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Sergey Skuratov: “The school was to become the gem of Garden Quarters. All of us waited for this for thirteen years.”

In this issue, we are interviewing Sergey Skuratov about the results of the competition for the building in the center of the residential complex, on which the architect has been working since 2006. We are examining the project that never did win, making an attempt to study the case in detail.

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Written by:
Julia Tarabarina
Translated by:
Anton Mizonov

04 July 2020
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The competition for the concept of the school building to be constructed on the territory of the Garden Quarters housing complex was organized by Inteco Group, Moscow State University of Foreign Affairs, and Novy Vzglyad Foundation in April-June this year. The participants worked on their projects royalty-free for almost three months, from mid-April to the end of June, after which, finally, Moscow State University of Foreign Affairs, one of whose divisions the school must become, announced the results: the victory was scored by the consortium “Vostok”+Martela. Its project was described as “best thought out from the economic and logistic viewpoint”.

The architectural concept of the “Novy Vzglyad” school
Copyright: © “Vostok”+Martela


In the recent years, one of the common decencies of Russian architectural circles became to never speak ill of the competition winners. If the developer arbitrarily hands a project over to another architect, this situation can be, however reluctantly, discussed – but if there has been a competition, everybody keeps their mouth shut, and alternative opinions are only voiced out of public view. In our opinion, however, this particular case is in many respects special, and must be discussed.

At the same time, a lot of our readers who are interested in architecture of modern Moscow are sure to remember that the school building used to be the highlight of the entire Garden Quarters complex – the housing project that Sergey Skuratov designed in the stead of Kauchuk factory. Winning the competition in 2006, Skuratov in 2007 developed a master plan and a design code for this area, inviting a few reputed Moscow architects to further work on the project: Yuri Grigoryan, Vladimir Plotkin, Andrey Savin, Alexander Skokan, Sergey Tchoban, and others, distributing the buildings among himself and his colleagues. This was one of the first cases for Moscow when different “hands” were combined based on a common design code – a strategy that was later on implemented by Yuri Grigoryan in ZILART, by Sergey Tchoban in “Micro-city in a Forest”, as well as in a whole number of other projects; essentially, such approach became one of the main strategies of designing large housing complexes in Moscow of the 2010’s.

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    “Garden Quarters”, the fourth quarter. From left to right, buildings designed by: Meganom, Sergey Skuratuv ARCHITECTS, and others.
    Copyright: Photograph: provided by Sergey Skuratov ARCHITECTS
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    “Garden Quarters” the first quarter
    Copyright: Photograph: provided by Sergey Skuratov ARCHITECTS
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    “Garden Quarters” the first quarter
    Copyright: Photograph: provided by Sergey Skuratov ARCHITEC


One must admit, however, that the key features of Garden Quarters were originally proposed by Sergey Skuratov. Specifically, according to the architect’s design, the bottom part of the complex consists of two levels, which not only provides a division between private yards and a public city space around the pond in the middle, but also creates a spatial intrigue that connects parts of the complex with overpasses, further supported by frequent cantilevered structures: the buildings sometimes grow from the ground and sometimes hang over your head, all of which, along with the diversity of design solutions, makes the texture of Garden Quarters anything but trivial.

The concept for building a residential area in Moscow′s district of Khamovniki
Copyright: © Sergey Skuratov ARCHITECTS


The role of the imagery climax was given to the school building – back in 2007, it looked like a slender white bar with a cantilevered structure standing out 21 meters, and emphasized the proportions of the buildings, chiefly vertical, with its horizontal volume, hovering above the pond. One should hardly mention the fact that many of the principles proposed in Garden Quarters, which seem to be the hot trends of today, were then pioneered by the architects involved in the design process.

The concept for building a residential area in Moscow′s district of Khamovniki
Copyright: © Sergey Skuratov ARCHITECTS


The concept for building a residential area in Moscow′s Khamovniki area, 2006
Copyright: © Sergey Skuratov ARCHITECTS


Since then, the country has been through a string of financial crises, the project developer has changed, and the construction of the office center has been cancelled – the school remained the project’s only public building and main accent. Its land plot shrank, and Sergey Skuratov revised the project, slightly reducing the stagger of the cantilever; the facades became copper. However, the significance of the school building for the ensemble and the idea of “road to school”, separated, for the sake of children’s safety, from the city space around the pond, did prevail.

