​Building Blocks for Gulliver

On the crest of the Krylatskie Hills, a housing complex is being completed, unprecedented in its diversity of architectural solutions employed in its construction and in its constructional complexity. The answers to these challenges were found by the Dutch architects de Architekten Cie in collaboration with the Russian bureau APEX.

Written by:
Lilya Aronova
Translated by:
Anton Mizonov

22 March 2018

The housing complex Vander Park is an edifice noticeable in any respect. Located at the strategically important crossing of the Rublev Highway and the Yartsevskaya Street at the top of one of the Krylatskie Hills, it looks a rather imposing volume in itself, arising from the ratio between the area of the land site and the square footage target figures set by the developer. The site got into the spotlight of the architectural community’s attention in 2013, when a closed competition was announced with a rather impressive lineup of contestants. The competition was won by Sergey Skuratov ARCHITECTS but shortly after that the developer changed his mind and invited for designing the complex the Dutch company, which already had some experience of mastering the Russian vast expanses of land. Today’s name of the complex is a tribute to the national origin of the company, which evidently hints at a touch of aristocratic quality of the project: the prefix “van der” signifies the aristocratic origin of its bearer, which corresponds to the class of the project that in the process of work grew from business class to business premium.

"Vander Park" housing complex © PIK Group
"Vander Park" housing complex © PIK Group

In spite of the notorious prestige of the Rublev Highway, the area in question has been developing rather chaotically, and, according to the APEX leader, Anton Bondarenko, there was not much in that area that could be used as a starting point, with which the architects could interact. What can be considered as a closest conditional centerpiece is only a 150-meter tower on the opposite side of the Yartsevskaya Street; all around, there are five-story houses (soon to be demolished), further on, down the Rublev Highway, there is an array of low-rise prefabricated buildings shifted slightly deeper away from the highway. Meaning – like it or lump it, but the new complex inevitably is taking on the role of the centerpiece. Peculiar is the fact that, in spite of all of the conditions described above, the last thing that the designers of Vander Park had to worry about was obscuring the sunshine to one building or another – rather, they themselves had to solve the task of running away from the long shadow stretching as long as up to the Molodezhnaya metro station, next to which yet another 150-meter tower stands. Otherwise, the city fabric is pretty sparse here, and the issues of density and insolation were only to be solved inside of the complex. However, it was these requirements that to a large extent influenced the volumetric solution: the towers and the shifts in the volumes allowed the architects to essentially “mold” the form that provides for all of the insolation requirements.

"Vander Park" housing complex © PIK Group

The curvilinear uneven land site, inscribed in a conditional square, includes ten towers of different height – from 19 to 26 stories high – set at different angles to one another. The towers rest on a podium that occupies the entire area of the land site – beneath it, there is a parking garage – plus, these towers are connected with low-rise sectional blocks from four to six stories high. All of these are grouped into two macro-units connected by a gallery that runs all along the entire inner side of the yard at the level of the first floor. The bottom floors host retail and local businesses – these include a supermarket, a fitness center, a children’s club, a medical center, and a beauty salon. Each of the towers, in turn, consists of modular blocks that are placed on top of one another in a seemingly haphazard fashion – as if some giant toddler unskillfully, yet diligently, was building here his town from gigantic toy building blocks.

"Vander Park" housing complex © PIK Group

When developing the concept of this housing project, the designers drew inspiration from the image of Moscow as a modern megalopolis with a high construction density inherent to it, which you cannot deny as an architectural fact, but which you can mitigate by architectural means and make it more human-friendly. Therefore, each block is perceived as a housing module that is accessible to the human perception, i.e. one of the self-sufficient residential buildings, which cannot be placed next to one another because of the area constraints, but which can still be grouped together by being placed on top of one another. In terms of visual perception, such a solution allowed the architects to avoid creating an effect of some oppressive monolith mass, while from a practical standpoint it yields yet another curious bonus – thanks to the shift of the blocks in respect to one another, there appears enough room for spacious terraces that give some extra advantages to a number of apartments.

Similar bonuses, by the way, will go to the residents of the apartments that open up to the roofs of the low-rise blocks, and also by the owners of the premises on the second floor of the complex – these come with terraces with an area of about 150 square meters, overlooking the inner yard and separated by large green zones. “This is yet another way to show that even in a highly urbanized environment you can create a quite comfortable space beyond the limits of your apartment, and a custom-designed place, too” – comments Anton Bondarenko.

