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Evgeny Gerasimov: “You need to run twice as fast”

In this article, we are speaking to Evgeny Gerasimov about the book released to mark the 30th anniversary of his architectural company, about his activities as the chairman of the Union of Architectural Companies, and his plans for the future.

19 August 2022
Interview
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“Evgeny Gerasimov and Partners” has turned 30. Formally, the anniversary was celebrated in 2021, but, due to the pandemic restrictions, the exhibition – the traditional part of the celebration – had to be canceled. On the upside, nothing could stop the book from being published.

The book is very much like the company’s projects – once you notice it on the shelf you will want to touch it and see how it’s wired. There are three sections, one for each decade, hidden under the dust jacket with a silver cutout, stylized, perhaps, after the drawings by El Lisitsky. Here is crème de la crème: 38 top projects done by the company, from the townhouses in Kupchino to the Alcon Tower in Moscow. Each of the projects is accompanied by sketches, short, yet informative, annotations, written by Anna Martovitskaya, and a multitude of photographs that allow you to take in the details. At the end, there is a consolidated catalog of projects and buildings, which already includes 83 projects. The press run of the book was only 1000 copies; you can buy one in the company’s HQ or in the Subscription Editions store.

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    Fragment of the book “Evgeny Gerasimov and Partners”, 1991-2021
    Copyright: © image courtesy by Evgeny Gerasimov and Partners
  • zooming
    Fragment of the book “Evgeny Gerasimov and Partners”, 1991-2021
    Copyright: © image courtesy by Evgeny Gerasimov and Partners


We talked to Evgeny Gerasimov in order to mark the next milestone in the company’s history. The interview about the previous “five-year plan” is available here
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Archi.ru
What do you think of the last 5 years in terms of developing your company? What has changed, and what is changing?

Evgeny Gerasimov: 
The company keeps on rolling – we develop our professional competences, try to work in different styles, keep on growing, and try to make sure that we don’t rest on our laurels. The company keeps reinventing itself – today we have a lot of young people working for us, and, on the whole, our number shrank but we have no issue with it: fewer projects spell better quality. I am still pressed for time because I still check out the details of every project. Currently, we have 115 employees; there are still five partners, me included, and each Chief Architect is in charge of four or five projects.

Multifunctional complex “Alcon III” on Leningradsky Avenue in Moscow. Project, 2014
Copyright: © Evgeny Gerasimov and Partners


After sanctions were imposed on Russia, we have certain difficulties with procuring construction materials, but these are not fatal, and at any rate solvable. There are domestic manufacturers, and there are a lot of stone analogues in the markets not affected by the sanctions. In addition, the production of brick is developing in Russia. The sanctions only pushed our development forward.

In recent years, you have been investing more time in the publishing agenda of your company (books about Dmitry Kryzhanovsky and Alexander Lishevsky – editor’s note), as well as supporting artists. Why? What is the purpose of all this?

The exhibitions are embodiment of my collector’s activity: this is the way it was with the collection of graphics by Solomon Yudovin, who drew his pictures in the besieged Leningrad, then with pastel paintings by Jan Antonyshev, and my participation in the “Deineka/Samokhvalov” project. Recently, me and my wife Julia created the DICTUM FACTUM foundation, and we publish books about architects of Saint Petersburg, as well as support projects in the sphere of art – for example, we organized an exhibition of lithographic pictures by Olga Vasilyeva.

Multifunctional complex “Tsarev Garden” on the Sofiyskaya embankment in Moscow
Copyright: Evgeny Gerasimov and Partners © Photo by Dmitry Chebanenko


You also have charity architectural projects.

Yes, a cross has already been erected on the dome of the church of St. John of Kronstadt. The construction work is not moving as fast as we would like it to be but we will make sure to complete this project. We also do not give up hope that the city will allow the Dostoevsky Museum to be realized – all the residents of the apartments that existed next to the museum have been provided with new housing, and we are waiting for the land site to be officially provided to us.

Solomon Yudovin exhibition in the Stroganovsky Palace
Copyright: © image courtesy by Evgeny Gerasimov and Partners


In 2021, you became the chairman of the Union of Architectural Companies. What does the Union do now, and what has changed under your supervision? Are we waiting for an architectural biennale?

