По-русски

​Maria Panteleeva and Sasha Gutnova: “What we are missing is the idealism of the “New Element of Settlement” working group”.

In this issue, we are talking to the curators of an exhibition and an educational project devoted to the “New Element of Settlement” phenomenon, as well as about its specifics and relevance for the realities of today.

Interviewed by:

Translated by:
Anton Mizonov

19 December 2018
Interview
mainImg

Archi.ru: The project entitled “New Element of Settlement: History of the Future” includes not only an exhibition but also a film, a book, a scientific symposium, and a set of lectures. How did the idea of such a grand-scale project come about?

Maria Panteleeva: The idea of this project sprang up in two different parts of the world – in Paris and New-York about three years ago. Each of us came to it her own way. I am an architect – I graduated from Moscow Institute of Architecture, and then I went to the USA, where in Princeton University I defended my thesis devoted to “New Element of Settlement” (hereinafter referred to as “NER”), the town-planning concept that was born in the late 1950’s – early 1960’s in Moscow Institute of Architecture. I started working on my thesis six years ago, and originally it was about experimental Soviet architecture but it the process I really got into the topic of NER, and ultimately I totally switched over to it. In the course of my research, I learned that there were archives of NER in Moscow, in the family of Aleksey Gutnov, one of the founders of this approach, and I got in touch with his daughter, Sasha Gutnova. After we met, the idea of this exhibition was born. By that moment, working on my thesis project, I already decided to produce a film about NER, and I got a grant from Graham Foundation for its production. I would meet with the members of the NER working group, also staying in touch with the students of Moscow Institute of Architecture who, as it turned out, knew nothing about that phenomenon, in spite of the fact that Ilya Lezhava – one of the key ideologists of the group – was an extremely popular professor in that institute. This is how we came to a conclusion that we had to make not just an exhibition but a full-fledged educational project in order to get as many people as possible exposed to the phenomenon of NER, whose ideas are still vital not only for Russia but also abroad, and are still influencing architecture around the globe.

Sasha Gutnova: To me, this whole thing is both personal and professional. I also went to Moscow Institute of Architecture, then I was a postgraduate student in France where I majored in urban planning.

As a matter of fact, I only discovered for myself the creative work of my father, Aleksey Gutnov, one of the key figures of NER, many years after his death: when he passed away in the mid-1980’s, I was only 16. A few years ago, I started sorting out my family archives, and, now seeing them through the eyes of an experienced architect, I realized that this whole NER narrative was worth recollecting, studying and saving it for the younger generation. Especially today, when we finally started caring about our material legacy of the Soviet modernism but often tend to forget about the kind of legacy that is ideological and theoretical that is just as much worth saving. We are asking ever fewer questions about the future because we are too busy with answering the questions of the present. Essentially, any architect is creating a future, and NER is a vivid example of how someone can be a visionary in the field of architecture.

Sasha Gutnova and Maria Panteleeva at the setting up of the exhibition at Schusev State Museum of Architecture. Photo by Timofey Moskovkin
A fragment of an article in "Komsomolskaya Pravda" devoted to the diploma project of NES. From the archives of Andrey Zvezdin


There is a number of articles published online where the phenomenon of NER is explained in a rather extended and complicated form. After you read these articles, you still cannot answer the question as to what NER essentially was – a town-planning theory, an independent project in its own right, or a team of like-minded people. How would you answer that?

Maria Panteleeva: As a matter of fact, the idea of organizing an exhibition devoted to NER grew into such a big project specifically because we ourselves were trying to find the answer to that question. The members of NER call it a “school”. A school of thought. And this is indeed the case, even though a lot of architects haven’t got a clue that they are actually part of this school, being under the influence of their teachers. Probably, you could say that it’s a school of architectural philosophy.

Sasha Gutnova: I also asked myself this question more than once. I think that NER can best be defined by the term “movement”.

First of all, movement as some vector and unity: this was the time with a very special atmosphere of its own, people would dream about the future, and they had great hopes for it, and NER in this sense was no exception – it united people who believed they could change the world.

Second, this is motion as progress. You understand this particularly well in the context of the late 1960’s. When the era of “stagnation” began, the members of NER were still “moving forward” their theory and their school of ideas. The best proof of that is the professional career of Ilya Lezhava and the work of Aleksey Gutnov in the work of perspective research of Genplan of Moscow. It is amazing but this movement is still going on, only in a different way. This tradition is continued by Alexander Skokan of Ostozhenka Bureau, Vladimir Yudintsev, Stanislav Sadovsky, Sergey Telyatnikov, Nikita Kostrikin, and others who teach at Moscow Institute of Architecture.

