По-русски

​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.

Lara Kopylova

Interviewed by:
Lara Kopylova
Translated by:
Anton Mizonov

07 April 2021
Interview
mainImg
Archi.ru:
You have just become the main architect at GENPRO. What do you expect from this collaboration?

Andy Snow Chief Architect of GENPRO
Copyright: © Andy Snow


Andy Snow:
GENPRO is a company heading in a very exciting direction. I first worked with them whilst at AECOM and I was hugely impressed by their technical and professional approach. This company has grown rapidly in the last 3 years and, focusing on the General Designer role, has built strong relationships with many of the leading developers in Moscow. Until now they would typically outsource concept work to established international architects, but the intent now is to grow a concept team within GenPro and to establish their brand as an architectural one as well as a GD. And I was invited to head the architectural team. The collaboration plays to their strengths and my own; having worked in a multi-disciplinary firm already, I’m fully aware of the potential benefits of working in a shared environment with engineers and I’m keen to continue to embrace the multi-disciplinary approach to design.

Before I ask you about how you ended up in Moscow, I would like to hear a few words about your background. Where were you born, and why did you decide to become an architect?

I was born and raised in rural England, in a very small town in a national park, in a very picturesque and relaxed environment – very different from the huge scale of urbanism within a city like Moscow. I think, back at school when I was making decisions about which career I wanted to follow, I chose architecture due to a combination of skills I was good at – art and math – without really understanding much about what architecture was as a profession or creative medium. And I was very naive about what architecture was until I was half way through my education.

What university did you go to? Who were your architectural teachers?

I graduated from Liverpool John Moores University, passing with distinction. My teacher was Prof Doug Clelland; he studied under Louis Kahn in the US.

How would you define your own unique architectural style?

Certainly, my own style is very much of the contemporary influences but I’d say that fundamentally I’m a Modernist at heart – I first of all believe that a good building is an expression of a clear and rational diagram rather than feeling obliged to follow the most recent trend or facade style.

What is your architectural mission? Could you describe it in two or three sentences?

I aim for an architecture which is rational and poetic, robust and delightful. The power of architecture extends much further than the dimensions of individual buildings. We believe architecture is about making life better.

Which parameters are the most important to you in architectural design?

The design process that I go through is driven by the uniqueness of the site and its challenges. Before the materiality comes in, the design has to be starting through a simple diagram, simple understanding how the building needs to work, and creating a rationalized planning solution for the building that meets the client’s brief – obviously – and responds to the site. But, of course, good architecture is more than simply meeting a technical brief. It improves the surroundings, and it adds to the context as well. Even within the diagram, it isn’t just about meeting the clients brief – it’s about how the architecture can make life better for the people in the building and for the people in the city. The façade and the elevation is the natural evolution of the plan: the form follows the function. In terms of materiality, I learned a huge amount from working at John McAslan + Partners. It was there that I learned to apply materials in an elegant way.

What kind of architecture (historical and contemporary) appeals more to you?

I like good architecture. I believe that any building, historic or contemporary, has the potential to be either good or bad, and I think all buildings should be judged on their merits, an understanding of the time when they were built, and also the quality of design that they retain.

What is your source of inspiration?

The belief that architecture is about making life better for people and the cities they inhabit. The uniqueness of each site and seeking to provide a rationalized and clear resolution to the complex challenges of the brief and also creating something that offers a higher value than simply meeting a technical brief.

Could you please share about the projects that you did in the UK? Which of them were the biggest milestones in your architecture career?

The first company that I worked for was called Hodder & Partners. This company was quite small but they won the Stirling Prize, a very significant British annual architectural award (Stephen Hodder was awarded the RIBA Stirling Prize for the Centenary Building, University of Salford, in 1996 – ed. note).

Another milestone in my career at Hodder & Partners was being involved in extending St Catherine’s college in Oxford, which was designed and built by Arne Jacobsen, a very famous Finnish Architect, in 1957–1963. This building became an iconic one in many respects – it is very “1960’s”, not just style-wise, but on a deeper level as well. Jacobsen designed everything from the master plan of the college to the cutlery and door handles, and everything in between. It has classic, timeless design, everything fits together perfectly, and is both rigorous in the overall planning and how it all works together, but, on the other hand, it is also incredibly tactile and soft with the use of materials within the interior spaces. For example, wood was used for finishing the residential buildings. This was pure modernism where every detail mattered. We did this extension project in 2005; the college got extra auditoriums, 132 student rooms in the student accommodation buildings standing around the new courtyard, and effectively the student accommodation extended the landscape from the Jacobsen master plan. This extension project, just as the original college building, scored several professional awards, including the RIBA Award and the Oxford Preservation Trust Award.

