FEBRUARY 22, 2017

"WE CANNOT FIND BALANCE BETWEEN PRIVATE AND PUBLIC INTERESTS"

WHAT FORMER CHIEF ARCHITECT OF YEKATERINBURG IS GOING TO DO NEXT AND WHAT WILL BECOME OF HIS SCHOOL
Timur Abdullaev, who has just resigned his position as the Chief Architect of Yekaterinburg, is finishing his business in the city administration, where he worked for about 2 years. The position will likely taken by Andrey Molokov, the designer of Vysotskty business center. Timur has given an interview to Znak.com, where he told us about his relationship with city administration officials, about the projects that he is proud of, and about his plans for the future.
About the specifics of working at the city administration office

One of the main conclusions that I've made from the results of my work is that it is possible to do a lot of good in the administration, even within the framework of the existing structure, considering the specifics of the administrative apparatus. However, it's crucial not to be fainthearted, but to be motivated to do the right thing. City administration officials don't earn a lot, and if you're going to work in municipal service, it is primarily the question of increasing your reputation capital.

Immersion into this administrative story for a person who has never done it before is quite hard. You need understanding of the inherent mechanics of all the processes. Some time is spent adapting, trying to understand what and how happens here. I think anyone who comes to the administration office from outside has to deal with it.
About the results

For me, my second year of work in the Mayor's office was the most productive time, and there are plenty of specific results. I employed quite a lot of young people in the Main Department of Architecture and Urban Development, and we managed to make up a real team. For example, a provision regarding the architectural image was developed. It prescribes the necessity to negotiate the architectural image of new buildings. Before that, it was not fixed in any documents or regulations, but now it is a municipal service, which is a great achievement.

Secondly, we launched an initiative connected with compulsory façade certification. It is a kind of an architectural hygiene, one of the key components of a modern, comfortable, well-designed city. Apart from that, changes in the rules of fencing, dealing with limitations on installing fences in the city, have been approved recently. This topic is a continuous source of conflicts between citizens who find themselves on opposite sides of a fence, and there's nothing good abut it. Now we have a more clear regulation regarding what can and cannot be done in this field.

About the strategy of spatial development

A whole other big story is the project of spatial development strategy for Yekaterinburg. We were working on it last years' wall-to-wall. For instance, as part of the strategy development process, there was a '100 thoughts about Yekaterinburg' project, which turned out to be unique in terms of wide public discussions of the values of urban development. Representatives from other cities now turn to us asking to share our experience of hosting such projects.

By the way, Yekaterinburg received a separate diploma for working with the population at the 'Zodchestvo' exhibition, where we took part in the second half of last year. And it was directly connected to our work within the strategy framework, including the '10o thoughts about Yekaterinburg' project. For the record, for the first time in ten years, our city was awarded a golden diploma for the best architecture and urban planning practice, at the very same exhibition. It is a very high estimate of our achievements.
About parks and competitions

We paid special attention to public spaces. We have urban environment comfort issues and, to be honest, in some spaces you can't even call it environment because it's nonexistent there. Last year we held a competition for the reconstruction of Kommunarov Park. After certain efforts we managed to persuade both the city administration and the Governor's office in the need to find money and fix the area up for the World Cup. In the end, the city held a competition at its own expense, and the Governor's office took up the responsibilities regarding financing the reconstruction works in the park. And even though the money is not so big, it's still a step forward – over many years this has been the first park-related initiative in Yekaterinburg.

Before, improvement related issues used to be under the jurisdiction of administration improvement committee. It wasn't strategically right. I have always insisted, and I will insist, on the fact that city's improvement works are the task for the architecture department. This year the Main Department of Architecture and Urban Development should hold two more competitions for improvement of public spaces. The scales may vary. It could be public gardens, streets and park areas. I think my colleagues from the administration will soon make the announcement. Apart from that, this year we also planned announcing a competition for Verkh Isetskyi Pond waterfront area development concept.

About «Strelka»

One of the last projects that I actively worked on is involving the 'Strelka' consulting bureau into designing public spaces in Yekaterinburg. I'm talking about a major federal program which our city got in. the first stage is until 2018, that is before the World Cup. We have arranged to realize the improvement project for the waterfront area from Malysheva Street to Kuibysheva Street by this time.

The second stage is until 2022, and it involves the area toward Mayakovskyi Park, that is basically the whole floodplain in the southern direction. Apart from that, also included in the project are the improvement works on Bankovskyi Street and Teatralnyi Street, which have long been a mess, and even the prolongation of the pedestrian part of Vainera Street to Fevralskoy Revolutsii Street, and incorporation of Square 1905 into this common landscaped area.

Financing the project works comes from the Residential Mortgage Agency via 'Strelka' bureau, which supervises works in all the cities that have made the cut. Implementation is carried out by local organizations chosen on a competitive basis. In Yekaterinburg, these are architectural bureaus 'OSA' and ARCHINFORM. Now this companies should get target specification from 'Strelka'. It is also crucial for the region to confirm co-financing.
About the Square 1905

We still haven't announced the competition for Square 1905 development concept because we have agreements with the Ural State University (USTU). In April, USTU is planning to bring in the 'forces' of foreign specialists and students to Yekaterinburg; based on Square 1905 example, they are going to develop improvement concepts. Therefore, we have to wait a little, and then there will be a major international event in our city, after which we'll have plenty of development concept options for the square to choose from.

About the new job

I think my main workplace will be ARCHINFORM architectural bureau. As a practitioner, I believe that I can also influence the situation, doing interesting projects for the development of the city. Among them, for instance, are a new zoo (in Novokoltsovskyi district) with ARCHINFORM being its main designer.

Another job is the planning project for one of the fragments of the second stage of Akademicheskyi district. It is time to proceed from the overall concept towards substantive planning of a specific part of the area. It is a very important and demanding task, it should be done on the basis of modern urbanistic principles and approaches that we are also studying at the School of chief Architect.

But at the same time, I am completely open for discussion and ready to accompany the creation of spatial development strategy further on. I am deeply immersed into this topic and I have no negative feelings towards the administration. Despite certain unkindly manifestations that come from different sides, I still believe that the work we've been doing together was high-quality, and that it needs to be continued.
About the School of Chief Architect

The School of Chief Architect (SCA) is a project that runs independently from the city administration. And not because I wanted the administration to have nothing to do with it. Rather, quite on the contrary. I initially planned for SCA to be the project of the architecture department, but, unfortunately, it happened to remain my personal initiative.

Over its two seasons, SCA has become a successful and relevant project. For the second season, we received applications from young professionals from 40 different cities, and I can say for sure that even those developers who provide cases for SCA learn alongside the participants: they learn about new approaches, about more open-minded perception of ideas.

I suppose that this project has big future, and we have already begun preparations for the third season. It will take place in Yekaterinburg again, but we think about upscaling and developing the project, including involvement of foreign students. We realize that there are always difficulties of language barriers, but at the same time, the whole architectural reality is global. The important thing is that we shouldn't retreat into our own perception but keep up with global trends in architecture.
About the private and the public

Any city is a touch point of private and public interests. And it is crucial to choose the right approaches to discussing the key projects.

We have situations when certain things happen unexpectedly, sometimes even despite common sense. I think that it's not just because separate stakeholders may go against the city's interests. The issue is in the lack of unified mechanics of defending common urban development values. We can't seem to find balance between private and public interests. This is what we need to think about and this is what should be regulated additionally by laws, bylaws and regulations, which would create an opportunity for the future Chief Architect of Yekaterinburg to influence what happens.
Author: Maria Plyusnina
Source: Znak.com
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