Last Friday, a presentation of architectural projects of a new building for my Institute took place at the Shchusev Museum of Architecture in Moscow. The event was a bit funny, but to the same extent senseless, as the Federal Agency of Scientific Organisations (FANO) still tries to make all the decisions about our future building without our participation. For instance, we only found out in mid-July that a public contract for designing of the building had been already signed (‘we’ means the whole Institute, including the administration). The tendering process took place in late June. It was the Giprokon company that ‘won’ the competition; the same company did this in spring when the previous tendering process was declared void due to infringements of the procedure. The preliminary specifications were also written at the FANO, and the result was quite predictable. They suggest to make the book storage almost three times as small as it was before the fire—it’s an old idea of the FANO that books are no more necessary in the computer age. Of course it’s completely unacceptable for us as there were already not enough space in the book storage before the fire; if a new storage will be smaller than the problem will soon arise again. We tried to explain all of this to representatives of FANO in May, they promised to take our criticism into account, and now we can see that they really did it, but in an unusual way: they organised a new tendering process in secrecy and simply ignored all our proposals in a new edition of the preliminary specifications that were included into the final text of the public contract. The current competition for the best architectural design was organised by Giprokon according to that contract.
On Friday we could see the results of such an approach. Fourteen projects were presented altogether, including seven ones developed at Giprokon; they said that according to the law they had to make as many projects as the independent architects did. One could see, however, that five of their projects were made quite formally; only two projects seem to be a real working design. One can also suppose which project they will most probably try to defend, as in their presentation they used an image which we first saw as early as in January. It means, by the way, that Giprokon was already working at a project of a new building for us in winter, although no tendering process had been announced and no preliminary specifications had been published yet.
The quality of all the seven Giprokon’s projects is the same poor. One can see that they correspond to the specifications from FANO and that the authors can hardly imagine how an academic institution works, especially an institution for social sciences and humanities. As a result, all that they could produce was a purely speculative decision that didn’t correspond to our needs at all and looked more like an entertainment centre or a shopping plaza, but not like an academic library. This can be said about all their seven projects.
Three of the other seven projects looked like diploma works; unfortunately, they were no better than those developed at Giprokon. There were also three more or less interesting projects. The author of one of them proposed to reconstruct our building exactly as it looked like before the fire (it was an interesting piece of the Soviet architecture of 1960s and 1970s), but using modern technology. He didn’t change the size of book storage and suggested to construct an additional section of book storage on an underground level and several more underground levels under the yard, also mostly for book storage. The project as a whole is interesting although requires some improvement; the problem is that it’s a project of conservation of what had existed previously, not designed for the future development of the Institute.
The authors of one more project proposed to make the new building twice as big as the old one; the project therefore doesn’t correspond to the official specification, as well as the previous one. The authors also suggested to increase the size of the book storage and, that was the most interesting, proposed to assign their copyright for the project to our Institute. The project, however, looks to be incomplete, it raises doubts from the aesthetic point of view, and it’s rather difficult to understand how we will use such a big building (and whom else FANO will ‘settle’ there together with us).
One more project is interesting aesthetically and includes two stages of construction, that can be seen as a base for the future development. But the plan of indoor premises is not developed in detail, as I can understand, so this variant can be acceptable only if it’s possible to make the book storage large enough without compromising the other rooms.
The results of competition are to be announced on 16 August. An exhibition of the entries will be organised at the same Museum of Architecture; they also promise to post them on the official website of the competition, http://www.konkurs-inion.com/.