​Pioneering the Environment

In their project of MITTE club house, the architects proposed a model for developing the territory adjacent to the main land site, proceeding from the method of working with the urban environment in the namesake district of Berlin and the characteristic features of Moscow architecture of the brink of the XX–XXI centuries.

Elena Petukhova

Written by:
Elena Petukhova
Translated by:
Anton Mizonov

25 January 2019

The north part of the Danilovsky district of Moscow, delineated by the Letnikovskaya Street and the bend of the Moskva River, can serve as a fine example of town planning chaos of the “rusty belt” of the nation’s capital. Like a mighty wave, the transformations are spreading away from the Garden Ring, and after they join forces with the program of reconstructing the embankments of the Moskva River – with quays and new riverside recreation areas – this district will turn into one of the most prestigious and quickly developing ones. Thus, it comes as no surprise that the forward-looking developers are already initiating on both banks of the river new top-class projects, one of which is the club house with apartments, designed on the Letnikovskaya Street by APEX project bureau for Hutton Development – the house got a name of MITTE.

View of the apartment complex from the yard © APEX project bureau
Location plan © APEX project bureau

Section plans along the Letnikovskaya Street © APEX project bureau

Location plan and the red lines © APEX project bureau

In this area, which is now gaining the momentum of the conversion transformations, the architects saw an analogue of Berlin’s Mitte – hence the name of the complex. Famous worldwide for its creative and comfortable atmosphere and mottled environment consisting of residential and office buildings mixed with shopping and entertainment centers, this district gradually filled in all of the lacunae in the city fabric of East Berlin. In the chaos of the Moscow area in question, the architects saw a similar potential and suggested that the developer give this house a name that is symbolic of modern standards of comfortable life in a megalopolis.

Shape options © APEX project bureau

Shape options © APEX project bureau

Plan at the mark of ±0.00 © APEX project bureau

The only fragment that bears any resemblance, if any, with a street front, is in fact a series of three houses built in the early 2000’s on the even side of the street, right across from the land plot that was allotted for the construction of the MITTE club house, and this proximity gave the APEX architects an opportunity for creating a model of the future project, the way they saw it by analogy with its Berlin’s namesake. The future club house will become the missing link, thanks to which a starting point for the future projects will appear – in fact, it will become cornerstone of the future construction. 

There were several ways of designing and positioning the house on the trapeze-shaped land site that the architects ultimately got (in the shape of a cylinder, a prism with rounded corners, a three-faceted block, etc.), and all of them were considered but ultimately the logic and rational approach prevailed. The designers opted for an L-shaped building with one skewed corner overlooking the never-built highway and forming a dramatic volumetric effect in the spirit of the “Pressing Iron House” on Moscow’s Khitrovka Street.

Plan of the standard floor © APEX project bureau

Plan of the 9th floor © APEX project bureau

Section view © APEX project bureau

In order to make sure that no useful floor space goes to waste, the architects designed the building as closely to the borders of the land site as possible. There is but one exception: from the skewed side, they had to step back 4.2 meters in order to provide the mandatory fire lane. Yet another recession from the perimeter, this time on two upper floors, at a level that coincides with the cornice mark of the building standing across from MITTE, was needed for building up a more balanced town planning dialogue.

The floor plans of the L-shaped buildings could be considered rather traditional, if it were not for the fact that the architects introduced into the project a few solutions aimed at optimizing the use of the floor space and based on the recently-changed preferences of the buyers of such type of property.

Facade options © APEX project bureau

Facade options © APEX project bureau

Facade options © APEX project bureau

What does not at once meet the eye is the original approach to positioning the staircases inside the stairway and elevator nucleus. According to the safety regulations, the house must have two staircases in it, but at the first glance at the plan you see only one. In actuality, however, one staiwell has two staircases with cross-crossing flights of stairs in it, each of which is meant to serve the residents of one of the wings. By Moscow standards (and by the Russian standards, for that matter), this kind of two-flight staircase is quite a rarity but the architects were still able to procure the appropriate approvals both from the developer and the EMERCOM.

On either side of the L-shaped corridor in the center there are apartments, whose floor space ranges from 27–28 square meters for a studio to 45–48 square meters for a double-room block, and a little over 60 square meters for a three-room block. In addition, each customer is entitled to buy a few blocks and join them together. A distinctive feature of the floor plans of the residential blocks is the inclusion of kitchens into the public zones, and in the most compact apartments the kitchen is situated in a pass-through corridor that leads from the anteroom to the living room. By sacrificing a private kitchen, the architects were able to allot more space to the sleeping zone that is essentially an alcove with a king-size bed. While quite recently such shift in the priorities could shock and scare many buyers away, what really matters for the target group of MITTE is good night’s sleep, and not some culinary experiments at the stove, all the more so because the modern “young and active” generation prefers to use food delivery services.