The “Novy Vzglyad” school as part of “Garden Quarters”, version 2010
Copyright: © Sergey Skuratov ARCHITECTS


Curiously, no design code was written for the school – on the contrary, it was meant to be fundamentally different from its surroundings, thus, however counterintuitive this may sound, holding the whole composition together. For years, it was commonly accepted in the professional circles that it was authored by Sergey Skuratov: many of those who was interested knew very well about the project with a cantilevered structure above the pond. Then the competition happened quite unexpectedly. No less than ten invitations were sent out to reputed architects, but most of them – chiefly, those who already designed in Garden Quarters, and others as well – refrained from participating in favor of Sergey Skuratov. Meanwhile, the competition did take place, and now there are plans for building quite a different project in the middle of the complex. Sergey Skuratov took part in the competition but he did not win it.

In the Skuratov project, worked out in much detail for the competition, the building looks like this:

View from the central zone of garden Quarters. The “Novy Vzglyad” school as part of “Garden Quarters”, 2020
Copyright: © Sergey Skuratov ARCHITECTS


Top view from the side of the central zone of Garden Quarters. The “Novy Vzglyad” school as part of “Garden Quarters”, 2020
Copyright: © Sergey Skuratov ARCHITECTS


In the winning project by the consortium “Vostok”+Martela, the building looks like this:

Architectural concept of the “Novy Vzglyad” school
Copyright: © “Vostok”+Martela /provided by the press service of Moskomarkhitektura


Architectural concept of the “Novy Vzglyad” school
Copyright: © “Vostok”+Martela /provided by the press service of Moskomarkhitektura


The next day after the results of the competition were announced, Sergey Skuratov published his project on his company’s website, and on his Facebook page, adding the following comment:

https://www.facebook.com/sergey.skuratov.5/posts/3543563572374405 (for Readers of Russian)

***

Below, we are interviewing Sergey Skuratov about the competition and about the third version of the school building, developed on the basis of all the predecessor versions in the spring of 2020:

Archi.ru
How did you take what happened?

Sergey Skuratov:
It was a shock to me, I am still struggling to pull myself together, I could not see this in my worst nightmare.

Garden Quarters are robbed of their main highlight, the nucleus that held the whole composition together after the construction of the business center was cancelled. The project that is peddled as the winning one would have been appropriate in some rank-and-file sleeping-belt neighborhood, or maybe would have even made a positive difference to it, but in this case, the way I see it, it is a complete and utter disaster.

Presenting my project to the judging panel, I said: the 16 houses of Garden Quarters are a frame that has been waiting for its gem for 13 years. The school must embody the idea of architecture that’s totally up-to-date and even architecture of the future – light, transparent, and flying. This would have matched the ambitious of innovative education that this organization was supposedly going to develop, and the name of the “Novy Vzglyad” (“New Outlook”) foundation.

I think that we must be asking the right questions. The right question number one: is this the kind of centerpiece that the Garden Quarters need? And what kind of future do we see behind the victorious “Vostok”+Martela project? In my opinion, it does not look like innovative future; rather it looks like the bleak past: the heavy shape, the dull facades, and the yellow-pink bricks resonate with the neighboring five-story affairs. The project exceeds the overall area by some 2000 Sqm. And, to cap it all, my colleagues placed the entrance in the pit on the side of the pond, which I believe to be a totally erroneous solution.

Project of the “Novy Vzglyad” school
Copyright: © Sergey Skuratov ARCHITECTS


In our proposal, the main entrance was always located on the side of the 1st Shibaevsky Drive, i.e. from the city side, in order to make it convenient for children living outside Garden Quarters: we designed a parking lot there, and an entrance on the street level, leading directly to the second tier, which inside of the complex corresponds to the level of residential yards and overpasses.

