Sunday, February 15, 2015



"I follow the Moskva 
down to Gorky Park, 
listening to the wind of change ... " 
Scorpions, from the song "Wind of Change"

The Gorky Park is one of the most famous if not the most emblematic park in Moscow, especially linked to political events during the Soviet revolution, since it was conceived as an open space for the society dedicated to leisure and culture for the working classes. 

It was designed by the renowned constructivist  architect Konstantin Melnikov ( whose house and studio was discussed earlier in this moleskine) and dedicated to the Soviet writer Maxim Gorky. 

The park takes advantage of its position besides the Moskva River and it is organized around a major axis that runs roughly parallel to it. The slight inclination of the axis in the composition is due to its perpendicularity to the Krimsky Val Avenue -which crosses the river at the Krimsky bridge- and establishes a balance between the irregular geometry of the trapezoidal plot occupied by the park. 

This monumental axis is dominated by a large entrance with a colonnade that reminds me of something to the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin , only the muscovite version presents solid bodies at each side of the gate, which accommodate Soviet iconography. The Gorky gate is a classic example of Stalinist monumental architecture. 

Around the axis there is a series of pools and iconic statues as well as games and recreation for children and adults, which made the Gorky a very popular area, especially in summer. 

Aditionally, Gorky Park has hosted numerous exhibitions to disseminate culture among the population.The exhibition pavilions were a typology favorited by Soviet architects, as they could experiment new proposals representing ideals of what Soviet society should have been. 

After the collapse of the Soviet Union the park began to deteriorate, filled with cheap attractions and junk food stalls. However, in 2011 the park underwent a complete renovation, including large areas of landscaping, a huge skating rink, bike lanes, and free WiFi access. 

In 2008 the Center for Contemporary Culture Garage was formed and since then it has become a great promoter of art and culture in the park, holding exhibitions and education programs and inviting great exponents of contemporary art. 

Among other activities, Garage invited architect Rem Koolhaas for a renovation project of the once famous restaurant Vremena Goda (Year Seasons). The OMA's project  included a 5400 m2 building, including two levels for exhibition galleries, a creative center for children, a shop, a café, an auditorium and offices. 
The conclusion of this building was scheduled for 2014, but has been postponed given the economic situation in Russia. 

Model of OMA's proposal for remodeling the Vremena Goda restaurant 

Furthermore, Garage, which owes its name to have originally been housed in the former bus garage- organizes frequent events and exhibitions that promote the exchange and development of contemporary artistic and cultural activities.

Place for summer 2013. Structures on paper.

In October 2012, Garage organized the exhibition "Temporary Exhibitions in Gorky Park: From Melnikov to Ban". The center of this exhibition was a temporary pavilion designed by Japanese architect Shigeru Ban, who was later awarded the Pritzker Prize in 2014 (the most recent, at the time I write this post). 

Ban has been internationally renowned for its ephemeral structures and  his contribution has been invaluable especially after tragedies that required the implementation of cheap and quickly erected buildings, like the Cathedral built after the earthquake in Christchurch in New Zealand or shelters built after the terrible tsunami in Japan in 2011 , financed by his own resources. 

Detail of the model for the pavilion in Gorky Park. 

Shigeru Ban's architecture is characterized by the use of recyclable materials such as cardboard or paper. In this regard, the proposal for the pavilion in Gorky Park comprises a sequence of cardboard tubes describing a ​​2400 m2 ellipse and enclosing a transparent structure of metal and glass comprising a 800 m2 rectangular exhibition area​​. 

The cardboard tubes, in addition to their aesthetic character, have a structural function since they support the entire load of the roof. Shigeru Ban's called them the "invisible structure". 

At the intersection of both geometries there is a café and towards the other end there are other services. The café is wrapped by a warm atmosphere due to the use of simple materials such as wood and cardboard, contrasting with the white rectangular prism. 

This simplicity in both materiasl and composition allowed the pavilion to be built in record time and at a very low cost. The pavilion should have been demolished in December 2012, but fortunately Garage has decided to keep it, and it was on display at the time of my visit in September 2014. 

The proposal is simple, but it offers an interesting play of light, which is filtered through the separations between the tubes. These support  the roof which crowns the composition of the facade, which at times seems to be levitating given the lightness of the material. 

