The curator of the exhibition “Pilgrimage of Russian Art. From Dionysius to Malevich”, Arkadiy Ippolitov, mixed up works from different centuries, while the design of the exposition, developed by Sergey Tchoban and Agnia Sterligova, helps to arrange these intertwined sophisticated narratives, joining them together with a glow of holiness.
Written by: Julia Tarabarina Translated by: Anton Mizonov
As is known, the colonnade of the St. Peter’s Square looks like a pair of arms that embraces it. However, although over the centuries many people have passed underneath the powerful Tuscany columns designed by Giovanni Lorenzo Bernini, fewer paid attention to the “wrists of the arms”, the closed galleries running from the oval of the colonnade towards the cathedral- mostly because of the fact that until recently they both were closed to visitors. It was only in front of the Constantine wing (named so after the equestrian statue of the emperor), which is situated to the right of the person entering the cathedral, that one could peek over the shoulder of the Swiss guard to see the baroque hyper-perspective of Scala Regia. The Constantine wing is still closed to visitors, but the opposite “wrist” of the colonnade, which is situated on the right of the cathedral and on the left of the flow of the tourists and pilgrims, the Charles the Great wing, was recently handed over to the Vatican Museums by the Holy See, and now this place hosts various exhibitions. It is here that the “response” exhibition by the Tretyakov Gallery to Vatican’s Roma Aeterna, which was held in Moscow two years ago, is hosted; back then, the State Tretyakov Gallery exhibited masterpieces from the Vatican Museum, and the time has come for the second stage of cultural exchange – 47 pieces from Tretyakov Gallery have come to Rome, plus seven more came from other Russian museums. Arkadiy Ippolitov has become the curator of both exhibitions (2016 in Moscow and 2018 in Rome), the design of the expositions being developed by Sergey Tchoban and Agnia Sterligova. We will note that the exhibition in the State Tretyakov Gallery was designed as a semblance of the colonnade of St. Peter’s Basilica, while the response exposition of the Russian art is in fact hosted in it.
An exhibition of masterpieces is a special genre, whose laws have long since been carved in stone, one of which is the mandatory chronological sequence, which makes any such exhibition, especially if it covers a span of 400-500 years, predictably similar to a museum exposition, and relentlessly classical: XVI, XVII, XVIII century and so on, Russian art is shown from ancient icons to avant-garde through the Peredvizhniks (painters of the XIX-century Russian realist school). With an intention to break away from this cliché, Arkadiy Ippolitov mixed up the whole chronology, building up conceptual and – in a broad sense of this word – iconographic parallels between the works of different ages. To some people, the result looked still rather predictable because the talks about the spirituality of the Russian avant-garde art have been going on for quite a long time, and there is nothing exactly groundbreaking about them. To some people, however, the result looked pretty provocative because it is one thing to put “What is Truth?” depicting Christ and Pilate or “Golgotha” by Nikolay Ge or “Prayer of the Cup” depicting Christ In Gethsemane by Vasiliy Perov alongside the evangelic cycle of iconostases, or the wooden “Christ in the Dark Cell” effigy alongside “Christ in the Desert” by Ivan Kramskoy, and it is quite a different thing finding the features of a Christian martyr in the member of “Narodnaya Volya” revolutionary movement in “They Did Not Expect Him” by Ilya Repin or comparing “Mother Do Not Weep For Me” orthodox icon to “Inconsolable Grief” by Ivan Kramskoy, or putting “The Demon Seated” by Mikhail Vrubel in the context of Orthodox painting, or cross-referencing Malevich’s Black Square to the Judgement Day (one must say that in this specific place the Black Square looks humble and modest, nothing like a provocation but as a full stop of sorts). One can also see here quite unexpected cross references, for example, comparing the curves of the red communist banner in “The Bolshevik” by Boris Kustodiev with the Snake the Instigator.
One way or another, in spite of the all the obviousness of the idea, this is the first time that it was shown so loud and clear. On the other hand, the exhibition is definitely all about the manifestation of the Christian foundation of even the militantly atheistic, God-seeking, revolutionary and Bolshevik paintings – which is ultimately quite appropriate here in Vatican. But then again, there is a downside to it – the credo, the “I believe” of the Russian art starts sounding slightly grotesque here, as if it is taking the oral exam to become a member of the All-Union Leninist Young Communist League. Generally speaking, the Russian press reacted to the exhibition more in terms of the greatness of Russian art in general, while the western media mentioned Vatican’s policies and the fact that Pope Francis has a soft spot for “friendship through art”, and this is where yet another contradiction of modern life comes up: we sometimes suddenly remember a schism and start preparing a new one, or we sometimes are almost preparing for the Council of Florence or the Third Vatican. In actuality, this is not the case, of course: it’s just that different layers of the pluralist atmosphere of this day and age can play home to many different cultural trends – but we will also note that the concept proposed by Arkadiy Ippolitov created lots of meaningful tensions, which hold the exhibition together and make it almost resonant – its contents are full of inner energy.