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    View from the 1st Shibaevsky Drive. The “Novy Vzglyad” school as part of “Garden Quarters”, 2020
    Copyright: © Sergey Skuratov ARCHITECTS
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    View from the side of the 1st Shibaevsky Drive. The main school entrance. The “Novy Vzglyad” school as part of “Garden Quarters”, 2020
    Copyright: © Sergey Skuratov ARCHITECTS
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    View from the side of the 1st Shibaevsky Drive. The “Novy Vzglyad” school as part of “Garden Quarters”, 2020
    Copyright: © Sergey Skuratov ARCHITECTS
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    Top view. The “Novy Vzglyad” school as part of “Garden Quarters”, 2020
    Copyright: © Sergey Skuratov ARCHITECTS


We are proud of our “road to school” idea, which is basically a pedestrian bridge running at height of 5.7 meters and thus isolated from the city’s traffic areas. It connects the yards, the entrance groups of the residential buildings, and the school, offering the safest possible path – the child simply has no chance of ending up anywhere except either at school or at home. It was a point of honor for us to ensure the children’s safety by purely architectural means.

View along the road to svhool (the road to school is on the left). The “Novy Vzglyad” school as part of “Garden Quarters”, 2020
Copyright: © Sergey Skuratov ARCHITECTS


View from the central zone, from the first quarter. The “Novy Vzglyad” school as part of “Garden Quarters”, 2020
Copyright: © Sergey Skuratov ARCHITECTS


In the winning project, the child, in order to get to school, will not only have to go through the city space, but also descend a staircase into the pit for some obscure reason.

Is your competition project significantly different from its previous versions?

We made the project that we submitted for the competition still flashier, still brighter, and still lighter – we returned to the concept of white color and transparency, including the gradient from milky glass to transparent. The light-colored top contrasts with a Corten steel stylobate, which, in turn, ensures the links with the neighboring quarters, where Corten steel is also to be frequently seen on the pedestrian level. Sadly, we had to refrain from the idea of the large cantilevered structure looking in the direction of the pond, because during the recent years the land underneath it became officially occupied by the residential part of the complex. We changed almost all the technology, introducing new ideas and new developments. In fact, this is a whole new project.

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    View from the plaza in front of the school on the central zone of Garden Quarters. The “Novy Vzglyad” school as part of “Garden Quarters”, 2020
    Copyright: © Sergey Skuratov ARCHITECTS
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    View from the side of the Usacheva Street. The “Novy Vzglyad” school as part of “Garden Quarters”, 2020
    Copyright: © Sergey Skuratov ARCHITECTS
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    View from the opposite side of the pond from the second quarter. The “Novy Vzglyad” school as part of “Garden Quarters”, 2020
    Copyright: © Sergey Skuratov ARCHITECTS
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    View from the opposite side of the pond from the third quarter. The “Novy Vzglyad” school as part of “Garden Quarters”, 2020
    Copyright: © Sergey Skuratov ARCHITECTS


We once again worked out every little detail, leaving nothing to chance. We introduced outside safety landings, multifunctional spaces inside, designed interiors with a large amount of natural light and views of the pond, with wooden ceilings, and comfortable communication between the classrooms.

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    The view of the amphitheater of the junior and senior schools. The “Novy Vzglyad” school as part of “Garden Quarters”, 2020
    Copyright: © Sergey Skuratov ARCHITECTS
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    The overpass between the junior and the senior hoigh school. The “Novy Vzglyad” school as part of “Garden Quarters”, 2020
    Copyright: © Sergey Skuratov ARCHITECTS
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    The gym. The “Novy Vzglyad” school as part of “Garden Quarters”, 2020
    Copyright: © Sergey Skuratov ARCHITECTS
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    View of the multiheight space. The “Novy Vzglyad” school as part of “Garden Quarters”, 2020
    Copyright: © Sergey Skuratov ARCHITECTS


In the atrium and in the lounge zones, the structure is devised in accordance with the modern approaches to designing school buildings and organizing classes.

