Chief Architect of Moscow Sergey Kuznetsov: "Perhaps someday we will decide to spend money on bright buildings that produce a wow effect, but it makes no sense to make artificial islands or underground cities"

Chief Architect of Moscow Sergey Kuznetsov: "Perhaps someday we will decide to spend money on bright buildings that produce a wow effect, but it makes no sense to make artificial islands or underground cities"
Chief Architect of Moscow Sergey Kuznetsov: "Perhaps someday we will decide to spend money on bright buildings that produce a wow effect, but it makes no sense to make artificial islands or underground cities"

What will be built in Moscow instead of the project of the famous architect Norman Foster "Crystal Island" and the tower "Russia"? What is the problem with the architecture of the capital? Will newfangled trends of futurism and environmental friendliness of architectural structures be introduced in our country? What unique urban development projects should appear in the main Russian city? These questions of Naked Science were answered by the chief architect of Moscow Sergey Kuznetsov.


Sergey Olegovich Kuznetsov

Chief Architect of Moscow (since August 21, 2012), Deputy Chairman of the Moscow Committee for Architecture, Chairman of the Architectural Council of Moscow and the Urban Planning Council of the Skolkovo Foundation, Honorary Professor of the Moscow Architectural Institute (MARHI), Corresponding Member of the Russian Academy of Arts.

Main buildings

Moscow: residential complex "Granatny 6", office building on Leninsky Prospekt, microtown "In the forest" (Moscow region)

Kazan: Palace of Water Sports

Berlin: Museum of Architectural Graphics

Sochi: media center of the Olympic Games in Sochi, sea resort "Federation Island", competition project of the stadium for the opening of the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, multifunctional complex with apartments "Actor-Galaxy"

More than 50 projects have been developed under the leadership of Sergey Kuznetsov, many of which have already been built.

© "Moscow Architectural Council"

Sergey Olegovich, our questions generally concern innovative architectural solutions that are being implemented today in Russia, in particular, in Moscow. Which of them are feasible to apply today, but for various reasons they are not being implemented?

- In terms of innovation, in terms of engineering solutions, Moscow is embedded in the global network of engineering know-how, and I would not say that we do not implement something that is abroad. This is more of a question of price: there are expensive technologies that are irrational to use, and there are more optimal ones.

In world architecture, in the works of such famous masters as Zaha Hadid, Norman Foster, Frank Gehry and others, various futuristic solutions, environmental friendliness, ergonomics, "mimicry" for the environment, etc. are in vogue today. Are there any prospects that such trends will be introduced in Moscow (or in other cities of the country)? Of course, there is no reason to expect a wide distribution of houses, for example, with solar panels in our latitudes, but still: what trends in this regard are already outlined today, and are they outlined at all?

- I would say that the topic of environmental friendliness, ergonomics and "mimicry" for the environment is only a trend that exists in the PR space. Yes, there are some design finds that have become characteristic of the style of Zaha Hadid or Frank Gehry. Norman Foster is simply committed to quality engineering that translates into good, functional architecture. But this is a phenomenon of a different order: that is, if Frank Gehry's building looks like a plant, this does not mean that it is very environmentally friendly and does not pollute the environment.Design issues have nothing to do with the "mimicry" for the environment, nor with environmental friendliness, nor with ergonomics. Such buildings are usually even less user-friendly and more expensive. These are just "postcard" things, it is good that they exist and become some kind of signs of their time, but in general it is an advertising picture. However, I think it will be interesting if some bright architectural events appear in Moscow - any metropolis will benefit from this.


Project "Crystal Island" / © Norman Foster - How do you generally feel about such futuristic trends? Are they appropriate everywhere? What is needed for their implementation in terms of government or business support?

- A certain fashion for a defiant "futuristic" design, in my opinion, has already begun to decline. Today, fashion is moving towards more functional items. "Relevance" refers to any style in architecture, not just futurism, and it is determined by the context, there are no general rules. As for the support of the state and business structures, very often theaters, museums and other state cultural institutions are becoming futuristic buildings that look very shocking. The state, as a rule, is ready to spend money on them, because, unlike private structures, it can afford larger investments without hoping for a return.

