Posts tagged with "Russia":

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Russia and America cross-pollinate at the Canadian Centre for Architecture

My in-laws are Russian. In fact, they are Muscovites. And they have a very convincing way of narrating their still-fresh memories of life in the Soviet Union. I have not been to Russia since their daughter and I traveled along the canals that connect Moscow to St. Petersburg fifteen years ago. We do not discuss politics much when we visit her family in New Jersey. I have learned that there are differences of perspective, but that those don’t really matter. We have not discussed Russian interference in the U.S. elections. Still, I am quite sure that we would all agree, at some level, that such things are essentially trivial too. Eating a Russian dinner in New Jersey doesn’t feel strange, and despite the fact that this family is in the U.S. because of geopolitics, the very idea of personalizing those politics does seem odd. Upon further reflection, however, there might be no other way to connect memory to history. Only after traveling to the Canadian Centre for Architecture (CCA) in Montreal to view the exhibition of Building a New New World, Americanizm in Russian Architecture, did I realize that personal view of geopolitics also has a history. The exhibition collects an enormous array of architectural objects and documents that trace the ideas, materials, people, trends that moved between Russia and America over the course of more than a century. Indeed, nations have relationships, almost like people do. And the Russian relationship to America, or more precisely Russians’ views of Americanism (America, as they saw it) is Jean-Louis Cohen’s curatorial theme for the exhibition. Cohen is personally involved in these geopolitics as well, but more on that later. In the forthcoming exhibition catalog, Cohen refers to the work of Reinhart Koselleck, a mid-20th century German practitioner of conceptual history, or Begriffsgeschichte. This historical method hinged on the changing definitions of cultural terms over time, which he called “the semantics of historical time.” The language that binds expression to understanding, according to this theory, is the thread that historians use to enter a period distant from them in both space and time. This is Koselleck’s concept of a “space of experience” that Cohen has drawn into the galleries at the CCA, to understand the contradictory nature of Americanism in Russian architectural culture. This concept, therefore, offers an empathetic entry into an alien world of Russian modernism: We must first accept the various Russian conceptions about America to enter their changing space of experience—in other words, to personalize geopolitics. Of course, generalizations about America were not and are not unique to Russians; they were produced alongside the American Revolution, probably even earlier. Cohen begins the catalog’s introduction and the exhibition’s wall text with the words of Alexis de Tocqueville, who explicitly set “Anglo-Americans” and Russians into an incipient geopolitical rivalry, one based in their declared difference from traditional European values. Tocqueville’s theorization of American character for Europeans has, since, become the basis for most claims of national character. Indeed, Cohen is quite clear that Russian Americanism was always mediated by non-Russian interpreters. He and Hubert Damisch wrote on Américanisme et modernité (1993), and a Russian translation of Hugo Münsterberg’s book, Die Amerikaner (1904), appears in one of the beautiful cases designed by MG&Co. The cases are crucial to building Cohen’s space of experience: they require close reading and immersive engagement. MG&Co’s beautifully designed curtains serve as transitions between the galleries, each focused on a theme. They also enclose six digital projections—one on each side of three thresholds—chosen to reflect on the contents of each gallery. The gallery walls and the curtains are color-coded, as are the cases that carry the essence of the show: models, drawings, and an overwhelming assembly of books and journals. The general impression is of density. In each one of the cases are numerous objects that reflect on one another, offering a guide from one object to the next. This composition feels like inhabiting a three-dimensional book; galleries are the chapters and the cases are subchapters within. The surprise for this reader came after turning around from the cases, as I faced the walls where the narrative of the chapter played out again, but now at a higher speed. The experience is hugely rich: There are places to stop and read, places to move and scan, and places where connections can be made as one watches a film, such as that of Colonel Hugh L. Cooper, an American engineer, dedicating a Russian hydraulic damn on the Dnieper River. In addition to all this content, Studio Folder (“an agency for visual research,” according to their website) has composed a set of maps that illustrate the connections between Russia and America. Lines describe the “routes of architects, intellectuals, artists and politicians who traveled across the two continents, between 1813 and 1991.” The endpoints of each line are sometimes surprising (Des Moines, Fort Wayne, San Antonio: Baku, Yalta, Novosibirsk) and sometimes not (New York, Los Angeles, Washington, D.C.: Leningrad, Moscow, Kyiv). The maps make evident