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    The land site analysis. The “Novy Vzglyad” school as part of “Garden Quarters”, 2020
    Copyright: © Sergey Skuratov ARCHITECTS
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    The form making. The “Novy Vzglyad” school as part of “Garden Quarters”, 2020
    Copyright: © Sergey Skuratov ARCHITECTS
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    The form making. The “Novy Vzglyad” school as part of “Garden Quarters”, 2020
    Copyright: © Sergey Skuratov ARCHITECTS
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    The simplified location plan of “Garden Quarters”. The “Novy Vzglyad” school as part of “Garden Quarters”, 2020
    Copyright: © Sergey Skuratov ARCHITECTS
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    The master plan. The “Novy Vzglyad” school as part of “Garden Quarters”, 2020
    Copyright: © Sergey Skuratov ARCHITECTS
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    The transportation maintenance. The “Novy Vzglyad” school as part of “Garden Quarters”, 2020
    Copyright: © Sergey Skuratov ARCHITECTS
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    The scheme of perpective development of pedestrian flows. The “Novy Vzglyad” school as part of “Garden Quarters”, 2020
    Copyright: © Sergey Skuratov ARCHITECTS
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    The critical elements of the master plan. The “Novy Vzglyad” school as part of “Garden Quarters”, 2020
    Copyright: © Sergey Skuratov ARCHITECTS
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    The simplified master plan with networks. The “Novy Vzglyad” school as part of “Garden Quarters”, 2020
    Copyright: © Sergey Skuratov ARCHITECTS
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    The preliminary calculation of insolation. The “Novy Vzglyad” school as part of “Garden Quarters”, 2020
    Copyright: © Sergey Skuratov ARCHITECTS
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    The functional scheme, floor by floor. The “Novy Vzglyad” school as part of “Garden Quarters”, 2020
    Copyright: © Sergey Skuratov ARCHITECTS
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    The scheme of organizing the student flows. The entrance group. The “Novy Vzglyad” school as part of “Garden Quarters”, 2020
    Copyright: © Sergey Skuratov ARCHITECTS
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    The fuctional layout of the basement floor at Elevation -5.700. The “Novy Vzglyad” school as part of “Garden Quarters”, 2020
    Copyright: © Sergey Skuratov ARCHITECTS
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    Plan of the basement floor at Elevation -5.700. The “Novy Vzglyad” school as part of “Garden Quarters”, 2020
    Copyright: © Sergey Skuratov ARCHITECTS
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    The fuctional layout of the 1st floor at Elevation 0.000. The “Novy Vzglyad” school as part of “Garden Quarters”, 2020
    Copyright: © Sergey Skuratov ARCHITECTS
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    Plan of the 1st floor at Elevation 0.000. The “Novy Vzglyad” school as part of “Garden Quarters”, 2020
    Copyright: © Sergey Skuratov ARCHITECTS
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    The fuctional layout of the 2nd floor at Elevation +9.000. The “Novy Vzglyad” school as part of “Garden Quarters”, 2020
    Copyright: © Sergey Skuratov ARCHITECTS
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    Plan of the 2nd floor at Elevation +4.500. The “Novy Vzglyad” school as part of “Garden Quarters”, 2020
    Copyright: © Sergey Skuratov ARCHITECTS
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    The fuctional layout of the 3rd floor at Elevation +9.000. The “Novy Vzglyad” school as part of “Garden Quarters”, 2020
    Copyright: © Sergey Skuratov ARCHITECTS
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    Plan of the 3rd floor at Elevation +0.500. The “Novy Vzglyad” school as part of “Garden Quarters”, 2020
    Copyright: © Sergey Skuratov ARCHITECTS
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    The fuctional layout of the 4th floor at Elevation +13.500. The “Novy Vzglyad” school as part of “Garden Quarters”, 2020
    Copyright: © Sergey Skuratov ARCHITECTS
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    Plan of the 4th floor at Elevation +13.500. The “Novy Vzglyad” school as part of “Garden Quarters”, 2020
    Copyright: © Sergey Skuratov ARCHITECTS
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    Section view 1-1. The “Novy Vzglyad” school as part of “Garden Quarters”, 2020
    Copyright: © Sergey Skuratov ARCHITECTS
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    Section view 2-2. The “Novy Vzglyad” school as part of “Garden Quarters”, 2020
    Copyright: © Sergey Skuratov ARCHITECTS
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    The basic scheme of the cantilevered structures of the building. The “Novy Vzglyad” school as part of “Garden Quarters”, 2020
    Copyright: © Sergey Skuratov ARCHITECTS