It was a profoundly influential project to be involved in the formative years of my career.

  • zooming
    1 / 3
    St Catherine’s college in Oxford, the extention project, 2005
    Copyright: Provided by Andy Snow
  • zooming
    2 / 3
    St Catherine’s college in Oxford, the extention project, 2005
    Copyright: Provided by Andy Snow
  • zooming
    3 / 3
    St Catherine’s college in Oxford, the extention project, 2005
    Copyright: Provided by Andy Snow


After that, when I worked for John McAslan + Partners, I designed the residential project of St. George Island complex in Manchester. It’s called an “island” because it is wedged between railway facilities on one side and a canal on the other. We had to figure out a way to fit all the residential buildings within the site. There was also a small project at Lancaster University – we needed to divide a new building for an existing faculty within the university. So, again, it was about just working on the diagram of how the building would work, splitting it so the educational spaces were on the ground floor, and the departmental spaces above. The whole building is fully glazed, so you’re letting a lot of natural daylight into the building.

When and why did you decide to move to Russia?

To be honest, I first moved over because an opportunity to continue working for John McAslan + Partners came my way. I just finished one project and was looking for the next opportunity within John McAslan + Partners, so it was an open invitation within John McAslan + Partners. I applied for that position, and was successful. We worked on the Stanislavsky Factory project, which combines a highly effective business center, cultural facilities, and housing as well. This is a high-quality space, fully landscaped, which includes reconstructed historical buildings and modern architecture. I headed the architectural department, and I also oversaw the construction. Then I worked for AECOM. I have worked in Russia for ten years, but I fully moved over once I started working for GENPRO.

  • zooming
    1 / 4
    The multifunctional center “Stanislavsky Factory”
    Copyright: © McAslan + Partners
  • zooming
    2 / 4
    The multifunctional center “Stanislavsky Factory”
    Copyright: Photograph © Yuri Palmin
  • zooming
    3 / 4
    The multifunctional center “Stanislavsky Factory”
    Copyright: Photograph © Yuri Palmin
  • zooming
    4 / 4
    Copyright: Photograph © Yuri Palmin


You did a few projects in Moscow. Could you please compare architectural design in Russia and in the UK? Are there any differences, challenges, or, maybe, new possibilities?

There are so many possibilities in Moscow, it makes it a very exciting and dynamic environment to work in and I find it incredibly rewarding working here. Three big differences would be: sustainability within the construction industry; how cost influences design, and how modern construction techniques are applied.

There is a growing, but still limited amount of sustainability within the design and construction process in Russia – with BREEAM or LEED only being used on a limited number of projects, compared to the UK where it is used on virtually all projects, which influences both design and construction in a positive way in the UK. This is the first difference.

Another difference is greater transparency and management of cost within the design process, and the opportunity this creates during the design of the project to allow you to make positive decisions that will influence the overall quality of the project. In Russia, I’ve not been involved in any project where the cost was discussed – cost here is not a part of the design process.

The third difference is that the UK is seeing a significant increase in the amount of modular construction at the moment. I recently worked on a tower in London – world’s tallest modular student building – 35 floors. Benefits this type of construction could bring to Moscow are huge, but the city is still waiting for the first early adopter of new techniques. Main benefits to a developer are speed and quality of the construction stages: design takes the same time, but construction time is reduced by perhaps 2/3’s, and on city center sites, where space is limited, building off-site and bringing in fully fitted units has huge benefits in terms of time, cost and quality.

(Ed. note: GENPRO is currently building a house, designed by architects Olga Demchenko and Daria Dzyuba with the use of modular technology, in Mesa, Arizona: the first floor with a parking garage and a restaurant is monolithic, the six higher residential floors are modular.)

The modular house in Mesa USA. Designed by Olga Demchenko and Daria Dzyuba GENPRO
Copyright: © GENPRO


Could you please share a little bit more about your recent Russian projects that are currently being implemented?

