​An Architectural Reality Show

Roman Leonidov, the well-known architect of luxury countryside residences, about which Archi.ru repeatedly wrote, launched a new online project called “Build YOUR House” on his YouTube channel.

Lara Kopylova

Written by:
Lara Kopylova
Translated by:
Anton Mizonov

14 February 2022
Against the background of the unprecedented boom of private residence construction caused by the pandemic, “Build YOUR House” immediately became very popular. Hitherto, on Roman Leonidov’s YouTube channel we could only see videos about his projects and buildings with the author’s comments. The new program is about letting the viewers follow the process of designing and building a specific house, which a young architect will perform in collaboration with a specific client under Roman Leonidov’s guidance almost real-time: each week, they will upload a video with the process of designing (and later on construction), and its results. The show is devised pretty much like a TV series: the first season is the construction of the first house, the second season is the second house, and so on. Watch the video with the announcement of the project

Previous to that, a competition of land site owners was announced, as well as a competition of young architects. The entrance conditions for the owners were the attractive views that the site commands, but, more importantly, the owner’s consent to public exposure of the design process. As for the young architects, to assess the level of their competence, they were offered a test project. Out of the pool of applications submitted by land owners, Roman Leonidov selected three finalists: from Kiev, from the Urals, and from an old dacha settlement near Moscow. Out of young architects, three architects reached the final: Pavel and Veronica from Moscow and Alexander from Ekaterinburg.

During an exciting live streaming session, the final round of the competition took place, the winner being chosen by the audience. Roman Leonidov introduced the contestants and shared about the land sites, while the young architects made a three-minute motivational speech. There was also a curious challenge for the young architects that Roman Leonidov came up with. He asked them questions as if coming from the client, and the applicants had to give quick answers because silence or hesitation on the part of the architect in such a dialogue spells losing the client – the maestro warned. Most of the audience’s votes went to the architect Alexander Chechulin who broadcast empathy and a positive attitude. The less eloquent contestants scored second and third places respectively. The competition of land owners was won by the Urals resident. Later on, however, it turned out that he was not ready for extensive public exposure, and the game was joined by Andrey, the land owner from Kiev, who scored second place.

The stream. Selecting the participants of the project

By the moment of our interview with Roman Leonidov the work on the house near Kiev already began, and two videos were posted demonstrating meetings with the client and work on the project. Here you can watch the first meeting with the architect.

These videos are very interesting because the viewers not only see the faces and read the comments but at the same time see the drafts by the young architect, which Roman Leonidov corrects in front of our eyes with magic markers, explaining his corrections.

Meeting with the architect #2

As for me, I learned a whole lot of useful information about designing a country residence from these two videos alone. Strictly speaking, this format even seemed overly generous to me. I am not sure whether it will lead to more frequent invitations for the architects to design a country residence but it will surely raise the levels of architects’ competence, land owners’ culture, and the aesthetic value of a country residence in Russia.

Roman Leonidov about his “Build YOUR House” project

Roman Leonidov
Copyright: © provided by Roman Leonidov

You are an established architect, and you have achieved a lot. One could think that you could rest on your laurels. Why this new format? 
The main goal is educational. After I conduct one or two such projects on my YouTube channel, I will be able to refer young architects, who come to work for my company, to these videos instead of having to explain the same things to them over and over again. The second goal is responding to the challenge of the audience of my YouTube channel, who say that “big” architects do not work with simple people. Yes, we do. And the third goal is – this is how I find new employees for my company. 

You anticipated my next question. During the last stream, the online audience was to choose one architect out of three finalists. And what will happen to those who don’t get picked?
Out of those who reached the finals, not everyone becomes a winner, but, since moving towards the finals, they already passed rigorous screening, they come to work for my company. This way, I kill two birds with one stone. It’s understood that I spend a whole lot of time on this: this is a real project with a real client and a young architect, whom you also have to educate. Every week, we conduct meetings, do real work, and then, based on the results, shoot a video a post it to our YouTube channel.

Does the client pay for the project?
No, for the client this is free of charge. This is why I try to raise some funds on the channel and look for information support.

Why did you choose this particular format of critical analysis of the work of the young architect?
To a certain extent, just to please the public. I noticed that once you throw in some kind of scandalous thing, for example, pan someone’s project, the number of views just spikes. However, if you analyze some award-winning projects in a positive way, nobody watches it. This is why I came up with a form where a could unite some “negativity” (in this case, at the expense of the young architect, whose project is mercilessly panned, but the architect knows in advance what he’s signing up for, and he is eager to learn) and positive vibes – because ultimately it will be yet another masterpiece that my company will create.

