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​The Yard Aesthetics

Organizing the yard of a premium-class housing complex, GAFA architects took care not just about the image that matches the project’s high status, but also about simple human joys, masterfully overcoming the construction regulations.

11 May 2021
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The housing complex Spires is being built not far away from the Kutuzovsky Avenue, which is popularly associated with the high-end Stalin-architecture houses. Although this area is generally considered to be a prestigious one, this “prestige”, when viewed against the background of soaring steel-and-glass high-rises, which are popping up all over the city, has taken on a slightly outdated flavor. Despite this, the Spires complex stays within the mainstream of the popular notion of a prosperous life “a-la Kutuzovsky”: this is Soviet Art Deco in the interpretation of the architect Kim En Gir (Russia) with Tiffany stained-glass windows in lancet windows, gargoyles next to spikelets and flowerpots, free-standing “villas” and uncommonly high ceilings, which, according to the advertising pamphlet, will finally allow you to hang bohemian glass chandeliers and put in tropical plants.

Spires Residences
Copyright: © Tekta Group


The classic kind of land improvement could have turned Spires into the ultimate example of “heavy deluxe” – but, luckily, the client turned to GAFA, which was able to offset all the seriousness of the “premium-class” positioning with usual human joys, even though presented in an ostentatiously aesthetically highlighted form.

Spires Residences
Copyright: © Tekta Group


The Spires residences consist of three high-rise houses and five city villas. Curiously, almost in the very center of the complex, stands the “Dom Veteranov Kino” hotel – Jane Jacobs would have surely been pleased with such social differentiation within one city block. Also, the land site is adjoined by the “Volynsky” housing complex standing right next to it, but shutting itself off from the world by a rather high stylobate. Meanwhile, the Nezhinskaya Street separates Spires from the natural reserve “Valley of the Setun’ River”.

The master plan. Spires Residences
Copyright: © GAFA Architects


The proximity to the natural reserve both inspired the GAFA architects and allowed them to make the most out of the context, i.e. design not so much “wild” as urban nature, which has its own laws and purposes.

The first task that the architects needed to solve was the planning one. Two extensive, separated by Dom Veteranov Kino, are connected by two promenades: one is located on the side of the Nezhinskaya Street, turning it into an active city space with cafes and shops, while the other runs along the stylobate wall of the Volynsky housing complex and includes a few facilities of the special children’s route, more of which later. The urban villas and two-level apartments on the bottom floors have private little gardens of their own, which are delicately fenced off from the rest of the yard with strips of greenery.

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    The privacy levels. Spires Residences
    Copyright: © GAFA Architects
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    The functional zoning. Spires Residences
    Copyright: © GAFA Architects
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    The greenery. Spires Residences
    Copyright: © GAFA Architects
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    The game strategy. Spires Residences
    Copyright: © GAFA Architects
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    The traffci and the pedestrian flows. Spires Residences
    Copyright: © GAFA Architects
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    The decorative lighting. Spires Residences
    Copyright: © GAFA Architects


Another challenge was the regulation driveways. The high-rise buildings of the complex are serviced by the city’s biggest fire truck, for the maneuvers of which about a third of the entire yard space had to be allocated. However, when you take a look at the layouts and 3D renders of the yard, emergency vehicles are the last thing that comes to mind – the driveways are masked by a smooth paving pattern, which looks more like a winding path, and by geo webs, in which the architects are planning to plant clover, known for its ability to mitigate the effect of prevalence of hard surfaces. In addition, the emergency drive runs through the central plaza, but, due to the masterful “drapery” of the pavement, you would never guess about it.

Spires Residences
Copyright: © Tekta Group


The coverages. Spires Residences
Copyright: © GAFA Architects
 

A plaza is quite an unconventional solution for a yard space. It serves to achieve one of the super-tasks that GAFA set for themselves – to help form the residents’ community by using architectural solutions. Towards this end, Spires gets yet another element – an exquisite pergola, custom designed specifically for this project. The pergola has two important features. First of all, it is aesthetically pleasing in itself and looks like an art object meant to give identity to this project, at the same time making the residents feel as if the are part of it, as well as to evoke the desire to take a photo – this quality of being photogenic has recently become more and more in demand. Second, and more importantly, the pergola is a place where neighbors can meet and communicate. The two main categories of residents who lack communication most of all are young moms and remote workers. For both of them, a large common table presents an opportunity to start a conversation. Furthermore, on the next level, you can get involved in many joint activities: picnics, table games, drawing or public readings.  

