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The New Generation Of Architects Looking For Positive Changes In Russian Architecture In Cities

Russia’s cities and urban areas have grown and become quite modern since the end of World War II. For some time now, they have used applications of architecture’s modern movement which have had a major effect on the country’s development and for urban expansions. The new generation of professional architects is moving forward to make even more changes that will benefit habitants.

Pressure being placed on the modern movement has caused a higher level of focus on urbanization and a great deal more attention on increased development vs any other issues.

Housing has become the major concern within the urban development plan which has led to massive construction of residential complexes while promoting the values of Communism in every aspect of the building process.

No matter what the Modern Movement’s intentions were for recreational spaces that would complement new housing, their over-zealousness for living spaces caused public spaces to be placed on the political back burner.

This has caused poor designing of public spaces, causing a negative effect that is not inspiring to the people who are living in these communities.

After so many decades of Soviet Modernism, the same old model is still being used by the architects and planners who are behind the development of Russia’s cities. This can be a problem because there is a need for support from both the state and private investors. Constantly relying on the Modern Movement as the foundation for design and construction has caused a division within urban development. Over-emphasis on spaces for automobiles has forced the needs of human inhabitants to the side.

The upside, the new generation of professionals understand all too well that Soviet architecture is not the right solution for today’s Russia. They are actively looking for new approaches, moving away from rationalists, schematic model to something that realizes that cities are living organisms that will grow on their own.

This new generation of architects is looking for new ideas for developing cities as a support for the complexities of human lives and their needs. This, in turn, takes time to analyze and the ability to comprehend the spacial challenges that come with it.

They are looking to promote a changeable structure design that has the ability to foster diversity and spontaneity which in turn will arouse the human aspect of Russian cities.

To ensure that future generations of professionals support and continue making changes, Strelka Institute, along with support from DOMRF and the Russian government, has created the ARCHITECTS RF Program in order to tap into the personal and professional potential of its participants. Its goal is to develop their softer skills while providing them with the tools that are necessary to create new urban spaces and plans for Russia’s future cities.

There are so many wonderful opportunities that have come about during times of change, this is the perfect time for the young up-and-coming architects of Russia.

The ARCHITECTS RF Program has chosen 100 Russian architects that are willing to take on and confront the challenges that lay ahead. These professional architects are under the age of 40 and are working to bring about interesting projects that will change the mindset of their fellow professionals as well as the mindset of their compatriots by offering them a cutting edge for contemporary life.

One of the major players leading the movement for change is Strelka KB. This organization has spent the last 5 years pushing authorities, architects, and academics to see Russia’s cities as integrated systems.

They are also demonstrating that urbanization should embrace the needs of the people who drive it:


Recent Issues Surrounding Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia Basilica

Even though this basilica in Barcelona has been under construction for over 130 years, it seems no one had the proper paperwork or building permits! Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia Basilica is a UNESCO world heritage site that has been attracting more than 20 million people every year.

Now, after two years of negotiations, an agreement was finally met to correct the problem. The trustees of the church have agreed to pay the $41M in fees over a period of 10 years. The city can then fund public transportation, improve accessibility, and make other needed improvements to the surrounding area.

There is no sign that the lack of intelligence will surface anytime soon. The genius, way far to the left Mayor, Ada Colau, said the Basilica’s board had never worked with the proper permit. He continued his accusations claiming they failed to pay the taxes and fees for the construction, and never submitted the required paperwork for tearing down neighboring residential buildings. According to the church (via the Times), they were given a permit back in 1885 by Sant Martí de Provençals, which was an independent town at that time. Officials insist the construction should have received new paperwork when the town merged with the capital quite a few years later.

The construction project, that is now well-known as the non-permitted site, will be completed in 2026 which is approximately 100years since the death of the architect. Adding to everything else, it seems there is a great deal of controversy over whether this famous landmark still reflects the intentions of Gaudi and is expected to continue for some time.

A Little History

Construction started in 1882 under architect Francisco de Paula del Villar. When he retired in 1883, Gaudi took over the project using his own architectural prowess and engineering style. He chose to use a combination of Gothic and curvilinear Art Nouveau design. Gaudi devoted his entire life to this project and when he died, he was buried in the crypt. He died in 1926, at 73 years-of-age, after being run over by a streetcar and only a quarter of the project had been completed.

