​Cultural Code

Trying to put together the mosaic of historical and newly-built units of the Sytin Printing House complex, the architects of DNK ag came up with their own lexical paradigm, some sort of a cultural code, based on the subtle play of images and associations.

Written by:
Lilya Aronova
Translated by:
Anton Mizonov

11 December 2017

The basis for the imagery of the renovation project proposed by DNK ag became, in full accordance with the history of the place, the theme of a printing house, which, as it turned out, nourishes a lot of material and conceptual associations.

The “face” of the complex – the main building of the printing house – was restored by the authors in a competent and respectful manner. Restoration of the historical brickwork, as well as the door and the window apertures, and replacement of the “soviet” buildup with stained glass – all this brings the outward appearance of the building towards the original image designed by Adolph Erichson. In order to make the historical silhouette and its intricately designed attics more dramatic, the authors of the project propose to make terraces at the corners of the upper floors of the building – including on the side of the firewall, clearly viewable from the Garden Ring. Considering the makeover from the industrial function to residential, the grand entrance becomes particularly important because now it is the main entrance to the complex. “We are preserving its character as much as we can – the architect, Natalia Sidorova, shares – This historical entrance through a neo-gothic arch must become the must become the main emotional experience for the guests of the complex. Behind it, there is a grand lobby. However, due to the fact that the house must be now entered from the street – which is not very convenient – we slightly sink in its stained glass window with an original ornament, thus showing a more private and secure character of the residential complex”.

Contest project of renovating the First Exemplary Printing Works © DNK ag
Contest project of renovating the First Exemplary Printing Works. Historical context © DNK ag

Contest project of renovating the First Exemplary Printing Works. Main entrance from the Pyatnitskaya Street © DNK ag

Contest project of renovating the First Exemplary Printing Works. View from the Pyatnitskaya Street © DNK ag

Contest project of renovating the First Exemplary Printing Works. View from the Pyatnitskaya Street © DNK ag

The “soviet” building unit that stretches along the 2nd Monetchikovsky Alley became for the architects of DNK ag the main point of applying their creative thought. Leaving intact the framework of the print house building of the 1930’s, they “dress” it with a new façade, through which, nevertheless, the old structure of the building shows through, creating an effect of historical and stylistic layers piled on top of one another, completely relevant in this case. Living totally up to their name (“DNK” in fact means “DNA” in Russian – translator’s note), the architects of “DNA” ag restore the “DNA chain”, or repair the historical morphotype, if you will. Furthermore, it is these spots of “breakthroughs” of the historical layers, in which the “printed” architectural lexicon that we spoke about earlier manifests itself: the piers are decorated with fragments of engraved plates, with the help of which the prints in the Sytin printing house were created; the geometry of the letter case finds a reflection in the mesh of the fences, while embossing as the basis of book printing shows through in the rows of coffered panels.

Contest project of renovating the First Exemplary Printing Works. The concept © DNK ag

Contest project of renovating the First Exemplary Printing Works. Fragment of the facade of Building 2 standing along the 3rd Monetchikovsky Alley. Version 2 © DNK ag

Contest project of renovating the First Exemplary Printing Works. Fragment of the facade of Building 2 standing along the 3rd Monetchikovsky Alley. Version 1 © DNK ag

In spite of its small number of floors, this building is rather long – it occupies virtually the whole alley. “We deliberately opted out of fracturing it into three different volumes in order to keep the memory of the place, the historically formed ensemble – Konstantin Khodnev explains – The technique of fracturing things into parts is, of course, present in our project, but it is there on the level of nuances and subtle plastique”.

Contest project of renovating the First Exemplary Printing Works. Facade of Building 2 standing along the 3rd Monetchikovsky Alley © DNK ag

If one does not look really hard, the difference between the three conditional parts of the façade is but fleeting, read on an almost subconscious level: closer to the Pyatnitskaya Street, the coffers mark the lintels between the floors, in the middle part they decorate the pylons, and in the depth of the alley this architectural detail is present in both versions – vertical and horizontal. At the expense of the lighting difference in the perspective stretching into the depth of the alley, the relief is rather clearly readable. In addition, the boundaries between the fragments are marked by cutaway terraces on the top floor of the building. Incidentally, thanks to this specific solution, if one is to look from the corner of the Pyatnitskaya Street and the 2nd Monetchikovsky Alley – the vantage point, from where the silhouettes of the two main buildings of the complex are viewable equally well – their likeness becomes obvious: the rigid orthogonal cutaways of the terraces of the renovated building rhymes harmoniously with the intricate neo-gothic attics designed by Erichson.

