​The Wall and the Tower

The OSA architects have been searching for solutions that could be opposed to the low-rise construction in the center of Khabarovsk, as well as an opportunity to say a new word in the discourse about mass housing.

Alyona Kuznetsova

Written by:
Alyona Kuznetsova
Translated by:
Anton Mizonov

10 March 2021
Looking at the map of Khabarovsk, one can see that, besides the Amur, there are two other rivers flowing through the city, important from the town-planning standpoint – the Plusninka and the Cherdymovka, or, as they were called earlier, Uri and Buri. Today, the rivers have been routed to collectors and buried underground, and along their former beds through the entire central part of the city, connecting parks and embankments, green boulevards are laid – the Ussuriysky and the Amursky.

The housing complex is situated “on the bank” of the Amursky Boulevard, in the area that hosted the Main Directorate of the Far East Railways settled in the 1930s. The developer is tearing down whatever dilapidated houses remained from it, providing new housing for their residents, and vacating space for a new urban environment. The semi-slum life with the inevitable bed sheets hanging on a line and somebody fixing their motorbike right in the yard will be replaced by underground parking garages, shopping arcades, and blocks of flats. Meditating on this subject became part of the architects’ creative search.

The OSA architects received a land site with a pre-approved master plan, according to which the slabs of residential houses form the Amursky Boulevard, with pinpoint towers standing inside the block. The first to be constructed is the corner with the Dzhambula Street, which will be marked by a 25-story tower and a three-section house almost half of its height. On the level of the two bottom floors, the houses will be united by a retail gallery. 

With such a layout, the role of the centerpiece, which usually accentuates the corner of the crossroads, is played by an empty space. This, according to the architect Veronika Fomina, is one of the strong points of the master plan: the height of the complex logically lowers towards the Amursky Boulevard, while the fact that the tower faces the peripheral street paradoxically removes the unpleasant “overhanging” effect, forming an inviting angle and a few interesting city views.

Considering the preset limitations, the architects could not alter either silhouette or master plan. In spite of this, the OSA architects were nonetheless able to use their signature techniques and breathe life into the unromantic “technical and economic performance” indicators. First of all, the architects had to avoid monotony at all costs and find solutions that could at least to some extent make up for the “human-friendly” nature of the torn-down houses, even if dilapidated.

Initially, the OSA architects set itself the task of coming up with a new architectural language that would allow the complex to become a new symbol of the railway compound that once was there, and would not become obsolete for a long time. Accepting the givens, the architects decided to emphasize the strong points of the existing master plan, not to mask the wall, artificially drawing a silhouette, but on the contrary honestly convey its massiveness and brutality.

  • zooming
    1 / 4
  • zooming
    2 / 4
  • zooming
    3 / 4
  • zooming
    4 / 4

In the first version, they used a solution contrastive to the surrounding development. The buildings were united by a common façade grid, white color, and “copper” accents, created with aluminum panels with anodized coverage. 

The developer, who had worked with the land site for a few years, had a hard time getting used to the new image of the complex. This is why in the second version the architects returned to the fractured volumes and an abundance of traditional details, such as pilasters, bay windows, a colonnade, and a gallery. The monochrome solution that they chose spoke honestly about the size of the complex. At the next stage, the customer asked them to add color.

In an ideal world, this house would have been quite different. But the beauty of the role of an architect is that with such a variety of constraints, it is possible to find solutions that for this place seem not just the least damaging, but oftentimes the most advantageous. Balance is the biggest challenge, frustration, yet, at the same time, the biggest joy that this project gave us.

The final version, although it does look like a compromise compared to the first one, still without a doubt speaks the language of the OSA’s, and not the developer’s, and has its strong points. The tower here is relieved of the hassle of vertical fracturing, and it “keeps its back straight”. The main façade, turned to the Dzhambula Street, is a simplified gradient. While its bottom part is more massive due to piers of the same color and a regular grid of windows, its upper part gradually loses weight thanks to the increasing amount of glazing. The tower is crowned by a signature “OSA” pergola, with air moving freely among its supports. Thanks to the backlighting, this element turns into a real landmark.

Designing the facades of the slab, the architects also opted for large shapes. The three sections are articulated with color and recessions; horizontally, the volume is split by a band. This way, six massive blocks appear, each one being slightly different in terms of color, window or balcony type, or the rhythm of the piers. All these techniques, as well as the façade material – the fiber cement panels – make the building akin to the surrounding Stalin houses.