We have developed and registered the new charter of the Union. There are 16 members in it now. We are very happy to see new companies- these are Oleg Manov’s Futura Architects, Ilia Yusupov studio, Ingmar Vitvutsky studio, Valentin Logan’s SLOI, architectural bureau A2, Spetsrestavratsiya Institute, ASM studio, and Andrey Sharov is back again. We have already presented the anniversary XX annual edition, and in November we are planning to resume the architectural biennale. 

The Union of Architectural Companies is an association of producers of “architectural content”, i.e. design specifications and estimates. As opposed to the Union of Architects, it includes not just private individuals but legal entities as well. If we are to compare this with soccer, then the Union of Architectural companies is an association of clubs, and the Union of Architects is an association of players. We exchange information, discuss topical issues, and develop professional recommendations.

Fragment of the book “Evgeny Gerasimov and Partners”, 1991-2021
Copyright: © image courtesy by Evgeny Gerasimov and Partners


In one of your five year old interviews you reproached modern architecture for absence of beauty. Have things improved since then in this sense? And, more broadly – what does beauty in architecture mean to you?

Regretfully, in many respects, modernist architecture is not beautiful. The word “beauty” has been bastardized, and the skill of drawing is substituted by the skill of talking about innovations and sustainability. Marketing spins can sell whatever you want: when people need to sell ugly things, they will develop all sorts of rationale, and they will tell you that this is the next big thing. You don’t have to explain why the paintings by Leonardo are beautiful, but you do have to explain this about the Black Square. It’s the same way with modern architecture – it’s all about fancy talk. Real mastery is valued less and less, and the skill of presenting yourself more and more. But those who do have mastery needn’t pay attention to that and just keep on doing their work. 

Today, you need to build (a) a lot (b) cheap, and (c) something that looks different, and, as a result, architecture turns into some sort of expo business, like packaging design. But people soon get tired of the packaging, you need to invent something new, and this cycle grows ever shorter, as if you were selling handbags or something. There is real architecture that is meant to last for a long time, and it is done by a limited number of architects and developers – like haute cuisine – and there is architectural fast food meant to satisfy people’s need for housing. These are two different genres.

Residential complex “LEGENDA Sampsonievskogo”
Copyright: © Evgeny Gerasimov and Partners


What goals do you set for yourself, what would you want to achieve, what new genre would you like to try your hand at?

The goal is still pretty much the same – to build good houses. This is what we do for a living, this is how we create workplaces, and this is what we pay taxes from. Our forte is housing of the category above average, this is the main bulk of our company’s product. We are ready to try something different, but our main goals never change. However, just to stay where you are you need to run twice as fast.
esidential complex “Russian House”. Evgeny Gerasimov and Partners
Copyright: Photograph © Andrey Belimov-Gushchin
Art View House on the Moika Waterfront
Photograph © Andrey Belimov-Gushchin / Evgeniy Gerasimov & partners