the fact that Americanism was more than a generalization, more than political rhetoric, more than a literary fantasy. In fact, as Cohen has made clear in his selection of themes and objects, the very history of industrial infrastructure, from the late nineteenth to the middle of the twentieth century, was shaped by its transposition across the globe. The gallery named “Modernization of Czarist Russia” focuses on the 1893 World Columbian Exhibition and 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair, sites that represent industrial exchange between the two countries as well as others. But this gallery also reveals the Maxim Gorky’s anguish in his book In America (1906), where he described the Americanism of New York City as “getting into a stomach of stone and iron, a stomach that has swallowed several million people and is consuming and digesting them.” The negativity abates in the third gallery, as the Gilbreths’ Motion Study is traced through the work of Alexey Gestev’s Central Institute of Labor, Ford’s tractors being built in the Putilov plant in Leningrad, and Albert Kahn’s company training over 4,000 Russian architects, draftsmen, and engineers from 1930 to 1931. The exhibition traces a dialectic between Russians attracted to American modernity and those who found it repellant. Often times, these oppositions are enacted simultaneously. The gallery focused on the avant-garde shows this opposition: Adaptations of Hollywood (Buster Keaton and Charley Chaplin) in Russian movie-making are set against the disparaging words of poet Vladimir Mayakovsky, who found New Yorkers as beset by a “dormant and flaccid rural mindset.” Or, there are those examples of Russians who sidelined American influence altogether—the Nikolay Ladovsky’s Vkhutemas pedagogy or and El Lissitzky’s horizontal skyscrapers. Geopolitical borrowing moves its target when it is politically strategic. Some Russians chose other influences despite the continued interest in American factories and the culture industry. Among the most impressive objects in the exhibition is the model of Boris Iofan’s Palace of the Soviets (1934). The image commonly associated with this winning entry for the international design competition depicts the building from below. A military parade marches in the foreground and fighter planes fly behind Lenin’s figure, who stands atop the neoclassical birthday cake of a building with a book (Das Kapital?) in his left hand, while his outstretched right hand points upward. It was the first time seeing Iofan’s design from above in his wooden model. Despite the monumentalizing efforts in drawing, Stalin’s architects could not overcome a model’s capacity to domesticate political bravado at a toy-like scale. In the sixth gallery, model airplanes are hung from above as though they have escaped from Iofan’s drawing. Some documents below them display the Soviet capacity to build flying warcraft that equaled or exceeded their American counterparts (even if based in their industrial espionage). One object stands out on the wall, drawn from Cohen’s father’s collection of Soviet memorabilia. As a French reporter, he kept a brochure distributed in a 1947 airplane shows. That object opens a clear “space of experience,” an empathetic encounter with Russian Americanism mediated by the Cohen family history. It is touching to think of all those events that historians trace through their narratives that may also be passed along in bedtime stories. In this respect, geopolitics is as historical as it is personal. The CCA, this winter, offered a unique platform to explore the richness produced by the mixture of memory and history, as well as the rigor and beauty of historical documents that display the critical role of architecture in constructing geopolitics. In a recent book by Keith Gessen, which has nothing to do with architecture, the protagonist makes connections among his life, his family’s travails, and the academic study of Soviet history. He sees the Russian tendency to borrow other nations’ advances as an addiction that finally leads to Gessen’s own suffering. I leave you with these musings as they so beautifully summarize the clarity afforded by interweaving human memory into a historical narrative.
“Suddenly everything I have been looking at—not just over these past months in Moscow, but over the few years in academia, and over the past fifteen years of studying Russia—became clear to me. Russia has always been late to the achievements and realizations of Western civilization. Its lateness was its charm and its curse—it was as if Russia were a drug addict who received every concoction only after it was perfectly crystallized, maximally potent. Nowhere were Western ideas, Western beliefs, taken more seriously; nowhere were they so passionately implemented. Thus the Bolshevik Revolution, which overthrew the old regime; thus the human rights movement, plus blue jeans, which overthrew the Bolshevik one; and thus finally this new form of capitalism created here, which had enriched and then expelled my brother, and which had impoverished my grandmother and killed Uncle Lev. You didn’t have to go and read a thousand books to see it; you just had to stay where you were and look around.”
Building a New New World, Americanizm in Russian Architecture runs through April 5.
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Can the role of architecture be redefined in the era of mass migration?