Elements of the facade © PIK Group

For each of the blocks, the architects chose an individual type of windows. At the same time, all of the façades are organized by a rigorous brick framework, whose rhythm stays unchanged all along the entire square, only on the topmost level, where the cells cover also the mechanical room, they turned out slightly more elongated. However, within this framework, in each of the modules, the window apertures are arranged in a different way: while in the low-rise sections the windows stand without significant spaces between them, in the high-rise blocks they can be arranged in groups, like, for example, three windows of equal height or one narrow window and one wide one, and so on. The spaces between the uncommonly high apertures – because of the fact that the height of one story in these buildings is more than average, the windows sometimes being as much as 2.3 meters tall – are covered by hanging composite panels of two shades of gray: it is darker beneath the windows in order to accentuate the shape of the window aperture, and a more neutral shade is used on the panels placed between the window panes, these latter only serving as a background. Incidentally, this is the rare instance when the corrections of the building materials (which took place after the project was approved) did the building a good turn – originally it was planned that the piers would only be filled with stucco.

Facade of the complex © PIK Group

The decoration of the buildings uses six types of brick, the general principle being from darker chocolate brown in the lower blocks to light-beige in the upper ones. The material, which is produced by the company Hagemeister, is notable for the gradient of shades within the limits of a single brick; the brickwork isn’t plainly smooth either – some of the bricks step forward in ledges, while in the decoration of the low-rise sections, the vertical brickwork is mixed with the horizontal type. As a result, the façades turned out to be very textured-looking, visually complex and vibrant – yet another architectural technique that goes a long way to “dilute” the volumes.

"Vander Park" housing complex © PIK Group

Basically, no two stories of Vander Park are exactly alike. De Architekten Cie proposed 73 types of apartments with an area ranging from 23 to 230 square meters. Such unprecedented complexity of apartment typology required from the Russian partners some serious work on searching unconventional interesting solutions in this area. To begin with, they were faced with the necessity to relocate the wet zones, which, according to the Russian rules and regulations, are to be placed strictly on top of one another, while in the Dutch project they would freely wander all over the place. In addition, it was not without corrections having to do with insolation issues – for example, under the four-meter cantilevered structures, which were formed as a result of shifting the housing modules – it would be more appropriate to place the spacious apartments in order to let more sunshine in. Accordingly, the apartments with an access to the terraces were to be big ones – a studio combined with a 150-meter terrace would have hardly been of significant value on the Russian market.

"Vander Park" housing complex. Photograph © Ilia Ivanov

And, of course, there were construction difficulties. APEX developed a whole number of unique engineering solutions specifically for this project. For example, the architects proposed to install slanted pylons that relieve the load from the cantilevered structures at the transition from one block to another, without “eating up” the square footage of the apartments. Yet another unconventional technique is the mechanical room situated immediately above the podium less than 1.8 meters tall that includes all of the utility lines that would have otherwise occupied some considerable room in the entrance halls and premises for rent on the first floor. The mechanical rooms are also there on the top floors – thanks to this solution, the roof has no elevator units sticking out of it.

"Vander Park" housing complex. Section view © APEX project bureau

The team of APEX also worked in close cooperation with the Dutch company West 8, which developed the landscaping project. The yard of Vander Park, in accordance with the concept proposed by de Architekten Cie, is only open to the residents of the complex. The people get inside through an electronic control system, the buildings having no end-to-end lobbies, it only being possible to enter the hallways from the yard. “Our Dutch colleagues think that a person must not lock himself up within the four walls of his apartment, that he needs more space for walking and talking to his neighbors, meaning, we must ensure total security for children and adults inside the yard” – Anton Bondarenko comments. Together with the landscape experts from West 8, the architects selected the plants that are authentic to our northern latitudes; they also designed a special sort of foundation that would support the heavy gazebos proposed by West 8. Functionally, the yard is divided into three thematic zones – for outdoor activities, for peaceful recreation, and the so-called “transition” zone, in which the main flows of the visitors and residents of the complex meet. The playgrounds are divided by the age brackets – under 5 years of age, 5 to 10 years old, and for children 10 years or older – which will also help distribute the flows and also ensure the safety of the children – the playground for toddlers is placed in the zone of peaceful recreation. In spite of the fact that the yard rests on the roof of the podium, the project still provided for planting large trees, even if at the cost of losing a few parking places because of drilling special openings all the way down to the minus first floor.