The interior design that I saw in the winning project is baffling to me, to put it mildly. In addition, we only saw one picture; views from many vantage points were not shown at all.

Architectural concept of the “Novy Vzglyad” school
Copyright: © “Vostok”+Martela /provided by the press service of Moskomarkhitektura


We carefully thought out the proportions and the rhythm of the facades, the third quarter starting with simple rhythms, and the first ending in a complex one. And our school is exactly in the middle of this space. All the residential buildings in the central area overhang above the road to school at a 3.6 elevation, and the cantilevered structure of the school building also picks up this mark.

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    The “Novy Vzglyad” school as part of “Garden Quarters”, 2020
    Copyright: © Sergey Skuratov ARCHITECTS
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    The height plan of the southwest facade. The “Novy Vzglyad” school as part of “Garden Quarters”, 2020
    Copyright: © Sergey Skuratov ARCHITECTS
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    The height plan of the northeast facade. The “Novy Vzglyad” school as part of “Garden Quarters”, 2020
    Copyright: © Sergey Skuratov ARCHITECTS
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    The height plan of the southeast facade. The “Novy Vzglyad” school as part of “Garden Quarters”, 2020
    Copyright: © Sergey Skuratov ARCHITECTS
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    The height plan of the northwest facade. The “Novy Vzglyad” school as part of “Garden Quarters”, 2020
    Copyright: © Sergey Skuratov ARCHITECTS
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    Development drawing from the side of the 1st Shibaevsky Drive. The “Novy Vzglyad” school as part of “Garden Quarters”, 2020
    Copyright: © Sergey Skuratov ARCHITECTS
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    Development drawing from the side of the pond. The “Novy Vzglyad” school as part of “Garden Quarters”, 2020
    Copyright: © Sergey Skuratov ARCHITECTS


Another thing that we did was the “air perspective”: the main building has four floors in it, then there is a single story “pause” or “rest”, and then there is a three-story volume of the junior school, which stays in the visual shadow of the third quarter. Underneath all of the hovering volumes, there is a “trim”, a glass layer between the basement and the building, which creates an extra feeling of flying lightness. A lot of our techniques were thoroughly tested in our previous projects but I am positive that this third latest version would have come out still more interesting.



Did your project turn out to be too expensive?

Not at all! It allowed for using usual glass, steel or composite lamellas, and even Corten steel is not such an expensive material, come right down to it. I am not sure – perhaps, they were after some special economy. But then again, for such an ambitious educational project, with Moscow State University of Foreign Affairs involved as one of the investors, in such a high-profile area of Moscow as Garden Quarters, you would expect an appropriate level of financing, wouldn’t you?

Again, we attached to our competition project the cost estimate, really moderate – but during the discussion I serendipitously overheard the words that were definitely meant for me “You are too expensive an architect, Sergey Aleksandrovich!”

Was it a closed-door, invitation-only competition?

It was invitation-only, yet at the same time royalty-free. We were told that the winner would be awarded the contract for doing the design development phase.

Did all of the invited companies participate?

A lot of reputed architects were invited, including my colleagues who had already worked on Garden Quarters, plus ATRIUM, ASADOV Architects, Tsimailo and Lyashenko, and others. They all refused to participate because they knew that this was my project, and the school was its highlight, very important to me.

Were the project presentations of the open-door type?

Closed. I was only able to leaf through the architectural album; I did not see the technological part from Martela. As for the interior design, I also saw just one image.