Yet another thread that holds together the canvas of the housing complex is the architecture of the Moscow tenement houses that the authors of the project studied in great detail. The starting point was Building 3 on the Valovaya Street that back in the day would host the apartments of the managers of Sytin’s printing company. The arrangement of the window apertures, decoration of the façades, alteration of smooth and rugged surfaces – all these features of this specific typology, although not the subject of direct quotation, are nonetheless to be clearly seen, albeit in a modern interpretation, for example, in the image of a newly-built Building 6, where the windows are also grouped in pairs, while the façade gets decorated with ceramic tiles, characteristic of the tenement houses of the XIX century. The “printing house” theme is also to be traced here: it lies in the matrix structure of the façade, and the façade-decorating elements of etchings with floral motifs, and the materials: zinc and copper alloy, glazed brick, and fragments of white stone, which, when posed against this background, can be perceived as typographic sheets. As far as the volumetric solution of this building is concerned, this is a rather reserved kind of modern architecture, in many ways conditioned by the restrictions imposed by the densely standing surrounding buildings.

Contest project of renovating the First Exemplary Printing Works. Context © DNK ag

Contest project of renovating the First Exemplary Printing Works. New building on the 3rd Monetchikovsky Alley © DNK ag

Contest project of renovating the First Exemplary Printing Works. The facade of the new building on the 3rd Monetchikovsky Alley © DNK ag

Just like any of the constituent parts of the complex, Building 4, which stands inside the yard, also has a theme of its own. In addition to restoring the historical red-brick façades, the project also provides for a built-up mansard that the authors propose to design in a laconic, even minimalist, key – a slender jagged line of a glazed façade, almost dissolving in the sky, gives the building some intermediate scale, a character that is pretty much in the middle between the historical part of the complex and the surrounding modern buildings, chief among them being the Lighthouse business center that overlooks the same yard. In addition, this is the most “intimate” part of this city block, a fragment of the yard space, to which the architects paid special attention.

Contest project of renovating the First Exemplary Printing Works. Building in the old yard © DNK ag

The landscaping of the yard in the DNK ag project is meant to further cement the already fitting puzzle pieces but its very concept is a noteworthy thing in itself. In the neo-gothic space, closed from all sides, the architects saw even a reference to castle architecture, and proposed an according greenery theme – one that includes geometric ornaments and plants of different height, trimmed bushes and tree crowns. The paving pattern is also based on the contrastive ornament that can be traced back to Sytin’s book covers, while podiums and landscaping elements of different height embody the “embossed” typographic relief. All of this baroque-style beauty spills over into the 2nd Monetchikovsky Alley as a regular mini-promenade with neatly trimmed trees. Incidentally, thanks to the passageway from the Valovaya Street, the entire yard becomes accessible to public – the authors of the project even suppose that with time the first floors may house small elegant cafés.

Contest project of renovating the First Exemplary Printing Works. View of the old yard © DNK ag

Contest project of renovating the First Exemplary Printing Works. View of the inner pedestrian street © DNK ag

Contest project of renovating the First Exemplary Printing Works. View of the new yard with a park © DNK ag

Contest project of renovating the First Exemplary Printing Works. Concept of landscaping the yards © DNK ag

Contest project of renovating the First Exemplary Printing Works. Concept of landscaping the yards © DNK ag

The expressive and comfortable yard space – together with multilayered historical context, enhanced by accents of modern architecture, and diverse apartments that can fit every taste are the tools that allow the authors of the project to achieve the goal that Konstantin Khodnev put in this nutshell: “It was very important for us to make sure that this complex would be more than just a set of buildings, but a premium-class city block, providing a great living environment”.
Contest project of renovating the First Exemplary Printing Works. Model © DNK ag

11 December 2017

Written by:

Lilya Aronova
Translated by:
Anton Mizonov
Headlines now
​The Possibility of Flight
The project of the airport, which ASADOV Architects developed for the city of Tobolsk, and which won in the architectural competition, was not implemented. However, it is interesting as an example of designing an airport building of a very small scale, where the main challenge is the optimal organization of space and infrastructure without compromising the imagery component.
​The Wavelength
Built in the town of Pushkino in the Moscow area, the “Turgeneva 13” housing complex, while fitting in with the surrounding context, differs from it with the rhythmic austerity of its dual composition, a slight wave of the façade, and the color design, in which one can see two images, winter and summer, both “growing” from the specifics of the place.
​A Shell by the Sea
Designing the Sports Palace that will determine the development of the entire northern part of Derbent, ASADOV Architects turned to the architectural legacy of Dagestan, local lore, and ancient layers of history.
​Christmas Skyscrapers
Karen Saprichyan is wishing everyone a merry Christmas, presenting a series of letter-shaped skyscrapers. The architect has long since been working on this theme, and has calendars of various years in stock. His latest development is a group of towers designed for the city of NEOM, which will be built in Saudi Arabia.
​Parade Order
The three brick blocks of the “River Park” housing complex gaze at the water with their terraces. Each block forms a backdrop and two wings, while the residents-only yards turn into “stages” perceived from the river. The landscaped embankment, accessible to all the city people, complements the hierarchy of private, semi-private and public city life that is formed here.
Pompidou Inside Out
Renzo Piano and his GES-2 have already been compared to Ridolfo Aristotele Fioravanti and his Cathedral of the Assumption. And for a good reason: GES-2 also stuns you with its grace and loftiness, but ultimately turns out to be the richest collection of recognizable motifs from an early masterpiece by Renzo Piano and Richard Rogers, the George Pompidou Center in Paris. These motifs are fused into the grid of Shukhov-esque structures, painted white, and they create a dialogue between 1910, 1971, and 2021, built on references (not devoid of a poster-like quality) to the main masterpiece. The basilica-shaped space of the former power station is taken apart virtually just like the museum, in accordance with the concept by Teresa Mavica.
​Next to Lidval and Nobel
The housing complex designed by Anatoly Stolyarchuk in Neishlotsky Alley: tactful change of scale, tribute to the memory of the place, Finnish additions to the functional typology – specifically, saunas in the apartments – and plans for receiving a BREEAM certificate.
​And stabbed it with a knife
The leader of Coop Himmelb(l)au, Wolf D. Prix, presented three projects that he is currently doing in Russia: a complex in Sevastopol, Crimea, which, as it turned out, a western architect could build bypassing the sanctions, because this is a cultural project; a museum and theater center in Kemerovo, and the “SKA Arena”, which is built in the stead of the destroyed Sports and Concert Complex in St. Petersburg – during the presentation the latter was symbolized by a round cake that the architect eventually cut.
​The Thin Matter
The house named “Medny 3.14” (“Copper 3.14”) is composed of two textures, each of which resembles in its own way some kind of precious fabric, and of three units, each of which is oriented towards one cardinal point. The architecture of the house absorbs the nuances of the context, summing them up and turning them into a single rhythmic structure. In this article, we are examining the new, just-completed, house designed by Sergey Skuratov in Donskaya Street.
​Super Pergola
The new business center built in Moscow’s district of Presnya in the 1st Zemelny Lane is all about technology and sustainability. Its streamlined shapes and white facade grid are combined with a new version of vertical greenery: the green of wild grapes, placed at a distance from the facade, instead of arguing with the “pergola” grid, sets it off by contrast.
​Lightness of Being
Blooming Sakura, a campfire party, kids splashing in a swimming pool – no, these are not pictures from a vacation, but everyday life going on in the yards of Kiev’s housing complex “Fayna Town”. In this issue, we are examining how the utopia designed by the architects is wired, and what they did to make it a reality.
​A Triangular Folded Structure
The project of the new terminal of the Muraviev-Amursky airport in Blagoveshchensk offers architecture based on a modular form – endowed with a special imagery, it becomes the basis both for the carrying structures of the building and the plastique of the facade, at the same time reverberating in the interior design.
​The Breath of the East
Designing a residential complex for Tashkent, GENPRO is turning to traditional architecture and modern trends, aiming at emotionality and efficiency: the panjar window lattices and mishrabias are neighboring on vertical greenery and parametric ornaments, while the theme buildings do on a cotton alley and an oriental bazaar.
​The Openwork XX-Construction Set
The yard of the Architecture Museum on Moscow’s Vozdvizhenka hosts an installation by DNK ag. It is timed to coincide with the 20th anniversary of the company, and was originally presented at Arch Moscow. The art object is expected to stay in the yard of the museum for one year and set a new tradition – a regularly renewed exhibition project called “Modern Architecture in the yard of MUAR”.
The Spinning Vibe
