international volleyball arena for 3500 spectators. This arena – the biggest in Europe – will become the base of the “Dinamo” club. The client is “Voley Grand”, part of the management structure of “VTB Project” of VTB Group.
The “tennis” name of Match Point was suggested by the developer. Strictly speaking, it has nothing to do with volleyball, although it does have something to do with sports in general. Match point in tennis is a point which if won by one of the players or sides will also win them the match, so, the name of the complex puts an interesting spin not only on the theme of sports as such but also the location of the complex next to the Pobedy (“Victory”) Park. “One step away from victory” – says the advertising slogan on the housing complex website. The border of the park is mere 300 hundred meters away by a straight line, while the metro station bearing the same name is but a 12 minutes’ walk away.
According to the leader of ABV Group, Nikita Biryukov, this project turned out to be a stumbling block to many architects because it required solving several impossible things at once: to combine a grand-scale sports facility, rather strong housing density, and rigorous height restrictions. After the budget was all but exhausted by several failed attempts, the customer resorted to a closed-doors competition – which was ultimately won by Nikita Biryukov and ABV Group. “The Dinamo Company was looking to build a stadium for international games here – shares Nikita Biryukov – and, in order to do that, they had to build a housing complex to make the money. Meaning – it had to be such kind of a housing complex that would make enough money to finance the sports part”. Because of that, the arena became an extra workload and an extra challenge. Plus, because of the proximity of the railroad, the architects had to reinforce the foundation.
The entire complex, including the residential buildings and the volleyball arena, rests on a three-level underground parking garage designed to accommodate for 1609 cars. The laconic oval “hockey puck” of the arena, decorated – very much in the spirit of the 1970’s – with an austere row of light-beige ribs of vertical lamellae, is situated in the west part of the complex – when backlit at night, it looks as if it were literally hovering in the air.
Again, in the spirit of the 1970’s, the arena is surrounded by an open-air gallery accessed by symmetrical ascending staircases from the “grand entrance” side on the Kozhinoi Street – they are slightly reminiscent of a similar walkway in the “Olimpiysky” sports complex.
From the opposite side, a rectangular volume of the gym shoots out from the main volume in the direction of the railroad line: it is sunken two tiers into the ground, thus only slightly changing the contour of the second floor; higher up, the rounded shape is pure and laconic.
While the volleyball arena, the high-profile element of the ensemble, can be architecturally traced back to the seventies and even the eighties with their search for “reduced order”, the volumes of the residential buildings are dominated by the contextual motif. First of all, they are designed in the form of a strictly symmetric frame, and on the plan they look very much like the postwar Stalin houses of the Kutuzovsky Avenue and its surroundings, the difference being that Match Point is two-three times larger in size. As we remember, one of the difficult tasks was to combine the square footage output with the height restrictions and insolation requirements. Hence, the silhouette of two large “stairs”: in the south part facing the railway station and the Kutuzovsky Avenue, there are two corner buildings, towers 28 stories each, of an almost 100 meter height; in the north part facing the Vasilisy Kozhinoi Street, the buildings are 13 stories high – almost on a level with the neighboring buildings.
In order to make sure that the towers obscure as little sunlight as possible from the south side, an opening appeared in the middle, equal to their width.
Meanwhile, the height difference between the south and the north part is considerable – 5 stories. In order to compensate for it, the architects added a small “stair” of “transition” sections in the panorama of the towers: 18 stories, 63 meters.
The hundred-meter towers – just short of skyscrapers – will be perceived chiefly from a distance and work in the long perspective of the Kutuzovsky Avenue. Hence the color – pale-yellow and beige; a clear-cut division into top, middle, and bottom, combination of light-colored verticals and visually “sunken-in” horizontals – the rhythmic theme of the high-rises and their younger brothers of a smaller height, such as the romantic forts of Zinevich – buildings 21 and 25, located not far away from here, closer to the city center down the Kutuzovsky Avenue.
The theme of Stalin art-deco, however, is not totally dominant here: setting the classic rhythm, the architects immediately break away from it, “stringing” the volumes of the buildings upon the broad bands of the verticals of glass stanzas: they visually dissect the towers into more slender parts turning them into a semblance of tetra-pylons, at the same time putting one in the mind of one of the techniques referring to the postmodernist architecture of Ricardo Bofill because the glass bands visually take a lot of weight off the building.
Similar glass verticals also separate the towers from the low-rise buildings which face the street. Inside their first floor, there is a recessed pedestrian gallery – a relative of the Rivoli Street, shopping arcades of the XVIII century, and the central character of the theories proposed by Moscow town planners of the 1980’s – it forms a comfort zone before the shops and restaurants of the first floor providing protection from the wind and the rain for the guests and customers, as well as for the people going to and from the metro station.