Inside, the Japanese architect has also made use of cardboard tubes for the composition of furniture such as the  reception and some of the tables. 

At the time of the visit, the pavilion inside did not include the original exhibition of the work of Melnikov and others, but works  under the title The New International, an exhibition that shows a way to describe how individuals share, understand or experience specific context situations without universalizing their results. 

"warmth I was interested in working in russia first and foremost because of Russia’s culture, architecture, music and art and due to its geographic connections with Japan… although Russia and Japan are neighbors, we have very different cultures. Garage is well-known in the international art community for its progressive projects. the construction of the temporary pavilion is both efficient to construct and affordable by using local materials produced in St. Petersburg "
Shigeru Ban


- Urban Parks 

Friday, January 16, 2015



Most of the so-called sustainable or "green" buildings try to reduce their impact on the environment, both in its construction and maintenance. In simple words, it is about a building being "less bad", assuming that its existence would inevitably imply a negative environmental balance.
The concept of "Regenerative Design" takes a proactive approach and go beyond the traditional practice of sustainable design. The regenerative buildings not only reduce their energy consumption to zero but they collect, generate and distribute renewable resources to their surroundings, improving the environmental balance of the environment.

A remarkable example of this approach is the Centre for Interactive Research on Sustainability or CIRS, erected at the University of British Columbia UBC in Vancouver, Canada, a project by Perkins + Will.

The building statistics are impressive. For example, neither structural steel nor concrete were used during its construction, greatly reducing its environmental footprint. The total amount of water consumed by the building is collected from rainfall and all wastewater is recycled on site.

The main strategy to achieve a design with positive CO2 balance was the widespread use of wood, in particular a type of pine that, after being attacked by a beetle, suffers scars that make it unattractive to fine finishes or construction. Due to the climate change these beetles, which used to die in the cold weather, have managed to adapt and have experienced a population explosion, causing the death of vast quantities of pines, which wood  is usually rejected by the industry. This wood has been used both in the structure, finishes and furnishings of the CIRS, and provides an atmosphere of warmth throughout the building.

Wood is the most sustainable construction material, because it is a quickly renewable resource. From a structural point of view, the modern engineered materials such as glue-laminated timber have increased the hardness of wood so that they have a much greater structural capacity. 

Photo courtesy of CIRS

However, the abundant use of wood creates a fire hazard. In order to minimize it special insulators were created as well as  a sprinkler system, which is supplied from an underground cistern, which in turn collects rainwater.

Photo courtesy of CIRS

The façade accomodates a set of panels that support seasonal vegetation called the "living wall",  which provides shade in the summer and allows the passage of solar heat in the winter.

The garden is drip-irrigated using storm water and ultimately it ends in a groundwater aquifer.

The building is crossed diagonally by a path which includes the way of a pre-existing old road.

This allows to separate the glass corner like a glass triangle, which gives lightness to the composition of the building and houses an interesting solar water biofilter. This consists of a series of tanks with plants which naturally absorb and process the waterwaste generated in the bathrooms of the building. The processed water is used to irrigate both the living wall as well as the inner garden.

Another notable element on the facade are the photovoltaic panels on the east and south facades which cover part of the building's energy demand. The rest is collected from the excess energy of a nearby building and converted into energy in a small geothermal plant.

Inside, the building is organized around a large atrium, which provides generous natural lighting, while allowing natural ventilation without the need for air conditioning systems, using the chimney effect to  help circulate the air by convection. In turn, it exploits the building orientation to optimize its exposure to light.

On the ground floor there is an auditorium with capacity for 423 people, naturally lit by a lateral skylight located next to the indoor garden (in fact the garden is located over the roof of the auditorium).

The auditorium also used wood both in the structural beams and the finishes, as well as in some of the furniture.

If you look closely you can see the scars left by the beetles while they were burrowing the pine wood.

Due these features, the CIRS is recognized as one of the most innovative buildings in North America. In addition to its quality as an experimental regenerative building, is a facility that promotes the study and dissemination of new ideas for sustainable design.

With Professor Ronald Kellett, who kindly showed me around the building, explaining a lot of the information that I have included in this post