The pavilion designed by Sergey Tchoban for the World EXPO 2020 in Dubai is a bright and integral architectural statement, whose imagery can be traced back to avant-garde graphic experiments by Jacob Chernikhov, but allows for multiple interpretations. The pavilion looks both like a dome temple, a spinning “Planet Russia”, and the head of a matryoshka doll. Still more interestingly, the core of the exposition is a “brain”. In this article, we take a closer look at the interpretations and the subtleties of the implementation.
Tolerant Aesthetics of Terraforming
The World Expo is a gigantic event; it is difficult to give it one definition or cover it at a glance. All the more so – such an ambitious and record-breaking fair as the one that is now open in Dubai despite all the pandemic restrictions. By no means claiming to present an all-rounded review, we are making an attempt to examine Expo 2020, where signs of aesthetic tolerance of a developer project begin to loom behind the imposing-looking “wings” of “star” architects and delights from space exploration.
The Town in the Snuff-box
The new academic building of Cooperation School in Moscow’s Taganka, designed and built by ASADOV Architects, is a compact volume, at the same time filled with functions and impressions. It easily combines classrooms, a theater, a cafeteria, a gym, and a double-height atrium with an open library and an exit to the terrace – virtually everything that you expect to see in a modern school.
​The Northern Versailles
On the bank of the magnificent Vychegda River, in a picturesque location six kilometers away from Syktyvkar, the capital of the Komi republic, the renowned neoclassical architect Mikhail Filippov has designed the town of Yugyd-Choi in the traditional aesthetics inspired by the center of St. Petersburg. The customer Elena Soboleva, the head of the Syktyvkar Housing Construction Fund, sees her mission in making Yugyd-Choi the hallmark of the republic.
​Analysis and Synthesis
The project of the housing complex “Krasin”, designed for the historical center of St. Petersburg, and situated in a very obliging place – next to the Mining University designed by Voronikhin, yet bordering on an industrial area – became the result of a thorough analysis of the specifics of historical construction on the Vasilyevsky Island, and a subsequent synthesis with avoidance of direct stylization, yet forming a recognizable silhouette, resonant with the “old town”.
​Tatiana Guk: “A document that determines the development of the city has to be flexible”
In this issue, we are talking to the director of the Genplan Institute of Moscow about trends that determine the future, about the 70-year history of the Institute, which is celebrating an anniversary this year, about electronic computing in the field of urban planning and about international experience accumulated in this area, as well as about how the Institute is involved with other cities, and about the perfect document for the city development, which has to be flexible and strategic.
​Dialectical Manifesto
The high-rise housing complex MOD, whose construction has begun in Moscow’s district of Maryina Roshcha next to the site, on which the new Russian Railways headquarters will be built, is responding to the “central” context of the future city surroundings, and at the same time is positioned by the architects as a “manifesto of Modernist minimalist principles in architecture”.
​Asimov’s Dream
A project by DNK ag won in a competition for the science campus of the National Center for Physics and Mathematics in the city of Sarov, conducted by ROSATOM corporation in collaboration with the Moscow State University, Russian Academy of Sciences, and the Kurchatov Institute.
​Near-Earth Space
The new terminal of the Leonov Airport in Kemerovo was built in record-breaking time, despite the pandemic. It became one of the important factors for the rapid development of the city, visually reflecting its dedication to the first spacewalk, both in the interiors and on the facades. Its main features are the “starry sky” effect and overall openness.
​The Spiral Approach
The school building in the city of Nur-Sultan, designed by Vera Budko and Anton Nadtochiy from beginning to end – from concept to working documentation – became the embodiment of the architects’ method for creating a modern educational environment, which the ATRIUM architects have been developing for years. Its fundamentals include creating an inspiring environment that motivates you to create. This is why the new school received a shape of an ornamental golden spiral that symbolizes ascension to knowledge; on the inside, the building is a compound and multifunctional “city within a city” with multilevel atriums, amphitheaters, and varying routes.
​The Ecological Bend
A story about how plans for laying a road on the border of a park turned into plans for saving the ecosystem and improving the walking trails.
​Kasimir from Kemerovo
The project of the branch of the Russian Museum for the Siberian Art Cluster is based on the ideas of Suprematism: basic shapes, and dynamism of color and form.
​Stream and Lines
Stepan Liphart’s projects of Art Deco villas demonstrate technical symbolism in combination with a subtle reference to the 1930s. One of the projects is a “paper” one; the others are designed for real customers: a top manager, an art collector, and a developer.
On the Bank of a Very Quiet River
The project of landscaping the territory of the residential complex NOW in Moscow’s Nagatinskaya Valley goes beyond the limits of its task and looks more like a modern park: with viewing platforms, an embankment, spaces different in their moods, and thought-out scenarios for visitors aged between 0 and 80.
​The Strategy of Transformation
In this article, we are publishing eight projects of reconstructing postwar Modernist buildings that have been implemented by Tchoban Voss Architekten and showcased in the AEDES gallery at the recent Re-Use exhibition. Parallel to that, we are meditating on the demonstrated approaches and the preservation of things that architectural legislation does not require to preserve.