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    The garden and the pergola. Spires Residences
    Copyright: © GAFA Architects
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    Spires Residences
    Copyright: © GAFA Architects
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    Spires Residences
    Copyright: © Tekta Group
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    Spires Residences
    Copyright: © Tekta Group


The pergola means, of course, an opportunity to spend more time outdoors – with a laptop or with a view of the playground. This same purpose – to lure people outdoors and bring them back to an “analogue” feel – is served by other objects as well. For example, a sensory garden, where fragrant perennials are planted, blooming at different times of the year. Totally, it is expected that there will be as many as 100 types of plants planted on the territory of Spires, including grownup spruce trees, for which artificial hills are made.

Spires Residences
Copyright: © Tekta Group


GAFA also has a special approach to children – for them, they created a possibility of a spontaneous game without any “scenario” from the adults. The playgrounds form objects, which, due to their abstract design, can be interpreted in many ways, depending on where your imagination takes you, and this is why you never get tired of them: this is how a gadget-free person can come up with countless uses for a stick or a cardboard box. In addition, children’s objects are hidden throughout the entire yard space and become the reward for the curious: in the thicket, you can find a snag, stones, a labyrinth or even a musical instrument. The game elements are integrated into one common travel route that connects the two courtyards.

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    Spires Residences
    Copyright: © Tekta Group
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    Spires Residences
    Copyright: © Tekta Group
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    Spires Residences
    Copyright: © GAFA Architects


The project pays special attention to lighting, with which GAFA was assisted by ERCO and Vlad Obasov. According to the GAFA’s leading architect Victoria Barkalova, an average housing complex uses painfully little of all the possibilities that modern lighting technologies offer, and, when working on Spires, the company discovered a lot of new things: not all objects must be necessarily lit; tactical lighting leaves dark islets and creates accents – using it, you can highlight both architecture and landscape elements. Thanks to the lighting design, in the evening the complex looks strikingly different and creates a very special mood. 

Spires Residences
Copyright: © Tekta Group


Spires Residences
Copyright: © Tekta Group


The yards, designed by GAFA, look like modern parks: they do not just have a lot of greenery and landscape objects in them, but also facilities for people aged from 0 to 80, while the space becomes recognizable and ties people strongly to their homes. In the case of Spires, the landscaping project adds value to the architecture, tying the buildings of the complex into a single whole and turning the space between them into a beautiful place to live in.


