You’re a distinctive kind of firm. In spite of the fact that your buildings are very conspicuous in the city, in your image you emphasize business rather than artistic aspects.
Boris Levyant: That’s deliberate. Byuro ABD is not the creative workshop of Boris Levyant. I have a variety of architects working with me, and each of them has, I suppose, his own creative credo.
But your firm has certain general principles?
Boris Stuchebryukov: If we have such principles, they really are general, as in shared, rather than anyone’s in particular. Our system is not for Boris or myself to draw something and then have the rest of the firm develop it. We have principal and leading architects, and they are responsible for designing buildings with their own teams.
So, as head of the firm, you take no part in the creative process at ABD?
B.L.: Usually, no. Only when some extreme, dead-end situation arises and a brainstorm is required. This can happen, but I regard it as a breakdown in our normal way of working.
And you don’t control the final product?
B.L.: I do, but I don’t impose my own vision on the team. There are certain general principles that unite our firm and if they are observed, then I don’t interfere with the design of a building. So it would be pointless to ask about your firm’s style?
B.L.: Yes, I think so. The term ‘rationalism’ is quite sufficient for me. Our firm creates modern rational architecture. I want it to be clear that extreme buildings such as those by Zaha Hadid and Daniel Libeskind are not what we do and, in all likelihood, not what we shall be doing in the future. For me there are certain fundamental categories. First and foremost, there is scale. Scale is what makes a building appropriate to a city. I do not agree with the principles of contextuality as they are currently understood by the Moscow City Architecture Committee – when historical detailing is required as proof of a fit with a building’s context. If a building fits the scale of the city, then it is appropriate.
Your hostility to the contextual approach is slightly unexpected. You did, after all, work with the man who in the 1980s created the entire architectural programme of present-day Moscow – Aleksey Gutnov.
B.L.: Yes, and for me this was very important professional experience. But it was not at all the ‘contextual approach’ that is today attributed to Gutnov – especially in the form in which we encounter it today. For me the main thing was the experience it gave in creating a team. Gutnov possessed a talent for bringing together in one team people of the widest variety of views and fields of specialization. Creative people, managers, academics, engineers – everyone. And this was the main thing I learned from him. ABD is organized along the same lines. Our teams have a creative department, architects engaged in three-dimensional design, and interior designers. There are managers who manage the legal and administrative aspects of a project. This is very important because creative people are by definition not very good at financial and legal aspects and relations with clients, the city, and sub-contractors. Getting the creative and managerial departments to work together and with engineers and structural engineers are serious tasks for a CEO. ABD now has this kind of teamwork, and I consider this to be my main achievement.
B.S.: To my mind, this is an ideal situation. Architects are liberated from the need to carry out managerial tasks which don’t come naturally to them. They are responsible for designing a building from concept to working drawings and for monitoring construction, but not for administrative functions.
Architects of a creative kind often complain of difficulties in carrying out managerial functions. This is only natural. And yet I would ask the following question. Relations between the city and the client account for a great deal in the design of a building. They set a framework for the design process. Architects and clients, civil servants and contractors all speak different languages; all are very bad at understanding one another. Endless adjustments, negotiations, and re-workings are necessary if a common language is finally to be found. If you liberate your ‘creators’ from all this, how do you manage to find a common language with all your contra-agents?
B.L.: This is the most important part, as it happens. Endless negotiations between people who do not understand one another are not the most effective way of working. The first clause of the agreement we make with any client stipulates the drawing up of a programme/brief. In this we are essentially doing the work of the city zoning regulations – that which Gutnov tried to institute: zoning regulations for each lot. This is essential for the client, but insufficient in itself. There needs to be a common language shared by the client and the architect, and so our next task is to interpret the zoning regulations in the language of business. Both we and the client need a well-thought-out business plan for use of the lot. Unfortunately, it’s not just the city that is insufficiently civilized, but the client as well and, as a rule, developers have no clear idea how exactly they are going to use the land that they have acquired. We have to do their thinking for them. I should say that after these stages have been gone through, relations between architect, city, and client become more efficient. And at this stage the architect steps in?
B.S.: The architect steps in at the earliest stage. You could say he plays a part in formulating a proper design brief. And if the latter really does meet the client’s needs, then the client will subsequently be much less inclined to interfere in the architectural design. Of course, interference cannot be ruled out altogether. Sometimes the client wants to simplify everything. Sometimes he wants added beauty or sumptuousness. We have been forced to do things we didn’t want to do and not been allowed to do things that seemed right to us. We’ve been through all this. But ideally this system should reduce such interference to a minimum.
Could we come at this from another angle? Buildings designed by ABD are easily recognizable. Their distinguishing characteristic is a European quality. They are things that could find a place in Europe without any need for amendment to meet local conditions. Moreover, this goes equally for your residential interiors, office interiors, and your retail buildings – everything you do. This is the highest level of civilization and modernity, in the sense of modern Western civilization. Could we say this is your credo?
B.L.: Scale, rationality, modernity. There’s nothing more I can add. This isn’t my concern. Creating styles and thinking up interpretations of them is for critics.
Russian consumers prefer everything foreign. Clothes, food, cars – everything. Objects can be imported, but architecture cannot. The creation of a design machine capable of producing a Western standard of civilization here in Russia is, I think, an extremely difficult task. Essentially, all the state structures here and even business itself have been working to this end for the last ten years. You’ve managed to create such a process, and it’s this goal that your design machine is intended to meet. Am I right?
B.L.: Well, that’s the interpretation of a critic.
V.S.: Why do you say ‘a Western standard’? My solo retrospective exhibition at the Polytechnical Museum was entitled ‘Russian Rationalism’ and showed me as a Russian artist belonging to the rationalist movement, an heir to the Russian rationalism of the 1920s. At that time Russian artists and architects did not borrow their ideas and the latter were just as good as, and in many respects better than, anything thought up by their colleagues in the West. The numerous catalogues published prior to and following Perestroika are clear proof of this. To transplant Western civilization to Russian soil is not our objective. Our goal is to rise to a modern standard of civilization here in Russia.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.