The tripartite composition of the façade also reminds one of some of the nearby “Stalin” buildings – basically, it can be traced back to the formula of the Palladian palace. The only slight difference may lie in the fact that, just as the towers, it is totally devoid of any decor, stripped down to the point of being all linear, its esthetics formed by slender, almost fragile, faceting of the glass of the stanzas and the inserts that visually enhance their depth, made of opaque green glass.
The stanzas are designed in such a way that each of the apartments has one, while the range of apartment layouts, as is the custom nowadays, is moderately diverse, from studios to three-room apartments with a few exclusive variants going beyond the basic layout patterns. Specifically, on the street side the thirteenth floor gets 4-room apartments 350 square meters each – but these “unique pieces” are relatively few here. Generally, the floor area of the apartments is pretty moderate, from 30 to 100 square meters. The floor plans of all the buildings are of the corridor-and-section type: each two sections are linked by a corridor. As for the “dark corners” that are generally characteristic of the city block planning, all the four of them here are occupied by elevator shafts – the layouts are just as rational as the façades.
Thus, the architecture of Match Point is strictly orthogonal – this is pure and elegant modernism, but a few hints at the classic postwar architecture inspired by the context of the Kutuzovsky Avenue helped the architects to avoid using the standard modernist “grid” on the façade, added some sophistication and historical depth, as well as helped the building to “make friends” with its surroundings. Perhaps, aside from the “Stalin Empire Style”, one could also make an appropriate recollection of the symmetric avant-garde at the dawn of its existence – for example, “Gostorg” by Boris Velikovsky.
The elegance of the forms is matched by the materials used. There were some certain budget constraints but the architects put in a lot of effort to make this housing complex look expensive. There was also an option of using a wood-imitating decoration material. However, the architects settled on the Jurassic stone on the first two tiers and painted steel cassettes – sturdier and more beautiful than aluminum one – going higher all the way up. As was already said, the complex is ruled by the light-beige color, a couple of shades lighter than the “Stalin” brick and stone. It is combined with darker gray aluminum in the glazing sashes, grilles of perforated metal, whose pattern was carefully selected, striped baskets for the air-conditioning units and air-exit grilles. All of the façades are made up of thin layers; the beige surfaces are slightly closer, the dark metal and the grilles are slightly deeper inside; the resulting effect of combining cutaway metal, stone and glass, brings us to an austere-looking, maybe even high-tech version of Art Deco, still, nevertheless, resonant with modern experiments of ornamental architecture.
The rigorous symmetry whose laws are obeyed by all of the described subtleties is violated – or, should we say, livened up – but once. Getting inside the yard through the pass-through colonnade in the center of the gallery running along the Vasilisy Kozhinoi Street, we find ourselves standing face to face with a quite modern (yet full of baroque-style plastique) façade of a three-story office building standing amidst the 28-story towers: large windows of horizontal proportions, livened up by triangular ledges of the bay windows, look like giant master switches, thus also fitting the atmosphere of nostalgic modernism, although with a certain, however slight, note of “neo” in their tune. On the other hand, because of its unexpectedly “local” scale, this building looks slightly alien here, and this is where the play of associations comes in: it looks a bit like it has survived from the days past, or, maybe, quite the opposite, appeared after the construction of the main local grid of residential houses.
Thus, it turns out that the ostentatious outward segregation into different functions – arena, housing, and offices – is also combined with segregation of the stylistic and even historical type: the seventies, the “cleared up” version of the Stalin classics, and the agile bay windows of the contemporary modernism. This way, the arena reminds us about the cult of sport in the USSR; the residential house is respectable in the spirit of the once-elite Kutuzovsky Avenue (still pretty expensive today), and the office is today’s architecture. Even the kindergarten comes into play – the reeds on its wall occupy in this order the place of nature that is possibly meant to signify the future in this context. But then again, these same themes can be read from the complex’s typology alone: the Stalin house is a phenotype that is more than sturdy and appropriate, the same applies to the stadium of the seventies, and the office must become the “window”, while the kindergarten is in fact the garden, a realm of natural uncertainty.
Although, apart from the very subtle play with the chronology of meanings, the complex is quite contemporary, and meets a lot of requirements of today – it provides parking places for almost every apartment, has a vehicle-free yard and a landscaped arena, public bottom floors and a gallery for the comfortable work of the stores. This whole thing is being built in the area of Moscow City and the Kutuzovsky Avenue, in an expensive and prestigious district, in which large housing complexes are currently being built everywhere along the Moskva River instead of former industrial parks. The area of Fili and the Pobedy Park must soon change significantly, and grow larger in its scale. The input of the architects consists in giving this process a certain shape, putting it into some kind of visual and volumetric framework, and finding the best possible solution in the conditions of rather strict requirements, including that of taking this densely populated area to a level of becoming the catalyst for creating a new and improved urban environment.