Sergey Tchoban: “We place our bets on a polyphonic city”
Sergey Tchoban, the curator and the chairman of the jury of the Second Russian Biennale for Young Architects speaks about the rationale of the jury’s decisions, and about two scenarios of developing former industrial parks.
Interviewed by: Lara Kopylova Translated by: Anton Mizonov
October 24-26, took place the Second Russian Biennale for Young Architects. The winning projects can be seen here.
Archi.ru Could you please compare the level of projects submitted for the first and second biennale?
The level remained just as high. However, considering the fact that the task that was set for the finalists this year was more challenging, I think one could say that the overall performance of the contestants 2019 is even higher than it was during the first biennale. This year, we got not just interesting projects but a few fully-fledged strategies for developing two specific land sites.
If we are to think of derelict industrial parks as a hidden resource for the development of the Russian cities, can we name any models of developing these zones by the results of the biennale?
We singled out two such models. The first one is the framework master plan of the territory development that presupposes that various architects will be involved in this process as the industrial park is renovated. This is why these projects were predominantly focused not on the extraordinary architecture but rather on the revitalization strategy, its main phases, its main planning, and, let’s say, genre principles. The way I see it, such an approach is completely valid: industrial parks, as a rule, are vast chunks of land, and the city inevitably wins because one and the same project brings together architects with different creative visions and different artistic methods. Our first places in both nominations were scored by Alexander Alyaev in the “Santekhpribor” nomination and TO “Leto” in “Port Elevator” nomination – these are exactly such pragmatic scenarios of territory development presenting a clear strategy and making it possible to place your bets on the polyphony of architectural languages.
And our second prize winners, the architectural companies KB11 and Megabudka, proposed a strategy of passive development – and this is the second model of revitalizing an industrial park. When I say “passive development” I mean that it is not the entire territory that gets transformed – for example, some of its parts turn into recreational facilities but this does not mean that they will stay that way forever. For example, in the case of the project that KB 11 proposed for the Santekhpribor factory, we raised a few questions about the fact that one park space appears in the immediate vicinity of another. However, we ultimately read it not as a “park forever” – and Philip Yuan made a very convincing presentation at the jury session in that subject – but as a passing phase for further development.
A lot of people noticed the bright project submitted by Khvoya, yet it was only awarded a “special mention” from the jury. How would you comment on the decision to award the first prize to the “Santekhpribor” project?
In my opinion, the approach demonstrated by Khvoya did not quite meet the jury’s expectations connected to the contextual and resource-efficient philosophy of construction. Khvoya came up with a very poetic project, having a strong spiritual background and a prominent Piranesian mood. However, this approach to revitalizing industrial parks is rather one-sided. Our goal is not to make a monument of what is already there on the land site but breathe a new life into the old buildings. This approach, when everything that’s historical is by default kept as a beautiful ruin, with everything that’s new built outside of this ruin, does not quite meet, according to the opinion of the international judging panel, the principles of sustainable development. If you leave a ruin as a ruin, it starts requiring a lot of tender care, and becomes pretty high-maintenance, too. On the other hand, forming all the yards with just one module is a technique that is a sure sign of a one-time development scenario. The Khvoya project is very beautiful and unique, yet it is an author’s statement that is not quite feasible.
As I already said, we were looking for flexible scenarios, which would make it possible to implement the revitalization strategy by degrees, changing, if necessary, the parameters of some individual elements, as well as their functional purposes. The project submitted by the winner, Alexander Alyaev, answered the set task in a more down-to-earth manner – perhaps, not so poetic but looking into the future. The way I see it, such architecture is the kind that has a future. Not a baroque monument replacing another monument, but healthy pragmatism with a taste bar raised high, and the perfect sense of measure. This is what our future is about – sparing treatment of our resources, and not creating a work of architecture for the sake of architecture.
What were the highlights, in the opinion of the jury, in the project submitted by “Leto” that scored gold in the nomination “Port Elevator”?
This was the only project in this nomination that thoroughly addressed the issue of the ratio between the scale of the elevator and its surroundings. An elevator is a powerful monumental thing, yet this doesn’t mean that it must be surrounded by a windswept field. It must be surrounded by an environment that is not trying to outshout the elevator but is creating interesting spaces all around it. What “Leto” essentially came up with was a low-rise European town with a beautiful potential for developing the outlying territory. In addition, they were able to convince us in the idea of creating a public space on top of the elevator.
We even recommended our contestants to refrain from changing the elevator itself, only using its structure as a podium for the building that develops the public spaces still higher. In fact, this is the only one out of the 15 projects submitted in this nomination, in which the grain elevator did not change its appearance beyond recognition, but was used as a given, serving as the basis for creating something totally new. This was a town-planning scenario that convinced absolutely everyone.
Generally speaking, I must admit that the elevator was quite a serious challenge for the finalists. Somehow, 90% of the contestants understood the task precisely the other way around, i.e. that they wanted to change the elevator. But here is the thing – revitalization of this territory is not about doing something outstanding with this concrete colossus, but about creating a convincing scenario for developing the space around it, like a medieval city around the cathedral. I kept asking myself a question all the time: why didn’t anybody come to the idea not to do anything with the elevator? To leave the whole thing alone? To use it as a given monument, and not cut away these gigantic rings? Because cutting away is just as difficult as building from scratch. All these radical changes eventually led to constructing brand new buildings in the shape of the elevator. Triple effort and triple costs, which do not have anything to do with the principles of sustainable development.
What are the prospects for the development of industrial parks in Russia?
In my opinion, it is very important that investors and architects understand the possibilities and chances that such territories are giving to our cities. They have a historical memory, and it’s very important not to try to build on them simultaneously, but proceed from the context, paying attention to the signs of time that are there. We don’t have skills and resources to create, within a short period of time, an environment that would be just as complex and healthily controversial in order to keep us happy and at the same time intrigued for a long time in the future. This is why careful preservation of the historical legacy is a chance for us. I think that today even the investors realize that constructing simultaneously many look-alike “box” buildings in such territories (and these building do look like one another, even if they have different patterns, such examples are quite numerous in Moscow) is not a valid method. The valid method is about creating a contrasting environment that is respectful of all of the historical layers. And – I can’t stress this enough – this must be done gradually, using the languages of different architects. Then you will get a polyphonic city that has a future.
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 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
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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.