This is, first of all, the large high-density housing complex iLove, not far away from Alekseevskaya metro station that I was involved in while I was still working for AECOM as the general designer and technical director. We developed the concept of the masterplan and the design code, and we also designed Building 5. This is a housing complex with a very high density (43,000 meters square per hectare) built on the grounds of a former industrial site. And this density became a bit of a challenge that we accepted. We decided to design a highly successful housing complex with an identity of its own. In spite of the large number of towers, we were able, due to the diverse height of the buildings, to achieve a human scale, because we designed streets and squares, and green public areas, surrounded by buildings 8-9 stories high – this complex is really human-centric. At the same time, the high-rise verticals became the landmarks of this area. When working on iLove, I met GENPRO specialists who were doing the documents of Stage P for Building 5.

  • zooming
    1 / 3
    iLove residential complex on Bochkova Street. Masterplan and design code by AECOM; Building 5 designed and built by AECOM
    Copyright: © AECOM
  • zooming
    2 / 3
    iLove residential complex on Bochkova Street. Masterplan and design code by AECOM; Building 5 designed and built by AECOM
    Copyright: © AECOM
  • zooming
    3 / 3
    iLove residential complex on Bochkova Street. Masterplan and design code by AECOM; Building 5 designed and built by AECOM
    Copyright: © AECOM


There was yet another project that I was involved in when working for AECOM as the technical director and general designer – an A+ class business center called AFI2B that we designed for AFI Development at the 2nd Brestskaya, 50. The building is in construction now. This building is located on a very tight land site in the very center of the city, and it had to fit in amongst low-rise historical buildings without obscuring the sun. And the stepping form of this building (both in terms of the plan and the elevation) is a direct response to a lot of the site constraints that we had in this project. The glass facades are oriented southward – they command views of the historical Moscow – while facades with less glass overlook the street.

  • zooming
    1 / 3
    The AFI2B business center on the 2nd Brestskaya Street
    Copyright: © AECOM
  • zooming
    2 / 3
    The AFI2B business center on the 2nd Brestskaya Street
    Copyright: © AECOM
  • zooming
    3 / 3
    The AFI2B business center on the 2nd Brestskaya Street
    Copyright: © AECOM


What projects are you planning to do with GENPRO?

I have worked with GENPRO for the last three years. I have worked as a general designer, contacted local developers and architects, and did the technical delivery of the projects. But now, as I said, GENPRO has created a concept team of their own, which I have been heading since the end of 2020. Currently, we have four projects in Moscow and two projects in the US.

07 April 2021

Lara Kopylova

Interviewed by:

Lara Kopylova
Translated by:
Anton Mizonov
comments powered by HyperComments
Headlines now
​The Possibility of Flight
The project of the airport, which ASADOV Architects developed for the city of Tobolsk, and which won in the architectural competition, was not implemented. However, it is interesting as an example of designing an airport building of a very small scale, where the main challenge is the optimal organization of space and infrastructure without compromising the imagery component.
​The Wavelength
Built in the town of Pushkino in the Moscow area, the “Turgeneva 13” housing complex, while fitting in with the surrounding context, differs from it with the rhythmic austerity of its dual composition, a slight wave of the façade, and the color design, in which one can see two images, winter and summer, both “growing” from the specifics of the place.
​A Shell by the Sea
Designing the Sports Palace that will determine the development of the entire northern part of Derbent, ASADOV Architects turned to the architectural legacy of Dagestan, local lore, and ancient layers of history.
​Christmas Skyscrapers
Karen Saprichyan is wishing everyone a merry Christmas, presenting a series of letter-shaped skyscrapers. The architect has long since been working on this theme, and has calendars of various years in stock. His latest development is a group of towers designed for the city of NEOM, which will be built in Saudi Arabia.
​Parade Order
The three brick blocks of the “River Park” housing complex gaze at the water with their terraces. Each block forms a backdrop and two wings, while the residents-only yards turn into “stages” perceived from the river. The landscaped embankment, accessible to all the city people, complements the hierarchy of private, semi-private and public city life that is formed here.
Pompidou Inside Out
Renzo Piano and his GES-2 have already been compared to Ridolfo Aristotele Fioravanti and his Cathedral of the Assumption. And for a good reason: GES-2 also stuns you with its grace and loftiness, but ultimately turns out to be the richest collection of recognizable motifs from an early masterpiece by Renzo Piano and Richard Rogers, the George Pompidou Center in Paris. These motifs are fused into the grid of Shukhov-esque structures, painted white, and they create a dialogue between 1910, 1971, and 2021, built on references (not devoid of a poster-like quality) to the main masterpiece. The basilica-shaped space of the former power station is taken apart virtually just like the museum, in accordance with the concept by Teresa Mavica.
​Next to Lidval and Nobel
The housing complex designed by Anatoly Stolyarchuk in Neishlotsky Alley: tactful change of scale, tribute to the memory of the place, Finnish additions to the functional typology – specifically, saunas in the apartments – and plans for receiving a BREEAM certificate.
​And stabbed it with a knife
The leader of Coop Himmelb(l)au, Wolf D. Prix, presented three projects that he is currently doing in Russia: a complex in Sevastopol, Crimea, which, as it turned out, a western architect could build bypassing the sanctions, because this is a cultural project; a museum and theater center in Kemerovo, and the “SKA Arena”, which is built in the stead of the destroyed Sports and Concert Complex in St. Petersburg – during the presentation the latter was symbolized by a round cake that the architect eventually cut.
​The Thin Matter
The house named “Medny 3.14” (“Copper 3.14”) is composed of two textures, each of which resembles in its own way some kind of precious fabric, and of three units, each of which is oriented towards one cardinal point. The architecture of the house absorbs the nuances of the context, summing them up and turning them into a single rhythmic structure. In this article, we are examining the new, just-completed, house designed by Sergey Skuratov in Donskaya Street.
​Super Pergola
The new business center built in Moscow’s district of Presnya in the 1st Zemelny Lane is all about technology and sustainability. Its streamlined shapes and white facade grid are combined with a new version of vertical greenery: the green of wild grapes, placed at a distance from the facade, instead of arguing with the “pergola” grid, sets it off by contrast.
​Lightness of Being
Blooming Sakura, a campfire party, kids splashing in a swimming pool – no, these are not pictures from a vacation, but everyday life going on in the yards of Kiev’s housing complex “Fayna Town”. In this issue, we are examining how the utopia designed by the architects is wired, and what they did to make it a reality.
​A Triangular Folded Structure
The project of the new terminal of the Muraviev-Amursky airport in Blagoveshchensk offers architecture based on a modular form – endowed with a special imagery, it becomes the basis both for the carrying structures of the building and the plastique of the facade, at the same time reverberating in the interior design.
​The Breath of the East
Designing a residential complex for Tashkent, GENPRO is turning to traditional architecture and modern trends, aiming at emotionality and efficiency: the panjar window lattices and mishrabias are neighboring on vertical greenery and parametric ornaments, while the theme buildings do on a cotton alley and an oriental bazaar.
​The Openwork XX-Construction Set
The yard of the Architecture Museum on Moscow’s Vozdvizhenka hosts an installation by DNK ag. It is timed to coincide with the 20th anniversary of the company, and was originally presented at Arch Moscow. The art object is expected to stay in the yard of the museum for one year and set a new tradition – a regularly renewed exhibition project called “Modern Architecture in the yard of MUAR”.
The Spinning Vibe
