Maybe global pandemics isn’t responsible for the emergence of Slow Living trend, but it has certainly contributed to it. Trend has affected fashion industry, self-awareness practices and rising popularity of home-made dinners. Architecture have always been slower than other professional fields, but even architecture changes faster with every year. BURO. talked to architect Olga Treivas, the founder of Treivas Architecture Bureau, how to get back to artistic nature, stop worrying and create something special.
I am often asked about trends in my profession, however me and my team do not follow the trends. We try to create architecture without fashion, so these spaces stay relevant for a long time. The clients could use it longer, but they would return to us again. I am proud that I was able to create such relationship — that it the case of Nude. Coffee and Wine restaurant, created in 2014. Shabby walls with Brooklyn vibe and brass details were a huge hit back then, but it seems that we managed to use these trendy details naturally — this space already had brick walls with texture of plaster and paint layers. I like to observe how this interior lives today. We were very happy when Nude founders Artur and Zara Bersirov returned to us with their new project Sight. Coffee and Dine in Saint-Petersburg. This interior is very different, but I hope that it will age as gracefully as Nude.
Globalization has made our homes and clothes similar in different parts of the world, as the result some crafts are in danger of disappearance. I hope that travelling around our country is going to bring a change, so the crafts will get the deserved attention. I also believe in ethics of small deeds. In my series of furniture called Emma I used embroidery — I think that stitches that hold together wood and metal make the objects naive and touching — the qualities that handmade crafted pieces have, and which their industrial look alikes lack of.
And for our project of country house in Suzdal we have combined wood-carved elements, traditional for this district, with modern and austere volume. Working with wood-carving was a new experience both for team and me. We have created patters based on what we saw in houses around construction area. I am sure that slipping beauty of windowframes and ledges has to be saved not only for museums, but for contemporary architecture as well. That is how the craft will truly live. We haven’t used laser to do the patterns deliberately, instead we have commissioned it to a local master. Our point was to make this building as authentic, as possible, maybe a little rough even — these are the things that stand out among generic render-like buildings and interiors. It seems that we were correct — the house was warmly greeted in media. Maybe the secret is that we worked on it as thoroughly as the craftsmen of the past — we have participated in this project on all levels, from general plan to sorting the books on shelves.
Sometimes research is the most effective stage for an architect: building and its area can tell a lot about the future project. We have first encountered it while working on Garage Museum Headcuarters. The administrative building in Gorky Park seemed unremarkable, but the more we looked into its history, the more we understood that we need to tell its story as it is. Built at the end of the 19th century as a shipyard, the building was reinvented several times, becoming a pavilion at the first All-Union Agricultural Exhibition, a cinema, a WWII trophy gallery, a bathhouse. We wanted to preserve this space, to define its initial shape. It has eventually resulted not only in interior, but in the book as well.
When we have just started this project, we have encountered its last iteration — a shop of sanitary equipment and ceramics. I saw the typical image of the noughties, with Armstrong ceilings and other ridiculous details. Maybe, our unwillingness to live with Soviet heritage demanded such radical approach. But the time passed, and people begin to turn to their past, recent as well, — they restore furniture, buy vintage light and decor. Items with history have unique character and surprisingly enlongate its relevance for many years ahead.
When I have just started working with exhibition design, it was a free niche at architecture market. But soon my practice at FORM as well as works of other bureaus made exhibition design one of the most rapidly evolving fields in Russian architeture. Sometimes bright scenography can overwhelm the artworks. It can also mask the flaws of curating team. In 2018 I have published my text in “Dialogue of Arts” with the call to stop, that I have named “a white wall manifesto”. My opinion have stayed the same. Architects need to keep some distance and learn from art — unfortunately, sometimes they forget, that architecture is art too. I participate in exhibition project as curator and artist, it helps me to change my point of view. One of the recent projects is MMOMA 99/19 anniversary exhibition, where I did exhibition design and curated its part, dedicated to architecture. Now I am designing a series of crystal glass as an artist.
I think that architects need to slow down to review their projects, reevaluate what is already done and what to do next. Of course, only few of us could afford working without any rush, although the time for self-reflection is the time spent well. We haven’t stopped working, even for a day, however, the pandemic brought me an opportunity to see what was already done. That is when I undestrood the need of change. After 10 years at FORM Bureau I wanted to go back to the creative process of the days when I’ve just founded the bureau. This autumn I have walked away and founded my own practice to concentrate on emotional side of architecture and my art projects — I don’t want to limit my work with architecture only. But whatever we do, we are in for an exciting journey.