***

This wraps it up for the interview with Sergey Skuratov. Let’s make an attempt to meditate on this story. It seems that for quite a while nobody has discussed the results of architectural competitions – people have been simply congratulating the winners. In this case, however, it is pretty obvious that the competition was for anything but a greenfield project, and the whole situation looks pretty strange, now being widely discussed on social networks, where opinions, as is always the case, split into two controversial sides: many people actively support Sergey Skuratov; others point to the fact the conditions and the developer’s requirements have changed; some also voiced an opinion that for a school building, it is the content that matters, and not the facade, and in this sense both projects are of approximately equal value.

So! The ethic side of the question is more or less clear, at least because of the fact that the majority of the invited companies turned down the offer – this sure must mean something – and because the participation was free but no open-door competition was announced. However, there are a few more things to consider: the status of the design code, the attitude towards money, and the competition practice in general.

As we remember, Garden Quarters were originally devised as a project by several authors, which for a few decades has been a standard practice used to avoid monotony through turning to the style of the traditional city. Diversity becomes more authentic if one project involves not one but several architectural companies. However, the traditional city can be different: the conditional medieval city is built chaotically, while the conditional classicism city is built by different authors, yet in accordance with the rules. Then, there is the higher form of architecture, an architectural ensemble; the word literally translates from French as “together”, but in reference to architecture this means that something was not just pieced together, but was assembled using a systematic approach. The ensemble is devised by the author as an orchestra conductor. Garden Quarters were designed as an ensemble, an orchestra, conducted by quite a specific conductor, Sergey Skuratov, who for a long time committed himself to managing this project, a superb one by the standards of Moscow compromises. For more than 13 years, this large, “stayer” complex has been developing like an ensemble indeed: an architectural project governed by one will and designed to have certain highlights.

In addition, the project had a design code, and a set of rules, which we, back in the day, following the author, compared to the “genetic code”, which in actuality wasn’t quite the case – to be more exact, it was a genetic code for the residential buildings designed by guest architects, but, in addition to it, the project also presupposed a “neural network”, some sort of a center, a “mind”, or a set of narratives with an inner hierarchical structure, which does not just come down to one “code”, just like the human brain does not consist of neurons alone. And, generally speaking, the very notion of design code works on a pretty down-to-earth level, while a higher degree of organization presupposes a project as a system of plastique and compositional links and mutual subjugations.

No design code was written for the school building because it was assumed that its project would be done by the general contractor, Sergey Skuratov Architects. So, what did it end up happening?

In the western corner of the territory, in the stead of the canceled business center, appeared a new 5th quarter, not resonating with the overall system either volume-, or plastique-, or composition-wise: it was not there on the original plan of the four quarters; unlike these four, it faces not the center but the Usacheva Street. Its massive volumes do not in any way match either the big picture or the ensemble with its preexisting rules and proportions; plastique-wise, it is a thing in itself. Currently, the 5th Quarter in the west corner of the complex is being designed by “Vostok”. A little earlier, the same architectural company built at the north corner of Garden Quarters on the Usacheva Street, a high-end residential complex Magnum, the black one with rounded corners. 

Today, as a result of the recent competition, the same architects, “Vostok”, are proposing a volume that “makes a step” into the center of the complex and usurps the place of its main highlight. Paying lip service to the design code, specifically, using brick for facade decoration, yet still violating the ensemble by introducing a new compositional center with completely new features – its architecture is closed as opposed to open, it digs itself in instead of hovering, its rounded instead of sharp – true, all of these things were not written in the design code because all of these things refer not so much to the code as to the project or the plan, which lie at a slightly different layer of artistic thinking than the design code or even the genetic code – let’s call it the level of reason, or the composition level, for simplicity’s sake. Doesn’t it seem to you that such an influence has a lot in common with a virus’s RNA? Rebuilding a fragment of the code that disrupts the system’s operation, like its breathing? No? Let’s move on then.

