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Enter Russia's Tiny Mud-Clad Museum for Rural Labour

Standing tall in the expansive landscape of Western Russia, the monolithic Museum for Rural Labor is an architectural beacon for the Kaluga Oblast region. Built of local straw and clay, the eight meter tower is comprised of one round sunlit room adorned with the instruments of manual labor. Jarring, unexpected and mysterious, the museum was conceived by Russian architects Sergei Tchoban and Agniya Sterligova to pay homage to the region's deep agricultural history. Defined by a stark and unorthodox form, the tower disrupts the Russian landscape while simultaneously serving as a wayfinding device for residents from the nearby village of Zvizzhi.

Enter the rudimentary world of the Museum for Rural Labour after the break.

© Dmitry Chebanenko © Dmitry Chebanenko © Dmitry Chebanenko © Dmitry Chebanenko

Examining OMA's Two Latest Venues for Contemporary Art

In an article for DesignCurial, Shumi Bose visits OMA's new galleries in Milan and Moscow: the Fondazione Prada and the Garage Museum of Contemporary Art. Noting that "the mythologies [between OMA and Miuccia Prada] have become inextricably intertwined" over recent years, "the purpose of [the Fondazione Prada] was to produce a range of spaces for the creation, display of and engagement with art; what results is the built realisation of a particular ethos, affording the protean OMA a return to form. And it was always going to be stylish." Bose's flowing description of the building and its spaces, which she ultimately praises as "a place which will bear return," leads into an equally compelling description of Garage for which she recognises its clear "contribution [...] in supporting, indeed composing, the very narrative of Russian contemporary art."

Spotlight: Konstantin Melnikov

Best known for the Rusakov Workers’ Club and his own house, Russian architect and painter Konstantin Melnikov (August 3rd, 1890 - November 28th, 1974) has only recently received his due, now more than forty years after his death. He spent much of the twentieth century shunned by the Soviet architectural establishment, having refused to capitulate to the increasingly conformist (and classicist) prescriptions of Stalinism. As a result, he was forced to end his career only a decade after it started, returning to his other avocation as a painter and leaving in his wake only a precious few completed works.

10 Shortlisted to Re-Envision Kazan's Kaban Lake Embankments

Ten finalist have been shortlisted as part of an open, two-stage competition set to redesign the Kaban lake system embankments in Kazan. Held under the authority of the Republic of Tatarstan Government, the competition will now ask the remaining teams to work on other town-planning projects in the Republic of Tatarstan held within the three context of the Water-Conservation Zones Year - in Kazan, Naberezhnye Chelny, Nizhnekamsk, Almetyevsk and other cities. Visiting sessions with the President of the Republic will be organized to introduce the context of the competition to the finalists.

The Winner will receive one million Rubles and a contract for the design project development of the future embankment.

The 10 remaining finalists are...

Nikolay Polissky Creates Towering, Handcrafted Structures Across Russia

Born in 1957 in Moscow, artist Nikolay Polissky creates impressive, handcrafted structures in the middle of Russia's vast landscapes. Mostly carried out in the town of Nikola Lenivets -- located 200 km from the Russian capital --  his works are built entirely by the area's residents, using local materials, such as branches, trunks and wooden tables. Traditional construction techniques are used as a starting point for the projects. 

His work is inspiring not only because of its imposing form, but also because he managed to re-activate a semi-abandoned village through art and architecture, involving residents in the creative process and transforming the region into a sort of open cultural center. Since 2003, his work has been part of Archstoyanie, the largest Land-Art festival in Russia.

Gates of Perm (2011). Image © Tima Radya Hyperboloid / Volcano (2009). Image Courtesy of Nikolay Polissky Lighthouse (2004). Image Courtesy of Nikolay Polissky Media tower (2002). Image Courtesy of Nikolay Polissky

Variant Studio's Moscow Metro Proposal: The World’s Quietest Metro Station?

When thinking of metro stations, the word quiet generally doesn’t come to mind—with all of the train and pedestrian traffic, not only is noise produced in high quantities, but it is also echoed. With this issue in mind, London-based Variant Studio created their proposal for the competition to design the new Novoperedelkino station in Moscow, Russia. Although not selected as the winning design, Variant was one of five shortlisted teams. Learn more about their silent proposal after the break. 

Metro Platform. Image Courtesy of Variant Studio Metro Tunnel. Image Courtesy of Variant Studio Courtesy of Variant Studio Courtesy of Variant Studio

10 Highlights from Guardian Cities' "History of Cities in 50 Buildings"

All good things must come to an end, and Guardian Cities' excellent "History of Cities in 50 Buildings" series is sadly no exception, with only a few more left to be published before they hit 50. The whole series is definitely worth the read, bringing in the best of academic and architectural writing from guest authors and the Guardian's own Cities team, but if you're strapped for time - and if you're an architect, it's fairly likely that's true - we've rounded up 10 highlights from the list to get you started.