In November 2019, voices from the spheres of architecture, design, political science, cybernetics, sociology, urbanism, and curatorial practice assembled in Riga. Standing alongside a delegation of over four hundred from, and fresh to, the Latvian capital, Architecture of Migration—the first international conference of its kind—sought to open a fissure within which architecture in its broadest sense could be discussed through the lens of migration. “The world today is characterized by movement, speed, networks, connections,” declared Dina Suhanova and Dagnija Smilga. “It is a globe of constant circulation.” Against this backdrop, Suhanova and Smilga, both Riga-based architects and co-organizers of the event, advocated for their own understanding of architecture; an understanding that is quiet in its radicality. In their reading, architecture cannot be reduced to an inhabitable building. It is a system – the physical infrastructure of space, intangible connections, and a medium and prerequisite for movement. A central aim of the conference was to push recognition that architecture operates through, beyond, and without borders, that it is, and always has been, a natural process with varying social and spatial consequences. “Think of [this conference] as an exploded axonometric!” Smilga explained to the delegates. Organized around four scales: “The Nordic-Baltic region in the Crossroads of Global Mobilities”, “The Ecosystem of the Baltic Sea region: A Space Shared?”, “Beyond Intersections of Urban and Rural”, and “Current Responses to the Baltics in flux,” discussions were distilled from global concerns to regional conversations. These four chapters were bound together by a single spine: To build a platform for common understanding and to isolate opportunities between divergent actors. At the heart of this approach was a desire to seek out and identify future scenarios for the development of the "Baltic Space," a physical and conceptual territory encompassing Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, and the Baltic Sea. The most evident pan-national parallels were drawn between the Nordic and Baltic regions, something not altogether unexpected given the area’s distant and recent past. Beginning formally in the 1990s, the Nordic Council (a body that fosters cooperation between Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, the Faroe Islands, Greenland, and the autonomous islands of Åland) set its sights firmly on closer collaborations with the Baltic nations. This has resulted in an influx of investment. Coupled with a diversification of populations, closer ties with the Nordics has led to a gradual identity realignment. Nordic-Baltic relations go further back, however. In 2016, architects Jurga Daubaraitė and Jonas Žukauskas passed along a text written by the Lithuanian geographer and geo-politicist Kazys Pakštas. (Daubaraitė, Žukauskas, and Smilga were part of the nine-strong curatorial team that presented the first Baltic Pavilion at the 15th Biennale Architettura in Venice.) Published in English in 1944, The Baltoscandian Confederation envisioned a new supranational entity, eponymously named, comprising what we know today as Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania. Pakštas prefaced this prospect with an urgency masked as an observation. “We are living in turbulent, but nevertheless interesting times,” he wrote.  This decade has proved to be similarly turbulent for Europe and the region. In 2014, Russia illegally annexed Crimea and the E.U. discontinued regular bilateral summits as a result. Russia was excluded from the G8. Sanctions were initiated. For the Baltic states, each of which territorially border the Russian Federation (Lithuania does not border Russia’s western border, it does border the Kaliningrad Oblast) and stand as the easternmost flank of the European Union, recent events have heightened focus on what it means to be in the ‘East’ and what it means to be in the ‘West.’ And they are not alone. The Nordic region—Sweden, Norway, and Finland in particular—have also started to raise an eyebrow eastwards. In 2018, the Swedish government (diplomatically “neutral” and not a member of NATO) reissued a document titled If Crisis or War Comes (Om krisen eller kriget kommer), an informational pamphlet indicating that planning for the defense of the realm had been resumed after decades of demilitarisation.  Many opportunities center on the Baltic Sea, and so follows tension. The Baltic is today considered less of an aquatic ecosystem (although it is, and is rapidly approaching the status of an oceanic dead zone) and more of a pool of infrastructure, movement, and mobility. If it had come to pass, Pakštas’s Baltoscandia would have likely become a nation of significant economic and geopolitical influence. From the low-lying lands of middle Europe to the arctic territories of the far north, the federation would have encircled and controlled access to the Baltic Sea. People of different cultures and languages would have been united under one aegis to form, in Pakštas’s own words, a “zone of smaller nations of common cultural interests and mutual sympathies.” In March 2004, Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania became members of NATO. In May of the same year, they joined the European Union and become the first and so far only former states of the Soviet Union to have joined either supranational organization.  Architecture of Migration opened with a discussion on this theme: the Nordic-Baltic region as a territory at the crossroads of global mobilities. During the opening session, a conversation took place between Kirsten Ritchie (Gensler), Ieva Ilves (adviser to the President of Latvia for Information and Digital Policy), and the researcher Justinien Tribillon (cofounder of Migrant Journal, a publication that culminated with its sixth volume earlier this year). Faced with a question on the role of national identity at a moment increasingly shaped and influenced by supranational forms of governance, Tribillon said: “I’m wondering what the [nation] state of tomorrow will look like, and therefore what the identity of tomorrow will look like.” The greater part of the conversations that took place were along similar lines. The discussion was fluid and underlying themes were often reminiscent of ideas that were put forward by the late sociologist and political philosopher Zygmunt Bauman. In 2016, in what was to be his final television interview, a conversation on Al-Jazeera centered on the mass migration and movement of people. Bauman contextualized the perceived ‘migration crisis’, as it was unhelpfully labeled at the time, as part of a crisis of fear