"Vander Park" housing complex © APEX project bureau

The interiors of the lobbies and the public groups were completely done by the APEX architects. The sales office – a minimalist volume of glass and metal masked as wood – was also designed by them, just as the navigation systems on the residential floors and in the parking garage. “Today, Vander Park is our company’s signature project, its visiting card” – Anton Bondarenko confesses. And it’s not just a matter of this project being a really high-profile one – as one of the first large-scale projects of the company, it not only determined its key values and operating fundamentals but also went a long way to take the team to a whole new level by evicting the unique competences of its members working under tight schedules, in the conditions of rigorous cost/performance ratios, and the necessity to use unique and smart technological solutions.
"Vander Park" housing complex. Photograph © Ilia Ivanov
Sales office. Photograph © Ilia Ivanov
Sales office. Photograph © Ilia Ivanov
Sales office. Photograph © Ilia Ivanov
"Vander Park" housing complex. Photograph © Ilia Ivanov
"Vander Park" housing complex. Photograph © Ilia Ivanov
Interior of the main lobby of the complex © APEX project bureau
Interior of the main lobby of the complex © APEX project bureau
Master plan © PIK Group
"Vander Park" housing complex. Location plan © APEX project bureau
Engineering, constructional, and architectural solutions of the building © APEX project bureau
"Vander Park" housing complex. Superimposed master plan © APEX project bureau, West 8
"Vander Park" housing complex. Plan of the 2-nd floor © APEX project bureau
"Vander Park" housing complex. Plan of the 19-th floor © APEX project bureau
"Vander Park" housing complex. Plan of the section of the 11-th floor © APEX project bureau

22 March 2018

Written by:

Lilya Aronova
Translated by:
Anton Mizonov
Headlines now
​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.
​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.
The Magic of Rhythm or Ornament as a Theme
Designed by Sergey Tchoban, the housing complex Veren Place in St. Petersburg is the perfect example of inserting a new building into a historical city, and one the cases of implementing the strategy that the architect presented a few years ago in the book, which he coauthored with Vladimir Sedov, called “30:70. Architecture as a Balance of Forces”.
​Walking on Water
In the nearest future, the Marc Chagall Embankment will be turned into Moscow’s largest riverside park with green promenades, cycling and jogging trails, a spa center on water, a water garden, and sculptural pavilions designed in the spirit of the Russian avant-garde artists of the 1920, and, first of all, Chagall himself. In this issue, we are covering the second-stage project.
​Architectural Laboratory
A-Len has developed and patented the “Perfect Apartments” program, which totally eliminates “bad” apartment layouts. In this article, we are sharing how this program came around, what it is about, who can benefit from it, and how.
​“Architectural Archaeology of the Narkomfin Building”: the Recap
One of the most important events of 2020 has been the completion of the long-awaited restoration of the monument of Soviet avant-garde architecture – the Narkomfin Building, the progenitor of the typology of social housing in this country. The house retained its residential function as the main one, alongside with a number of artifacts and restoration clearances turned into living museum exhibits.
​LIFE on the Setun River
The area in the valley of the Setun River near the Vereiskaya Street got two new blocks of the “LIFE-Kutuzovsky” housing complex, designed by ADM architects. The two new blocks have a retail boulevard of their own, and a small riverside park.
​Celestial Tectonics
Three towers on a podium over the Ramenka River are the new dominant elements on the edge of a Soviet “microdistrict”. Their scale is quite modern: the height is 176 m – almost a skyscraper; the facades are made of glass and steel. Their graceful proportions are emphasized by a strict white grid, and the volumetric composition picks up the diagonal “grid of coordinates” that was once outlined in the southwest of Moscow by the architects of the 1970’s and 1980’s.
Clouds over the Railroad
In the stead of former warehouses near “Lyubertsy-1” station, a new housing complex has been built, which peacefully coexists with the railroad, with the flyover bridge, and with the diverse surrounding scenery, not only dominating over the latter, but improving it.
​Towers in a Forest
The authors of the housing complex “In the Heart of Pushkino” were faced with a difficult task: to preserve the already existing urban forest, at the same time building on it a compound of rather high density. This is how three towers at the edge of the forest appeared with highly developed public spaces in their podiums and graceful “tucks” in the crowning part of the 18-story volumes.
​The Towers of “Sputnik”
Six towers, which make up a large housing complex standing on the bank of the Moskva River at the very start of the Novorizhskoe Highway, provide the answers to a whole number of marketing requirements and meets a whole number of restrictions, offering a simple rhythm and a laconic formula for the houses that the developer preferred to see as “flashy”.
​The Starting Point
In this article, we are reviewing two retro projects: one is 20 years old, the other is 25. One of them is Saint Petersburg’s first-ever townhouse complex; the other became the first example of a high-end residential complex on Krestovsky Island. Both were designed and built by Evgeny Gerasimov and Partners.
The Path to New Ornamentation
The high-end residential complex “Aristocrat” situated next to a pine park at the start of the Rublev Highway presents a new stage of development of Moscow’s decorative historicist architecture: expensively decorated, yet largely based on light-colored tones, and masterfully using the romantic veneer of majolica inserts.
​Renovation: the Far East Style
The competition project of renovating two central city blocks of Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk, developed by UNK project, won the nomination “Architectural and planning solutions of city construction”.
​The Contact
The Istituto Centrale per la Grafica in Rome presents Sergei Tchoban’s exhibition “Imprint of the future. Destiny of Piranesi’s City”. The exhibition includes four etchings, based on Roman architectural views of the XVIII century complemented by futuristic insertions, as well as a lot of drawings that investigate the same topic, at times quite expressively. The exhibition poses questions, but does not seem to give any answers. Since going to Rome is pretty problematic now, let’s at least examine the pictures.
​In Search of Visual Clarity
In this article, we are reviewing a discussion devoted to the question of designing city space elements, which is quite complicated for the Russian expanses of land. The discussion was organized by the Genplan Institute of Moscow at the ArchMoscow convention in Gostiny Dvor.
​The City of the Sun
Jointly designed by Sergey Tchoban and Vladimir Plotkin, the VTB Arena Park complex can arguably be considered the perfect experiment on solving the centuries-old controversy between traditional architecture and modernism. The framework of the design code, combined with the creative character of the plastique-based dialogue between the buildings, formed an all-but-perfect fragment of the city fabric.
​...The Other Was Just Railroad Gin*
In their project of the third stage of “Ligovsky City” housing complex, located in the industrial “gray” belt of Saint Petersburg, the KCAP & Orange Architects & A-Len consortium set before themselves a task of keeping up the genius loci by preserving the contours of the railroad and likening the volumes of residential buildings to railroad containers, stacked up at the goods unloading station.
​Lions on Glass
While reconstructing the facades of Building 4 of Moscow Hospital #23, SPEECH architects applied a technique, already known from Saint Petersburg projects by Sergey Tchoban – cassettes with elements of classical architecture printed on glass. The project was developed gratis, as a help to the hospital.
Park of Sentiments
The project of “Romantic Park Tuchkov Buyan”, which was developed by the consortium of Studio 44 and WEST 8, and has won an international competition, combines sculptural landscape design and wooden structures, variety of spatial features and an eventful agenda, designed for diverse audience, with a beautiful and complex passeist idea of a palace park, meant to evoke thoughts and feelings.
​Architecture as an Educational Tool