The architects paid special attention to the plastique and the tactile feel of the bottom floors, which form the street space. The entrances to the housing complex are marked by portals two stories high, rhythmical “tongues” of the canopies, and décor of cut metal. Here the architects prudently provide space for designer’s work – it is planned that a design code will be developed for the complex, and the niche of the portal is one of the places where its solutions will be applied.

The architects made the most of the 5-meter terrain drop from the side of the Dzhambula Street by building a two-level shopping gallery. This way, the complex forms not one, but two streets with several attraction points, making them active and justifying their central location. The cars are routed to an underground parking garage, on which a yard rests.

The compact staircase and elevator block without long corridors made it possible to increase the useful floor space of the apartments. The apartment layouts were designed in accordance with the marketing survey, which the developer conducted still before the design stage. The upper floors are occupied by luxury apartments with fireplaces.

  • zooming
    1 / 3
  • zooming
    2 / 3
  • zooming
    3 / 3

The Amursky Quarter is yet another example of the Russian architects pulling a balancing stunt between the construction regulations, technical and economic performance expectations, and the developer’s specifics. Despite all the limitations and hard facts of life, OSA provides Khabarovsk with solid modern architecture, and I can only hope that the next stages of the complex will be up to its level.

10 March 2021

Alyona Kuznetsova

Written by:

Alyona Kuznetsova
Translated by:
Anton Mizonov
Headlines now
Our Everything
Who is Alexey Shchusev? In the last couple of weeks, since the architect’s 150th birthday, different individuals have answered this question differently. The most detailed, illustrated, and elegantly presented response is an exhibition held in two buildings of the Museum of Architecture on Vozdvizhenka. Four curators, a year and a half of work performed by the entire museum, and exhibition design by Sergey Tchoban and Alexandra Sheiner – in this article, we take you on a tour of the exhibition and show what’s what in it.
Gold Embroidery
A five-story housing complex designed by Stepan Liphart in Kazan, responds to the stylistically diverse context with its form, both integral and agile, and as for the vicinity of the “Ekiyat” movie theater, the complex responds to it with a semblance of theater curtain folds, and active plastique of its balconies, that bear some resemblance to theater boxes. Even if excessively pompous a little bit, the complex does look fresh and modern. One will have a hard time finding Art Deco elements in it, even though the spirit of the 1930s, run through the filter of neo-modernism, is still clearly felt, just as a twist of the Occident.
The restoration of the Salt Warehouse for the Zvenigorod Museum, on the one hand, was quite accurately implemented according to the design of the People’s Architect, and, on the other hand, it was not without some extra research and adjustments, which, in this case, was quite beneficial for the project. The architects discovered the original paint color, details of the facades, and studied the history of rebuilds of this building. As a result, the imposing character of the empire building, the oldest one in the city, and the differences of later additions were accurately revealed. Most importantly, however, the city got a new cultural and public space, which is already “working” in full swing.
From Moscow to Khabarovsk
This year, the works submitted by the students of the Genplan Institute of Moscow included a proposal for revitalizing Moscow’s “Pravda” complex with its structures designed by Ilia Golosov, landscaping an East Siberian town, located a 12-hour drive away from the nearest big city, and three versions of turning a derelict “pioneer camp” into an educational hub, similar to “Sirius”. Two sites out of three have an interested client, so chances are that the students’ works will be ultimately implemented.
Harmonization of Intentions
We met and talked with the chief architect of Genplan Institute of Moscow Grigory Mustafin and the chief architect of Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk Maxim Efanov – about how the master plan of the city is formed. The key to success: gathering data, digital simulation, working with the city people, thinking infrastructure, and presentation.
​Cité for Naro-Fominsk
The new neighborhood on an island in the center of Naro-Fominsk continues the ideas of developing the territory of the silk-weaving factory, around which the city actually formed. The authors skillfully mix different formats of mid-rise development and make the most of the island location, offering a variety of formats of interaction with water, available to all citizens. No wonder that the project is considered exemplary and worthy of duplication in the region. It is also an example of rare synergy between the client and the architects.
A Tower and a Manor House
The concept of a high-density residential district replacing a set of outdated privately owned houses in Yekaterinburg preserves the street grid and, in some cases, even the scale of construction. OSA Architects combine towers with townhouses and other types of housing, orienting the silhouette composition towards a pedestrian boulevard. Through non-linear routes and spatial diversity, the residents will see their neighborhood in a new way every day.
​The Warm Stone
The housing complex in Zelenogorsk is interpreted by Mayak architects as a scatter of stones. The unconventional outline of houses with a pentagon plan not only helped to form the image part of the project, but also facilitated the architects’ work with the density of construction and insolation of the apartments.
For All Times
The modular technology combined with the building material of glued wood allows the architectural company Rhizome to create quick-mount hotels (no less!) that are highly rated by the architectural community: last week, the new hotel “Vremena Goda. Igora” scored three awards. Below, we are examining the project in detail.
The Other Way Around
Few awards instead of many, the award ceremony conducted on the first day instead of last, projections instead of sketch boards, trees inside and art objects outside – the renewal of the Architecton festival seemingly took the sure-fire path of turning all the professional traditions upside down – or at least those that happened to be within the scope of the organizers’ attention. There’s certainly a lot to pick on, but the exhibition does feel fresh and improvisational. It looks that pretty soon these guys will set trends for Moscow as well. We shared with you about some elements of the festival in our Telegram channel, and now we are examining the whole thing.
ArchiWOOD-14: Building Bridges
This season, the festival’s jury decided not to award a grand prize: judging by the fact that the shortlist included several projects that had not reached the award in previous years, and the “best house” was pronounced to be an undoubtedly beautiful but mass-produced model, the “harvest” of wooden buildings in 2023 was not too abundant. However, there were many unusual typologies among the finalists, and restoration and revitalization projects received their share of recognition. Let’s take a look at all the finalists.
The Chinese Symphony
The construction of the Chinese center “Huaming Park” has been a long story that came to fruition relatively recently. The building is adjacent to a traditional Chinese garden, but it is very modern, laconic and technological, and the simple-in-form, yet spectacular, white lamellae promise to someday be incorporated as a media facade. This complex is also truly multifunctional: it contains different types of living spaces, offices, a large fitness center, conference halls and restaurants – all wrapped in one volume. You can comfortably hold international forums in it, having everything you may possibly need at your fingertips, and going outside only to take a walk. In this article, we are examining this complex in detail.
Ensemble of Individualities
Construction of the first phase of the INDY Towers multifunctional complex on Kuusinen Street, designed by Ostozhenka, has started. The project opens new angles of similarity between the column and the skyscraper, and we examine the nuances and parallels.
Black and Red
Kazakov Grand Loft received its name for a reason: responding to the client’s brief and proceeding from the historical industrial architecture of its immediate surroundings, Valery Kanyashin and Ostozhenka architects proposed a new version of a modern house designed in the fashionable “loft” style. What makes this building different is the fact that the bricks here are dark gray, and the facades of the romantic “fortress” towers blossom with magnificent glazing of the windows in the upper part. The main highlight of the complex, however, is the multiple open air terraces situated on different levels.
Icy Hospitality