and uncertainty. Exponential inequality, dysfunctional economies, increasing concern for the climate, the smelting of governments and institutions—their decreasing dependability, authority, and ability to follow through on their promises—have all contributed to the murky mess that we presently find ourselves wading through, he argued. With no single solution in sight, Bauman was pressed by the interviewer to contemplate a way out of the soup. His retort was simple; he advocated for empathy. “But,” he asserted, “and that is a big but, unfortunately [...], there is no instant solution. Dialogue is a long, long process.” Room for dialogue on issues as urgent, muddling, and wide-reaching as migration remain as hard to find today as they were in 2016. Architecture of Migration made enormous inroads to carve out space for discourse. It was, in many ways, a show-and-tell, a presentation of case studies that oscillated around themes of borders, land, identity, and geopolitics. Alongside presentations by architect and historian Ignacio G. Galán, architect and educator Sille Pihlak (PART), architects Petras Isora and Ona Lozuraityte (AIL), urbanist Keiti Kljavin, and urban researcher Mike Emmerik (Crimson Architectural Historians), Irene Stracuzzi’s project The Legal Status of Ice articulated the diplomatic firestorm currently faced by the Arctic region. At the center of a contentious territorial dispute, Canada, Denmark, Norway, the United States, and Russia all have claims (the latter laid theirs by planting a titanium flag on the seabed 14,000 feet below the North Pole, aided by a robotic submarine). Closer to home, Ivan Sergejev presented the Estonian town of Narva, where he is currently Chief City Architect. As one of the leading minds behind Narva’s European Capital of Culture 2024 bid, which it ultimately lost to Tartu, Sergejev took delegates through the latent potential that can be harnessed by way of conceptual projects. As Estonia’s most eastern township, only meters from the country’s border with Russia, its Russian-Estonian citizenry came together under the auspices of the bid and new life was injected into a place that, in recent years, had suffered from a post-industrial slump. A propositional presentation by Markus Schaefer, a partner of the Zürich-based studio for architecture, strategies, and research Hosoya Schaefer, put the concept of "Deep Urbanism" onto the table. Using Switzerland as a point of reference, Schaefer described a discipline of relationships that generate a complex system of people and their culture acting on equally as complex territories. For Schaeffer, cities cannot be seen as a solution to achieve a sustainable existence. Rather, they should be considered as a form of cultural technology that, in the same way as all technologies tend towards, can have both beneficial and adverse effects. The inherent and multifaceted depth of the city—a place of interaction and transformation, plus—must be recognized and, in so doing, utilized.  Smilga and Suhanova had made clear their reasoning for the conference from the beginning. “We both believe that performing in the field of architecture is part of building surrounding culture,” they declared. Through the lens of architecture, a discipline and practice fundamentally tethered to the ways we live, work, move and belong, came an event that embraced an open-ended understanding of the topic it was seeking to address. The (perpetually) turbulent times that we are each a part of demands us to listen to one another more closely, and with more generosity. As we all move into the third decade of the new millennium, Architecture of Migration proved that space to exchange and reimagine the transforming and transformative role of architecture has a crucial role to play in the most formidable challenges—and opportunities—that we face. James Taylor-Foster is a writer, editor, and curator working in the fields of architecture, design, e-culture, and technology. He is the curator of contemporary architecture and design at ArkDes, Sweden’s national center for architecture and design, in Stockholm. He moderated a discussion at the Architecture of Migration conference.
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Russia and Syria announce joint project to restore ancient city of Palmyra

Earlier last week, Russian and Syrian officials announced that they would team up to restore the National Museum of Palmyra. Mikhail Piotrovsky, director of the State Hermitage Museum in Saint Petersburg, Russia, oversaw the signing in Damascus between the Hermitage, Institute for the History of Material Culture of the Russian Academy of Sciences, and the Syrian Directorate General of Antiquities and Museums (DGAM).  Located in the northeast of Damascus, Palmyra contains the monumental ruins of what was once a great oasis city in the Syrian desert nest known for being one of the most important cultural centers of the ancient world. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the architecture of this civilization often combined Greco-Roman and Persian influences with local traditions. However, the site had been targeted for deliberate destruction by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant and in 2014, much of the city and nearby historic religious buildings were damaged. Over the course of 2015, ISIL (also referred to as ISIS) destroyed the ancient Lion of Al-lāt statue, The Temple of Baalshamin, The Monumental Arch, and the Tower of Elahbel, among many other historic sites. A statement posted on the Hermitage’s website states: “Both agreements are a tangible step in the significant development of museum and research ties between Russia and Syria,” according to The Art Newspaper. The goals of the agreement include a collaborative effort between the Hermitage and the National Museum of Oman to restore 20 Syrian antiquities from Palmyra, followed by the later restoration of the city as a whole, which is still suffering from the damage created by ISIL. Representatives from UNESCO, DGAM, and the Aga Kahn Foundation will also form an advisory group for the campaign and work with the Hermitage to restore the selection of artifacts.  Piotrovsky said that restoring the museum is the first step and is “of particular value for the entire complex,” but reiterated that the ultimate goal of preserving the ancient city will be quite a process and, “we are preparing for the day after tomorrow, it’s not yet possible to do anything tomorrow.” However, this is far from the first attempt at preserving Palmyra's history; numerous attempts have been made to scan and recreate the structures and artwork found there, including creating a digital archive.