The space of Giovanni Lorenzo Bernini is also far from neutral. It is, of course, more sedate than Scala Regia, where the steepness of the slope that one has to conquer is emotionally enhanced manifold; but here the floor is also sloping, it rises from the square up to the cathedral, provoking, however slight, effort from the walker; as for the walls, they consist of flattened baroque exedras – the long array of waves looks like the capellas of a catholic temple, and at the same time one could easily envisage them to be the walls’ reaction to the conceptual tensions that arose at the exhibition. Thus, Sergey Tchoban and Agnia Sterligova got in the crossfire of the narrative of the exhibition and the emotional Bernini space – and they chose for the exposition design a maximally sedate solution, subjugating it to the interior.
The expo modules about three meters high follow the contours of the walls and repeat, one tone lighter, their beige-gray color: they go deeper into the recessions of the exedras, make little walls before the pylons, and generally form a “second skin”. The gallery is not really wide, and blocking it halfway would be a wrong thing to do – what remains inside is only “Christ in the Dark Cell”, the only sculpture at this exhibition, which forms a cross aisle with the two neighboring exedras.
Everything else is grouped along the walls but in such a way as to sort out what the curator mixed up in an all but imperceptible yet a logic and clear way. The pictures of the XIX and XX centuries are hanged on the light surfaces of the exhibition modules; the icons, on the other hand, are sunk into the recessions, icon cases of sorts, which open up the imaginary matter of the walls: the color of Eucharistic wine or the Most Holy Mother of God. And it turns out that the light-colored surface of the expo modules is in fact the verge between the deeply spiritual art of the Middle Ages and the explorations of the same Christian issues in the early modern period. Or the line between the reverse perspective of the divine, uncreated space – and the realistic construction of the illusory man made world. In other words, the exposition structures include two layers: for the iconographic church art and the pictures of the early modern period – which makes it possible to highlight how essentially the same topics “show through” in different epochs – and uncover the curator’s original idea, at the same time avoiding an utter and chaotic mix-up by subtly, almost on the level of the viewer’s instincts, sorting out the two components of the exhibition. If we are to go one step further, we can imagine that this whole neutrally white surface devours yet another problem of Russian art – the absence of the Renaissance period in it, which was all about the formative years of the problems of the style of the early modern period.
But then again, according to the authors, the wine-red color has yet another connotation: it connects the Roman exhibition with Moscow’s two-years-ago Roma Aeterna – that one was completely wine-red, although with a twist of a brownish copper hue. In this case, however, the purple, not being restricted to the space of the recessions, appears in the space of the exhibition three times: at the entrance and at the side end of the gallery, marking the beginning and end of the visitor’s progress, as well as in the pedestal of “Christ in the Dark Cell”, thus marking the center of the exhibition. At the same time, the purple walls accentuate the inherent beginning of Russian art and complete it with a powerful chord – Glory of Our Lady on the throne.
The visitor’s progress deserves a special mention. Although the Russian name of the exhibition literally translates as “The Russian way”, the international version of the name is “Pilgrimage of Russian Art” or “pellegrinaggio” or “pèlerinage” in Italian and French respectively. In interviews and various statements, a third name of “Calvary” appears – apparently, the term “Way of the Cross” was left as a parenthesis or cut away from the original name in order to soften the fanfare and give the project a greater freedom of interpretation. The architecture of the Bernini wing with its eastward ascent fits in perfectly with the idea of a pilgrimage, a way of the cross, and even makes one remember the numerous stairways leading up to the castles of the Catholic Europe, meant to become the scene of the “Cross Bearing” ceremony – let’s remember, for example, the stairway to Notre Dame de la Garde in Marseille, the stairway to Trinità dei Monti in Rome, or the ascent to San Miniato al Monte in Florence. Here, in the case of the Charles wing, the ascent is not that great, although still perceptible, and the visitors or pilgrims go not to Saint Peters (although indeed it this direction) but move inside the space of the problems of Russian art, interpreted here as acutely Christian. One must hardly mention the fact that today an icon for Catholic temples is a welcome and interest-evoking image for praying, some carrier of mystery, as opposed to the habitual and traditional sculptures and altar images.
The arcs of white planks that bear the lights, follow the curves of the exedras with a one iteration shift – and serve not to separate but to unite all the exhibited materials. Hovering a meter above the visitors’ heads, their white graphics look like the Early Renaissance halos, which are inscribed in the perspective of the pictures. They look as if they were making up for the absence of Renaissance, and, at the same time, are not only highlighting but also throwing a divine light upon the whole exhibition, accentuating the holiness of its subject matter and even uniting them. It is amazing how, by using such modest and simple means, the author was able to both separate and at the same time unite such a great amount of valuable and diverse material.
Polyphony of a Chaste Style
The “ID Moskovskiy” housing project on St. Petersburg’s Moscow Avenue was designed by the team of Stepan Liphart in the past 2020. The ensemble of two buildings, joined by a colonnade, is executed in a generalized neoclassical style with elements of Art Deco.
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.
In the Space of Pobedy Park
In the project of a housing complex designed by Sergey Skuratov, which is now being built near the park of the Poklonnaya Hill, a multifunctional stylobate is turned into a compound city space with intriguing “access” slopes that also take on the role of mini-plazas. The architecture of the residential buildings responds to the proximity of the Pobedy Park, on the one hand, “dissolving in the air”, and, on the other hand, supporting the memorial complex rhythmically and color-wise.
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.