Where did you get your coaching skills? Do you have a natural talent?
No, I developed them with practice. If you take on at least one assistant, you automatically turn into a teacher. I deliberately avoid getting ready for my streams, but improvise, responding to the immediate circumstances.

You started your project from a stream where you introduced the contestants, chose the architect and the land owner, and the questions from the audience. Was it hard to be the anchor of the stream?
Actually, no! It was a lot easier than shooting a video and then editing it. When I lead a stream, I always control the situation, but when there are three of us in a conference, this is a lot harder. But there won’t be long streams anymore. I will just film our conferences and then upload a video that is the essence of working on the project.

This format seems to be pretty time and labor consuming!
Yes, but I get a theme for my work for years ahead. Currently, for the Kiev land site, we are doing a set of sketches, then there will be a working project, and then construction will begin. And when the construction is complete, we will get a documentary. My daughter is a talented documentary director, she sure will piece something together. 

Aren’t you afraid of disclosing your personal secrets? Because you share with the whole world the process of designing your house!
No, not at all. The human brain is so wired that it cannot copy what I’m doing.

But still, this probably means a lot of work: design, education of a young colleague, communication with the client, and thinking about the audience on top of all that. There is a common saying that actors lose up to 5 kilos a night.

Precisely! Holding the attention of your audience and designing things is incredibly hard. But I enjoy it immensely. The audience is growing. I also keep on making videos from the author supervision of my projects that are in construction, which are also available on my channel.

The playlist of the “Build YOUR House” project

14 February 2022

Lara Kopylova

Written by:

Lara Kopylova
Translated by:
Anton Mizonov
Headlines now
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.
Modernism in Avant-Garde
The contest proposal that Studio 44 made for the Krasnoyarsk Opera and Ballet Theater is bright in all senses, and in many ways even provocative – just like a modern theater performance should be. Being in context with modern culture, it even shocks you in some respects. At first, you are amazed at the red color that is present all around, and then you gradually make sense of the picturesque congregation of volumes that share a multitude of functions. And it’s only later that you realize that this conglomerate conceals a modernist building, most of which the architects save intact.
The Black Mountain
The project of reconstructing the Krasnoyarsk Opera and Ballet theater developed by Wowhaus, which won the competition, proposed a total demolition and new construction, as well as considerable expansion (up to 8 floors) – and transformable multifunctional spaces. The new project, however, does retain the recognizable elements and the image of the old theater. As for the main spectator hall, it is turned – figuratively speaking, of course – into a semblance of a black volcano.
Recently, Moscow saw the presentation of a project by Yuri Grigoryan, devoted to turning the truck garage on Novoryazanskaya Street, designed by Konstantin Melnikov, into the Museum of Moscow Transport. The project involves restoring the monument of architecture, adding a new underground floor and a new entrance, as well as a whole park. The implementation is already underway.
Houses by the Lakeside
Approvals came for the project of a housing complex that DNK ag designed in Kazan. The complex is low-rise; its sections are designed as separate volumes united by a common podium. Everything is very much like DNK: delicate and sometimes even lyrical, especially where the yard meets the lakeshore.
Exemplary Adaptation
In Novosibirsk, the construction of a school has been completed, whose project is standing every chance to set a new standard for the nation’s educational institutions. SVESMI Architects and Brusnika company started by developing the brief that would answer the modern teaching practices, and then they proposed the optimum plan, versatile classrooms, and reserved, yet expressive, image in the spirit of this Amsterdam alliance.
Terra Incognita
An 800-room hotel complex, designed by Ginzburg Architects, offers the seaside city of Anapa a fragment of well-organized urban environment that keeps up the cultural spirit of the place. The architects break away from traditional white facades, turning to the antique and even archaic periods of the history of this land, and drawing inspiration in the color of red clay and simple, yet lightweight, shapes.
In Plumage Colors
Working on the facades of a mid-rise residential area in Odintsovsky district, GENPRO architects “adjusted” a number of features of the volumetric composition, which they received without the right to make any changes to, by purely “decorative” means, such as ornamental brickwork, including glazed bricks and the rhythm of the windows. Interestingly, the starting point in the search for the color code was the plumage of birds that are found in the Moscow region.
Julius Borisov: “The “Island” housing complex is a unique project – we took it on with...
One of the largest housing projects of today’s Moscow – the “Ostrov” (“Island”) housing complex built by Donstroy – is now being actively built in the Mnevniky Floodplain. They are planning to build about 1.5M square meters of housing on an area of almost 40 hectares. We are beginning to examine this project– first of all, we are talking to Julius Borisov, the head of the architectural company UNK, which works with most of the residential blocks in this grand-scale project, as well as with the landscaping part; the company even proposed a single design code for the entire territory.