Sagrada Familia’s progress was very slow due to relying on private donations and then interrupted by the Spanish Civil War. Construction then resumed in the 1950s but very slowly. Sine 1882, there have been huge advancements in technology including computer design and computerised numerical control or CNC, which has greatly improved progression. The construction actually passed its midpoint in 2010 but some of the project’s greatest challenges are still unresolved. There are supposed to be 10 more spires, each representing an important Biblical figure in the New Testament. To date, it is believed Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia Basilica will be completed by 2026 on the hundredth anniversary of his death.

The basilica has experienced a long history of trials and tribulations including a major division of the citizens over the belief it would outshine Barcelona’s leading cathedral, the actual design itself, and those who believed Gaudi’s death totally disregarded his design. Then in 2007, it was proposed to build an underground tunnel in Spain’s high-speed rail to France but it was decided it could make the basilica unstable. Paraphrasing the art critic Rainer Zerbst, he believed it is impossible to find another building quite like this one in the history of art. Paraphrasing Paul Goldberger, he said it’s the most extraordinary interpretation of Gothic architecture since the Middle Ages.

Josep Maria Bocabella, the founder of Asociación Espiritual de Devotos de San José, was so inspired by the basilica, he wrote The Basilica of the Sagrada Familia.

In 1872, after visiting the Vatican, Bocabella returned home with thoughts of building a church inspired by the basilica at Loreto. The apse crypt of the church was funded through donations and work began on March 12, 1882, which was the festival of St. Joseph. The design was that of Francisco de Paula del Villar who wanted a Gothic revival church in a standard form. The apse crypt was completed before Villar’s resignation in 1883 and then taken over by Gaudi who drastically changed the design. Although he was not appointed Architect Director until 1884, Gaudi started work in 1883.

Sagrada Familia Basilica

The Construction

Regarding the ever slow construction, Gaudi commented that his client was not in a hurry. At the time of his death, only 15 to 20% of the basilica was completed. Work continued under the direction of Domènec Sugrañes i Gras then ceased due to the Spanish Civil War in 1936. During the war, areas of the basilica were burned along with Gaudi’s models and workshop. The design presently being used is based on a reconstructed version of his plans that were also burned in the fire and some modern adaptations have been incorporated. Since 1940, Francesc Quintana, Isidre Puig Boada, Lluís Bonet i Gari and Francesc Cardoner continued the work and the illumination was designed by Carles Buïgas.

Current Members Of The Project

The current director, Jordi Bonet i Armengo, is the son of Lluís Bonet. In the 1980’s he is the one who brought in computers for the designing and construction phases. In 2012, native-born Jordi Fauli took over as the chief architect. Currently, Mark Burry serves as the Executive Architect and Researcher and sculptures created by J. Busquets, Etsuro Sotoo and Josep Maria Subirachs now decorate the façades.

Moving Forward

As of 2000, the central nave vaulting was finished and the main challenge since then has been the construction of the transept vaults and apse. As of 2006, the focus has been on the crossing and supporting structure of the main tower of Jesus Christ and the southern enclosure of the central nave which is known as the Glory façade.

The Sagrada Familia Schools building, designed by Gaudi in 1909, share the site with the church. This building was designed for children and construction workers and then moved in 2002 from the eastern side of the site to the southern corner and is now home to an exhibition.

In Conclusion

Since it’s original birth over 130 years ago, Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia Basilica has gone through many difficulties and yet is still going strong. This church has lived through a war, human disagreements, and numerous architects but still holds on to its own. As a UNESCO world heritage site, this incredible building will be completed in 2026, a testimonial to human endeavor and perseverance.

The Exercise of Detail and Technique in Scarpa’s Works

Detail is an exercise connected with the representation of the act of construction.

To Gregotti[1], this exercise gives a form to the final architecture object, reveal the properties of the materials, the laws of construction and make the project decisions intelligible. However, he also says that our contemporary architecture has abandoned the exercise of detail to quote commercial and industrialized items, like windows, doors and structural elements. For Gregotti, every detail is a small communicative part of a building. A way to put meaning in an architectural project. To him, without the work on details, the connection between the whole and the small parts will be broken and, therefore, the message of the architecture can be compromised.

Leon Battista Alberti, an Italian architect of the Renaissance, says, in his ten books on the De Re Aedificatoria[2], that a good exercise in detail takes into account three concepts: Numerus, Finitio e Collocatio. Numerus is the use of repetition of certain elements so that those elements acquire a certain meaning or purpose, like the use of three doors make the middle door a focus point. Finitio is the use of proportion do define the relation between the detail and the whole or between two details, like a relation in size between that same middle door and the others side doors. The middle door can be made bigger to convey the message that it’s the central entrance. To finish, Collocatio is a functional way of setting details in order to show the history of the detail, how it was made, what it is made of or to make rational divisions on the building.