Moving on, about the money! Various sources constantly thrust on us the notion that a creative mind must not be concerned about the money – what kind of a creator are you if you ask for money, money is an undignified and a lowdown thing. In actuality, however, this is a whopping lie, which allows people who, for all intents and purposes, are supposed to think about the money, to economize on the most valuable and long-term component of the product – its artistic value and quality of execution. This is in one case. In another case, as my own judgment, I will venture a guess that by doing all these things the developer is manipulatively suggesting that the architect work for free, if he is really interested in a great end result. A sure-thing pressure tool is in action: if you want something well done, do it yourself, but we are not going to pay you on general principle because, first, we want to save up, second, we are not really interested in some of the aesthetic features of the end result, and, third, we think that paying you, creative folks, is the wrong thing to do. These are all solely my personal guesses but I think you will agree that we are constantly hearing something like this here and there. And, in addition, here it is about a school, building a school is a noble thing to do, and, as a noble thing, it should not be too expensive (or, better yet, free of charge). Never mind the fact that the school is situated, without exaggeration, in the most prestigious area of Moscow, and is part of one of the richest and most prestigious universities. Frankly speaking, this reminds me of some parents who claim that the food and clothing for their children must be provided by the government. No, not because they are poor, I am not speaking about poverty here, but because – well, these are children!

About the school. Seriously, do we need to make it beautiful at all? Like Shrek said, “my stomach’s aching and my palms just got sweaty. Must be a high school.” What if the attractive appearance of the school building turns out to be a fake? Because what really matters is the environment inside, and a great environment could indeed be formed in a standard “Stalin” building, like, say, in School 179, or, on the other hand, you may have the newest and most beautiful building in the world but lock up all of its gardens and entrances to the roof and ruin the positive environment, regardless of the space that the architects designed. If the teacher is bad, the beautiful facade and the beautiful interior will be of no avail for the children. And here an objection kind of suggests itself – this is why the Martela project was chosen, because they have the experience of working with the programs of modern top-league schools. And, in addition, our people have grown accustomed to standard school buildings, or, to be more precise, have gotten used to adapt to some degree of simplification of visual environment, and the three types of brick on the facade will already be an architectural event in its own right. It turns out that we are speaking here not so much about the school as about the ensemble of Garden Quarters, which so far do remain the rare example, by Moscow standards, of high-quality architecture and neatly organized city space.

Speaking about the school – in the sense that do we want to propose, regardless of content, that we can only hope for, and which is temporarily out of the equation, a new image of a school building? Not the rank-and-file building in the middle of the neighborhood but something flashy, something that arrests one’s gaze? For all intents and purposes, the innovative schools of today are now looking to have such a bright image. Let’s recall the already-mentioned Letovo, Khoroshkola, Wunderpark, Primakov Gymnasium, to name but a few. Here, however, the difference is that the building also served as the highlight of the complex, and not some addition to the “soup du jour”, as often happens to be the case. In this sense, this is definitely a step backwards made instead of a step forward. Even though we do have to admit that the problem lies in the area of subtle matters. But it’s the subtle matters that we ultimately miss.

And, finally, the competition. As we know, the competition is by definition a procedure that’s healthy, democratic, progressive, and conducive to healthy rivalry. And, probably, it does not make much sense to lament the fact that the judging panel oftentimes, as was also the case in our instance (see the incomplete lineup here) consists of less than half of professional architects, the presentation and discussion taking place behind closed doors. From the formal standpoint, one could assume that the young architects surpassed the maestro, proposing something brighter and more progressive. From what we can see, however, it doesn’t look that way, and, as a consequence, the competition looks not so much as a contest of professionals as a procedure for legitimizing the solution, which has nothing to do with aesthetic choices. Which, generally, discredits the very idea of an architectural competition, leaving only an empty shell of formalities. Wouldn’t it have been easier for the client to just go ahead and make this unpopular decision without any extra histrionics? Or the legitimizing procedure is the next hot trend of today?

04 July 2020

author pht

Written by:

Julia Tarabarina
Translated by:
Anton Mizonov
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Headlines now
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.
​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.
​Celestial Tectonics
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 Contact
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.
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.
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.
​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.
​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.