The concept of a charity school “Tochka Budushchego” (“Point of the Future”) in Irkutsk is based on cutting-edge educational programs, and is designed, among other things, for adapting orphaned children for independent life. An important role is played by the architecture of the building: its structure and different types of interconnected spaces.
​The Gallery Approach
In this article, we are covering the concept of a Central District Clinic for 240 patients, designed by Ginzburg Architects, which won at a competition organized by the Architects Union and the Healthcare Ministry.
Health Constructor
In this issue, we are publishing the concept of a standard clinic designed by UNK Project, which took second place in the competition organized by the Union of Architects of Russia in collaboration with the Healthcare Ministry.
From Foundation to Teaspoon
Based on the taste of their friendly clients, the architects Olga Budennaya and Roman Leonidov designed and built a house in the Moscow metropolitan area playing Art Nouveau. At the same time, they enriched the typology of a private house with modern functions of a garage loft and a children’s art studio.
Continuation and Development
The second “office” stage of Comcity, the most popular business park of the “New Moscow” area, continues the underground street of the already existing part of the complex, responding to its architectural identity.
​The Flying One
Expected to become an analogue of Moscow’s Skolkovo, the project of the High Park campus at Saint Petersburg’s ITMO University, designed by Studio 44, mesmerizes us with its sheer scale and the passion that the architects poured into it. Its core – the academic center – is interpreted as an avant-garde composition inspired by Piazza del Campo with a bell tower; the park is reminiscent of the “rays” of the main streets of Saint Petersburg, and, if watched from a birds-eye view, the whole complex looks like a motherboard with at least four processors on it. The design of the academic building even displays a few features of a sports arena. The project has a lot of meanings and allusions about it; all of them are united by plastique energy that the hadron collider itself could be jealous of.
​The Aperture Effect
For a housing complex built in the town of Pushkino in the Moscow metropolitan area, KPLN Architects designed facades that adjust the stream of light by using the wall geometry.
​A Comfortable City in Itself
The project that we are about to cover is seemingly impossible amidst human anthills, chaotically interspersed with old semi-neglected dachas. Meanwhile, the housing complex built on the Comcity business part does offer a comfortable environment of decent city: not excessively high-rise and moderately private as a version of the perfect modern urbanist solution.
Moving on the Edge
The housing complex “Litsa” (“Faces”) on Moscow’s Khodynka Field is one of the new grand-scale buildings that complement the construction around it. This particular building skillfully tackles the scale, subjugating it to the silhouette and the pattern; it also makes the most of the combination of a challenging land site and formidable square footage requirements, packing a whole number of features within one volume, so the house becomes an analogue of a city. And, to cap it all, it looks like a family that securely protects the children playing in the yard from... well, from everything, really.
Visual Stability Agent
A comparatively small house standing on the border of the Bolshevik Factory combines two diametrically opposite features: expensive materials and decorative character of Art Deco, and a wide-spaced, even somewhat brutal, facade grid that highlights a laminated attic.
The Faraday Cage
The project of the boutique apartment complex in the 1st Truzhenikov Lane is the architects’ attempt to squeeze a considerable volume into a tiny spot of land, at the same time making it look graceful and respectable. What came to their rescue was metal, stone, and curvilinear glass.
Color and Line
The new successful techniques developed by A.Len for designing a kindergarten under budget constraints: the mosaic of irregular windows and working with color.
The Union of Art and Technology
His interest for architecture of the 1930’s is pretty much the guiding star for Stepan Liphart. In his project of the “Amo” house on St. Petersburg’s Vasilyevsky Island, the architect based himself on Moscow Art Deco - aesthetically intricate and decorated in scratch-work technique. As a bonus, he developed the city block typology as an organic structure.
The Countdown
The project that Evgeniy Gerasimov and Partners developed for Moscow’s Leningrad Avenue: the tallest building in the company’s portfolio, continuing the tradition of Moscow’s Stalin architecture.
White Town
In the project that they developed for a southern region of Russia, OSA Architects use multilayered facades that create an image of seaside resort architecture, and, in the vein of the latest trends of today, mix up different social groups that the residents belong to.
​Just a Mirror for the Sun
The house that Sergey Skuratov designed in Nikolovorobinsky Alley is thought out down to the last detail. It adapts three historical facades, interprets a feeling of a complex city, is composed of many layers, and catches plenty of sunlight, from sunrises to sunsets. The architect himself believes that the main role of this house is creating a background for another nearby project of his, Art House in the Tessinsky Alley.
​Part of the Whole
On June 5, the winners of Moscow Architectural Award were announced. The winners list includes the project of a school in Troitsk for 2,100 students, with its own astronomy dome, IT testing ground, museum, and a greenhouse on the roof.
Pedagogical Architecture
Yet another project of a private school, in which Archimatika realizes the concept of aesthetic education and introduces a new tradition: combining Scandinavian and Soviet experience, turning to works of art, and implementing sustainable technologies.
​Rational Arrangement
In this article, we are examining a complex of buildings and interiors of the first stage of the project that has recently become extremely popular – the Kommunarka clinic.
​Parallel Universe
In the “Parallel House” residence that he designed in the Moscow metropolitan area, the architect Roman Leonidov created a dramatic sculptural composition from totally basic shapes – parallelepipeds, whose collision turned into an exciting show.
In the Istra district of Moscow metropolitan area, the tandem of 4izmerenie and ARS-ST designed a sports complex – a monovolume that has the shape of a chamfered parallelepiped with a pointed “nose” like a ship’s bow.
​Stairway to Heaven
The project of a hotel in the settlement of Yantarny is an example of a new recreational complex typology, and a new format that unites the hotel, the business, and the cultural functions. All of this is complemented by 100% integration with nature.