19 August 2022

Headlines now
The Secret Briton
The house is called “Little France”. Its composition follows the classical St. Petersburg style, with a palace-like courtyard. The decor is on the brink of Egyptian lotuses, neo-Greek acroteria, and classic 1930s “gears”; the recessed piers are Gothic, while the silhouette of the central part of the house is British. It’s quite interesting to examine all these details, attempting to understand which architectural direction they belong to. At the same time, however, the house fits like a glove in the context of the 20th line of St. Petersburg’s Vasilievsky Island; its elongated wings hold up the façade quite well.
The Wrap-Up
The competition project proposed by Treivas for the first 2021 competition for the Russian pavilion at EXPO 2025 concludes our series of publications on pavilion projects that will not be implemented. This particular proposal stands out for its detailed explanations and the idea of ecological responsibility: both the facades and the exhibition inside were intended to utilize recycled materials.
Birds and Streams
For the competition to design the Omsk airport, DNK ag formed a consortium, inviting VOX architects and Sila Sveta. Their project focuses on intersections, journeys, and flights – both of people and birds – as Omsk is known as a “transfer point” for bird migrations. The educational component is also carefully considered, and the building itself is filled with light, which seems to deconstruct the copper circle of the central entrance portal, spreading it into fantastic hyper-spatial “slices”.
Faraday Grid
The project of the Omsk airport by ASADOV Architects is another concept among the 14 finalists of a recent competition. It is called “The Bridge” and is inspired by both the West Siberian Exhibition of 1911 and the Trans-Siberian Railway bridge over the Irtysh River, built in 1896. On one hand, it carries a steampunk vibe, while on the other, there’s almost a sense of nostalgia for the heyday of 1913. However, the concept offers two variants, the second one devoid of nostalgia but featuring a parabola.
Midway upon the Journey of Our Life
Recently, Tatlin Publishing House released a book entitled “Architect Sergey Oreshkin. Selected Projects”. This book is not just a traditional book of the architectural company’s achievements, but rather a monograph of a more personal nature. The book includes 43 buildings as well as a section with architectural drawings. In this article, we reflect on the book as a way to take stock of an architect’s accomplishments.
Inverted Fortress
This year, there has been no shortage of intriguing architectural ideas around the Omsk airport. The project developed by the architectural company KPLN appeals to Omsk’s history as a wooden fortress that it was back in the day, but transforms the concept of a fortress beyond recognition: it “shaves off” the conical ends of “wooden logs”, then enlarges them, and then flips them over. The result is a hypostyle – a forest of conical columns on point supports, with skylights on top.
Transformation of Annenkirche
For Annenkirche (St. Anna Lutheran Church in St. Petersburg), Sergey Kuznetsov and the Kamen bureau have prepared a project that relies on the principles of the Venice Charter: the building is not restored to a specific date, historical layers are preserved, and modern elements do not mimic the authentic ones. Let’s delve into the details of these solutions.
The Paradox of the Temporary
The concept of the Russian pavilion for EXPO 2025 in Osaka, proposed by the Wowhaus architects, is the last of the six projects we gathered from the 2022 competition. It is again worth noting that the results of this competition were not finalized due to the cancellation of Russia’s participation in World Expo 2025. It should be mentioned that Wowhaus created three versions for this competition, but only one is being presented, and it can’t be said that this version is thoroughly developed – rather, it is done in the spirit of a “student assignment”. Nevertheless, the project is interesting in its paradoxical nature: the architects emphasized the temporary character of the pavilion, and in its bubble-like forms sought to reflect the paradoxes of space and time.
The Forum of Time
The competition project for the Russian Pavilion at EXPO 2025 in Osaka designed by Aleksey Orlov and Arena Project Institute consists of cones and conical funnels connected into a non-trivial composition, where one can feel the hand of architects who have worked extensively with stadiums and other sports facilities. It’s very interesting to delve into its logic, structurally built on the theme of clocks, hourglasses and even sundials. Additionally, the architects have turned the exhibition pavilion into a series of interconnected amphitheaters, which is also highly relevant for world exhibitions. We are reminding you that the competition results were never announced.
Mirrors Everywhere
The project by Sergey Nebotov, Anastasia Gritskova, and the architectural company “Novoe” was created for the Russian pavilion at EXPO 2025, but within the framework of another competition, which, as we learned, took place even earlier, in 2021. At that time, the competition theme was “digital twins”, and there was minimal time for work, so the project, according to the architect himself, was more of a “student assignment”. Nevertheless, this project is interesting for its plan bordering on similarity with Baroque projects and the emblem of the exhibition, as well as its diverse and comprehensive reflectiveness.
The Steppe Is Full of Beauty and Freedom
The goal of the exhibition “Dikoe Pole” (“Wild Field”) at the State Historical Museum was to move away from the archaeological listing of valuable items and to create an image of the steppe and nomads that was multidirectional and emotional – in other words, artistic. To achieve this goal, it was important to include works of contemporary art. One such work is the scenography of the exhibition space developed by CHART studio.
The Snowstorm Fish
The next project from the unfinished competition for the Russian Pavilion at EXPO 2025, which will be held in Osaka, Japan, is by Dashi Namdakov and Parsec Architects. The pavilion describes itself as an “architectural/sculptural” one, with its shape clearly reminiscent of abstract sculpture of the 1970s. It complements its program with a meditative hall named “Mendeleev’s Dreams”, and offers its visitors to slide from its roof at the end of the tour.
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.
Arch, Pearl, Wing, Wind
In the social media of the governor of the Omsk region, voting was conducted for the best project for the city’s new airport. We asked the finalists to send over their projects and are now showcasing them. The projects are quite interesting: the client requested that the building be visually permeable throughout, and the images that the architects are working with include arches, wings, gusts of wind, and even the “Pearl” painting by Vrubel, who was actually born in Omsk.
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.