Winy Maas: «Shop around in offices, shop around in researches, go to different schools»

02.09.2011, 13:36
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Winy Maas is a Dutch architect, urbanist, and co-founder of the MVRDV studio, among whose projects are the South Korean Kwang center, the House of Culture and Movementin Denmark, and a project for an autonomous residential community in Moscow’s A101 suburbs. Winy Maas actively teaches in Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Delft Technical University, Berlage Institute, and Yale University. During his stay in Moscow, Winy gave at Strelka a lecture, co-led the workshop The Why Factory: Copy/Paste, and answered a few questions on the city, and his experience of and attitude to Russia.

How do you feel about Moscow?

I don’t know Moscow much yet. I just arrived and I only have been at this table. I am impressed by your director, of course; how she is trying to mobilize sufficient forces in this environment to create content, to create appearance, to create voice, to create influence. That is a smart gesture. Very impressive, very specific. Such a thing doesn’t exist in this way in other places of the world.

Is this your first time in Russia?

In Moscow it is.

Where else have you been?

I have been to St Petersburg for a commission. It was a very specific commission for the Holland Island. We didn’t work much. And actually we see that everyone is around, Rem [Koolhaas] is here. And we have an intuition not to compete at the moment. So there are other places that pull our attention more. China already takes some energy from us. India takes some energy from us. Actually, I have no clue, maybe it’s fantastic. We can do things here but there is, of course, certain skepticism. How do you deal with bad developers (this could be a subject for Strelka)? How to raise the level of quality? There are maybe so many examples when people want to make money by screwing things, by lowering the quality. There is also, I fear, a problem between the developers and municipality – one doesn’t trust them, or there is some bribing here and there. Then the public opinion is unclear. You can do nothing, basically, because everything is UNESCO, and even more UNESCO than UNESCO itself. And it is always «old is good and anything new is bad».

Does Strelka influence the world?

Strelka doesn’t influence the world yet because it’s too young. I think the method, as far as I can see at the moment and as we have already discussed, has a chance. Let me say, after you show yourself you can only lose. And the only thing you have to do after is to improve. So we shall see. Now you have to make it. It will be hard because of the context because Russia is very specific economically: minority which is rich, enormous amount of people who are rather poor, and there is no middle class. So the audience is different than that in France or USA. That already demands an intelligent combination. So act on the top level. Basically you have to be competitive with other schools in the world. You have to mobilize the rich. And you have to stimulate the growth of the middle class.

What kind of advice can you give to young architects? How to start?

First, shop around, go and work in any place that you like: half-year here, half-year there, half-year there. And build up your CV element. Shop around in offices, shop around in researches, go to different schools. And then you can come to your own conclusions. Make yourself stronger. Build a network. And based on your network you can go further. Of course, it depends not only on that but also on how accurate you can be: get commissions and design catchy, take attention and become a person.

06.09.11 Domus Mixtapes # 8: The Sound of Moscow

How does Moscow sound? In July, an attempt to define the sounds of the Russian capital was made at Strelka as part of the Domus Mixtapes series. The workshop on sound-mapping that was curated by the sound designer Daniel Perlin (DJ N-RON) ended with aMixtapes Live performance that became the third in the Domus Mixtape Live series after Milan and London. The Mixtapes tracks at the Domus website offer a rare chance to catch the latest sounds and styles from a variety of cities.

As a rule these days people don’t wake up to the sounds of the jungle, especially if they happen to live in a vast metropolis. Here in Moscow, however, every weekend a strange mix of elephant sounds and old soviet movie themes floods the world, courtesy of the hundred year old zoo nestling in the center of the city. The buzz of voices from the crowd, the street vendors hustling at every chance to sell some cheap plastic toy, blend with the constant crying of children pulling their parents somewhere where someone is selling sweets. I don’t really remember the first time I ever visited the zoo: the faded photograph of me sitting on a pony suggests it was somewhere around 6 years of age. But every weekend still I hear those familiar sounds of the animal kingdom like an alarm call.

These sounds then fuse with the sounds of the metro as I go down the escalator, hearing the familiar advertisement and safety announcements. The Moscow metro is either way loud or way too quiet depending on the hour. You are bombarded by the rattling noise of the wheels, the stop announcements, or tinny music from someone’s headphones. In the night, however, this underground palace for the people, as it was dreamed by Stalin, is strangely quiet and even tranquil. You could almost imagine a grand ball; women dressed in flowing gowns, men in tuxedos. A hummed lullaby, carrying you home to a constant rhythm.

As I get to my stop, the aural scenery shifts to the drowning sound of bells from the fake church built in the place of a swimming pool, which could have been the Palace of Soviets. Weddings being celebrated above, the clicks and whirrs of cameras mix with the ambient sounds of water and the continuous symphony of traffic jams. Evgenia Nedosekina

Moscow-based electronic artist Feydor Pereverzev, who works under the name of Moa Pillar, skilfully combines a powerful bass sound and futuristic beats with ethnic motives. Making his debut with the track «Water Lilly» on the Fly Russia collection last year, today Moa Pillar has recognition from fellow electronic artists and made appearances on tracks of other talanted Russian beatmakers on MTV Iggy. Feydor recently published an EP on the G5 Music label and is currently working on his new album.

Evgenia Nedosekina is a trained architect and graduate of Strelka institute for media, architecture and design, where she worked on the theme of physical transformations that occurred in Moscow during the last 20 years. This research was then made into a theatre performance, transmitting the work into a more artistic presentation. Evgenia is also involved in various music projects and works under the name of Jekka. She is currently working on projects concerning public spaces within the city.

This article, as well as Mixtape Live Moscow, has been published on the website of Domus. Download and listen mixtape