Graduate Yefim Freidine, 28, architect, Omsk: “Strelka is Open Brain Surgery”

30.03.2012, 16:07
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Yefim studied in the Preservation theme group supervised by Rem Koolhaas. In his project, entitled Soviet Ideology of Preservation: How It Works Today, Yefim analyzed the methods of heritage preservation during the Soviet era and their influence on today’s life.

“When did I decide to enroll at Strelka? It was in the summer. I had already started a new job in Omsk and was also testing a website for the Centre of Architectural Communications. I saw a link to a video of a Strelka Institute presentation. In the video, one of the directors of the Institute was talking about opportunities for a person from Omsk. So I probably turned out to be that person.

Another reason was my pioneering nature. Once, I participated in the first ever Omsk design competition, then travelled to the Venice Biennale and landed in the first ever workshop of Goldhorn’s project NEXT. I try out everything on myself, so I can later write, critique, and design.

The final reason was the fact that I did not like my new job, although there were, and still are, good prospects there. The rest is just random coincidence.

Strelka gave me belief in myself, experience of public speaking and organizing discussions, and understanding of personal responsibility for a project.

And the understanding that I don’t want to be a student.

Before Strelka, I was interested in Russian avant-garde and urban planning conflicts. In the spring, a few months prior coming to Strelka, I did a section of a show on modernism, which brought me right to the issue of preservation. The research project which I did at Strelka (an awful bore about methods of preservation during the Soviet times) provided me with the foundation for further work on the theme of heritage. At Strelka, I met different people, learned to focus and adequately assess my communication skills. During one of the discussions, I stumbled on a comparison: Strelka is like open brain surgery. Your skull bone is removed, the operation is performed, and the skull bone is put back in place. You then need some time to come back to life. I think that I am now in the recovery stage.

One of the ideas of my research project on Soviet ideology of heritage preservation and its influence on modern life was managing the processes of preservation and development that, for a strange reason, were opposed to each other. In my opinion, their interaction lacks a mediator: we have good developers and excellent restoration and preservation specialists; however, when they meet only ruins are left behind, like after a war. Other types of conflicts arise between preservationists and authorities, because the latter often advocates barbarian development through destruction.

The education process also had a number of week points. One of them was a lack of practical work during the research process. For example, instead of scheduling one discussion, three could have been scheduled. Instead of analyzing two projects, ten could have been analyzed. The strategy of preservation through mediation that I uncovered required a description of the method and process, which did not come out of the research itself but is being gradually articulated now, with the passage of time. A programme called Watchmen brought me face to face with all the aspects of the process. And it turns out that there are still plenty of blank spots when it comes to the development of historical buildings.

Following graduation, Strelka asked our group supervisors to write an outline of the Watchmen series of public discussion for the Moscow Department of Cultural Heritage. I helped in the organization of discussions and acted as the project manager. This allowed me to test some of the ideas of my research. In addition, I am writing articles, which I sincerely hope are useful to someone.

I am now back in Omsk. Trying to remember how to design territories. Weaning off from life in the capital and at Strelka Institute. From the noise and the strain. Here we have prairies and more sunny days than in Sochi. As for future plans, I want to finally focus on socio-spatial design and conflicts. Strelka has confirmed that this is the right path for me (for which it deserves special thanks), and my ideas in this regard will allow me to navigate this path towards the bright future.