Mezonproject has won the national architectural and town planning competition for designing a hotel and a water recreation center in the city of Irkutsk. The architects chose hummocks of Baikal ice as a visual image.
The Mastery of Counterpoint
In the sculpture of Classical Greece, counterpoint was first invented: the ability to position the human body as if it were about to take a step, imbuing it with a hint of the energy of future movement, and with hidden dynamics. For architecture, especially in the 20th century and now, this is also one of the main techniques, and the ATRIUM architects implement it diligently, consistently – and always slightly differently. The new residential complex “Richard” is a good example of such exploration, based on the understanding of contrasts in the urban environment, which was fused into the semblance of a living being.
Countryside Avant-Garde
The project of the museum of Aleksey Gastev, the ideologist of scientific organization of work, located in his hometown of Suzdal, is inscribed in multiple contexts: the contest of a small town, the context of avant-garde design, the context of “lean production”, and the context of the creative quest of Nikolai Lyzlov’s minimalist architecture – and it seems to us that this project even reveals a distant memory of the fact that Aleksey Gastev learned his craft in France.
On the Hills
In the project by Studio 44, the “distributed” IT campus of Nizhny Novgorod is based on well-balanced contracts. Sometimes it is hovering, sometimes undulating, sometimes towering over a rock. For every task, the architects found appropriate form and logic: the hotels are based on a square module, the academic buildings are based on a “flying” one, and so on. Modernist prototypes, specifically, Convent Sainte-Marie de La Tourette, stand next to references to the antique Forum and the tower of a medieval university – as well as next to contextual allusions that help inscribe the buildings of the future campus into the landscape of the city hills with their dominants, high slopes, breathtaking river views, the historical city center, and the Nizhny Novgorod University.
The Magic Carpet
The anniversary exhibition of Totan Kuzembaev’s drawings named “Event Horizons” shows both very old drawings made by the architect in the formative 1980’s, and now extracted from the Museum of Architecture, as well as quite a few pictures from the “Weightlessness” series that Totan Kuzembaev drew specifically for this exhibition in 2023. It seemed to us that the architect represented reality from the point of view of someone levitating in space, and sometimes even upside down, like a magic carpet with multiple layers.
​A Copper Step
Block 5, designed by ASADOV architects as part of the “Ostrov” (“Island”) housing complex, is at the same time grand-scale, conspicuous thanks to its central location – and contextual. It does not “outshout” the solutions used in the neighboring buildings, but rather gives a very balanced implementation of the design code: combining brick and metal in light and dark shades and large copper surfaces, orthogonal geometry on the outside and flexible lines in the courtyard.
The Light for the Island
For the first time around, we are examining a lighting project designed for a housing complex; but then again, the authors of the nighttime lighting of the Ostrov housing complex, UNK lighting, proudly admit that this project is not just the largest in their portfolio, but also the largest in this country. They describe their approach as a European one, its chief principles being smoothness of transitions, comfort to the eye, and the concentration of most of the light at the “bottom” level – meaning, it “works” first of all for pedestrians.
Spots of Light
A new housing complex in Tyumen designed by Aukett Swanke is a very eye-pleasing example of mid-rise construction: using simple means of architectural expression, such as stucco, pitched roofs, and height changes, the architects achieve a “human-friendly” environment, which becomes a significant addition to the nearby park and forest.
Ledges and Swirls
The housing complex “Novaya Zarya” (“New Dawn”) designed by ASADOV Architects will become one of the examples of integrated land development in Vladivostok. The residential area will be characterized by various typologies of its housing sections, and a multitude of functions – in addition to the social infrastructure, the complex will include pedestrian promenades, shopping malls, office buildings, and recreational facilities. The complex is “inscribed” in a relief with a whopping 40-meter height difference, and overlooks the Amur Bay.
Agglomeration on an Island
Recently, an approval came for the master plan of the Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk agglomeration, which was developed by a consortium headed by the Genplan Institute of Moscow. The document provides for the creation of 12 clusters, the totality of which will give the region a qualitative leap in development and make the island more self-sufficient, more accessible, and less dependent on the mainland. We are inviting you to examine the details.
Ivan Grekov: “A client that wants to make a building that is “about architecture” is...
In this article, we are talking to Ivan Grekov, the leader of the architectural company KAMEN (translates as “stone”), the author of many high-profile projects that have been built in Moscow in the recent years, about the history of his company, about different approaches to form making, about different meanings of volume and facade, and about “layers” in working with the environment – at the example of two projects by Osnova Group. These are the MIRAPOLIS complex on the Mira Avenue in Rostokino, whose construction began at the end of last year, and the multifunctional complex in the 2nd Silikatny Proezd on the Zvenigorodsky Highway; recently, it received all the required approvals.
Grasping and Formulating
The special project “Tezisy” (“Abstracts”), showcased at Arch Moscow exhibition in Moscow’s Gostiny Dvor, brought together eight young “rock stars of architecture”, the headliner being Vladislav Kirpichev, founder of the EDAS school. In this article, we share our impressions of the installations and the perspectives of the new generation of architects.
The White Tulip
Currently, there are two relevant projects for the Great Cathedral Mosque in Kazan, which was transferred to a land site in Admiralteiskaya Sloboda in February. One of them, designed by TsLP, was recently showcased at Arch Moscow. In this article, we are covering another project, which was proposed during the same period for the same land site. Its author is Aleksey Ginzburg, the winner of the 2022 competition, but now the project is completely different. Today, it is a sculptural “flower” dome symbolizing a white tulip.
ATRIUM’s Metaverse
The architectural company ATRIUM opened a gallery of its own in a metaverse. Inside, one can examine the company’s approach and main achievements, as well as get some emotional experience. The gallery is already hosting cyberspace business meetings and corporate events.
​From Darkness to Light
Responding to a lengthy list of limitations and a lengthy – by the standards of a small building – list of functions, Vladimir Plotkin turned the project of the Novodevichy Monastery into a light, yet dynamic statement of modern interpretation of historical context, or, perhaps, even interpretation of light and darkness.