Sumit Singhal loves modern architecture. He comes from a family of builders who have built more than 20 projects in the last ten years near Delhi in India. He has recently started writing about the architectural projects that catch his imagination.
“Russian Character” Culture & Education Center in Moscow, Russia by Toshihiro KUBOTA + Francisco MARTINEZ
June 13th, 2014 by Sumit Singhal
Article source: Toshihiro KUBOTA + Francisco MARTINEZ
Organization of the plot
Following the study of the environment and the articulation of the different axis and public spaces, we notice that the plot of the project is strategically located on the southeast corner of the large central park district, center of the urban life. We wanted to make the building visible from the park, as it has the purpose to be open to the public, giving it an important role and an active participation in the inhabitants’ social life. For this reason, the building will be located on the north end of the parcel, so to strengthen and affirm the major urban axis in the wake of Butovo Park’s master planning. High urban vocation of the building and openness to the city will serve as a boost to the north-south and east-west avenues of the district. At the same time, this positioning ensures easy access for pedestrians and an efficient circulation for cars.
The eccentric positioning of the building regarding the plot offers a large free space to the south, taking advantage of the south orientation, with long-lasting sunlight in the summertime. The garden is served by the main north-south axis, and bounded on the east and west by two high-rise residential buildings. At the south, the lack of constructions gives important visibility in comparison to the central Park which is completely surrounded by buildings.
The building’s transparency will be the link between the large central park and the garden to the south of the plot. The programs and activities hosted in the building will spread out to the public space in the form of performances, outdoor events, exhibitions, or a cafeteria terrace. The design of the outdoor public spaces take into account the possibility to revitalize spaces with a densification of their functions, which is at the heart of the whole project.
The landscape project is a re-creation of fragments of landscape adapted at a human scale on an orthogonal grid where various gardens succeed: the square lawn, a mineral garden, a parterre in bloom, a low vegetation, a woody vegetation, a wooden deck, a vegetable plot and eventually a garden of sculptures.
The various gardens will be separated by pedestrian crossings of different sizes. It will be a promenade through Butovo Park.
The selected species are adapted to the climatic and environmental conditions of the region. It is also important to establish a dialogue and consensus with the service city, so as to define solutions in correspondence with local resources to find an economical logic and configuration for its maintenance.
Inserting the building in its built environment.
The plot and the building are placed between two high-rise residential buildings, almost symmetrical to each other following the north-south axis through the center of the plot. This configuration gives a monumental character to the environment being built. Urban regulations and the configuration of nearby buildings strongly influence the design strategy of this project.
The project does not seek to compete with neighboring buildings with regards to its dimensions. At the same time, as it is an important public facility for the neighborhood’s urban life, it is necessary that the building is made visible, identifiable, standing out from the monumentality of the neighboring buildings. It was therefore necessary to find other design strategies to affirm the strong character of the building and ensure a significant urban and architectural presence: a simple volume depicted with an abstract language.
A simple rectangular volume, compact, without any geometrical complexity, create the character of the building in its environment, and allowing a fair relationship with neighboring buildings that have much larger dimensions but more complex shapes. A simple and abstract cube with a strong presence in its urban area.
In addition, the volume of the building will allow to achieve high environmental performances and a reduce energy consumption. It can also allow reaching a balanced budget in the costs linked to the construction. The relationship between the internal volume and the outside structure is very favorable, and lead to the building’s feasibility in terms of operating costs.
Building a simple volume, compact, generic, where complexity is driven by the relationship between the inside and the outside, through the articulation of programs in the inside, and the flexibility and structural intelligence of the outside. For us, this represents the Russian character for the future of modern architecture.
To reinforce this idea of abstraction, erasing the concept of scale, the buildings envelope follows a simple geometric frame, based on the most stable geometrical shape, the triangle. A pure and indivisible geometric shape, applied to the building’s repetitive frame, trying to clear the scale marks commonly found in façades by the horizontal lines of conventional floors, distance between columns, etc…. In this project, geometric guidelines of the building are removed, leaving a great constructive and formal simplicity.