Amazonas Theatre, Manaus. Image © Wikimedia user Leaderfo Narkomfin Building, Moscow. Image © Wikimedia user NVO Ponte Tower, Johannesburg. Image © Flickr user fiverlocker Byker Wall Estate, Newcastle. Image © Flickr user George Rex

Open Call: Competition Seeks Ideas for Königsberg Cultural Center

The Kaliningrad Region Government, in collaboration with the Kaliningrad City Administration and the Non-Profit Partnership ”Urban Planning Bureau 'Heart of the City'” has launched an open international design competition for an architectural design of the Governmental historic and cultural complex on the grounds of the former order castle Königsberg in Kaliningrad (“Post-castle,” 4,5 ha). The competition aims to find a contemporary architectural image of Kaliningrad's historic center, while accommodate for new functions, such as a concert hall, museum of archaeology, and history museum of the King's castle.

FR-EE Among 6 Shortlisted to Envision Atomic Energy Pavilion in Russia

Six teams have been shortlisted in stage-two of a competition to develop ideas for Russia’s “Atomic Energy Pavilion” in Moscow. Planned for a site at the Exhibition of Achievements of National Economy, the pavilion is intended to share the “history of the native nuclear industry” and its “contribution into modern economic development” as well as provide an open “communication forum” for the ROSATOM and the general public. 

The six finalists are…

Moscow's High Rise Bohemia: The International Business District With No Business

Moskva City. Image © Kirill Vinokurov
Moskva City. Image © Kirill Vinokurov

The Moscow International Business Center (Also known as Moskva-City) was meant to be Russia’s ticket into the Western world. First conceived in 1992, the district at the edge of Moscow’s city center is intended to contain up to 300,000 inhabitants, employees and visitors at any given moment and, when completed, will house over 4 million square meters of prime retail, hotel and office space to create what the Russian government desired most from this project: an enormous financial district that could dwarf London’s Canary Wharf and challenge Manhattan. Twenty three years later though, Moscow-based real estate company Blackwood estimates that as much as 45% of this new space is entirely vacant and rents have plummeted far below the average for the rest of Moscow. The only press Moskva-City is attracting is for tenants like the High Level Hostel, a hostel catering to backpackers and other asset-poor tourists on the 43rd floor of the Imperia Tower, with prices starting at $25.50 for a bed in a six-person room. This is not the glittering world of western high finance that was envisioned back in the post-Soviet 90s; but what has it become instead?

Moscow's Third Ring Road, the main road link to Moskva-City. Image © Flickr user kishjar? Moskva-City, with the City of Capitals towers on the left and the Imperia Tower on the right. Image © Pavel Kazachkov Moskva City. Image © Flickr user kishjar? © Flickr user Jay

Competition Entry: WE architecture and CREO ARKITEKTER A/S' Proposal for New Medical Center Moscow

WE architecture and CREO ARKITEKTER A/S have won one of three prizes in the first phase of an invited competition to design a new Moscow Medical Center. Combining the functionalism of today's healthcare with the humanistic qualities of past architecture, the proposal introduces a facility fine-tuned for those inside.

Learn more about the proposal, after the break.

Courtesy of WE architecture Courtesy of WE architecture Courtesy of WE architecture Courtesy of WE architecture

Last Call: Architects Summoned to Envision Public Space for Moscow’s Kristall City

Architects interested in proposing ideas for a new public space in Kristall City, a former territory of legendary Moscow distillery, have until Tuesday (February 24) to submit applications. Organized by KRAYS development and the CENTER Agency of Strategic Development, the competition is calling on all architects and designers to consider three sites to host the cities premier public space. The newly developed area aims to “share the future look of the quarter” and establish a “new type of public space made out of form industrial city territories. Learn more and apply, here

"A Message to Everybody": The Red Square Pavilion Winners on Encouraging Tolerance with Architecture

Announced in the summer of 2014 the Red Square Tolerance Pavilion, an international ideas competition organized by HMMD, was a deliberately provocative proposal before any teams had even entered - a statement planned in an envronment where tolerance is an increasingly urgent topic, for people both inside and outside Russia. In this interview, originally published by Strelka Magazine, the Italian winners of the competition discuss their proposal and its response to this charged context.

This January the winners of the ‘Red Square Tolerance Pavilion’ competition that was organised by international organisation HMMD were announced. The first prize was given to a team of architects from Italy. Their bold and daring project proposed to build the pavilion right against the Kremlin wall. Strelka Magazine caught up with Kiana Jalali, Marco Merigo, Alessandro Vitale and Matteo Pagani to discuss fluidity of space, the symbolism behind their design and the media image of Russia.

