Founder of the architectural bureau UNLAB
Founder of the architectural bureau UNLAB
—Which trends exist in the modern architecture, what do you like and don’t?
— The aims is to build upon the prospective role architecture, as a powerful tool, can play in envisioning the future of our cities. While the future of cities, metropolises and urban regions is considered the biggest challenge of the twenty-first century, architecture cannot answer to that through sculptural buildings that could land in nearly any city following a tendency towards a generic architecture for generic cities. I am really focused on the specific question of the future of the city because there is no architecture without city and vice versa. At the end of the last century, and under the influence of globalisation and privatisation, the evolution of the city that was sprawling into the countryside, has been considered ever less manageable – and therefore also no longer the field of imagination and speculation. Since the beginning of this century, and under the influence of increased conscience with regard to the worldwide urbanization currently taking place, the development of cities – and therefore the ‘architecture of the city’ – is again at the centre of political and architectural debate. But as a consequence, also the question “in what “way” ought we to build”, is again at the centre of the debate. The fact that now our cities, are currently inhabited by a diverse population and different buildings, belonging to a variety of periods, etc… renders this question even more pertinent. Of what kind of collective city-project can architecture be the emblem, the face and representation? How can an architectural project for a city be the expression of an alternative view on the collective nature of the city? This is the challenge that confronts both architects, politicians and citizens, and it can be central for promoting a Eurasian project based in Ekaterinburg as an City LAB.
— Which problems have industrial cities and how can become smart?
– It is not an easy task to redefine the industrial cycle but there are a lot of potential to be considered. Depending on the type of industries, in general, cities hosting a big industrial infrastructure need to find new opportunities to convert and transform them into a more complex relationship with the city and the territory. Former Industrial cities need a distinct and precise answer on how to deal with large-scale industrial heritage. They need to shift from a mono production into a multiple combination of functions and services. In order to become a smart industrial city is important to understand the connection with other infrastructures. The new infrastructure added on to the existing one will promote other and necessary values for the society and becoming a new economic opportunity. I think we need to consider also new types (i.e. creative industries) capable to transform ideas into new products both: material and immaterial. Industry should become the “incubator of innovation.” For example, Skolkovo offers a new paradigm for a sustainable city, but being at the same time an industrial incubator.
— If the problems of the modern cities is its aliens and loneliness of the person. How to make cities friendlier to people?
– The modern city was based on other necessity and other ways of living. But in itself the size of roads and buildings belonging to the time can be converted into new public spaces and new clusters promoting a variety of function: public and private. Our task as architects is to consider the overlapping and the stratification of different layers towards a more sustainable living condition. The “sustainability concept” is virtually the only possible model of land development under pressure of the global market that is able to secure a balance between higher living standards, environmental needs and economic demands. Urban development is an important aspect of the global marketplace and will radically affect the future of cities in the coming decades. Being a “sustainable city” and a “friendly city” aim therefore at becoming an operating guideline model which balances the ever shifting economic, social and ecological aspects of urban development.
The mobility aspect, besides the necessity to open new spaces that redefine the social dimension are at the basement of making our cities friendlier, depending also on specific issues.
— One of the trends of modern housing is wood housing, how do you estimate this trend?
– Wood buildings are not a new trend. What it is new is that now is a possible and potential business. Of course, those buildings are now part of what can be considered sustainable. In order to build using wood is needed a program and model that take in consideration the balance between the demand and the offer and using it carefully way. Today there are different standards regarding wood constructions but this doesn’t mean that we have to use only that. There are also costs of maintenance that we have to consider and those related to environmental issues and benefits.
— How do you estimate Russian architects? Is there any special Russian style? does exist or not?
– Well, to this question I can answer by saying that, Russian and especially Soviet design, some of it, anyway, occupies pride of place in nearly all foundation myths of modern architecture. No chronicle of 20th-century building design would be complete without homages to Melnikov, Ginzburg, the Vesnin brothers, and their confreres in the avant-garde architecture circles of 1920s Moscow. Yet the ensuing decades of Soviet architecture usually receive short shrift, if any – perhaps a note about eclectic Stalinist skyscrapers, or a fleeting mention of the Khrushchev -backed rehabilitation of Modernism. The architect Igor Vinogradsky, for instance, was a prolific designer of Modernist public buildings from the 1960s through the 1980s, but remains a virtual unknown. There are many buildings and studies that are an integral part of a cultural heritage but when I refer to Russian architects my thinking goes in the 20s and 30s. That architecture was a way for writing a narrative, with buildings instead of words. Something that today we have to reconsider within a totally different society and context.
— Your impressions on Arch Eurasia and the Eurasian prize. What, in your opinion should be strengthened, what topics to be discussed next time, how to diversify the event and how to attract foreign architects as experts?
— First, I want to say that it has been a pleasure to be awarded and taking part at this event. The variety of events, presentations, exhibitions make this destination an epicenter for exchanging and building up an important knowledge and awareness to issues that are shared by all of us.
Dialogue is clearly crucial and having a platform of experts is essential and necessary at the same time. There are multiple topics to be discussed but also to be addressed politically, potentially through a strategic project involving local and international stakeholders. So, I think that it would be nice to establish a platform and a team of experts (international and local) that are working together on specific issues, on specific areas and/or Russian cities. It would be interesting that Ekaterinburg with its strategic location promotes itself as the epicenter of a new platform of exchange with the rest of the world. A perfect place to establish a “geopolitical space” between Europe and Asia capable to project a new geopolitical public space as a new prototype unique in its kind and a base principal to achieve recognition.
This particular social context demands a custom-made assessment of each vector in order to define its future guiding principles. Therefore, it can never be literally copied from another context. Importing a model from abroad will not produce “sustainable” results in the long run. Therefore, my point of view puts a strong emphasis of achieving high quality pro-active strategies that are highly specific and contextual as a way of achieving a successful future. The collaborative effort created made possible a shift in the conversation and it is precisely the integration of these ideas that will add value to the next events. As such, I am looking forward to all forms of collaboration, both with international as well as Russian colleagues.