In spite of all the rationality of their approach to the town planning and design solutions, the architects did allow themselves to make a few rather radical experiments with the façades of the future house. As is the way with APEX, a few (in fact, more than 10) options were considered, exploring the possibilities rhythmic organization, plastic deformation, and stylistic adaptation.

Facade options © APEX project bureau

The facade on the Letnikovskaya Street © APEX project bureau

View from the Letnikovskaya Street © APEX project bureau

The chief architect of the project, Sergey Senkevich, says: “In many of our projects, we try to use the façade grid. Probably, this is the influence of the school of thought of Vladimir Plotkin, for whom I worked after I graduated from the university, and to whom I am really grateful. And I am sure that designing in just one module does not limit the architect’s scope but, quite the opposite, gives him extra freedom and a guarantee of high-quality result. This principle never fails, it works for any architects, no matter what school they come from”.

As a result of the search, an interesting structure of two shells was formed: the massive outside grid made of bricks, and the inside system of stained glass windows, encased in a framework of metallic bronze-imitating lamellae that give protection from the sunlight. The space between the outside facets of both shells is only 1.5 meters but visually it looks greater at the expense of the perspective brick portals and their double height. In addition, one’s perception is also influenced by the 2-meter depth of the open-air galleries on the first floor, which lead to the public premises. The resulting cantilevered structure eliminated the need for the traditional awnings above the hallway entrances, for the sole exception of one that performs the role of the accent above the grand entrance.

View of the grand entrance from the Letnikovskaya Street © APEX project bureau

A fragment of the facade with perspective portals © APEX project bureau

Patio © APEX project bureau

The resulting structure echoes the façade design of the house that stands across the street, and remotely resembles the concrete “frameworks” and the anodized stained glass windows of the houses built here in the 1970-1990’s of the last century. Thanks to these associations, the perception of the house changes, and its “Berlin-style” reserved architecture get a fair bit of “Moscow” flavor, so vital for fitting with the context.

The use of the white color on the façade of the club house, as an offset to the rising trend of dark hues is also partially an homage to the image of a “guest from Berlin”, and yet another reiteration of echoing the neighboring house. In the case of MITTE, both the architects and the developer placed their bets on the high quality of the hand-molded brick manufactured by the Wasserstrich technology. According to the architects, this brick will look particularly beautiful in the perspective portals of the window apertures on the main façade of the building. 

The architects also proposed to make a small garden on the roof, as well as recreation zones and an amphitheater, equipping it with gear for watching movies on a pull-out screen at night.

Patio © APEX project bureau

View of the usable roof © APEX project bureau

View of the usable roof © APEX project bureau

25 January 2019

Elena Petukhova

Written by:

Elena Petukhova
Translated by:
Anton Mizonov
Headlines now
Man and the City
Designing this large-scale housing complex, GAFA architects accentuated two types of public spaces: bustling streets with shops and cafes – and a totally natural yard, visually separated as much as possible from the city. Making the most out of the contrast, both work together to make the life of the residents of EVER housing complex eventful and diverse.
​Andy Snow: “I aim for an architecture which is rational and poetic”
The British architect Andy Snow has recently become the chief architect at GENPRO Architects & Engineers. Projects, which Andy Snow did in the UK in collaboration with world-famous architectural firms, scored numerous international awards. In Russia, the architect took part in designing Moscow’s Stanislavsky Factory business center, iLove housing complex, and AFI2B business center on the 2nd Brestskaya Street. In our interview, Andy Snow compared the construction realities in Russia and the UK, and also shared his vision of architectural prospects in Russia.
​The Living Growth
The grand-scale housing complex AFI PARK Vorontsovsky in Moscow’s southwest consists of four towers, a “slab” house, and a kindergarten building. Interestingly, the plastique of the residential buildings is quite active – they seem to be growing before your eyes, responding to the natural context, and first of all opening the views of the nearby park. As for the kindergarten building, it is cute and lyrical, like a little sugar house.
Sergey Skuratov: “A skyscraper is a balance of technology, economic performance, and aesthetic...
In March, two buildings of the Capital Towers complex were built up to a 300-meter elevation mark. In this issue, we are speaking to the creator of Moscow’s cutting-edge skyscrapers: about heights and proportions, technologies and economics, laconicism and beauty of superslim houses, and about the boldest architectural proposal of recent years – the Le Corbusier Tower above the Tsentrosoyuz building.
​The Red Building
The area of Novoslobodskaya has received Maison Rouge – an apartment complex designed by ADM, which continues the wave of renovation, started by the Atmosphere business center, from the side of the Palikha Street.
​The Uplifting Effect
The project of Ostankino Business Park was developed for the land site lying between two metro stations (one operating and the other in construction), and because of that its public space is designed to equally cater for the city people and the office workers. The complex stands every chance of becoming the catalyst for development of the Butyrsky area.
​Binary Opposition
In this article, we are examining a rather rare and interesting case – two projects by Evgeny Gerasimov situated on one street and completed with a five years’ difference, presenting the perfect example of example for analyzing the overall trends and approaches practiced by the architectural company.
Raising the Yard
The housing complex Renome consists of two buildings: a modern stone house and a red-brick factory building of the end of the XIX century, reconstructed by measurements and original drafts. The two buildings are connected by an “inclined” yard – a rare, by Moscow standards, version of geoplastics that smoothly ascends to the roof of the stores lined up along a pedestrian street.
​Hearing the Tune of the Past
The Church of the Beheading of John the Baptist in the park near the Novodevichy Convent was conceived in 2012 in honor of the 200th anniversary of the victory over Napoleon. However, instead of declamatory grandeur and “fanfare”, the architect Ilia Utkin presented a concentrated and prayerful mood, combined with a respectful attitude of this tent-shaped church, which also includes some elements of architecture of orders. The basement floor hosts a museum of excavations found on the site of the church.
​Semantic Shift
The high-end residential complex STORY, situated near the Avtozavodskaya metro station and the former ZIL factory, is delicately inscribed in the contrastive context, while its shape, which combines a regular grid and a stunning “shift” of the main facade, seems to respond to the dramatic history of the place, at the same time, however, allowing for multiple interpretations.
​Yards and Towers: the Samara Experiment
The project of “Samara Arena Park”, proposed by Sergey Skuratov, scored second place in the competition. The project is essentially based on experimenting with typology of residential buildings and gallery/corridor-type city blocks combined with towers – as well as on sensitive response to the context and the urge to turn the complex into a full-fledged urban space providing a wide range of functions and experiences.
​The Fili Duo
The second phase of the Filicity housing complex, designed by ADM architects, is based on the contrast between a 57-story skyscraper 200 meters high and an 11-story brick house. The high-rise building sets a futuristic vector in Moscow housing architecture.
​The Wall and the Tower
The OSA architects have been searching for solutions that could be opposed to the low-rise construction in the center of Khabarovsk, as well as an opportunity to say a new word in the discourse about mass housing.
​The Energy Family
The housing complex Symphony 34 will be built in Moscow’s Savelovsky district; it will consist of four towers from 36 to 54 stories high. Each of the towers has an image of its own, but they all are gathered into a single architectural ensemble – a fragment of a new high-rise urban space lying outside the Third Transport Ring.
The Fifth Element
The high-end residential development in the Vsevolozhsky Lane features a combination of expensive stone and metal textures, immersing them into a feast of ornaments. The house looks like a fantasy inspired by the theater of the Art Nouveau and Symbolism era; a kind of oriental fairy tale, which paradoxically allows it to avoid direct stylization and become a reflection of one of the aspects of modern Moscow life.
​Springboards and Patios
The central element of the manor house in the village of Antonovka, designed by Roman Leonidov, is the inner yard with pergolas, meant to remind its owner about his vacations in exotic countries. The exposed wooden structures emphasize the soaring diagonals of single-pitched roofs.
​Adding Up a Growing City
The housing quarter “1147” is located at the border between the old “Stalin” district in the north and the actively developing territories in the south. Its image responds to a difficult task: the compound brick facades of the neighboring sections are different, their height varying from 9 to 22 floors, and, if we are look from the street, it seems as though the front of the city development, consisting from long narrow elements, is forming some sophisticated array at this very moment in front of our eyes.
Agility of the Modular
In the Discovery housing complex that they designed, ADM architects proposed a modern version of structuralism: the form is based on modular cells, which, smoothly protruding and deepening, make the volumes display a kind of restrained flexibility, differentiated element by element. The lamellar and ledged facades are “stitched” with golden threads – they unite the volumes, emphasizing the textured character of the architectural solution.
Polyphony of a Strict 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.
​Architectural Laboratory
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.