Missing Spain

27.10.2011, 14:43
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Yesterday was devoted to discussing big projects of a city and the urban transformation that takes place as a result. 

The much anticipated meeting with the newly appointed head of Moscow’s Department of Culture Sergey Kapkov has proven to be worth the wait.  The students eagerly fired away with questions regarding the current state of culture in Moscow, the financing of different facilities, the new programme for cultural development and so on

The tasks that the department sets for itself have a lot to do with estimating the expenditure on culture and evaluating the state of different cultural industries. Kapkov also mentioned that the cultural field very much depends on a particular person’s enthusiasm and determination to develop programmes, be it theatre, cinematography or public libraries. The cultural sphere needs to attract more people of this kind and for that it’s necessary to give financial support through a system of grants and state commissions.

This day was more about discussions than lectures and the trend continued with quite a heated debate on big projects happening in Russia. The participants of the round table, including the editor-in-chief of the Project Russia magazine Aleksey Muratov, architectural critic Grigory Revzin, chief architect of the state corporation “Olympstroy” Oleg Kharchenko, senior researcher of Hermitage Anna Konivets and  Aleksey Batyrev of Skolkovo, each represented a different project being developed such as Skolkovo, Sochi Olympics and Hermitage 2014. Here are some highlights of this discussion:

— The 20th century was filled with different big projects. The Soviet Union especially put a lot of emphasis on the development of science cities. The difference between then and now is that nowadays there is a trend to combine science and business, in this sense Skolkovo is one example of such attempts being made.

— Although the Russian government tries to make Skolkovo look like Silicone Valley in the US, it turns out to be very different. Skolkovo is a planned project, the main current goals of which are to create a comfortable city environment where ideas would be born out of communication between people, so innovation would literally happen in the streets.

— Big projects are mostly developed in progressive cities that have a potential for development. Sochi, for example, was chosen for the winter Olympics 2014 exactly because it had such prospects.

— Typically there are 3 stakeholders (investors, initiatives, citizens) when it comes to big projects. However, in most of the major projects in Russia there is only one stakeholder and that is the government. Thus, everything depends on the kind of authority the government has, i.e. whether it is friendly towards businesses, or perhaps authoritarian, or on the contrary, democratic.

This rather serious discussion ended on a humourous note, when in response to one of the students’ questions about what was missing from Moscow’s public space in order for a person to feel comfortable, Oleg Kharchenko answered that he was missing Spain.

Note: all of the lectures will soon be available on our YouTube channel, so watch out for updates in our blog.