№27 Dwelling

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‘The big buildings collapsed immediately. The shanties remained unharmed,” predicted Vasily Kandinsky in his poem ‘The Bassoon’. Our time is witness to the construction of, above all, ‘big buildings’. Continuing urbanization is causing cities to grow; St Petersburg, Helsinki, and capital cities of the Baltic states are expanding. And if the previous stage in this process was industrial, the new one is almost exclusively a matter of construction of housing. The housing is accompanied by workplaces, but the latter are more to do with services than with manufacturing (at best, this is ‘creative production’). There is a ‘world after work’ (Nick Srnicek, Alex Williams), where all that is left for us to do is to ‘reside’. ‘Bare life’ (Giorgio Agamben) is the best definition of this state of society (p. 26). The result is a civilization which lives in minimal apartments, often situated in multi-storey houses. It is unlikely, of course, that anyone would ever dream of a one-room cell on the 20th floor, but it is also true that there are very few people who would rejoice today at the lifestyle of the radical Gavroche who was satisfied, if you remember, with shelter inside the statue of an elephant on a city square. Nevertheless, practices of habitation, as in all ages, lie between the poles of the settled and the nomadic life. The two tendencies are in conflict with one another.

The former tries to contain the latter, which looks for chinks in the system, by wrapping it in a framework (e.g. a ‘refugee camp’). Architecture is looking for words to describe what is happening (p. 39). The phrases are fragmentary, there is repetition of rhetorical tropes, but the meanings slide over the surface, occasionally trespassing on the territory of other disciplines. What will housing for the Other be like? An illustration to the work of Foucault or of Houellebecq? While some are busy with exercises in a kind of ‘reverse colonization’, others shut themselves up in architecture’s ‘ivory tower’ – designing residential complexes for the wealthy (p. 47). Here architects are regaining their feeling of confidence: we are seeing the construction of buildings which have a strong grip on the urban fabric. These architects are reproducing archetypes which are traditional for the profession: dreams of a palace or of a cabin in the midst of nature, dreams which the imminent post-human system finds it not so easy to deal with. For all these successes (Gregotti, of course, was right when he said that the goal of architecture is to look for truth within architecture itself), every architect is confronted with contradictions on two levels: 1) the setting of objectives (construction not for the sake of providing shelter, but for the sake of selling square metres); 2) structure/look (the load-bearing structure is dictated by the construction process, while requirements regarding appearance derive from marketing and aesthetic considerations). Even the wooden framework of the house in Jyvaskyla (p. 54) is CLT, i.e. ‘21st-century concrete’.

The world is becoming increasingly (bio)technological and we ourselves, like Alice in Wonderland, are always ready to take a pill so as to adjust our size to fit unexpectedly, instantly changing reality. And that’s to say nothing of the residential interior in the techno-modern style (p. 95)… The central question is the following: “How are we to inhabit” this postindustrialist, ‘smart’, symbolc and unfamiliar world, a world which ingeniously conceals its own true essence (or the lack of such an essence)? It is possible to use urbanist discourse to try to make, or present as, comfortable that which is self-evidently not so (p. 52). Or to erect high-tech mirages of the palaces of the past. However, there is increasing aptness in the words of Gaston Bachelard, who believed that only “the hut gives us access to absolute shelter.”

Vladimir Frolov







Dmitry Golynko-Volfson. Models of the home: fortress, bunker, screen, office, ecosystem


Kiril Asse. Between routine living and inhabiting




Aleksey Levchuk. Modernism. Time for a breather


fi. Valeria Tolkacheva. Refugees as activators of space




fi, Control and freedom. Interview with Pentti Kareoja


fi.Densifying the city. Interview with Timo Hamalainen


lv. Jaunromans un Abele. Жилой дом на улице Скарню, Рига


ru. Zemtsov, Kondiayn, and Partners. House on Maly prospekt, Vasilievsky Island, St Petersburg


ru. Yevgeny Gerasimov: “I find having to design in a specific style very cramping”»


ru. Yevgeny Gerasimov and Partners. Pobedy 5, residential building, St Petersburg


ee. Mihkel Karu. Kalamaja sub-district: shifting urban fabric


ee. Eek & Mutso. Жилой дом в Ристику пыйк (Клеверном переулке), 5, Таллин


lv. Eek & Mutso. Ristiku poik 5, apartment building, Tallinn


lt.SZK un Partneri and Karim Rashid. Kado Karim, residential complex, Dzintari, Jurmala




ru. Тechnomodernism. Interview with Yevgeny Neymand


ru. Yevgeny Neymand. Private apartment, St Petersburg




Lost in transformation. Interview with Anna Katkhanova


New standards for the ‘grey belt’. Interview with Mikhail Kondiayn


New St Petersburg along Obvodny kanal. Interview with Aleksandr Kononov




ru. ‘Maritime facade’. Competition for an architecture and urban-planning concept for the development of an important part of the reclaimed land on Vasilievsky Island in St Petersburg


Design lab


Small scale residential structures by Helin & Co, Vladimir Shkurinsky, Inblum, Jaunromans un Abele, PLUSS bureaus






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At a conference, taking place in Tallinn on April 21-22, architecture’s turn to nature and data will be explored from political and historical perspectives. Keynote speakers are Matthew Gandy and Douglas Spencer from the UK. The conference is organised by the
Faculty of Architecture, Estonian Academy of Arts, Estonia in cooperation with the Department of Geography, Cambridge University, UK. The event is open to the public.

The only foreigner to take part in the series of architecture talks entitled ‘Genius loci’ (organized by Project Baltia and the ‘Novaya Gollandiya: cultural urbanization’ project) was the Finnish theoretician Juhani Pallasmaa. Russian readers know Pallasmaa from his book ‘The thinking hand. Existential and embodied wisdom in architecture’, which is now a bibliographical rarity. Here Marina Nikiforova talks to Finland’s principal architect-thinker.