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A Russian World Cup stadium could sink into a swamp

Russia spent over $14 billion to host the FIFA World Cup last July and August, with the Kaliningrad Arena itself costing about $300 million. However, only a year after hosting the games, the building has faced numerous issues due to the fact that the stadium was built on previously unused wetlands in a flood plain, with soil not equipped to handle such a large structure.  Despite being the most expensive soccer competition in history, the building has faced charges of corruption and shoddy work. According to RadioFreeEurope/RadioLiberty, Aleksei Moisa, the director of the municipal firm in charge of stadium maintenance, Gidrotekhnik, expressed concern for the sewage and draining systems at a city hall meeting on September 10, and that others have noted that heavy rains will cause flooding that could possibly cause the stadium to sink into the swamp.  While neglect after their intended purpose is fulfilled is nothing new to stadiums hosting large sporting events (the site of the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro is already abandoned), the Kaliningrad Arena faced controversy from the start. Designed specifically for the World Cup, the building was completed in March 2018, just months before the start of the games. The company in charge of the stadium’s design soon after declared bankruptcy.  According to Aras Agalarov, chief of Crocus Group, the general contractor for the stadium, the foundation was supposed to be bolstered up with sand; however, only half of what was required (and a lower quality product) was used. This news was followed by the arrests of the former regional minister for construction, Amir Kushkhov, and Sergei Trubinskiy, a regional deputy director in charge of construction control, and Khachim Eristov, a senior manager at GlobalElektroService, a subsidiary of the company Summa, who had been contracted to do the construction for the foundation.  Later in March 2018, Ziyavudin Magomedov, a co-owner of Summa, was detained and charged in a case involving a theft of 2.5 billion rubles (39 million dollars) linked to the stadium project. Solomon Ginsburg, a member of the Public Chamber of the Kaliningrad Oblast, said that what he called the “ingenious thievery” surrounding the project was solely rooted in the poor choice of location.
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The 2019 Aga Khan Award for Architecture winners split a $1 million prize

Every three years, the Aga Khan Award for Architecture is given to building concepts that “address the needs and aspirations of societies across the world in which Muslims have a significant presence.” The award was established in 1977 by the Muslim spiritual leader Aga Khan, with the belief that modern architecture often failed to meet the needs of non-Western societies.  Now in its 14th cycle, the six 2019 winners have been selected by a master jury of nine architects and scholars, including David Chipperfield, Elizabeth Diller, and Ali M. Malkawi, as well as David Adjaye, who served on the steering committee. The projects were selected from a shortlist of twenty buildings that represented sixteen countries and the finalists will share a $1 million prize with all of those involved in the realization of the project—architects, engineers, artisans, and builders.  As follows, here are the six winning projects from Bahrain, Bangladesh, the West Bank, the Russian Republic of Tatarstan, Senegal, and the United Arab Emirates The Revitalization of Muharraq  In 2013, The Authority for Culture & Antiquities Conservation Department of Bahrain began a series of restoration and adaptive reuse projects to highlight the World Heritage Site’s history in the pearl trade. The project has since evolved into a program titled Pearling Path, Testimony of an Island Economy which has created new public spaces that aim to “re-balance the city’s demographic makeup.” Arcadia Education Project  The Arcadia Education Project was designed by architect Saif Ul Haque Sthapati and was completed in 2016. Sthapati developed the modular, amphibious structure out of three types of bambooa solution that would avoid disrupting the existing ecosystem by allowing the building to rise with the water levels during monsoon season. The structure incorporates space for a preschool, a hostel, and a nursery.  Palestinian Museum Selected through an international competition, Dublin-based architects Heneghan Peng completed the 430,000 square foot Palestinian Museum in 2016. The zigzagging forms of the museum sit atop a terraced hill overlooking the Mediterranean and the building is clad with locally quarried Palestinian limestone. The LEED Gold-certified museum is intended to “foster a culture of dialogue and tolerance.” Public Spaces Development Program In an ongoing program for The Republic of Tatarstan, over 300 public spaces have been improved since 2015, including public gardens, beaches, walkways, and parks. The participatory design process encourages engagement with local citizens in an effort to offer equal quality spaces for all members of the community while reflecting on each place’s unique culture and history.  Alioune Diop University Teaching and Research Unit Te Alioune Diop University in Senegal has been functioning far beyond capacity since 2012. Spanish architects IDOM were asked to design a new addition with a 500-seat lecture hall, thirteen classrooms, and three labs, as well as offices and meeting rooms. Using local labor and materials, the building features a 660-foot-long lattice wall which provides passive cooling desirable for the tropical climate.  Wasit Wetland Centre The Dubai-based X-Architects transformed a “wasteland into a wetland” as a part of an initiative by Sharjah’s Environment and Protected Areas Agency. The Wasit Wetland Centre has helped restore the area’s natural ecosystem while providing visitors with information on biodiversity and preservation efforts.
