Architects of Invention told about the project at the site of former Rot Front Factory

16 June 2017

Partners at Architects of Invention (AI)—Anton Khmelnitsky and Nikoloz Japaridze founded the Moscow office of the company five years ago. Prior to that, they worked at companies of the most famous architects—Norman Foster and Rem Koolhaas. They use the experience gained there in their projects. Anton Khmelnitsky told about this practice using the example of the reconstruction project of the former Rot Front Factory on Malaya Ordynka.

Rot Front confectionery factory is located in Zamoskvorechye District, between Malaya Ordynka and Bolshoy Ordynskiy Pereulok. There are some interesting historic buildings preserved such as a town mansion of the XIX century (architect E. Yuditsky) and a brick factory building, where halva used to be made. The district has interesting story of development: until recently, it seemed to be a sort of the center, but its urban environment was inconsistent with the status of the centre. After the city had implemented My Street Program on Ordynka and Pyatnitskaya, the interest in Zamoskvorechye from developers increased significantly, and a lot of interesting redevelopment projects appeared there immediately afterwards.

The project in the territory of Rot Front—ORDYNKA. CLUBHOUSE COMPOUND — was started by Architectural Bureau Meganom; later it was passed on to Bureau AI. In 2016 it received the architectural and urban planning solution approval certificate. In total, the residential compound will have 74 flats and 16 apartment hotel units; its total area is about 20 thousand sq. m.

Project at the site of Rot Front Factory

—My first question is evident: how did you deal with the architectural heritage in this project?

Anton Khmelnitsky: As you know, at the site of former Rot Front Factory there is a mansion having protection status. Unfortunately, only little part of the building remained, but the project envisages its scientific restoration. There is a former factory building on Malaya Ordynka, which has quite nice historic facades that will be preserved.

—Are you going to restore both facades or just the one that overlooks the street?

—Indeed, the facade facing the street is more or less preserved, so we can implement restoration work there; but the inner facade is almost entirely destroyed. The original idea was to leave one building; its one side would be modern, the other one—historical. But I’m strongly opposed to these strange solutions when one house has two different facades, from different eras. Therefore, we decided that the style of the old one will be unchanged, and only a separate volume of a «new» structure will be attached to it. We proposed a bold decision to reshape and divide the house, then make a separate project and emphasize the unusual architectural planning solution by slightly sifting the houses from each other.

Project at the site of Rot Front Factory

This decision provided the opportunity to create double-height penthouse space —the living-room premises from Malaya Ordynka side will have the height of 5-6 meters, and in some sections there will be two-level space. If we had preserved the old house design, we would not have obtained this quality.

But we had difficulties in approving this architectural solution, as the city administration was a bit confused by the building’s look from the side of Bolshoy Ordynskiy Pereulok. A small part of the end facade can be seen from there. After the long negotiations, we finally made this part look more classical; though, if it were up to us, probably, we would not have done so. And my personal opinion as an architect, it shouldn’t be done in this way. You know, Norman Foster promotes this idea on a philosophical level—his projects for buildings of the Reichstag or the British Museum demonstrate the clear distinction between the new an old, which should not be mixed up.

—And why are two modern buildings raised on stilts?

— We came up with the idea to raise them on stilts to the height of two floors, because the site is not large enough; so in this way we created a courtyard under the buildings. It was intended that the facade of the historic building would be seen from each house, so when you look out of the window you immediately understand that there is the historic environment outside. It was very important for us.

—The modern facades have something industrial in their design. Is it a tribute to the history of the place?

— We designed such unusual three-dimensional facades, because the buildings are quite long and both overlooking the courtyard. We wanted to create an interesting relief effect of the compound, but it should be completely modern. In addition to this, it was important to show that the buildings belong to one complex, despite the fact that they all look different. This place has history; there had been a confectionery factory for many decades, so we came up with the idea to use something like this, and in the end we proposed a modular system of fiber reinforced concrete—different buildings have different modules. This detail is a reference to the industrial design, lofts with large windows, wide glazing.

Project at the site of Rot Front Factory

—The territory of the compound will be closed for the city?

—Yes, there’s no road access. Of course, the territory won’t be surrounded by fences, but it will have the closed courtyard formed naturally, because it is walled on all sides by buildings. The entrance for residents into this long yard is located on Malaya Ordynka side.

And what urban services will be on the perimeter?

—The ground floors at Malaya Ordynka are intended for retail and other commercial premises. We hope the ground floors will be animated having their own way of life, and the compound will not be closed only inside of itself.

—Do you think that My Street Program added capitalization in this area?

—Yes, of course! Zamoskvorechye has always been a district with such uncertain status—it is in the center, and the Tretyakov Gallery is located not far from there, though it’s always been unclear, what kind of district it is. Everything is clear with the Boulevard Ring, or Ostozhenka, but there is something wrong with Zamoskvorechye. And certainly, the fact that the two main streets have been reconstructed provided a strong impetus for its overall development. Look how many development projects are being implemented there! The answer is obvious: developers saw the opportunity for themselves, which the city gave them, and they are going to grasp the chance.

ATS Reconstruction Projects on Bakuninskaya str.

—How has your reconstruction project for the former ATS on Bakuninskaya Street progressed?

—It has just got the final approval from Moskomarkhitektura. We are transforming it into a hotel and apartments. Last year we presented this project at the Architectural Council, and refined it in accordance with the recommendations. In the end, in cooperation with the Chief Architect of Moscow, we developed the project option to save the whole building volume and integrate hotel technology into it. Also, we convinced the developer to accommodate public functions on the ground floor; they will be along the perimeter of the building, and easy access to the territory will be provided.

The original design of the facade will be restored—with words «telephone» and «telegraph», which we found in old photographs. We also scratched the facade and found that initially there were burgundy stripes on the gray background—we’re going to reproduce that pattern.

Headquarters of Russian Helicopters on Paveletskaya str.

—What other projects are you implementing in Moscow?

—We’ve just finished a large-scale project on Paveletskaya— the Headquarters of Russian Helicopters. It is a complex consisting of an office building and a hotel. Its facades are faced with innovative full glazing without lintels. And we created silkscreen prints on the external edges of the glass, so in sunny weather the building looks almost white.

— You have offices in London and Tbilisi...

—Yes, in Georgia we managed to implement several interesting projects; we won some competitions, designed the Prosecutor’s Office in Tbilisi, for example. In addition to this, we have projects in the Seychelles, India, Chile, the UK. Last year, along with Zaha Hadid’s office, we were shortlisted in the design competition for the Church in Copenhagen—completely wooden, consisting of glued structures. In general, we try to create something interesting and avoid making «run-of-the-mill» architecture which is quite hard in terms of business, though is possible.

Prosecutor’s Office in Tbilisi

Competition Project for the Church in Copenhagen


Publications on the topic


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