Andrei ASADOV belongs to the generation of young architects, but he has got a lot of successful projects appreciated by architectural community. Together with his father, architect Alexander ASADOV, he works for the “ASADOV architectural bureau” brand. In tandem with his brother, Nikita, he is a supervisor of some festivals “Zodchestvo”. And recently, he again got in the center of public attention due to the 30th anniversary of the Asadov’s bureau creative work and famous exhibition “Russian Architecture. The newest era”, where he was one of the organizers.
The attempt to summarize the 30-year-long experience of architecture development triggered a great many questions about architecture in general, modern architecture, and the architect’s values, and we asked Andrei ASADOV to answer them.
In the 1990ies we had creative freedom, and now “ratio” is the main trend
- Andrei, what difficulties, from your point of view did those who started architectural cooperation in the 90ies come across? What difficulties did you personally face starting your work as an architect, and what problems are acute for an architect at the moment?
- Architects’ elder generation, including my father, Alexander Asadov, grew as authors in the 1990ies, my professional “getting adult” took place in the 2000s. And today’s architects are the generation of the second decade of the XXI century. While preparing our investigation “Russian Architecture. The newest era” we imagined the whole picture and saw a specific evolution of Russian architecture.
Architect Andrei Asadov
In the 90ies a customer gave an architect maximum freedom, so to say carte-blanche. The main difficulty was the absence of rules and regulations, everything went on spontaneously.
In the first decade of the century, scales of orders grew many-fold. Investors became more understanding, but still they were ready to experiment in architecture, to adopt bright and non-standard solutions.
Presently, I should say, everything is much more rational: a customer has become more experienced and uses more lean approaches.
Nevertheless, young architects of today have much more opportunities than we had. New niches appear, for example city improvement, where a young architect may express himself. The state authorities start to pay attention to the quality of the environment
Additionally, Moskomarchitecture provides promotion to young architects organizing different competitions and thus giving them an opportunity to receive interesting projects.
The “Russian architecture. The newest era” exhibition took place in the Architecture Museum named after Schusev.
- An interesting project was implemented at one of the Zodchestvo festivals: architects were suggested to re-interpret some old buildings, to assign them a new functionality. If you had such an opportunity, which building would you like to renovate?
- To my mind, any industrial architecture, the one of plants and manufactures situated in the center of a Russian city has a potential of reinterpreting and renovation. Especially is it goes about historical factories of the XIX century, with red-brick industrial buildings with outstanding design.
And it is a very decent and noble task to re-function them and turn into the points of the city cultural growth. I think such renovation is very productive and important for Russia.
- Who is your favorite architect and why?
- There are different architects. While studying, I was inspired by the creative work of Frank Lloyd Wright, one of the founders of modernism. I adored his concept of organic architecture. Wright proved that new architecture can be in harmony with nature and city landscape.
Speaking about modern topnotchers, I admire architects of different schools. The main thing is that their creative work should contain some liveliness, original concept, a new idea. For example, the BIG studio (architectural bureau with offices in Copehagen and New-York headed by famous Danish architect Bjarke Ingels – E.M.). They play architecture as if it were children's blocks, collecting incredible combinations.
The “Russian Europe in Kaliningrad” residential complex – an example of housing of the future
Or more emotional Herzog and de Meron with their lyrics and imagination in every project. Even more, I like architects, not so famous but who have something irrational in their architecture.
…Recently, my family and I traveled round Denmark and saw diverse projects. And I was deeply impressed by a building by Danish architect Olafur Eliasson. He is a sculptor, by his first profession, and you feel it in his project. The building stands out against a background of common housing development with its fantastic roundness, it is a sculpture-building striking with its irrationality.
Any solution containing some irrationality is congenial to me.
Airport in Saratov
New housing: formats will stay but services will change
- What challenges will an architect face in the nearest future (I mean new formats such as co-living, temporal housing, new relationship between people, the necessity to master new design technologies, applied to new environment – under water or in space)?
- You are right speaking about new housing formats. Currently, we see a general trend to remake communal houses which were popular in the 1920ies: co-living appears (that is houses for people of different generations), temporal housing (an apartment a person rents when he needs it).
It’s a kind of come-back but in new quality: co-living is characterized with both shared housing and shared vehicle, furniture, appliances, etc. Of course, it is a different mode of life, But though housing is a traditional niche, its design will not change much even is it is owned by several people, but a set of functions will change for sure.
As far as relationship between people is concerned, a world-wide trend is focused on the idea that the most precious thing in a city or town is a space for communication and interaction.
Each building must have such spaces, and they will be specially designed. That’s what architects will think about leaving technical tasks to machines.
Health care center in Skolkovo
- What might such public spaces look like?
- These are public-facing lounge areas with cafes, recreational zones, sports grounds and cultural areas. A kind of city life inside a building. And due to such organization, a building will add much to a city and enrich it instead of just occupying some place.
- Do you apply BIM technologies? What is your attitude to computer architecture, when a machine calculates everything instead of an architect?
- Adopting new technologies is inevitable – we live in a highly competitive environment. To say nothing of automated design technologies which will be used very soon for creation of some simple objects. An architect will not be needed in standard solutions.
But unique objects will require the creativity of a talented architect. And his task, and his value, will be in creation of non-trivial, non-standard design solutions. An architect will have more time for creative work, and a computer program will deal with the routine.
It is the Man, not a machine, who is able to think of the architecture to help people develop and grow spiritually.
«Angel wing» and «space wave» - we are for images in architecture
- Do you thing a professional architect must be able to draw? In general, what professional skills must he have?
- Drawing is not obligatory but very desirable and useful. One may express the ideas clearly by hand – it is an instrument to translate ideas into reality.