This, however, is uncharacteristic for our state, we have a lot of money, and very shocking buildings are not being built. I think this is correct, you just need to do projects with good architects, as reasonably as possible and within the limits of the available means. I think that sooner or later everyone will come to this. We already see that buildings of a defiant nature are now going to the "east", to China, for example, where either cheap labor and you can build something inexpensively and quickly, or just a lot of money.

Russia has its own specifics: we make things more rational, although the desire to make an impression is traditionally inherent in Russian architecture, and where it works, it can be done. For example, the Zaryadye park is a very interesting and innovative thing.

Zaryadye Park Project / © Diller Scofidio + Renfro

Are there any prospects that such ambitious projects as, for example, underwater cities will be developed in our country (the project of such a city, as you know, is being developed by the Japanese company Shimizu)? Maybe there are examples of at least individual elements of such serious projects?

- Again, the question is: why do you need to do this at all? There is a huge number of unused territories in Russia, and all these artificial islands, underground cities are an uncharacteristic product for the country. Perhaps someday we will decide to spend money on bright buildings that produce a wow effect, because there is a national attraction for this. But making islands or underground cities certainly doesn't make sense.

Is there, in your opinion, hope that interest in Norman Foster's Crystal Island and Russia Tower projects will be revived? For what reason were these projects stopped and what prospects might they have in the future?

- On the site of the "Crystal Island" an amusement park is already being implemented under the franchise of the American company Dreamworks, the point has been set. Instead of the tower "Russia", another project is also being implemented. There is no need to look for some kind of conspiracy or think that Norman Foster is not liked in Moscow. You just have to admit that the implementation of projects depends on private investors. From the project of the development of the museum town for the Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts, he actually left. For foreign architects, the implementation of projects in Russia is very hard work for a number of reasons.


Tower "Russia" / © Foster + Partners - What can you say about the state of affairs in the architecture of Moscow? What, in your opinion, are the main problems here?

- The main problem, in my opinion, is the mental level and system of values ​​of citizens and those who make certain decisions. People are massively not ready to accept bright, modern architecture. Only a few people like it.In Moscow and across the country, the situation is different. In the capital, it is better than the average in Russia: after all, in the capital we observe a concentration of architects, people involved in architecture, and we feel the support of the mayor of the city, who has an interest in bright, modern architecture. Therefore, there is hope that new projects will be of high quality and interesting.

Reconstruction project of the territory of the former ZIL plant / © LSR GROUP

What cities is Moscow close to in terms of its architectural style, if it is possible to classify cities on this basis?

- I would not put the question like that. Good cities are all different, which is why they are famous. Nobody would be interested in the same group. Yes, there are separate fragments of districts that may be similar to some other cities, but in general, the architecture of Moscow is unique.


The project of reconstruction of the Moskva River embankment by the architectural bureau "Meganom" / © "Meganom" - What promising projects do you plan for Moscow today? What new and interesting things should appear in our capital in the near future?

- Of course, I would like to mention the Zaryadye park project. An extremely important site - under the walls of the Kremlin, on the site of the demolished hotel "Russia". The project, based on the concept of an international consortium led by the American bureau Diller Scofidio + Renfro, is a unique multi-layer structure that will create a whole encyclopedia of Russian natural zones in the very center of Moscow. The use of sustainable development and climate management technologies will provide comfort for park visitors all year round. The construction of the park's facilities has already begun. The completion date is known - 2017.

The most ambitious project to be implemented in Moscow is the development and reorganization of the coastal areas of the city's main waterway, the Moskva River. Its implementation is divided into several stages and will generally take over thirty years. The project involves, in particular, a number of measures to improve the ecology of the river, including through innovative methods of water purification.

In addition, a number of "piece" projects are being implemented in accordance with the framework concept for the development of the river, determined by the results of an international competition. Take the same park "Zaryadye", during the construction of which one more pedestrian embankment will appear. Taking into account the use of the potential of the Moscow River, such promising points as the territory of the former ZIL automobile plant and the Mnevnikovskaya floodplain, where it is planned to build a parliamentary center, will be developed. This is a very important feature of the modern urban planning policy of Moscow: all new projects do not live on their own, but complement each other.

The interview was published in the journal Naked Science (# 20, July-August 2015).

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