"Project Classic"  Magazine No. X-MMIV


Vladimir Sedov


Residential building in Bolshoy Levshinsky Lane, 9/11, Moscow
Sergey Kiselev, Olga Marchenko, Mikhail Chirkov (“Sergey Kiselev and Partners”),
Ilya Utkin, Daria Nikolaeva, Ekaterina Peresvetova, Valery Fenogenov ("Utkin Studio")
Sculpture on the facades and in the interior: Alexey Storozhev
Mosaic panels on the first floor: Ivan Shakhovskoy
Constructor: Igor Shvartsman
Customer: Investstroy CJSC
Investor: KV-Engineering
Contractor: CONIP, Zagreb


  Buildings most often say their architecture with a single phrase: “I am functional”, “I am rich”, “I am traditional”, “I am progressive” or even “I am socially oriented”. The meaning of this phrase is felt by many, but not everyone can pronounce it after examination, although it is dimly felt. The architect is looking for this phrase in the first draft, in the study of volumes and in an endless game with details. She, this phrase, is spoken by some language (this is style), some sounds (this is form) and in some context (this is an urban environment), which, most often, determines the nature of the phrase. The residential building, designed by Ilya Utkin, stands in the very center of Moscow, inside the Sadovoye Ring, on the corner of the Bolshoy and Maly Levshinsky lanes. Opposite there is a mansion of the 18th century with a rounded corner and empire houses, through another lane there is a post-constructivist house with a courtyard garden, and nearby, right across Maly Levshinsky, is a tenement house in the neoclassical style of the beginning of the 20th century. The environment is complicated, the alleys between Arbat and Prechistenka are still very “alive”, and here the approach used by architects for the Ostozhenka district (affectionate, “environmental” suppression of everything old by new, creating a new environment) is simply impossible. Shocking gestures are possible for Arbat lanes, a struggle not only with space, but also with the environment, which is demonstrated by the ultramodern residential building just built and almost next to Utkin’s house in Maly Levshinsky Lane, designed by architects from the AB group (see PK 7). The same house, with its style, also shows the way to create a very expensive residential building in a modern manner - through an architectural and artistic gesture that turns the building immediately into a tourist attraction. At one end of these gestures will be the modernist house of AB Group, and at the other end will be the postmodern Tkachenko egg house. These are extreme decisions, the number of which, in my opinion, will increase. More restrained “moves” are possible, and even welcomed by critics: in the mainstream of modernism, the most prominent “European buildings” were built by Skokan and Skuratov, while from the side of postmodernism the style was recently found and put into the arsenal of art tools for expensive housing Art Deco, which tells of the sophistication and richness of a few carbon-rich decades between the world wars of the 20th century (here you can point to the buildings of Andreev and Podyapolsky, as well as the AB group - see PK 7).
   So, there are two areas, postmodernism and modernism, and each offers the image of an apartment building for wealthy people in a prestigious area. It would seem that one can observe more and more new moves in a conditional chess game played by supporters of new forms and followers of traditionalism updated with new materials. But here Utkin makes a house that is made both wrong and wrong: it is neither modernism nor postmodern. This house says the phrase "I am magnificent" with extremely accentuated clarity, but not proudly and defiantly, but calmly, evenly. But in what language?
   The architect chooses a large scale for the house in Levshinsky lanes, but does not suppress the environment with this scale, but tries to merge into it. He closes the house with the neighboring apartment building in one composition, he turns to the other neighbor, a dilapidated mansion, a calm end with small windows, and finally he leads out into the alley a rounded corner, so familiar to moscow citizens and therefore perceived even with a large shape as a sign " the comfort of the side streets. " But this “sign” is completed by a large-scale rotunda, which suddenly elevates the building above its neighbors. From below, from the sidewalk, this house is inscribed on Wednesday, while in the range of streets he proudly unfolds his not ordinary forms.
   These forms, without exception, go back to classicism. But the classicism used by Utkin is not a stylization of the style of any time, it is its own style. He does not go back to the Cossack style of mature classicism, nor to the neoclassicism of the beginning of the 20th century, nor to the Stalinist neoclassicism in any of its editions.