Courtesy of HMMD Courtesy of HMMD Courtesy of HMMD Courtesy of HMMD

A Wilderness in the City: How Diller Scofidio + Renfro's Zaryadye Park Could Help Fix Moscow

In late 2013, Diller Scofidio + Renfro won first prize in the international competition to design Zaryadye Park, Moscow's first new park in 50 years. The project is a headliner in a series of high-profile schemes that aim to improve the city's green space, including the renovation of Gorky Park and the recently revealed plans for the Moscow River. This article, originally published by The Calvert Journal as part of their How to Fix Moscow series examines how DS+R's urban "wilderness" will impact the city.

In a 2010 interview, the critic and historian Grigory Revzin complained that Muscovites wishing to "walk in parks and get pleasure from the city" would have to "come out into the streets" before anything was done. Hoping that architects would respond to the problem, one of Revzin's suggestions was a park to replace the site of Hotel Rossiya, which had become overgrown since being abandoned in 2007. This wild area in the city centre was, in fact, a harbinger of what is to come: Zaryadye Park, Moscow's first new park in 50 years, which the American design studio Diller Scofidio+Renfro won the international competition to design in November 2013.

Courtesy of Zaryadye Park Courtesy of Zaryadye Park Courtesy of Zaryadye Park Courtesy of Zaryadye Park

Sergei Tchoban on the Importance of Drawing and Details in Architecture

Berlin Art Link recently sat down with Russian-born, German architect Sergei Tchoban. In the interview above, he discusses his career, including working on the design for the Vostok Tower, Europe’s tallest skyscraper, and the recent opening of the Tchoban Foundation Museum for Architectural Drawing. This building houses his extensive personal works, as well as exhibitions by other artists.  “What is very important for me is the quality of all details, so you create a building from outline, from the silhouette, to the door lever. This building brings out a lot of our and my personal ideas about architecture and about details in architecture,” Tchoban said regarding his design for the Museum for Architectural Drawing. The exterior of the building expresses Tchoban’s devotion to draftsmanship-- the facade of the building is etched with a graphic pattern based on sketches from artists Angelo Toseli and Pietro di Gottardo Gonzaga. “I’m very active in drawings, as a draftsman myself.  Drawing is a result of our thinking process and our thinking process is not only a thinking process with the head, with the mind, but also the process where you think with the whole body.” 

Why Putin Likes Columns: 21st Century Russia Through the Lens of Architecture

In August 1932, Stalin, holidaying in Sochi, sent a memo containing his thoughts on the entries for the competition to design the Palace of the Soviets, the never-to-be-built monument to Lenin and center of government. In this memo he selected his preferred design, the colossal wedding cake of a tower topped with a 260-foot (79-meter) high statue of Lenin, designed by Boris Iofan. Just over 80 years later, Sochi again hosted the architectural whims of a powerful Russian leader for the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics. An oversimplification? Probably. But it’s got nice symmetry to it.

The Kotelnicheskaya Embankment Building, one of the most famous examples of the Stalinist "Wedding cake" style. Image © Flickr CC user Sergey Norin The Mountain Cluster of the Sochi Olympic Village. Image Courtesy of Wikimedia user Ivanaivanova Drawing of the proposed Palace of the Soviets by Boris Iofan. Image Courtesy of http://russiatrek.org Moscow's International Business Centre in 2011. Image © Flickr CC user Andrew Beirne

Rem Koolhaas and Dasha Zhukova: “Art Partners” Reinventing Moscow's Garage Museum

Rem Koolhaas and art philanthropist Dasha Zhukova will be gracing the WSJ. Magazine’s February cover as “art partners” embarking on a transformation that will turn a ruined Brezhnev-era Communist landmark - the Vremena Goda in Moscow’s Gorky Park - into the Garage Museum of Contemporary Art’s new home. “The building is basically a found object,” said Koolhaas, regarding his “raw” design and intent to preserve the structure’s decay. “We are embracing it as it is.” 

Red Square Tolerance Pavilion Competition Winners Unveiled

The results of the Red Square Tolerance Pavilion Competition, hosted by Homemade Dessert (HMMD), have been announced. Placed directly in the center of Moscow's Red Square, the competition asked designers to advocate the many facets of tolerance (social, religious, and political) by manifesting them in the form of a temporary pavilion. To further enhance these ideas, the pavilion is not only a symbolic space, but an educational one, with lecture halls and exhibition areas as its program, encouraging entrants to promote tolerance in all aspects of their designs.

View the winning designs after the break.

The Red Prism. Image Courtesy of HMMD The Bending Galleries. Image Courtesy of HMMD Space-ing Walls. Image Courtesy of HMMD The Red Prism interior. Image Courtesy of HMMD