10.10.2012, 14:22

The September issue of Project Russia is devoted to preservation of architectural heritage It contains a companion book by Kuba Snopek titled “Belyayevo Forever: Preservation of Intangible Heritage”.

Kuba Snopek is a Polish architect, a graduate of the “Preservation” Studio (2010-2011), and an instructor at the “Citizens as Customers” (2011-2012) and “Another Place” (2012-2013) studios.


Three years ago, he began researching intangible heritage under the supervision of Rem Koolhaas. In “Belyayevo Forever”, Snopek calls on UNESCO to include the Moscow district of Belyayevo in the World Heritage list. We asked him about his approach to preserving standardized objects, cultural memory, and the search for Moscow districts’ identities.

In previous times, architecture was more diverse, it was built by hand of people, not by machines in a factory.

It required specific ways of preservation, which were focused on the uniqueness. Today we’re mass producing identical buildings, and we need a new approach to preserving standardized, non-unique objects.

The core of my research is a somewhat provocative application to include Belyayevo on UNESCO’s World Heritage list.

From an architectural point of view, Belyayevo is one of Moscow’s most monotonous districts. But it also has unique, immaterial value — the history of Moscow conceptualism, the famous “bulldozer” exhibition, and the liberalization of Soviet art, to name a few.

New criteria for selecting architectural heritage sites are needed to preserve objects of immaterial value.

I offered my criterion — a building should be declared valuable if it contains a union of material and immaterial heritage, and if these two elements cannot exist independently of one another.

When we evaluate buildings by their age and aesthetic merit alone, things are more or less simple.

Any discussion of immaterial heritage must address an underlying ideological question: What does society want to preserve as its cultural heritage? My approach to preserving cultural heritage doesn’t include knee-jerk decisions. There must me a discussion regarding every case, and its participants must understand what makes each case unique. The paradox is that preservation of diverse and unique objects of pre-modernist architecture can be made by rather simple, standardized preservation methods. And late modernist buildings, which look radically the same, require an individual approach, because each of them has a unique story.

I don’t particularly like the word “branding”.

But I think that in every environment, every Moscow suburb, there are elements that can help create a local identity. I realized that during “final review” at Strelka, when I was approached by an attendee. He said, “I’ve lived near Belyayevo my whole life, and I never knew that there was something special there”.