The pavilion of the special project "New Element of Settlement: History of the Future" at the 23rd International Exhibition of Architecture and Design "Arch Moscow", 2018


Can you put in a nutshell the basic principles of NER?

Maria Panteleeva: The first principle is the humanistic vision of the city. Generally speaking, in the postwar era humanism started returning to cities all over the world, and we can observe this revival all across Europe.

An important part of their theory was breaking away from the concept of an endlessly growing city – a phenomenon that we have long since been observing in our reality, and more uniform distribution of the cities in terms of their territory, a lot of attention being paid to developing them as cultural centers. According to the NER ideologists, any city was entitled to be a full-fledged cultural center, not just such giants as Moscow or Saint-Petersburg.

Sasha Gutnova: The key notion of this theory is, of course, the NER (New Element of Settlement) itself, an alternative to a city that spreads away like an ink blot.

Second, the future world of NER is a world of humans, not a world of machines: hence the routing of the transport communications and placing the industrial parks outside the boundaries of residential areas. This city is all about communication between people, the space for which is enthusiastically designed by inspired architects.

And the third thing that we must remember about NER is the fact that it is the long-term development of this theory that essentially generated the whole lexicon of the modern urbanist, for example, such terms as “framework”, “city fabric”, “cell”, “stable” and “unstable space system”. And, although the NER architects do not claim to have invented these terms, you need to realize that this set of concepts gave birth to discussions and meditations of real people who essentially created it. Actually, this particular topic will be covered by one of the chapters of the book that we are going to present at the exhibition.

Sasha Gutnova and Maria Panteleeva share with Maria Troshina about the project "New Element of Settlement: History of the Future". Photo by Timofey Moskovkin


What do you think is the seed that allows the NER ideas to stay around for such a long time and grow again and again in new generations of architects?

Maria Panteleeva: I think that this is communication between the members of the group who never lost touch with one another and kept up a constant exchange of ideas. Communication is the key idea of the NER theory: the members of the working group believed that a city was first of all to be based on communication, and not on some system of purely functional elements of architecture.

Sasha Gutnova: Yes, I agree – it is first of all about high-quality professional communication, loving what you’re doing, and your desire to make a positive difference.

Maria Panteleeva: What I think is also important is the fact that they felt like the future residents of this city, all the way starting from their student projects, and the ideas of NER to a large extent reflect their own aspirations, relationships with one another, both personal and professional, and thus the theory never stopped developing.

Sasha Gutnova and Maria Panteleeva share with Maria Troshina about the project "New Element of Settlement: History of the Future". Photo by Timofey Moskovkin


In 2008, Moscow Institute of Architecture hosted an exhibition devoted to the diploma project “NER-Kritovo”, and there was a meeting of the members of the group. Everyone recalled with warmth Aleksey Gutnov, who, regretfully, passed away so early, and spoke about him as the main ideologist of NER.

Maria Panteleeva: Unfortunately, I did not have the chance to meet him but through the archives, thanks to Sasha Gutnova and her mother Alla Aleksandrovna, I was able to connect with his architectural heritage and get close to understanding the magnitude of his personality. Of course, he was the “cement” and the center of the group. To me, he is a legend, and, to some extent, a mythical figure. A short time before the exhibition, we ran into a handmade book called “Ostrov Solntsa” (“Island in the Sun”), which Aleksey made when he was nine, and in which he, in the naïve style of a little boy that he was, drew the perfect cities of his dreams. This was quite an unexpected and amazing discovery that we will also present at the exhibition.

Sasha Gutnova: When my father was gone, I, of course, could not appreciate all the meaning of his work. To me, he was first of all a dad. For a long time, I would put off getting down to sorting out his archives, and when I finally got round to it, it was like knowing the side of my dad that I’d never seen before.

I am really grateful to Maria for her interest to this story and I really value her opinion – it is a lot more objective and scientific than mine.

In addition to this whole personal involvement thing, NER is also interesting to me as an example of collective work.

Because the beauty of this whole narrative lies particularly in joint creative efforts. Aleksey Gutnov could really unite people around himself, and, although I was still young, I felt some amazing quality of communication that was going on around me, when the group gathered in our apartment.

The prime movers, the “locomotives” of the group were Aleksey Gutnov and Ilya Lezhava, they were great believers in what they were doing, but every member of the group was just as important. Each one made his own contribution.

Ilya Lezhava once shared with me that once they came up with an idea that if the NER group were a bird or a human being, Aleksey Gutnov would be the head, Baburov the heart, somebody else the wings, somebody else the hands, and so on. Each would be a part of the whole that could not exist without this part. This is a very beautiful metaphor, and I think that the main talent and the main achievement of my father was his ability to see people who thought in the same lines with him, and whom he could infect with his enthusiasm.

