Proposed by Nikita Biryukov, the project of reconstructing the former Communication House, which stands in the beginning of the New Arbat Street, keeps up the proportions and logic of the existing building, at the same time clearing it up and giving it a more contemporary look with a slight note of “retro” that can be traced back to the techno-futurism of the 1930’s.
Written by: Julia Tarabarina Translated by: Anton Mizonov
The concept proposed by “ABV Group” is one of a whole series of projects connected with the program of reconstructing the buildings of Moscow’s automatic telephone stations that have fallen into disuse after the “fourth industrial revolution” brought about digital standards of communication, and the floor space, which was necessary for communication equipment, shrank not just by tens but by hundreds of times.
Meanwhile, the reconstructed building occupies a rather high-profile place in the city: it is situated in the very beginning of the New Arbat Street, on the corner of the Gogolevsky Boulevard, as a pendant to the Praga Restaurant situated in the beginning of the Old Arbat – just as it occupies a prominent place in the history of the nation’s capital modernism: it was built in 1965 by the team of Studio 23 of Mosproject-1 under the supervision of Victor Egerev as the “Communication House”, and it hosted the proverbial Lenin’s “post, telegraph, and telephone”, or, more precisely, in addition to the automatic telephone station it also hosted a telegraph, and a domestic long distance communication office, occupying, thanks to its versatility, a well-deserved central position in the city. Looking not so much like a telephone station but more like some Soviet research institute, in the late 1990’s the narrow seven-floor slab with laconic ribbon windows and strokes of metallic lamellae got a granite coverage of the first-tier pillars with a characteristic postmodernist little arch, while in the late 2000’s the façade became more and more often covered with a giant canvas of media screen, and now it is generally perceived as one enormous billboard that opens up the New Arbat. However, back in the day it was the contemporary of the construction and the propylaea of the Kalininsky Avenue, the proverbial “false jaw of Moscow” that generated so much controversy, satiric songs, and even became to a large extent, I would say, the catalyst for the development of the contextual city planning method, as well as the movement of the city preservation activists. Meanwhile, this high-profile place, the witness of numerous Soviet movie shoots, the rallies of 1999 and then 2012, keeps on developing: at night, the New Arbat glows almost like Manhattan, and a couple of years ago it got an extra convenience in the form of a long bench that runs in fact all through the avenue – in a word, the street is on the right track. And now the time came to reconstruct the slab standing in the beginning of the avenue – it cannot serve as the prop for a media screen forever.
The architectural firm of Nikita Biryukov proposed a concept of turning the automatic telephone station into a three-star hotel. There are plans for remaking the basement into an underground parking garage, letting the busses drive in here from the direction of the Merzlyakovsky Lane, which runs crosswise to the New Arbat – in fact, this lane runs through the building like a low-ceilinged driveway, which is also narrowed by later-added granite pylons on the sides. The architects clear the pillars and decorate them into glittering metallic, the semitransparent second floor leveling out the squatting profile of the driveway. This way, the space on the lane side gets not exactly a full-fledged yard, but, by contrast with the bustling avenue, the city space is much quieter here, and the passengers will be able to alight right in front of the lobby doors on the ground floor. From the avenue side, the drive-through arch is framed by a broad light marquee that marks its presence in space.
According to the architects, it took them a while to come up with the right façade design solutions – they considered about five different versions including hi-tech and (popular these days) Art Deco ones. As for the source of inspiration for the final version, it was found in the design of the GM Futurliner show bus, the central hero of “Parade of Progress”, a North American traveling exhibition promoting future cars and technologies: the bright streamlined custom vehicle with glittering metallic grooves on the sides that mesmerized America in the 1930’s. But then again, a similar technique – glittering grooves of polished stainless steel – was used by Aleksey Dushkin in his design of the Mayakovskaya metro station back in 1938.
Actually, what was borrowed from the bus was the glittering metal and the grooves. On the façade, the bands of polished steel are bending, connecting the verticals and horizontals into a single entwined whole and presenting a metaphor of printed wire board – a reminder of the technological essence and background of the building, and about the story of how a huge commutator house shrank to the size of a small computer replacement part. At the same time, the IT-related imagery, according to the authors, is also connected to one of the client’s branches of business activity, the Joined-Stock Financial Corporation Sistema; it is also echoed by the name of the hotel – ihouse – let us suppose that this stands for “Intelligent House”. The metallic grooves, however, not only highlight the flexible lines of the metal bands but also remind us of the anti-solar lamellae of the existing building – in the reconstructed version, the host of polished and corrugated bands becomes thinner but it still keeps up the connection with the original building, which is both retrospective and modern at the same time. It looks as though the authors find and sharpen its futuristic features.
On the columns, which unite the first two floors, the grooves come together to form exquisite fluted pillars that take on the role of the capitals that at the same time look like gears, which, in turn, makes perfect sense for the “advanced” technology-generated Art Deco of the 1930’s, as well as for many other versions of modernist architecture, which are always busy trying to find a connection between the modern “mechanical” imagery and the eternal elements of the antique order.