The surprised visitor unable to grasp the true dimensions of the cube will receive an uncertain, abstract and enigmatic perception of the building. These characteristics assert its presence in the midst of huge housing buildings, and allow an interaction with them, underlining its simplicity and abstraction in opposition to its size.
In addition, the triangular pattern is a significant and recurring reference in Russia’s traditional and contemporary culture. Integrating the triangle figure in the building’s façade reflects on this tradition, with a modern and radical interpretation created for the project.
We explored the potential of the geometric shape of the triangle, which is a very suitable design for a structural façade. Dimensionally stable, triangular frames allows optimum transmission of forces without distortion of the frame, thus without danger for front fills. The stability of the frame drops the weight of the structure and reduces costs significantly.
At the same time, we have engaged in several environmental design criteria to find the most efficient envelope. It is essential to find a balance between the glazed and opaque surfaces, while respecting the natural light flows in order to limit heat loss in winter (lowering heating consumption), or excessive sunlight in the summertime. The triangular frame has allowed us to achieve a highly optimized ratio, while keeping an open and transparent appearance for the building.
As for the material aspect, the façade is a combination of metal, concrete and glass. The façade’s frame is in precast concretewith metal profiles to highlight the structure and at the same time to strengthen its core.
Opaque fills will be provided by triangular precast concrete panels. The transparent façades will have efficient triple glazing with selective performance layers. There will be internal solar protection adapted to the geometry of the building on the exposed east, south, and west façades.
Concerning the color of opaque walls, there will be a predominant white concrete, with the presence of golden highlights on the metal parts, a reference to Russia’s traditional architecture.
In addition to the structural façade, a concrete shell mechanism and rigid cores build up the structural system of the building. Vertical partitions are also structural, and there will be no poles in the middle of the structure. Inside the building, the structure is also optimized and integrated to the architecture.
A particular attention was drawn to the roof, the fifth façade of the building. Seen from the neighboring adjacent towers, the roof is designed as a continuation of the landscape frame from the south garden, ensuring the continuity of the landscape selected. From an elevated position, it changes the perception of the building as it almost completely disappears into the landscape.
The planted roof will even improve the environmental performance of the building and reduce energy consumption.
The building is on two levels: a ground floor access allows entering the building, with a higher level 1 covering some surfaces of the lower level. The main access is situated on the west façade, served by the major axis that runs through the entire Butovo Park from North to South. An access for logistics is provided on the front panel which is in direct communication with the multifunctional rooms.
With simple, durable and economical finishes, the project seeks to be sustainable throughout its materiality aside from any temporary trends. With respect to economicconstraints, the budget will follow that principal, and the building will have low maintenance costs.
Once in the building, visitors will find themselves in a large double height lobby, with a 6.7m high ceiling at the heart of the building, with a visual connection on both levels and communication – direct physical and visual – across all major areas: three multifunctional rooms, an exhibition hall, a shop, a library, and a cafeteria buffet. This is a very flexible space, completely free of any structures, in direct contact with the outside, ready to accommodate any type of events.
A movable partitioned system is materialized by a mobile glass partition – to ensure transparency and the continuity of the space – with a metal frame separating the hall from the exhibitions. Therefore it allows modulating the two spaces as needed, enlarging the hall from 509m ² to 732m ².
The floor in the hall is provided with wooden parquet and figures also wooden edges of industrial type which are appropriate for an intensive use. On the wall, the triangular motive will always be present through two types of white concrete finishes and granite. There will be a large fabric with a printed image attached to the ceiling. We are thinking of working with contemporary Russian artists. At the moment, we used an illustration from the artist Konstantin Zvezdochetov.
The buffet area, the library, the media center and the shop are designed as a single shared space. Thanks to developments in media and new technologies, such as audio books, movies and internet, the library has become a true place to share, meet and discover for all residents of the city. It is an open space dedicated to the largest public. Our intention is to create a large “Urban living room” for Butovo Park, a place to meet and communicate inside the cultural center.
To achieve this goal, we brought the buffet area, the library and the media center in one single area, to bring people towards meeting and sharing, as fast and easy as the new means to access information. The four uses fit together in a single space in direct connection with the lobby, creating interesting links and multiple opportunities for the public, such as reading with a cup of coffee, or watching a film that you can purchase later on. These spaces can function as a whole but can also, if desired, work independently by a simple system of movable partitions.
