Sergey Kuznetsov: “VDNKh is just cool architecture”


On September 24, the Teatro Piccolo Arsenale in Venice hosted a symposium “Museums and public spaces as drivers of urban development and social progress” . The event was organized by the Russian pavilion, presenting the V.D.N.H. project at the XV Architectural Biennale. Urban Phenomenon. At the end of the symposium, ARTANDHOUSES met with the curator of the pavilion, the chief architect of Moscow Sergey Kuznetsov … From the topic of the symposium, the conversation turned to discussing the situation at VDNKh.

How was the theme of the symposium held in Venice related to the exposition of the Russian pavilion?

The discussion went a little into the museum theme due to the fact that Zelfira Tregulova, director of the Tretyakov Gallery, Martin Roth, ex-director of the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, Anton Belov, director of the Garage Museum of Contemporary Art, Kate Goodwin, curator of the Royal Academy of Arts in London were invited , Head of the Department of Contemporary Art of the State Hermitage Dmitry Ozerkov and other serious people from the museum world, directors of museums, distinguished curators.

The theme of one of the sessions was “Museums and public spaces as a city driver”. As a supporter of the dissemination of information through opinion makers, I consider this method to be reliable and correct. For me, the discussion of international experts around cultural objects as tools for the development of the territory was, perhaps, the main goal of the symposium. I was curious about views on a subject directly related to the development of the VDNKh ensemble: what is culture in the modern urban landscape and what is its future.

Russian Pavilion at the Venice Architecture Biennale 2016

Russian Pavilion at Venice Architecture Biennale 2016

What did the opinion makers say about our pavilion?

They noted that the topic seemed interesting to them. A lady, an authoritative curator, came up to me and said that she was in Russia fifteen years ago and thought that she would never return there, because she hears opinions about this country as unfriendly. However, having visited our symposium, I realized that I was mistaken and wanted to come again. For me, this was a very important comment, since the purpose of our presence on the international platform is to show that, in addition to information wars and debates, there are facts of the development of global values, work with historical heritage.

Was there a discussion of members of the international professional community about the development of such a unique site, which is VDNKh? How the EXPO format can live in modern conditions is a global question.

Unfortunately, it is too early to talk about the development of the VDNKh complex with international experts, they are not yet immersed in the topic. Martin Roth, who, by the way, often visits Russia, from the rostrum urged the symposium participants to go and see VDNKh, noting that its history is phenomenal in itself, and it is interesting how Moscow is working with this territory today.


How the VDNH project responded to the theme “News from the Front”, set by the curator of the 15th Venice Architecture Biennale Alejandro Aravena Urban Phenomenon?

One of the frequent questions asked by the guests of the symposium who saw our pavilion: “How is this done?” They were surprised that VDNKh was not a fake, not some Disneyland, a theatrical scenery or an amusement park, as the Coney Island Peninsula once was. People are used to the fact that it is difficult to expect anything more from such a scale than just a model, and not a powerful layer of culture created by serious people. Of course, VDNKh was a showcase of the country, but of high quality. Why, tell me, is a Gothic cathedral not the same showcase? In VDNKh, one should first of all see an element of heritage worthy of development, and not the propaganda of totalitarian values, which we do not want to propagate now. It is at this point that I think the frontline question arises.

 Russian Pavilion at the Venice Architecture Biennale 2016

Russian Pavilion at the Venice Architecture Biennale 2016

It seems that there is no average attitude both to VDNKh itself and to the period of history when the exhibition was being built.

I plunged into this topic and lived with it for almost a year. Opinions and views are absolutely polarized. People are divided in their attitude to Soviet/Stalinist ideology into admirers and opponents, and unfortunately, both of them see VDNKh as an instrument of ideological propaganda even now. But there is another view: all this is so cool and majestic that it is necessary to develop and expand. The front line runs there, and it seems to me not confrontational, but rather conciliatory. By the way, foreigners, especially Germans, felt this more acutely. They have the same problem of attitude to the architecture of the Hitler period. They understand well what the semantic charging of a certain style is. I have heard the most enthusiastic monologues about our pavilion from German-speaking visitors, who especially liked the project.

I think the goal of the Biennale has been achieved. We received a lot of press, interest in the very phenomenon of VDNKh and the fact that Russia does not hush up its history at all.

 Russian Pavilion at the Venice Architecture Biennale 2016

Russian Pavilion at the Venice Architecture Biennale 2016

What, in your opinion, is the attitude of Muscovites towards VDNKh?

VDNKh, by the way, is the most visited site today – 24 million people come here a year. VDNKh is just cool architecture, made with talent, high quality, an example of the synthesis of arts. And a platform worthy of development in line with our interests. Are we interested in a skating rink or a farm today? And in this there is no disrespect for the former greatness, just an obvious continuation of the story. A huge mass of visitors have already voted with their feet in favor of this decision. You just need to move away from talking about the ideological component.

sergeykuznetsov2 < p class = "wp-caption-text"> Russian Pavilion at the Venice Architecture Biennale 2016

It was announced that after the end of the Biennale the VDNH Urban Phenomenon will travel from Venice to Moscow and will be shown in Pavilion N1.

There is such a solution, but you need to understand that we will not reproduce one project in one. The two-story plan, of course, cannot be preserved. But, perhaps, it will be five halls. On the basis of the exposition of our pavilion, we want to make a VDNKh museum. For a year of work, more than enough material has been collected to start such a museum. There are things that will add brightness to the future exposition: postcards, postage stamps, an exhibition in printing and publishing. But the main thing at VDNKh is, of course, people, a whole cohort of great artists. We don't know our heroes well. It's time to reveal the names of outstanding people, architects, artists, musicians, creators of VDNKh.


VDNKh is undoubtedly a unique example of architectural styles, but will the pavilion interiors be restored in addition to the facades in the future?

Yes, I think this is an important story and unique interiors are worthy of restoration.

Your passion for architectural drawing is well known. Does your hand reach out to capture VDNKh and the architecture of its pavilions?

Of course, I draw a lot of VDNKh. I think this is an absolutely drawing place.


The museum function at VDNKh is gaining momentum. What is your attitude towards the museum-building boom in the world that we have seen in recent years?

There is no doubt: education, culture, and I would add medicine here, are the industries of the future. Man will gradually, perhaps not tomorrow, but the day after tomorrow, be ousted from all routine production. I state with regret that handicraft, whatever one may say, is leaving architecture as well. You can admire the Baroque and the Renaissance, but the architecture is different today. The industry is different, the capacities are different, the needs are different. Everything is becoming more industrial, and now architecture is more of an industrial design. And this is normal, this is life, it is changing, and there is no need to make a tragedy out of it. The mode of production is changing, the areas of employment of people are different. I believe that the industries of the future are culture, education, the development of horizons, areas related to the programming of different meanings that need to be developed, because the future belongs to them. The museum takes center stage here. People will only do what they are most interested in. Education will have to be obtained several times in a lifetime. We can already see how these processes are gaining momentum, and we are participating in this race, and there is no need to slow down.

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