Sasha Gutnova and Maria Panteleeva share with Maria Troshina about the project "New Element of Settlement: History of the Future". Photo by Timofey Moskovkin


Your project – the exhibition, the book, the film, and the conference – is something like a monument to NER. Does that mean that NER – at least in the form that you have been speaking about – is now over, and now it’s time for it to be cast in bronze?

Maria Panteleeva: Quite the opposite – we want our project to revive the public interest to the ideas and the creative spirit of NER. Things that you will see at the exhibition are part of history, and there is no sense trying to recreate them in the realities of modern life but the history of NER is far from finished.

Sasha Gutnova: We perceive the exhibition and the archive research as an urge to explore new things. We would want the visitors of our exhibition, who will read about NER and will hear the voices of the members of the group, think about the future. We want to somehow awaken the spirit of the visionary and the meditations on how we will live in the future. This is specifically why we came up with the idea of the practice-and-theory seminar called “New History to Be” that will gather young architects, urban planners, theoreticians of architecture, sociologists and geographers who will share their ideas about how we see the future of our cities, and about how to make plans not in the perspective of 2022 but in a much more long-term perspective.

Today, we are in a desperate need of some idealism and humanism in architecture that were inherent the NER members. We want to believe that our project will become a stimulus to the development of a new vision of the architecture of the future, that it will help people to have dreams about the future once again.

19 December 2018

Interviewed by:


Translated by:
Anton Mizonov
comments powered by HyperComments
Headlines now
​The Gallery Approach
In this article, we are covering the concept of a Central District Clinic for 240 patients, designed by Ginzburg Architects, which won at a competition organized by the Architects Union and the Healthcare Ministry.
Health Constructor
In this issue, we are publishing the concept of a standard clinic designed by UNK Project, which took second place in the competition organized by the Union of Architects of Russia in collaboration with the Healthcare Ministry.
​A Comfortable City in Itself
The project that we are about to cover is seemingly impossible amidst human anthills, chaotically interspersed with old semi-neglected dachas. Meanwhile, the housing complex built on the Comcity business part does offer a comfortable environment of decent city: not excessively high-rise and moderately private as a version of the perfect modern urbanist solution.
Moving on the Edge
The housing complex “Litsa” (“Faces”) on Moscow’s Khodynka Field is one of the new grand-scale buildings that complement the construction around it. This particular building skillfully tackles the scale, subjugating it to the silhouette and the pattern; it also makes the most of the combination of a challenging land site and formidable square footage requirements, packing a whole number of features within one volume, so the house becomes an analogue of a city. And, to cap it all, it looks like a family that securely protects the children playing in the yard from... well, from everything, really.
Visual Stability Agent
A comparatively small house standing on the border of the Bolshevik Factory combines two diametrically opposite features: expensive materials and decorative character of Art Deco, and a wide-spaced, even somewhat brutal, facade grid that highlights a laminated attic.
The Faraday Cage
The project of the boutique apartment complex in the 1st Truzhenikov Lane is the architects’ attempt to squeeze a considerable volume into a tiny spot of land, at the same time making it look graceful and respectable. What came to their rescue was metal, stone, and curvilinear glass.
Color and Line
The new successful techniques developed by A.Len for designing a kindergarten under budget constraints: the mosaic of irregular windows and working with color.
The Union of Art and Technology
His interest for architecture of the 1930’s is pretty much the guiding star for Stepan Liphart. In his project of the “Amo” house on St. Petersburg’s Vasilyevsky Island, the architect based himself on Moscow Art Deco - aesthetically intricate and decorated in scratch-work technique. As a bonus, he developed the city block typology as an organic structure.
The Countdown
The project that Evgeniy Gerasimov and Partners developed for Moscow’s Leningrad Avenue: the tallest building in the company’s portfolio, continuing the tradition of Moscow’s Stalin architecture.
White Town
In the project that they developed for a southern region of Russia, OSA Architects use multilayered facades that create an image of seaside resort architecture, and, in the vein of the latest trends of today, mix up different social groups that the residents belong to.
​Just a Mirror for the Sun
The house that Sergey Skuratov designed in Nikolovorobinsky Alley is thought out down to the last detail. It adapts three historical facades, interprets a feeling of a complex city, is composed of many layers, and catches plenty of sunlight, from sunrises to sunsets. The architect himself believes that the main role of this house is creating a background for another nearby project of his, Art House in the Tessinsky Alley.
​Part of the Whole
On June 5, the winners of Moscow Architectural Award were announced. The winners list includes the project of a school in Troitsk for 2,100 students, with its own astronomy dome, IT testing ground, museum, and a greenhouse on the roof.
Pedagogical Architecture
Yet another project of a private school, in which Archimatika realizes the concept of aesthetic education and introduces a new tradition: combining Scandinavian and Soviet experience, turning to works of art, and implementing sustainable technologies.
​Rational Arrangement
In this article, we are examining a complex of buildings and interiors of the first stage of the project that has recently become extremely popular – the Kommunarka clinic.
​Parallel Universe
In the “Parallel House” residence that he designed in the Moscow metropolitan area, the architect Roman Leonidov created a dramatic sculptural composition from totally basic shapes – parallelepipeds, whose collision turned into an exciting show.
​Breakwater
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.
​Waves of Sound
The conceptual design of a music school: proximity to an Alvar Aalto building, expressive organics, and an attempt to draw public attention to a “low-profile” competition.
​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.
​Wicker Vitality
Next to the Dubrovka metro station, ADM has designed a Vitality housing complex with a polychrome mixture of Klinker brick on its ridged facades.
​Freedom Factory
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.
​The Social Biology of Landscape
The list of new typologies of public spaces and public projects has been expanded yet again — thanks to Wowhaus. This time around, this company came up with a groundbreaking by Russian standards approach to creating a place where people and animals can communicate.
​Watched by the Angels from up Above
Held in the General Staff building of the Hermitage Museum, the anniversary exhibition of “Studio 44” is ambitious and diverse. The exhibition was designed to give a comprehensive showcase of the company’s architecture in a whole number of ways: through video, models, drawings, installations, and finally, through a real-life project, the Enfilade, which the exhibition opens up, intensifies, and makes work the way it was originally intended.
​A New Version of the Old City
The house at Malaya Ordynka, 19, fits in perfectly with the lineup of the street, looking even as if it straightened the street up a little, setting a new tone for it – a tone of texture, glitter, “sunny” warmth, and, at the same time, reserved balance of everything that makes the architecture of an expensive modern house.
Stepan Liphart: “Standing your ground is the right thing to do”
A descendant of German industrialists, “Jophan’s son”, and an architect, speaks about how studying architectural orders tempers one’s character, and how a team of just a few people can design grand-scale housing projects to be built in the center of Saint Petersburg. Also: Santa Claus appearing in a Stalin high-rise, an arch portal to the outer space, mannerism painting, and the palaces of Paris – all covered in an interview with Stepan Liphart.
​Honey and Copper
In the Moscow area, the architect Roman Leonidov designed the “Cool House” residence, very much in the spirit of Frank Lloyd Wright, spreading it parallel to the ground, and accentuating the horizontal lines in it. The color composition is based on juxtaposition of warm wood of a honey hue and cold copper blue.
​The Ring on the Saisara Lake
The building of the Philharmonic Hall and the Theater of Yakut Epos, standing on the shore of the sacred lake, is inscribed into an epic circle and contains three volumes, reminiscent of the traditional national housing. The roof is akin to the Alaas – a Yakut village standing around a lake. In spite of its rich conceptual agenda, the project remains volumetrically abstract, and keeps up a light form, making the most of its transparency, multiple layers, and reflections.
Architecture of Evanescence
On the Vernadskogo Avenue, next to the metro station, appeared a high-rise landmark that transformed the entire area: designed by UNK Project, the “Academic” business center uncovered, in the form of its architecture, the meanings of the local place names.
The Theater and Music Circles
The contest-winning ambitious grand-scale project of the main theater and concert complex of the Moscow area includes three auditoriums, a yard – a public area – a higher school of music, and a few hotels. It promises to become a high-profile center for the classical music festivals on a national scale.
​The Line of a Hardened Breakthrough
Designed by Stepan Liphart, the housing complex “Renaissance” continues the line of the historical center of Saint Petersburg, reinterpreting the Leningrad Art Deco and the neoclassical architecture of the 1930-50’s in reference to the civilization challenges posed by our century.
The Regeneration Experience
The housing project “Metsenat”, which occupies the area next to the Resurrection Church in Moscow’s Kadashi, has a long and complicated history, full of protests, victories, and hopes. Now the project is complete: the architects were able to keep the views, the scale, and a few historical buildings; we can examine the end result now. The project was developed by Ilia Utkin.
The Terraces of the Crystal Cape
Proposed by Nikita Yavein, the concept of a museum, educational, and memorial complex to be built in the city of Sevastopol avoids straightforward accents and over-the-top dramatics, interpreting the history of this place along with the specifics of its landscape, and joining the public space of the operated stairway and amphitheaters with an imposing monument.
​A New Unit
The housing city block within an IT park: Archimatika is combining innovative technologies with a human-friendly scale, and a cozy environment.