Three Auditoriums with 500, 100 and 50 seats respectively, are available directly from the Hall by three separate accesses. The three rooms can operate independently or in interaction with one another to bring flexibility in their use. The three rooms have very flexible and modular scenic equipment. With a simple system, you can transform flat ground rooms into an auditorium type room with bleachers. The separation between the rooms is ensured by moving walls and curtains to ensure the quality of the acoustics between them.
The configuration of the three connected rooms allows having a large central stage with three bleachers around it. The 500-seat auditorium can also be opened to the hall for major events such as music festivals or exhibitions. The two spaces are separated by a couple of movable walls to ensure the acoustics quality.
The finishing touches for the three rooms will be similar, to bring consistency when all are combined. Parquet flooring, wooden triangular panels on the wall, perforated for acoustic quality, with two different essences, reproducing the pattern of the façade. The ceiling is a dark metallic mesh that will integrate technical equipment and scenic and acoustic baffles, with the apparent metal frame structure. They will be painted in black, incorporating in their thickness the technical circulation galleries.
The «backstage» occupies the angle between the two largest auditoriums (500 and 100 seats), with a direct link to the main stage. There are direct access for logistics from the outside as well as supplies for the scene and an access for artists. In that same space, we also find the lodge, 2 dressing rooms and the storage space.
On the opposite side from the big room, we find the universal gym, a multifunctional space with a double height, directly connected to the east and south façades to enjoy direct natural lighting and natural ventilation. Through a partitioned glass, the gym also has a visual connection with fitness and aerobics, on the first floor.
With natural wooden parquet varnished as in traditional sports halls, white concrete walls with white finishes and granite, and a false see-trough ceiling that reflects light, the gym is a bright and functional volume.
A direct and dedicated access from the lobby on the ground floor allows the user to have an easy access to the sports complex, getting rapidly to the changing rooms and lockers, then moving on to the desired areas.
The aerobics and fitness rooms are open to the façade. They have a privileged view on the gardens of the plot. The connection between the sports center and the façade, allows, if desired, the possibility to create a direct access from the outside, to bring more flexibility and independence to different uses of the building. They have a varnished wooden parquet floor with mirrored walls and a false acoustic ceiling consistent with the traditional environment of these gyms.
The Daycare center is also connected to the central hall. A space that is oriented to the south side of the building, in continuity with the garden, allowing children to enjoy outdoor spaces on sunny days with the south orientation.
Just above, we have the mini hotel, with a clear view on the south side of the garden. It has the privacy needed for these types of programs, with an open outlook. In addition, the mini hotel enjoys a privileged connection with the gym. Warmer finishing touches are set for this space with carpeting, wallpapers and apparent concrete for the ceiling.
The north side has a homogeneous filtered light coming from the triangulated façade, where the user discovers the study room, built on two different levels. They are flexible and modular spaces, with simple finishes as wooden floors and white ceilings and walls. They serve locals for work meetings, workshops or group presentations.
And finally, the administrative offices of the building which are located on the north side of the ground floor level. They have ideal lighting conditions to work and they are insulated from the public users’ areas.
The economic strategy of this project is based on four fundamental pillars:
For us, this building has answered what modern Russian architecture has to become, a simple and efficient building where the implementation of programs and practices in the inside creates connections (visual and physical) and a possibility to share. There is an intense dynamism to support social and urban life. Generic volumes, simple and efficient envelopes with constructive and fiscal coherence, where the essence is in finding quality in buildings throughout their logic, their simplicity and their ability to activate indoor and outdoor public spaces without useless ornament or formal complexity. This is what represents the Russian character.
Russia’s traditional and modern culture is diverse enough to nourish modern architecture through unlimited amount of cultural references. The appropriation and development are through modern signs and languages based on new technologies and techniques. Its architecture should avoid superficial and misleading inventions and aim towards the reinterpretation of its own culture and the evolution of its knowledge. Honesty has been, is, and must continue to be the leitmotif of Russia’s identity in architecture.