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Chernobyl's aging sarcophagus will be torn down, replaced soon

The historic sarcophagus at Chernobyl is slated to be partially dismantled to make way for a safer structure very soon. The Ukranian company that manages the formerly-radioactive site—home of the world’s most famous nuclear disaster—is taking it down preemptively before the 30-year-old structure falls.  According to Popular Mechanics, the concrete-and-steel, half-domed architecture, also known as the Shelter, was built in just 206 days after the 1986 explosion in Soviet-era Ukraine. As the Russian-occupied state was trying to sort through the mess, the government hired “liquidators,” or clean up agents, to construct the sarcophagus atop the deadly site. Though many died because of the work, it successfully kept radioactive chemicals such as corium, uranium, and plutonium from exposing the surrounding city—and the world—all these years.  Despite its remarkably quick construction and decades of decent performance, the sarcophagus was actually built quite poorly, without any welded or bolted joints due to the inexperience of the workers. It became clear that after just over a decade, the sarcophagus would need to be replaced. Popular Mechanics noted how in a 2017 interview with BBC, an expert on nuclear safety recounted that the Soviets lowered the beams for the building and built the roof structure using helicopters. Nothing was made to be very sturdy.  The SSE Chernobyl NPP, which oversees the site today, said it will start taking the insecure architecture apart after the New Shelter Containment (NCS), a building plan that was pieced together two decades ago, is up and running. The build-out of the NCS is currently in progress by a French consortium of construction groups called Novarka and, according to World Nuclear News, it’s the “largest moveable land-based structure ever built.” BBC identified the “vast new tomb for dangerous waste” as larger than Wembly Stadium and taller than the Statue of Liberty. The NCS is expected to make the site safe for up to 100 years and will help it withstand dangerously high temperatures, a class-three tornado, and a 6.0 earthquake—all things that the sarcophagus is prone to crumbling because of now. Officials are also testing the equipment and technological systems used on the NCS ahead of its soon-to-be full operation. 
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World’s first cross-country cable car will link Russia and China

The Blagoveshchensk–Heihe Cable Car, designed by Dutch-firm UNstudio, will be the first-ever cross-border cable car. The project will be built across the Amur River allowing passengers to easily move between Russia and China. The Blagoveshchensk–Heihe Cable Car includes two international lines and four cabins, and each car will have the capacity to carry 60 passengers plus luggage. The total trip will take approximately seven-and-a-half minutes total, while actual travel time from station-to-station will be three-and-a-half minutes. The project is backed by Strelka KB, a Russian-based urban-planning and strategy consultancy. Following a vision round involving 12 practices, UNstudio was selected as the winning team from a competition to design the cross-border cable car. Strelka KB was also responsible for developing the economic and functional model of the cable car terminal. UNstudio has also designed the terminal station in the city of Blagoveshchensk, Russia while the architect of the station in Heihe, China has yet to be announced. The terminal is designed to reference the historic connection between the two cities that are separated by the Amur River. When the river ices over in the winter, it has historically become a link that supports trade, commerce, and social relationships between the otherwise unconnected areas.  The building will feature views of both cities, as a “beacon” for joint prosperity. The public roof terrace will overlook the river towards Heihe, and framed views of Blagoveshchensk greet passengers at the arrival platform. Likening the design to an “air bridge,” Ben van Berkel, founder and principal architect of UNStudio, stated "This context provided rich inspiration for the Blagoveshchensk terminal station, which not only responds to its immediate urban location, but also becomes an expression of cultural identity and a podium for the intermingling of cultures." Cable cars have recently become more popular as a transportation solution. Van Berkel believes that these systems, “provide a new form of public transport that is sustainable, extremely fast, reliable and efficient.” In Oakland, BIG has proposed gondola-like cars to connect the Oakland A’s stadium to public transportation. Before winning the Blagoveshchensk–Heihe competition, UNstudio proposed two other designs for cable car systems in Gothenburg and Amsterdam.
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Pepsi denies plans to advertise in space

Soft drink giant PepsiCo has shot down reports that it plans to advertise in low Earth orbit (LEO), after reports surfaced last week in Futurism that the company was working on a “space billboard.” Using a small fleet of satellites armed with reflective mylar sails, the company was reportedly going to advertise a new drink called Adrenaline Rush, targeted to a “stereotyped” minority—gamers. Enter Russian company StartRocket, which has proposed using CubeSats—satellites that measure 4-inches-by-4-inches-by-4-inches—to create orbital billboards that would be visible all over the planet. The tiny satellites would be ferried into LEO via a rocket, and their solar panels and large mylar sails would unfold after the satellites were ejected from the main vessel. The CubeSats would then arrange themselves to form an image or message, and the “billboard” would be visible at dawn or dusk as they reflected sunlight. Although costs have been dropping and the same basic principles that StartRocket wants to build off of have been used for artistic purposes, no form of space-based advertising has ever been successfully deployed before. If the company can make its CubeSat system work, its floating advertisements would circle the Earth from approximately 250-to-310 miles away and would have a viewable surface area of about 19 square miles. On April 13, it seemed that Pepsi was going to be the first soda in space. A Russian PepsiCo spokesperson, Olga Mangova, told Futurism that the company had partnered with StartRocket and was working to create the advertising campaign of the future. Then, Pepsico made an abrupt about-face. “We can confirm StartRocket performed an exploratory test for stratosphere advertisements using the Adrenaline GameChangers logo,” a PepsiCo spokesperson told SpaceNews. “This was a one-time event; we have no further plans to test or commercially use this technology at this time.” However, as Futurism points out, this was likely an attempt by PepisCo to deflect criticism after the company came under heavy fire on social media over the proposal. A PepsiCo spokesperson "clarified" that there had been a translation error between the media and the company's Russian employees, and that they had been referring to a high-altitude balloon test earlier in April, not a future campaign. That wouldn't make sense, as Futurism had originally queried them over their future plans, and Mangova confirmed that they would be using an "orbital billboard"—distinctly different from a balloon. StartRocket were similarly unable to provide updated information on any ongoing, or past, PepsiCo collaborations. While no laws prohibit advertising in space in such a way that would be visible from Earth, it’s likely any real attempt to create an unavoidable billboard in the night sky would be met with pushback. Still, if it becomes cheap enough, the night sky could one day become home to airborne advertisements (but asteroid-anchored condo towers remain unlikely).