Santa Maria Novella Florence faade
Facade of Santa Maria Novella [3]
We can see this exercise in detail on the Alberti’s facade of Santa Maria Novella church. We can see the application of Numerus by repetition of openings and decorative elements. We can also see the use of Finitio in the relation between the bigger middle door and the two side doors, emphasizing the central position of the middle door. At last, there is the use of Collocatio in the rational use of the detail to divide the building in two, with a large line between these two parts, and in the way we can feel the natural pattern of the material just by looking at it. Despite the example of the façade of Alberti’s work, we are left with the question of how we can use the exercise of detail in a contemporary work, without appealing to the use of historical anachronism.

Carlos Scarpa and Veritti’s Tomb

Carlos Scarpa was also an Italian architect as Alberti was. However, Scarpa was a modern architect that didn’t use historical elements without a connection to his time. He was born in Venice, 1906, and was heavily influenced by the Italian materials, by other modernist architects, especially Frank Lloyd Wright, and by Japanese culture. Besides being an architect, he also was a good craftsman, knowing how to work with glass and wood, designing glass vessels and other furniture. According to Barba and Quintana[4], Scarpa career always aimed for the perfection in architectural detail.

One of Scarpa’s works that shows his attention to detail is the Veritti’s Tomb or Tomba Veritti (1951), located in the cemetery of S. Vito, Udine, Italy. This project is a tomb made of botticino marble, an Italian marble, with a table and a seat made of stone made as the Veritti’s family tomb. The tomb occupies an area of 22 m² or 236 ft². We enter the tomb passing through a short metal gate in a circular opening. The gate open in a circular motion, as seen in the images 2 and 3, forming a gateway/portal between the outside world of the living and the inside world of the dead[5]. The connection between the place of work and the place of thinking. On the side of this gate there is a semicircular vessel with cropped flowers inside of it.

Facade of Veritti’s Tomb [6]

Facade of Veritti’s Tomb [7]
On the inside we the the Verritti’s pit in front of the seat and table. Behind the pit there is a stone wall made of various sizes of rectangular stone covering. Above it, there is a circular metal roof. This roof is divided in three parts by two segments of line. In one of these lines we can read the word Pax, the Latin for peace, and on one of the roof quadrants we can see an opening in the form of a cross.

Inside of Veritti’s Tomb [8]
Inside of Veritti’s Tomb [9]
The details that we see in the inside and outside of the tomb makes the connection between the concepts that guided the whole of the project and the small parts of the building. Everything in this building was thought to be there, having a connection with a central idea. Part of the meaning of this building only make sense because of the details made especially for this project.

[1] GREGOTTI, Vittorio. 1996. The Exercise of Detail (1983). In: NESBITT, Kate. Theorizing a New Agenda for Architecture: An Anthology of Architectural Theory 1965 – 1995. New York, USA: Princeton Architectural Press.

[2] ALBERTI, Leon Battista. 1986. The Tem Books of Architecture: The 1755 Leoni Edition. USA: Dover Publications.

[3] FLORENCE FOR FREE. “The Basilica of Santa Maria Novella”. Retrieved July 11, 2018 (

[4] BARBA, José Juan; QUINTANA, Paloma de La. “The Architecture of Details: Palazzo Querini Stampalia by Carlos Scarpa”. Retrieved July 11, 2018 (

[5] REGIONE AUTONOMA FRIULI VENEZIA GIULIA COMUNE DI UDINE. “Catalogazione Delle Eclettico-Storicista ai Giorni Nostri e del Patrimonio Edilizio rurale Spontaneo e Proposte di Norme da Introdurre nel PRGC: Opere Cimiteriali Monumentali”. Retrieved July 12, 2018 (

[6] TRIPADVISOR. “Tomba Veritti”. Retrieved July 11, 2018 (

[7] FLICK. “Tomba Veritti”. Retrieved July 11, 2018 (

[8] CISA A. PALLADIO. “Udine, Tomba Veritti”. Retrieved July 11, 2018 (

[9] CISA A. PALLADIO. “Udine, Tomba Veritti, Copertura”. Retrieved July 11, 2018 (