№33 Ensemble


Ensemble means ‘together’. The question remains: for what purpose do the spatial components of an ensemble come together in an alliance? Juhani Pallasmaa talks about atmospheres (p. 26). From his point of view, the unique character of a place (its genius loci) gives rise in us to “a merging of the world and consciousness”, which can only be achieved by resorting to peripheral perception – by trusting our emotions ahead of our reason. If we accept this understanding of atmosphere as a property of a place which has to be captured, we might suppose that it is inherent in all territories and that all territories are capable of giving us feelings of equal worth. In fact, the latter is by no means obvious. Furthermore, it is becoming more and more difficult to talk about the ensemble, i.e. a place all of whose parts play the same tune, with regard to the modern city. We are increasingly forced to acknowledge the existence of dissonance, cacophony, or, in the expression used by Vladimir Lisovsky, the abracadabra of urban design (p. 32). The culture of the capitalcene is giving rise to what Rem Koolhaas long ago aptly called ‘junk space’, i.e. a rubbish tip of superfluous architectural structures (superfluous because they have been built to be sold; they are frozen monuments to past commercial transactions). St Petersburg, the largest city on the Baltic, is one of the worst victims of the production of junk space; this is the subject of this issue’s Discussion (p. 109).


However, if we have in mind the historical centre of St Petersburg, this city is especially well known precisely for its architectural ensembles. Until recently the Petersburg school of urban planning was faithful to the idea of creating coherent volumetric and spatial compositions (the ensemble-based approach to the megalopolis prevailed throughout the Soviet period). Given the prevalence today of Supereclecticism (p. 40), it is possible to build only scattered islands of ensembles. The most typical example is Evgeny Gerasimov’s Russky dom (p. 46).


Much more common, and in this St Petersburg is rapidly catching up Helsinki and Tallinn, is a different approach to urban design: landscape urbanism (p. 69). However, these two approaches do not contradict, but complement one another. Supereclecticism makes it possible to develop any architectural setting by exploiting its character, while landscape urbanism smooths over and cushions the disparate elements of the megalopolis, visualizing what Zygmunt Bauman called ‘liquid modernity’. Helsinki’s central library, which completes the ensemble on Toolonlahti Bay, is the generalized image of this kind of building/space (p. 86).


As always, the most interesting action is taking place on the borders, and here Pallasmaa is absolutely right when he talks about the special, generative, role of the periphery. The atmosphere of industrial parts of cities which are undergoing deindustrialization is a draw for the inhabitants of these cities, providing a never-ending stream of new and unexpected impressions and inspiring designers to seek out a language which is adequate to the theme of post-industriality. The Rotermann Quarter in Tallinn (p. 80) and Sevkabel Port in St Petersburg (p. 102) are projects which are emblematic for their cities; the architecture of the second half of the 2010s will be judged on their basis.


From our point of view, it is important that both these complexes owe their atmosphere to the intervention of the architect as author bringing order to urban chaos. It may be that the result is not an ensemble in the classical understanding of that term, but a kind of new ensemble is nevertheless created: the old and the modern resound in unison and create a powerful and avant-garde atmosphere which (even if not always successfully) tunes out from the junkiness of the capitalcene.

Vladimir Frolov



6 Events

25 Ensemble

26 Juhani Pallasmaa. Space, place, and atmosphere – emotion and peripheral perception in architectural experience

32 From the ensemble to abracadabra. Interview with Vladimir Lisovsky

39 Supereclecticisim

40 Vladimir Frolov. The limits of Supereclecticism 40

46 ru. Evgeny Gerasimov and Partners. Russky dom, residential complex, St Petersburg

52 lt. Forma. Hotel Pacai, Vilnius 52

59 lv. Kkuba. Laimes abeles (‘Apples of happiness’), residential complex, Riga

63 ru. INTERCOLUMNIUM. Mendelsohn, residential complex, St Petersburg

69 Landscape urbanism

70 The capitulation of architecture. The 5th Diogenes Dispute: The Principle of Landscape Urbanism

76 fi. Elizaveta Parkkonen. Jatkasaari: urban appendix or organic growth?

80 ee. Karin Paulus. Hatter Rotermann’s inheritance in the paws of the March hare

86 fi. ALA Architects. Oodi, Helsinki Central Library

96 ee. KUU arhitektid. The new Estonian Academy of Arts building, Tallinn

102 ru. KhVOYA. Sevkabel Port, public and business space, St Petersburg

109 Discussion

110 Vladimir Avrutin. 10 years under the rules

114 Yevgeny Lobanov. Ozerki. On the question of the architectural ensemble

121 Competitions

122 ru. Danil Ovcharenko. In search of the St Petersburg facade

126 ru. Marina Nikiforova. Float. Decoratively monumental

130 ru. Marina Nikiforova. Powerful, but light. Results of the Horizon architecture competition

139 Design lab
Small scale architectural structures by Avanto Architects, KAOS Arhitektid, Aketuri Architektai, Totan Kuzembaev, ArchAttacka

161 Design & technology

174 Catalogue


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Opening Week of the 5th Architecture Biennale will take place from September 11th – 15th, 2019 in multiple venues in the heart of Tallinn. Dedicated to the theme “Beauty Matters: The Resurgence of Beauty”, the international architecture festival, organised by the Estonian Centre for Architecture and curated by Dr. Yael Reisner, celebrates the aesthetic experience in architecture, after almost 80 years of cultural bias.

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.