11 May 2021

Headlines now
The Mirror of Your Soul
We continue to publish projects from the competition for the design of the Russian Pavilion at EXPO in Osaka 2025. We are reminding you that the results of the competition have not been announced, and hardly will ever be. The pavilion designed by ASADOV Architects combines a forest log cabin, the image of a hyper transition, and sculptures made of glowing threads – it focuses primarily on the scenography of the exhibition, which the pavilion builds sequentially like a string of impressions, dedicating it to the paradoxes of the Russian soul.
Part of the Ideal
In 2025, another World Expo will take place in Osaka, Japan, in which Russia will not participate. However, a competition for the Russian pavilion was indeed held, with six projects participating. The results were never announced as Russia’s participation was canceled; the competition has no winners. Nevertheless, Expo pavilion projects are typically designed for a bold and interesting architectural statement, so we’ve gathered all the six projects and will be publishing articles about them in random order. The first one is the project by Vladimir Plotkin and Reserve Union, which is distinguished by the clarity of its stereometric shape, the boldness of its structure, and the multiplicity of possible interpretations.
The Fortress by the River
ASADOV Architects have developed a concept for a new residential district in the center of Kemerovo. To combat the harsh climate and monotonous everyday life, the architects proposed a block type of development with dominant towers, good insolation, facades detailed at eye level, and event programming.
In the Rhombus Grid
Construction has begun on the building of the OMK (United Metallurgical Company) Corporate University in Nizhny Novgorod’s town of Vyksa, designed by Ostozhenka Architects. The most interesting aspect of the project is how the architects immersed it in the context: “extracting” a diagonal motif from the planning grid of Vyksa, they aligned the building, the square, and the park to match it. A truly masterful work with urban planning context on several different levels of perception has long since become the signature technique of Ostozhenka.
​Generational Connection
Another modern estate, designed by Roman Leonidov, is located in the Moscow region and brings together three generations of one family under one roof. To fit on a narrow plot without depriving anyone of personal space, the architects opted for a zigzag plan. The main volume in the house structure is accentuated by mezzanines with a reverse-sloped roof and ceilings featuring exposed beams.
Three Dimensions of the City
We began to delve into the project by Sergey Skuratov, the residential complex “Depo” in Minsk, located at Victory Square, and it fascinated us completely. The project has at least several dimensions to it: historical – at some point, the developer decided to discontinue further collaboration with Sergey Skuratov Architects, but the concept was approved, and its implementation continues, mostly in accordance with the proposed ideas. The spatial and urban planning dimension – the architects both argue with the city and play along with it, deciphering nuances, and finding axes. And, finally, the tactile dimension – the constructed buildings also have their own intriguing features. Thus, this article also has two parts: it dwells on what has been built and what was conceived
New “Flight”
Architects from “Mezonproject” have developed a project for the reconstruction of the regional youth center “Polyot”(“Flight”) in the city of Oryol. The summer youth center, built back in the late 1970s, will now become year-round and acquire many additional functions.
The Yauza Towers
In Moscow, there aren’t that many buildings or projects designed by Nikita Yavein and Studio 44. In this article, we present to you the concept of a large multifunctional complex on the Yauza River, located between two parks, featuring a promenade, a crossroads of two pedestrian streets, a highly developed public space, and an original architectural solution. This solution combines a sophisticated, asymmetric façade grid, reminiscent of a game of fifteen puzzle, and bold protrusions of the upper parts of the buildings, completely masking the technical floors and sculpting the complex’s silhouette.
Architecture and Leisure Park
For the suburban hotel complex, which envisages various formats of leisure, the architectural company T+T Architects proposed several types of accommodation, ranging from the classic “standard” in a common building to a “cave in the hill” and a “house in a tree”. An additional challenge consisted in integrating a few classic-style residences already existing on this territory into the “architectural forest park”.
The U-House
The Jois complex combines height with terraces, bringing the most expensive apartments from penthouses down to the bottom floors. The powerful iconic image of the U-shaped building is the result of the creative search for a new standard of living in high-rise buildings by the architects of “Genpro”.
Black and White
In this article, we specifically discuss the interiors of the ATOM Pavilion at VDNKh. Interior design is a crucial component of the overall concept in this case, and precision and meticulous execution were highly important for the architects. Julia Tryaskina, head of UNK interiors, shares some of the developments.
The “Snake” Mountain
The competition project for the seaside resort complex “Serpentine” combines several typologies: apartments of different classes, villas, and hotel rooms. For each of these typologies, the KPLN architects employ one of the images that are drawn from the natural environment – a serpentine road, a mountain stream, and rolling waves.
Opal from Anna Mons’ Ring
The project of a small business center located near Tupolev Plaza and Radio Street proclaims the necessity of modern architecture in a specific area of Moscow commonly known as “Nemetskaya Sloboda” or “German settlement”. It substantiates its thesis with the thoroughness of details, a multitude of proposed and rejected form variants, and even a detailed description of the surrounding area. The project is interesting indeed, and it is even more interesting to see what will come of it.
Feed ’Em All
A “House of Russian Cuisine” was designed and built by KROST Group at VDNKh for the “Rossiya” exhibition in record-breaking time. The pavilion is masterfully constructed in terms of the standards of modern public catering industry multiplied by the bustling cultural program of the exhibition, and it interprets the stylistically diverse character of VDNKh just as successfully. At the same time, much of its interior design can be traced back to the prototypes of the 1960s – so much so that even scenes from iconic Soviet movies of those years persistently come to mind.
The Ensemble at the Mosque
OSA prepared a master plan for a district in the southern part of Derbent. The main task of the master plan is to initiate the formation of a modern comfortable environment in this city. The organization of residential areas is subordinated to the city’s spiritual center: depending on the location relative to the cathedral mosque, the houses are distinguished by façade and plastique solutions. The program also includes a “hospitality center”, administrative buildings, an educational cluster, and even an air bridge.