The pavilion designed by Sergey Tchoban for the World EXPO 2020 in Dubai is a bright and integral architectural statement, whose imagery can be traced back to avant-garde graphic experiments by Jacob Chernikhov, but allows for multiple interpretations. The pavilion looks both like a dome temple, a spinning “Planet Russia”, and the head of a matryoshka doll. Still more interestingly, the core of the exposition is a “brain”. In this article, we take a closer look at the interpretations and the subtleties of the implementation.
Tolerant Aesthetics of Terraforming
The World Expo is a gigantic event; it is difficult to give it one definition or cover it at a glance. All the more so – such an ambitious and record-breaking fair as the one that is now open in Dubai despite all the pandemic restrictions. By no means claiming to present an all-rounded review, we are making an attempt to examine Expo 2020, where signs of aesthetic tolerance of a developer project begin to loom behind the imposing-looking “wings” of “star” architects and delights from space exploration.
The Town in the Snuff-box
The new academic building of Cooperation School in Moscow’s Taganka, designed and built by ASADOV Architects, is a compact volume, at the same time filled with functions and impressions. It easily combines classrooms, a theater, a cafeteria, a gym, and a double-height atrium with an open library and an exit to the terrace – virtually everything that you expect to see in a modern school.
​The Northern Versailles
On the bank of the magnificent Vychegda River, in a picturesque location six kilometers away from Syktyvkar, the capital of the Komi republic, the renowned neoclassical architect Mikhail Filippov has designed the town of Yugyd-Choi in the traditional aesthetics inspired by the center of St. Petersburg. The customer Elena Soboleva, the head of the Syktyvkar Housing Construction Fund, sees her mission in making Yugyd-Choi the hallmark of the republic.
​Analysis and Synthesis
The project of the housing complex “Krasin”, designed for the historical center of St. Petersburg, and situated in a very obliging place – next to the Mining University designed by Voronikhin, yet bordering on an industrial area – became the result of a thorough analysis of the specifics of historical construction on the Vasilyevsky Island, and a subsequent synthesis with avoidance of direct stylization, yet forming a recognizable silhouette, resonant with the “old town”.
​Tatiana Guk: “A document that determines the development of the city has to be flexible”
In this issue, we are talking to the director of the Genplan Institute of Moscow about trends that determine the future, about the 70-year history of the Institute, which is celebrating an anniversary this year, about electronic computing in the field of urban planning and about international experience accumulated in this area, as well as about how the Institute is involved with other cities, and about the perfect document for the city development, which has to be flexible and strategic.
​Dialectical Manifesto
The high-rise housing complex MOD, whose construction has begun in Moscow’s district of Maryina Roshcha next to the site, on which the new Russian Railways headquarters will be built, is responding to the “central” context of the future city surroundings, and at the same time is positioned by the architects as a “manifesto of Modernist minimalist principles in architecture”.
​Asimov’s Dream
A project by DNK ag won in a competition for the science campus of the National Center for Physics and Mathematics in the city of Sarov, conducted by ROSATOM corporation in collaboration with the Moscow State University, Russian Academy of Sciences, and the Kurchatov Institute.
​Near-Earth Space
The new terminal of the Leonov Airport in Kemerovo was built in record-breaking time, despite the pandemic. It became one of the important factors for the rapid development of the city, visually reflecting its dedication to the first spacewalk, both in the interiors and on the facades. Its main features are the “starry sky” effect and overall openness.
​The Spiral Approach
The school building in the city of Nur-Sultan, designed by Vera Budko and Anton Nadtochiy from beginning to end – from concept to working documentation – became the embodiment of the architects’ method for creating a modern educational environment, which the ATRIUM architects have been developing for years. Its fundamentals include creating an inspiring environment that motivates you to create. This is why the new school received a shape of an ornamental golden spiral that symbolizes ascension to knowledge; on the inside, the building is a compound and multifunctional “city within a city” with multilevel atriums, amphitheaters, and varying routes.
​The Ecological Bend
A story about how plans for laying a road on the border of a park turned into plans for saving the ecosystem and improving the walking trails.
​Kasimir from Kemerovo
The project of the branch of the Russian Museum for the Siberian Art Cluster is based on the ideas of Suprematism: basic shapes, and dynamism of color and form.
​Stream and Lines
Stepan Liphart’s projects of Art Deco villas demonstrate technical symbolism in combination with a subtle reference to the 1930s. One of the projects is a “paper” one; the others are designed for real customers: a top manager, an art collector, and a developer.
On the Bank of a Very Quiet River
The project of landscaping the territory of the residential complex NOW in Moscow’s Nagatinskaya Valley goes beyond the limits of its task and looks more like a modern park: with viewing platforms, an embankment, spaces different in their moods, and thought-out scenarios for visitors aged between 0 and 80.
​The Strategy of Transformation
In this article, we are publishing eight projects of reconstructing postwar Modernist buildings that have been implemented by Tchoban Voss Architekten and showcased in the AEDES gallery at the recent Re-Use exhibition. Parallel to that, we are meditating on the demonstrated approaches and the preservation of things that architectural legislation does not require to preserve.