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Herzog & de Meuron completes Moscow tech campus building

Herzog & de Meuron has completed the first building in a massive new tech campus being developed outside Moscow. The Skolkovo Institute of Science and Technology (Skoltech) University East Wing Building is the hub of District 3 of the five-district Skolkovo community. Skolkovo is a new ground-up development meant to be a home for research and technology just outside the Russian capital. District 3 houses the area's university, Skoltech, which will live in the new East Wing Building and two forthcoming structures also designed by the star Swiss firm. The new 1,442,000-square-foot building takes the form of a massive partially-filled ring with a 919-foot diameter. The outer ring and two smaller inner rings house academic facilities, shared spaces, and an auditorium, while staggered bars stretch across the building to house workshops and laboratories. A large basement floor runs across the structure's footprint to accommodate support and technical facilities. A jigsaw roofline cuts across the bars and rings to unite the structure. One result of the building's distinctive parti is a collection of courtyards of various shapes and sizes. These outdoor areas are framed by the building's striated facade, which materially codes the ring and bar spaces. The rings are clad in vertical larch wood fins, while white aluminum fins skin the bars. The building is not the first ring-shaped structure for Skolkovo. In 2010 David Adjaye completed a building for the Moscow School of Management Skolkovo with a large circular podium topped by cantilevering bars. Foster + Partners more recently completed Apple's headquarters with another circular design for a tech campus.
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Zaha Hadid Architects selected to design a sound wave–inspired concert hall in Russia

Zaha Hadid Architects has been chosen to build the new Sverdlovsk Philharmonic Concert Hall in Yekaterinburg, Russia. The city of Yekaterinburg, home to the world-renowned Ural Philharmonic Orchestra, has established itself as a cultural and artistic center of Russia. The Philharmonic is known for its sold-out performances in the existing Sverdlovsk Philharmonic building, which dates back to 1936. The orchestra’s new home will serve as an inspiring auditorium and public plaza for the people of the city. The new Sverdlovsk Philharmonic Concert Hall is characterized by its flexibility, unpredictability, and audacious architectural aesthetic. The design of the building was inspired by the physical characteristics of sound waves: floors, walls, ceilings, and canopies seem to flow, vibrate, and intertwine with one another in effortless and continuously smooth motions. Zaha Hadid Architects’ design incorporates a 1,600-seat concert hall and a 400-seat chamber music hall, all burrowed within the undulating surface of the suspended canopy, which will extend above the lobby and enclosed urban square. Within the lobby, massive glazed facades blur the boundary between interior and exterior, calling visitors to experience the artistic spaces within. Above the canopy, a public rooftop terrace overlooks the city’s Church of All Saints. “Russia has been a formative influence on Zaha Hadid Architects’ creative work,” said Christos Passas, project director at Zaha Hadid Architects, in a statement. “From very early in her career, Zaha was attracted to the Russian avant-garde who conceived civic spaces as urban condensers that catalyze a public realm of activity to enrich creativity and community; allowing space itself to enhance our understanding and well-being.” These principles of urban creativity and ingenuity are embedded within the design of the new concert hall, which utilizes a series of public spaces to strengthen the bond of inner-city residents. Sverdlovsk’s Ministry of Construction and Infrastructure Development organized the design competition with the help of the charity for the Ural Philharmonic Orchestra.
