27 May 2019

Sergey Oreshkin: ‘St. Petersburg Has Changed for the Better in Last 20 Years’

Sergey Oreshkin is an architect, SPbGASU alumnus, member of the St. Petersburg Government Urban Council, Chair of the Committee of Urban Planning and Architecture of the Russian Guild of  Managers and Developers, Member of the Board of St. Petersburg Union of Architects, corresponding member of MААМ-IAAM (International Academy of Architecture). His projects were awarded with Vladimir Tatlin Prize and the St. Petersburg Government Prize in Culture and Art.

Сергей Орешкин интервью

 'A. Len' architectural bureau he is  the leader of is known for its design projects in St. Petersburg: the Marine Façade  Passenger Port; a modernist style residential house at 16 Chapaeva str.;  the Ice Hockey City complex for the SKA Sports Club; numerous residential complexes, public and business buildings

When did you undestand you wanted to become an architect and study at Leningrad Civil Engineering Institute (LISI)?

After the arts school, I entered Serov Art College. But then I was all about archaeology, so I changed my mind  and tried to enroll to the Faculty of Restoration. Funny enough, I was recommended to go back to the Faculty of Arts. I felt insulted, retrieved my documents and enrolled to the Architectural College. I graduated from it with honours and was recommended for enrollment to LISI but failed the exams. In the result of this I served for two years in the army, than took a course at the LISI preparatory Department and then got enrolled to the Institute.

Who would you name as your teacher?

When I was a first-year student, an aged man approached me. We had a talk, then someone told me that it was Lazar Khidekel. By then I already knew him  as one of the fathers of Suprematism and a genius architect.  He took me to the architect shop of his son Mark and Oleg Romanov, the present Chair of  the St. Petersburg Union of Architects.

Lazar and Mark Khidekel produced a strong influence on me, but I would also name  Vladimir Antoshchenkov, my teacher at LISI, a unique person.

What do you think about present-day SPbGASU graduates?

They are the same as us except they haven’t served in the military. There  happen  both bright and unremarkable waves of students. They alll imagine themselves Le Corbusiers when they merely make anything decent.

Sadly, but young architect students do not know Russian architects, and of foreign architects they know only a handful of superstars like Zaha Hadid.

What is your attitude to the fact that modern architecture  is becoming more synthetic and influenced by other branches of arts and science?

Painting is the closest to architecture form of arts, but today it has abandoned architecture. There are examples  when architects use the sculpture, reliefs and mosaic. For example, the neo-classic Galeria Mall by Vladimir Grigoriev.  Yevgeny Gerasimov includes quite a few sculpture elements in his designs.  However, the arts is not present in the architecture of the 21th century. Anyway, my bureau is now working on a project which will have modern sculpture in context.

Today, no one conducts sociological, philosophical, and cultural studies of modern architecture. All former research units of design institutes were closed down, and the government had been investing in them for 70 years. Dissertations were defended; recommendations were issued to the state. Had such studies been carried out lately, it would’ve been possible to predict the depressive development of some of the construction development areas of St. Petersburg, such as Kudrovo and Murino.

Would you expect these districts to become home for the poor with some elements of ghettos?

There still is a chance to correct the situation. There are limits on the minimum number of people per unit area based on 28 sq.m per person. However, in the studios of 24 sq.m often live up to three people. In these areas, there are problems of parking, walking areas, lack of shopping complexes. Had there been a program of studying the depressive development vector of these areas, a solution for these problems could have been found.

The population density is very high in new residential buildings; 25-storey houses are built in Murino. They have acute transportation problems there, along with the employment issues.

What projects of your bureau you consider the most significant?

The most interesting one is the Golden City on the hydraulic fill of Vasilyevsky Island developed by Glorax Development. We have won an international tender for this project together with KCAP (the Netherlands).

Комплекс Голден Сити Глоракс Девелопмент

This will be a landmark project in which the idea of a thin spire will be implemented without violation of the city panorama. A modern configuration dominant will appear

Another signature design project is the Ice Hockey City complex for the SKA Sports Club on Rossiyskiy Prospekt. Its expressiveness is reached though its simplicity. We have used the best tool of the Russian avant-garde, the console, characterizing the fight against the gravitation in architecture.

Хоккейный город на Российском проспекте д.6

One can trace the image of the ice and glimpses of hockey players on the ice. This avant-garde design project received good references

Last year, we accomplished the project of Mercury Hotel in Saransk for FIFA 2018.

Hotel Mercure Saransk Center на Коммунистической 37

This was a tough project, but they did it!

At the moment, we are working on a series of buildings in Voronezh, together with our partners from Rotterdam (the Netherlands). Rotterdam is one of the centers of European architecture. World-class architects, such as Rem Koolhaas work there. This city was destroyed during WW2 and that gave chances to many Dutch architects to make their names.

The Dutch architects are supported by the state, which allocates a lot of money for them to be able to work in other countries, Russia in particular.

Should the state influence the architectural process?

It must. All around the world, architects get support but we do not feel that in Russia. The rules and laws governing the architectural activity, just as the Town Planning Code, have been written by builders. Criticism of the President of the Russian Union of Architects Alexander V. Bokov was ignored.

In St. Petersburg, everything built before 1917 is taken under protection. But the architecture of later periods must also be protected! The post-war Stalinist architecture, the Soviet functional realism are appealing and interesting. They were going to demolish the SKK, and this is a unique structure with the largest in the world membrane. There were attempts to bulldoze the Pulkovo airport and the Marine Passenger Terminal on Vasilyevsky Island! These were perfect works of Soviet architects.

How do architects and clients form their relations nowadays?

We are suffering from the dictates of the clients. Our bureau can afford choosing the clients. We do not work with those who try to impose their will on us. Creating a design project is possible only with mutual respect.

Will the Law on architectural activities be adopted?

It had a sad fate. Architects have no lobby in the State Duma, while the builders’ lobby is quite powerful there. This is a ghastly mistake, because they themselves would not want to live in the environment they create. The Urban Planning Code, a document according to which the country develops and creates comfortable conditions for its citizens, comprises nothing about architecture.

What appealing buildings have appeared in St. Petersburg in the last 15 years?

Classicist Sergey Gerasimov has come up with interesting jobs: the “Russian House”, the “Venice” project on Krestovsky Island. A landmark project is the “Gallery” by Vladimir Grigoriev, which is popular with all segments of the population. Quite impressive is his “Four Horizons” house, a sort of an appeal to postmodernism. Another solid work is the house of architect Mamoshin on Chernyshevsky Prospekt. A true architectural event was the reconstruction of the General Staff by Nikita Yavein. The stadium on Krestovsky Island by architect Kisa Kurakawa makes quite an impression. If its construction had not been accompanied by corruption scandals, it would have been a world-level landmark project. Anyway, everyone going to the WHSD gets stunned with an amazing view of the Lakhta Center and the stadium. The international airport is another interesting project. The “Neva Town Hall” by Sergey Gerasimov is rather impressive, but this project would have looked better in a park. Krestovsky Island is now a reserve of modern architecture: there are about 40 interesting new buildings. Overall, in the past 20 years, quite a few interesting buildings have appeared in St. Petersburg. The city has changed.

Interviewed by Elena Shulgina
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