  It is made so. Two facades, short and long, are joined by an angular rounding. Each facade is built symmetrically and can exist independently, but they are solved by similar means. The first floor is interpreted as a basement and finished with cold grayish granite. But this granite is not a magnificent representative fur coat, which can be found at Peretyatkovich (at the beginning of the 20th century) or Shchusev (in the middle of the same century), but a flat and well-cut short fur coat. Above begins the realm of front brickwork. This smooth masonry of two types of bricks immediately leads us away from possible Russian prototypes: in this form we will not meet it in modernity or neoclassicism, and, especially, during the periods of classicism, whether it’s just Empire or Stalin's Empire. This is from somewhere in Victorian England, imperial Austria, or, finally, the late and monumental eclecticism of St. Petersburg and Moscow (the house on Strastnoy Boulevard). As you can see, the sources come to mind eclectic.And then, when viewing this even brickwork with distinguished and even seams, which, of course, is a pictorial, artistic means, suddenly an understanding of the very essence of the technique applied by Utkin comes: it’s all eclecticism, that is, a conscious choice and a reasonable mixture of forms born classics and the most different neoclassicisms. Eclecticism is sometimes understood evaluatively as an arbitrary mixing of motives, but most often it is clear that it is a method that allows one to speak by means of large styles in the absence of a single large style. Now such a great style is absent, and in the classical direction it is especially far from it. One could be content with the ironic tongue-twister of “as if classical” forms of postmodernism, but Utkin begins to invent his own classicism. It inevitably turns out to be eclectic, connected with several different sources, it inevitably turns out to be decorative, superimposed on the facade, but it is free from forms and motifs alien to the classical tradition, it is composed of classic details and connected into a relatively integral art system. In this system, there are groups of windows (like risalits), distinguished by columns and a warm, sandstone-colored frame, there are Atlantis heads, and consoles with volutes, and a number of module-consoles supporting a cornice which is very remote and torn off the wall surface, above which is a kind of glazed attic. To all this is added also a generalized rotunda-belvedere over a rounded corner. All this has been done and compiled quite coldly, rationally, rationally.
    An additional key to understanding the techniques applied by the architect is the courtyard facade. Here you can see that the building of concrete and glass is only decorated with all this classic fittings, which is modern in its basis. From the courtyard, there are only skirtings that cover the floors, strips of tape glazing and located near the firewall at the end, there is a square arbor tower in plan, with a staircase inscribed nowhere on the roof. This tower is the only tribute to the period of paper architecture, the master of which Utkin is rightfully considered to be, such a thing is a memory of etchings, of endless movement, of Escher's schedule. All the rest, all the rhetoric of the two street facades is the eclectic decoration of a rich house for the rich. And the train of thought here should be something like this: there can be rich pompous and willing to live magnificent and flaunted (for them postmodernism), there can be europeanized, modest, business, technical (for them environmental modernism), and there can be restrained traditionalists and conservatives, emphasized stiff and distancing from the nouveau riche and technocrats. For them we will build a new image in which there will be all comfort (but inside), clothed in a respectable, competent, true in form and understandable by sources whole. This whole is Utkin’s new style, rational, classical by sources and eclectic by the method of shaping. This is only the beginning, it is only a study on the theme of wealth in architecture. This, of course, is far from a sketch, not a sketch, but also not a thoroughly prowled picture, it is only a free sketch on the theme of representative architecture based on traditional and, moreover, competent and smart articulation of the facade. This sketch belongs to a certain constructed style, whose name is neoclassicism. It seems that this style will get its place in the palette of Moscow styles. It is unlikely that it will completely supplant postmodernism or will “push out” modernism. Rather, it will take an empty place in the middle - where customers previously only darted from one pole to another. Another forecast can be made: if a trial building appeared in a new style, then this style, neoclassicism, should have its own extremes, its own shocking objects. Waiting for them, apparently, was not long.

© 2019 Architectural studio «Utkin Studio».