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​The Aperture Effect

For a housing complex built in the town of Pushkino in the Moscow metropolitan area, KPLN Architects designed facades that adjust the stream of light by using the wall geometry.

author pht

Written by:
Natalia Koriakovskaia
Translated by:
Anton Mizonov

04 August 2020
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The new Quarter 31 of the Moscow area’s Pushkino, in which KPLN Architects designed a namesake housing complex, is being formed in the central part of the town, on the land site between the water body buffer zone of the Serebryanka River on one side and the Yaroslavl Highway on the other. The natural lowering of the terrain towards the river is more than three meters here; the architects level it out by virtue of a 1- and 2-level podium, upon which they place four 23-story towers. They are almost symmetrical, for the sole exception of one of them that turns on its axis following the bend of the Yaroslavl Highway that cuts off here the even border of the site, and is “at odds” with the overall pristine composition. Which is for the better, really: thanks to this, more dynamic views appear along the highway.

"31 Kvartal« (»Quarter 31") housing complex
Copyright: © Architectural Bureau KPLN


The towers are placed on the corners of the almost-square land site, leaving vacant the territory on top of the podium; in the center between them runs something like a pedestrian promenade that descends to the river in broad staircases – the authors of the project were able to convince the developer in the value of keeping the territory of the complex transparent. Across the promenade, the stylobate is dissected with overlapping rings of trails and flowerbeds. The residents of the complex have their access to the stylobate through extra lobbies on the second-floor level, while the main entrance groups of the residential buildings are designed outside at zero elevation.

The masterplan. "31 Kvartal« (»Quarter 31") housing complex
Copyright: © Architectural Bureau KPLN


The clear and simple symmetry of the composition is something that the architects turn into an artistic technique. The achromatic colors that they chose for the facade highlights the volumes creating an effect of a graphic image. From three sides, the towers are white, while all the north facades “yawn” with full-black surfaces. The effect is strengthened by horizontal inserts made from polished stainless steel panels, in which the wall literally disappears.

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    "31 Kvartal« (»Quarter 31") housing complex
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    "31 Kvartal« (»Quarter 31") housing complex
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    "31 Kvartal« (»Quarter 31") housing complex
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    "31 Kvartal« (»Quarter 31") housing complex
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    "31 Kvartal« (»Quarter 31") housing complex
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    "31 Kvartal« (»Quarter 31") housing complex
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The grid of the other three facades, the light-colored ones, is also far from uniform. The architects use “gradient” fracturing of the window rhythm: towards the south side, the glazed surfaces of the buildings become denser, while the windows grow wider, turning into “glazed corners”, even though it’s just two windows coming together. This way, when you look at the building from a distance, there appears an effect of a shift in the regular grid, which, combined with the mirror metal inserts, destroys the monotony, otherwise inevitable under such a modest range of media of expression that today’s commercial development can afford.

"31 Kvartal« (»Quarter 31") housing complex
Copyright: © Architectural Bureau KPLN


The urge to break down the monotonous wall mass also manifests itself in the way the architects highlight the pedestrian level by plastique means. For example, the two bottom floors on the outside of the complex, designed for the commercial functions, are united by the brick theme, whose texture presents a sharp contrast to the main smooth surface of the fiber cement panels. Brick is also used in the vertical pylons and the massive “cornice” that separates the bottom part and the residential floors. 

The task of the brick portals. "31 Kvartal« (»Quarter 31") housing complex
Copyright: © Architectural Bureau KPLN


The main plastique theme of the facade mass – triangular pylons in the piers between the windows – is continued the entire height of the building. The pylons are made of tilted fiber cement panels and are complemented by chamfered window sashes in the bottom part. As a result, the facade grid forms something like “funnels” around the windows, which are turned to catch as much sunshine as possible, and, according to the architects, ensure maximum insolation.

Opening up the facades towards maximum light catching sunshine by using the geometry of the piers, the architects use a technique that makes one remember the aperture – a circular opening in the photo camera, which adjusts the stream of light getting inside.

The risky combination of black and white, sharpened by pristine geometric lines, strengthens the associations with photography or monochrome graphics. Making the stylobate black and putting upon it towers white on three sides, the architects achieve both a tectonic feel and visually lighten up the silhouette as well. The volumes, thanks to the pylons in the bottom floors, look as if they stand on “legs”, and, behold, the 23-story high-rise buildings no longer look all that massive, and the territory at their base looks comfortable and well-developed. This, of course, is also achieved due to the window shop glazing in the bottom floors and detailed decoration, specifically a special volumetric brickwork pattern.

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    “Quarter 31” housing complex
    Copyright: © Architectural Bureau KPLN
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    "31 Kvartal« (»Quarter 31") housing complex
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    "31 Kvartal« (»Quarter 31") housing complex
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Most of the stylobate is occupied by a parking garage, but at the basis of the buildings that are closer to the river, there are also a children’s club, a coworking space, and a cafe, with a gym on either side.

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    The facade inn grid. "31 Kvartal« (»Quarter 31") housing complex
    Copyright: © Architectural Bureau KPLN
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    Facade in grid 1.1-4.9. "31 Kvartal« (»Quarter 31") housing complex
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    "31 Kvartal« (»Quarter 31") housing complex
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    "31 Kvartal« (»Quarter 31") housing complex
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    Section view 1-1. "31 Kvartal« (»Quarter 31") housing complex
    Copyright: © Architectural Bureau KPLN
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    Section view 2-2. "31 Kvartal« (»Quarter 31") housing complex
    Copyright: © Architectural Bureau KPLN
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    Development drawing of the facades along the Yaroslavl Highway. "31 Kvartal« (»Quarter 31") housing complex
    Copyright: © Architectural Bureau KPLN
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    "31 Kvartal« (»Quarter 31") housing complex
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The staircases, with which the stylobate descends to the recreation area by the water, are highlighted by unusual wedge-shaped greenery. Continuing the general “geometric” theme in the landscaping project, the architects added “lawn wedges” on the slopes, forming yet another rhythmic highlight in the composition.
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    Simplified plan at elevation -3.600."31 Kvartal« (»Quarter 31") housing complex
    Copyright: © Architectural Bureau KPLN
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    Simplified plan of the floor at elevation -0.300. "31 Kvartal« (»Quarter 31") housing complex
    Copyright: © Architectural Bureau KPLN
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    Simplified plan of the underground mechanical rooms at elevation -5.650. "31 Kvartal« (»Quarter 31") housing complex
    Copyright: © Architectural Bureau KPLN
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    Simplified plan of the lower mechanical area at elevation +2.550 and +4.450. "31 Kvartal« (»Quarter 31") housing complex
    Copyright: © Architectural Bureau KPLN
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    Simplified plan of the 3rd residential floor. "31 Kvartal« (»Quarter 31") housing complex
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04 August 2020

author pht

Written by:

Natalia Koriakovskaia
Translated by:
Anton Mizonov
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