The façades are cleared as much as possible from all the later additions, as well as from original concrete slabs: the intermediate floors are pretty thin, the windows are of the “down-to-the-floor” type, and there is plenty of luxurious light inside, which is beautiful and even slightly surprising for a three-star hotel. On the other hand, the architects did give a thought to ensuring the privacy of the hotel rooms – one can clearly see that transparent windows alternated with blacked out ones that keep the role of a background. The first two floors are 100% glass, with very thin joints and shop windows glowing bright at night.
In the project, the insides of the building are also cleared as much as possible from all the unnecessary things: designed for purely utilitarian purposes, the floor plan of Communication House, of course, could not work for a hotel. The first floor will be occupied by shops, cafes, and the hotel lobby, the second floor will be occupied by offices, while the hotel itself will start off from the third floor where the reception lobby will be situated with hotel rooms going higher up.
One must admit that this “retrofuturistic” version of reconstruction will probably indeed be able to liven up the beginning of the New Arbat, a street that was once built as an ostentatiously new one, the newest of the new, which turned it into a subject of heated controversy over the priorities of renewing or preserving the architectural image of the nation’s capital, and now fashionable, noisy to the point of being painful, glittering, and still unique in its own way. Glittering with its polished steel frame, as much as with the lights of its shop windows, yet at the same time keeping up the reserved rhythm, proportions, the shape of the old telephone station, and dating back to the prototypes of the 1930’s, this house becomes quite a decent “right-hand pylon of the propylaea” of the avenue, especially considering the fact that the other pylon here is the building of the Praga Restaurant, which is quite different and neoclassical. In addition, retrofuturism is arguably the hottest trend of today – we have finally been able to realize a lot of things about our dream of the future and understand that rushing headlong without ever looking back is not a really classy thing to do. Maybe it’s all for the best.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Cape of Good Hope
In this issue, we are showing all the seven projects that participated in a closed-door competition to create a concept for the headquarters of Gazprom Neft, as well as provide expert opinions on those projects.
The Outer Space
Honoring the 300th anniversary of the Kuznetsk coal fields in 2021, a new passenger terminal of the Aleksey Leonov Airport in the city of Kemerovo will be built, designed by GK Spectrum and ASADOV Architectural Bureau.
The Pivot of Narkomfin Building
Ginzburg Architects finished the restoration of the Narkomfin Building’s laundry unit – one of the most important elements of the famous monument of Soviet avant-garde architecture.
The housing complex “Respublika” is so large that it can be arguably called a micro-town, yet, at the same time, it easily overcomes most of the problems that usually arise with mass housing construction. How could Archimatika achieve that? We are examining that on the example of the first stage of the complex.
The Flowing Lines
The five houses of the “Svoboda” block belonging to the “Simvol” residential complex present a vivid example of all-rounded work performed by the architects on an integral fragment of the city, which became the embodiment of the approach to architecture that hitherto was not to be seen anywhere in Moscow: everything is subjected to the flow of lines – something like a stream, enhanced by the powerful pattern of the facades akin to “super-graphics”.
A City by the Water
The concept of a large-scale housing development at the edge of Voronezh, near the city reservoir, or “the sea”, as it is locally called, uses the waterside height difference to create a sophisticated public space, paying a lot of attention to the distribution of masses that determine the look of the future complex if viewed from the opposite bank of the river.
A Journey to the Country of Art Deco
The “Little France” residential complex on the 20th line of the Vasilyevsky Island presents an interesting make-believe dialogue between its architect, Stepan Liphart, the architect of the New Hermitage, masters of the Silver Age, and Soviet Art Deco, about interesting professional topics, such as a house with a courtyard in the historical center of Saint Petersburg, and the balance between the wall and the stained glass in the architectonics of the facade. Here are the results of this make-believe conversation.
A House in a Port
This housing complex on the Dvinskaya Street is the first case of modern architecture on the Gutuevsky Island. The architectural bureau “A-Len” thoroughly explores the context and creates a landmark for further transformations of this area of Saint Petersburg.
Balance of Infill Development
Anatoly Stolyarchuk Architectural Studio is designing a house that inadvertently prevails over the surrounding buildings, yet still tries to peacefully coexist with the surrounding environment, taking it to a next level.
The Precious Space
Evolution Design and T+T Architects reported about the completion of the interior design project of Sberbank headquarters on the Kutuzovsky Avenue. In the center of the atrium, hovers the “Diamant” meeting room; everything looks like a chest full of treasures, including the ones of a hi-tech kind.
Big Little Victory
In a small-sized school located in Domodedovo in Moscow metropolitan area, ASADOV_ architects did a skillful job of tackling the constraints presented by the modest budget and strict spatial limitations – they designed sunlit classrooms, comfortable lounges, and even a multi-height atrium with an amphitheater, which became the center of school life.