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Architects gather to discuss Russia’s young housing market

Nearly 50 percent of Russians live in 50-year-old Soviet-era block housing. A full 75 percent of Russians live in cities. These two statistics, combined with a changing relationship with home ownership, means the country has a rare opportunity to rethink the way its people are living. This is exactly what some of Russia’s most forward-thinking urbanists and architects are working on right now, and this was the basis for The Living Environment: All About Housing forum. Held this past May in Kaliningrad, the furthest west city in the country, the forum brought together experts in housing, development, and economics from Russia, Europe, and the United States to discuss Russia’s unique position. The country's current situation has been evolving for nearly 70 years. A housing crisis after World War II led to the building of tens of thousands of Khrushchyovka, the typical 5-to-10-story prefabricated concrete apartment blocks which still cover Russia and most of the former Soviet republics. Built throughout the 1950s and 60s, many of these housing blocks have now fallen into severe disrepair, often never having been intended to have been lived in for half a century. While the federal government has overseen the redevelopment of city centers and public spaces throughout the country, it is now up to private developers, a profession that did not exist before 1991, to replace the aging housing stock. Kaliningrad is a particularly appropriate site for such a conversation, as even more than many other Russian cities, it was built almost completely of these now-decaying housing blocks. After being nearly completely destroyed as a German city during World War II, it was rebuilt over a few short decades as a Soviet city. It only opened to outsiders in the early 1990s because it was primarily a military hub but like many Russian cities, it is in a state of rebirth. Led by the urban think tank Strelka KB, an offshoot of Strelka Institute for Media, Architecture and Design, and the urban development institution DOM.RF, the forum presented new projects and urban initiatives from across the country. The main event of the forum was a series of talks given by representatives from each of Russia’s eight federal districts, and keynote addresses from Winy Maas of MVRDV and Martin Biewenga of West 8, among others. While each of the federal district presentations highlighted the regions’ most successful projects, Maas and Biewenga presented the work their respective offices are currently doing in Russia. “There is a need for new buildings, and there is competition between developers. It is still a niche market, and some of them are doing in a brilliant way [sic]. They are making things more colorful, more differentiated, and very practical,” Maas told AN while explaining the near future of Russian urbanism. “But there is still a long way to go. Because it is not only the housing that needs to be updated. On the other hand, the urban environment needs updating. The spaces between the houses need to be turned into nice spaces.” This sentiment was echoed by Biewenga and West 8, whose current public space project was underway just minutes from the forum at Dom Sovetov Square. Situated at the base of the city's never-completed 21-story House of Soviets, the project is set to bring entertainment facilities and amenities to the barren landscape surrounding the ominous tower. The project is an example of the work being doing across the country by KB Strelka, which is working closely with the city and West 8 on the project. The Living Environment forum was also used to announce the winners of DOM.RF’s and Strelka KB’s most recent ideas competition and to launch its current one. The competition to design concepts for standardized housing and large residential developments drew many international entries, including the winners, Rome-based TA.R.I.-Architects. Its project touched on concepts about diversification and customization of form and space, two things that are the antithesis of Soviet housing blocks but were recurring themes at the forum. The current competition takes a more pointed look at apartment layouts of large housing blocks. Along with direct consultation on projects like the Dom Sovetov Square, Strelka KB hosts real and speculative competitions. One of the major roles it has been able to play is helping city officials to write better briefs for public projects. A task that involves balancing economic, social, and technical considerations, while pushing for ambitious proposals. Recently, this played out in Strelka KB’s involvement in the development of the much-lauded Diller Scofidio + Renfro-designed Zaryadye Park, the first new park in 70 years in Moscow. Russia’s situation may be somewhat unique in the world, but the current dialog is very much international. Few places have been so urban for so long, and none have a history so defined by mass social housing. And now with a public that is for the first time an active player in a housing market, the possibilities seem wide open. Russia’s future is ripe for innovative ideas that may have a very real effect on how the rest of the world is living as the world catches up with Russia's urban density. Like Le Corbusier and Frank Lloyd Wright, architects may soon once again be looking to Russia for its revolutionary approaches to city building.
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DS+R's Zaryadye Park in Moscow is a hotspot for public sex

  A Diller Scofidio + Renfro-designed park in Moscow is getting a lot of attention this week after security cameras caught numerous people having sex within the 35-acre green space on Friday. Zaryadye Park, a massive landscape located across from the Kremlin along the Moskva River, opened last September to the public after a dedication ceremony from Russian President Vladimir Putin. DS+R’s $245 million design was selected out of 90 submissions in an international competition in 2013. In the project description, the architects describe the park as a place featuring “Wild Urbanism,” with intertwining sections of landscape and hardscape, natural and artificial. The parkland includes a mix of indoor and outdoor spaces with a 229-foot cantilevering river overlook, a media center, nature center, restaurant, market, two amphitheaters, and a philharmonic concert hall to come next spring. Charles Renfro, head architect on the project, said he’s thrilled at the park’s overwhelming popularity. “I love this!” he told Artnet in an email. “What freedom our park has brought to Moscow and what tolerance it seems to be engendering from the authorities.” The Moscow Times reported that the city’s chief architect, Sergei Kuznetsov, is apparently okay with the sexual escapades happening within the public park and attributes the unprecedented uptick to the safety and comfort that Moscow offers visitors and residents. Some local lawmakers, however, feel the opposite. Getting caught for having sex in public in Russia means up to 15 days in jail. DS+R’s 14,000-square-meter vision takes up a quarter of downtown Moscow and is the first large-scale park built in the city in 50 years. The site was formerly populated by a Jewish enclave in the 1800s, and once served as the foundations of a never-built Stalinist skyscraper. For nearly 40 years, it was the home of the largest hotel in Europe, the 21-story Hotel Rossiya, until it closed in 2006.