The exhibition and conference on “Open City. Education in Urban Planning and Architecture” took place at the Museum of Moscow on 27-28 October 1916. Altogether nine Moscow institutions of higher learning presented their displays there, and a prestigious jury gave the top marks to the stand of the MARCH.
The Moscow Committee for Architecture and Urban Development rewarded the project authors – Andrei Fomichev, Anton Timofeev and Alexander Ostrogorsky – with a trip to the Venice Architecture Biennale. Shortly after coming back the co-author Anton Timofeev, a MARCH graduate now teaching at the school, answered our questions.
Q. Anton, what was your display like, how did you conceive the idea and did you fully materialise it?
A. We began by taking the cardinal decision that our display should be a simple and coherent presentation of our school. Based on the criteria set by the organisers, we arranged the contents in three parts: information about the school, its education programmes and student projects as the outcome of the school’s work. As we worked on the stand, we realised that information should be augmented with some physical features and at least the minimum volume: our subject was architectural education and 2D graphics did not seem a good choice. That was how we came up with a net, colour and corrugated cardboard pedestals for models. It was important to avoid any conflict between graphics and materials and to keep things clear, so all the “layers” of the display were independent of one another, so to speak.
Although we declared simplicity, the job was far from easy. One crucial thing was to select appropriate information while, installation brought about many snags and glitches that had to be sorted out on the go. Today we recollect all that as a fascinating adventure, all thanks to MARCH’s team spirit. About 20 people came over to help us with the installation, which the exhibition organisers liked very much. As work progressed, some structural variations were introduced to improve the display, and the whole process was quite lively and dynamic.
Q. What are your brightest impressions of Venice and the Biennale?
A. Venice was dazzling; I cannot find the right words and phrases to express what I felt. Anyone, especially and architect, who has seen Venice will agree, I think.
My impressions of the Biennale are associated with both the locale and the exhibition contents. The Arsenal and Giardini Gardens are an unbelievable site! As for the contents, Renato Rizzi’s display is among my most memorable impressions. The extraordinary effort that went into its creation forcefully sets off its architectural content and meanings. The other highlights included the arch designed by the Gabinete de Arquitectura bureau, which I had known from my diploma research, and Tadao Ando’s work: I have always taken an interest in the physical aspects of his use of concrete, and now I know that they are stunning. Alexander Brodsky’s pavilion is also worth mention: well known from photographs and descriptions, it looks quite charming in reality. I could go on as there were many excellent displays, but there is one thing the Biennale confirmed for me: MARCH is in tune with today’s architectural discourse, which is really heartening.
Q. In Venice you saw, among others, one of the MARCH professors and well-known Russian architect and artist Alexander Brodsky. Was it a chance meeting?
A. The meeting with Brodsky in Venice was a unique event, of course. He came to the city unexpectedly, contacted us and suggested we get together. In the evening, we sat in the Palazzo Ducale gallery overlooking the embankment beyond Ponte della Paglia. I remember this evening as one of the greatest moments of the trip.
He invited us, again unexpectedly, to the party marking the closure of the Biennale. Needless to say, the party was as remarkable as the entire visit, and I am sincerely grateful to all those who made it possible!
Images: Olga Sabo