As far as skills are concerned, they are diverse: non-standard thinking, overview of commonly adopted norms and regulations – and ability to look into the future, communication skills, the ability to unite people round an idea and implement it.
- Must an architect take the national peculiarities of the country of his origin into account? Or is architecture international nowadays?
- The main-stream demolishes border-lines between counties, and it is important to try to understand the specificity, original characteristics of every region and city. At least, our bureau tries hard to do it in our projects, for example airports.
In compliance with all functional requirements we design the image of the building which will serve as an identity card for the region as a whole.
For example, two projects (the twins having the same plan) – the Saratov and the Perm airports, by means of architecture we managed to make them absolutely different: in Perm it reminds the angel wing, referring to the collection of Orthodox wooden sculpture kept in the city, and in Saratov, it is made in the form of a space wave, as the airport is named after Yury Gagarin (Gagarin studied in Saratov, and during his first flight into space landed not far from the city) It is much more interesting to stay inside a building if it delivers the spirit of a place.
In the Zodchestvo festival halls (the festival supervised by Andrei and Nikita Asadovs)
Ideas are good but quality is to be struggled for
- Of course, it is very complicated to assess the creative work of colleagues (they may get offended). And still, do you think that the newest Russian architecture exists as a phenomenon? Or is it only good well-made architecture?
- In my opinion, as far as ideas are concerned, Russian architects are every bit as good as their western colleagues. But we are to improve the quality of the ideas implementation. All professionals should unite showing the importance of genuine non-standard solutions and their role in objects capitalization.
Any house with unique architecture is known to be much more expensive from commercial point of view. That is, the value of a non-standard idea may be calculated, it is real.
It has already been proved that, expenses being the same, the unique image by recognizable author increases the value of the project significantly. It is important that a customer should understand it and be ready to invest in the project, which is by the way cheaper in Russia than in western countries compared to the cost of construction work. To survive, an architect has to restrict his intellectual efforts, to compromise creating simpler solutions.
It is very important to control the implementation of the ideas included in the project. An architect interested in the quality of implementation should be given an opportunity to follow the process of construction and attract actively to construction supervision.
- How would you define the style of modern architecture? Or do we live outside styles?
- We rather live in polyphony of styles, in diversity of approaches and solutions. There is an international main-stream and there are local findings.
Grand style often arises in totalitarian societies, with clearly determined ideology. And in the modern world, the society changes very fast looking for itself. It is such a historic, civilization period, And architecture impresses it.
There is a trend of ecological architecture, bionic architecture, parametric one, there are more clear and rational trends, and classical architecture is demanded. That is what I mean a polyphony of ideas.
- Do you determine your style in any way?
- I adhere to imaginative unique architecture charged with positive energy. I would put it like that. I prefer emotional solutions: sometimes they may be reserved, sometimes – open and bright.
Anyway, I want to create architecture which touches human feelings, empowers and inspires the man, and even improves his health. Like the medical center which we designed (International health care cluster in Skolkovo, 2018 – E.M.).
It is not in vain that the motto of our bureau has become the phrase: “We open cities for inspiration”. And we see our mission in creating architecture inspiring people.
- Do you see talented people among young architects who can achieve much and move architecture forward ?
- Yes, I see a lot of gifted young architects. It is not so easy for them to exist in the profession either: It’s rather difficult to get involved in a large project (it is available only for large and experienced teams and bureaux). That is why they mainly deal with interior design and city space improvement. Nevertheless, there are a lot of interesting works by young architects.
Youth is ambitious, initiating and enterprising. And they are capable of moving architecture forward. They have free, non-restricted architectural thinking, they are in tune with the world architectural community and they are aimed at serious results.
Additionally, they have a lot of opportunities presently – much more than we used to have — there are regular competitions, and it is a real opportunity to get involved in a significant project.
Airport in Perm
We have tried to be most objective
- Andrei, you became a supervisor of the “Russian Architecture. The newest era” project. The project itself and the exhibition accompanying it is an attempt to summarize the development of the Russian architecture during thirty years. The exhibition is much spoken about. But I would like to ask you about quite a different thing… It must have been very difficult to select thirty best projects to be presented at the exhibition. Were there a lot of arguing?
- We created a system eliminating subjective approach to a maximum extent. Our team consisting of my brother Nikita Asadov, Elena Petukhova, one of editors of the Archi.ru website, Yulia Shishalova, editor-in-chief of the Project Russia journal, and me, developed special questionnaires with the long-list of objects chosen according to mentioning in media. Each participant of the poll had an opportunity to add his own events or projects. The questionnaires were sent to more than 300 respondents – journalists, critics, architects. And when we received the results, the projects mentioned in the study more often became the participants of the exhibition.
But this does not mean that the chosen thirty are absolute, we do not pretend our survey is full. We want it to be an open system which may be added. That why we made a website www.archnewage.ru with history in events, buildings and faces. We would like everybody who is willing to get acquainted with the history of the newest Russian architecture with the help of our website, and understand that architecture is a kind of art in which we constantly exist.
- …Some visitors were sorry that the architecture of Nizhny Novgorod of the 1990ies did not get into the list of the 30 outstanding. It is acknowledged to be a phenomenon in the modern Russian architecture (at that time Alexander Kharitonov was the city Chief Architect)…
- I admit that regional architecture is insufficiently presented because not all regional participants of our poll cared to answer. We were interested in as wide review as possible. Presently, we plan to add to the project via the website.
A monograph is issued after the exhibition, so we have three formats of the project result: exhibitions, books and a website. So I think that now the newest Russian architecture is not terra incognita for the Russians.