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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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”.
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.
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.
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.