Pargolovo Protestantism
A Protestant church is being built in St. Petersburg by the project of SLOI architects. One of the main features of the building is a wooden roof with 25-meter spans, which, among other things, forms the interior of the prayer hall. Also, there are other interesting details – we are telling you more about them.
The Shape of the Inconceivable
The ATOM Pavilion at VDNKh brings to mind a famous maxim of all architects and critics: “You’ve come up with it? Now build it!” You rarely see such a selfless immersion in implementation of the project, and the formidable structural and engineering tasks set by UNK architects to themselves are presented here as an integral and important part of the architectural idea. The challenge matches the obliging status of the place – after all, it is an “exhibition of achievements”, and the pavilion is dedicated to the nuclear energy industry. Let’s take a closer look: from the outside, from the inside, and from the underside too.
​Rays of the Desert
A school for 1750 students is going to be built in Dubai, designed by IND Architects. The architects took into account the local specifics, and proposed a radial layout and spaces, in which the children will be comfortable throughout the day.
The Dairy Theme
The concept of an office of a cheese-making company, designed for the enclosed area of a dairy factory, at least partially refers to industrial architecture. Perhaps that is why this concept is very simple, which seems the appropriate thing to do here. The building is enlivened by literally a couple of “master strokes”: the turning of the corner accentuates the entrance, and the shade of glass responds to the theme of “milk rivers” from Russian fairy tales.
The Road to the Temple
Under a grant from the Small Towns Competition, the main street and temple area of the village of Nikolo-Berezovka near Neftekamsk has been improved. A consortium of APRELarchitects and Novaya Zemlya is turning the village into an open-air museum and integrating ruined buildings into public life.
​Towers Leaning Towards the Sun
The three towers of the residential complex “Novodanilovskaya 8” are new and the tallest neighbors of the Danilovsky Manufactory, “Fort”, and “Plaza”, complementing a whole cluster of modern buildings designed by renowned masters. At the same time, the towers are unique for this setting – they are residential, they are the tallest ones here, and they are located on a challenging site. In this article, we explore how architects Andrey Romanov and Ekaterina Kuznetsova tackled this far-from-trivial task.
In the spirit of ROSTA posters
The new Rostselmash tractor factory, conceptualized by ASADOV Architects, is currently being completed in Rostov-on-Don. References to the Soviet architecture of the 1920’s and 1960’s resonate with the mission and strategic importance of the enterprise, and are also in line with the client’s wish: to pay homage to Rostov’s constructivism.
The Northern Thebaid
The central part of Ferapontovo village, adjacent to the famous monastery with frescoes by Dionisy, has been improved according to the project by APRELarchitects. Now the place offers basic services for tourists, as well as a place for the villagers’ leisure.
Brilliant Production
The architects from London-based MOST Architecture have designed the space for the high-tech production of Charge Cars, a high-performance production facility for high-speed electric cars that are assembled in the shell of legendary Ford Mustangs. The founders of both the company and the car assembly startup are Russians who were educated in their home country.
Three-Part Task: St. Petersburg’s Mytny Dvor
The so-called “Mytny Dvor” area lying just behind Moscow Railway Station – the market rows with a complex history – will be transformed into a premium residential complex by Studio 44. The project consists of three parts: the restoration of historical buildings, the reconstruction of the lost part of the historical contour, and new houses. All of them are harmonized with each other and with the city; axes and “beams of light” were found, cozy corners and scenic viewpoints were carefully thought out. We had a chat with the authors of the historical buildings’ restoration project, and we are telling you about all the different tasks that have been solved here.
The Color of the City, or Reflections on the Slope of an Urban Settlement
In 2022, Ostozhenka Architects won a competition, and in 2023, they developed and received all the necessary approvals for a master plan for the development of Chernigovskaya Street for the developer GloraX. The project takes into account a 10-year history of previous developments; it was done in collaboration with architects from Nizhny Novgorod, and it continues to evolve now. We carefully examined it, talked to everyone, and learned a lot of interesting things.
A Single-Industry Town
Kola MMC and Nornickel are building a residential neighborhood in Monchegorsk for their future employees. It is based on a project by an international team that won the 2021 competition. The project offers a number of solutions meant to combat the main “demons” of any northern city: wind, grayness and boredom.
A New Age Portico
At the beginning of the year, Novosibirsk Tolmachevo Airport opened Terminal C. The large-scale and transparent entrance hall with luminous columns inside successfully combines laconism with a bright and photogenic WOW-effect. The terminal is both the new façade of the whole complex and the starting point of the planned reconstruction, upon completion of which Tolmachevo will become the largest regional airport in Russia. In this article, we are examining the building in the context of modernist prototypes of both Novosibirsk and Leningrad: like puzzle pieces, they come together to form their individual history, not devoid of curious nuances and details.
A New Starting Point
We’ve been wanting to examine the RuArts Foundation space, designed by ATRIUM for quite a long time, and we finally got round to it. This building looks appropriate and impressive; it amazingly combines tradition – represented in our case by galleries – and innovation. In this article, we delve into details and study the building’s historical background as well.
Molding Perspectives
Stepan Liphart introduces “schematic Art Deco” on the outskirts of Kazan – his houses are executed in green color, with a glassy “iced” finish on the facades. The main merits of the project lie in his meticulous arrangement of viewing angles – the architect is striving to create in a challenging environment the embryo of a city not only in terms of pedestrian accessibility but also in a sculptural sense. He works with silhouettes, proposing intriguing triangular terraces. The entire project is structured like a crystal, following two grids, orthogonal and diagonal. In this article, we are examining what worked, and what eventually didn’t.