October 26, 2013

Belyayevo Forever: Preserving the Genericby Kuba Snopek

Strelka Institute for Media, Architecture and Design
Image courtesy of Strelka Press.

Digital publishing house Strelka Press announces the latest in its series of essays, Belyayevo Forever: Preserving the Generic by Kuba Snopek.

Preservation is ordinarily reserved for architecture that is unique. So how would we go about preserving buildings that are utterly generic? Such is the case with Belyayevo, an ordinary residential district in Moscow. Belyayevo is a classic microrayon, the standardised neighbourhood system that successive Soviet regimes laid out across the USSR in what was the most expansive programme of industrialised construction the world has ever seen. Belyayevo’s buildings, and the desolate spaces between them, are identical to thousands of others, but is it different? Kuba Snopek argues that it is. Home to many of the artists of the Moscow Conceptualism school, the place was written into the character of their art. Snopek argues that this intangible heritage is the key to saving a neighbourhood many feel has had its day. But as Russia comes to terms with its Soviet legacy, will such arguments fall on deaf ears?

Excerpt: On the one hand, was the creation of a totally new city fabric, full of voids and wastelands, uncontrolled common space, ready to become exhibition space or whatever else. On the other hand was a group of rebellious artists, reacting with artistic force and determination. Thus Belyayevo—the place where two Khrushchev policies intersected—became a monument, commemorating the impact of policies on human lives. Both the tangible and intangible effects of totalitarian decisions meet here, proving to me that a microrayon is not simply a banal set of buildings, but a complex, multi-dimensional space, where the apparent simplicity of the architecture conceals complicated and nuanced stories.

Kuba Snopek is a Polish architect and researcher. Based in Moscow, he is a graduate of the Strelka Institute, where he now teaches. Prior to that he worked on city planning projects for Bjarke Ingels Group in Copenhagen. His research specialism is late-modernist and contemporary architecture and architectural heritage.

Strelka Press is a digital-first publishing house for new writing on architecture, design and the city. Publishing essays as ebooks, our mission is to be a crossroads for critical thinking from around the world. Based in Moscow and London, we believe that by providing a platform for international debate we can be a tool for change in Russia.

Strelka Press is the publishing arm of the Strelka Institute for Media, Architecture and Design in Moscow. We publish in English and Russian.

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