DesignMENA interviews Christos Passas about Hadid’s avant-garde Moscow project

DesignMENA interviews Christos Passas about Hadid’s avant-garde Moscow project

Zaha Hadid has made her Russian debut with the construction of an avant-garde office complex in Moscow which will be home to start-up, creative and technology companies.

Dominion Tower sees Hadid’s rectangular design completed in southeast Moscow after a 10-year joint-construction effort by Zaha Hadid Architects and Russia’s AB Elis studio.

Delayed by the 2008 economic crisis, the main construction work only began in 2012. The total budget for the building was $35 million – one of the most expensive properties per square meter ever built in the city.

The building’s design was inspired by Russian avant-garde styles from the 1920s, and features seven rectilinear stories, each staggered and cantilevered one over the other.

Christos Passas, the project head and associate director of Zaha Hadid Architects, says that there is a certain relationship between the concept of the building and the work of the Russian avant-garde.

“We were very intrigued by these ideas of weightlessness, which is very preeminent and dominant in Hadid’s work as well. We also wanted to bring back a certain sense of memory of the work that was done after the Russian liberation. It is very much about the sense of moving freely in space, flexibility and lightness- almost like flying through the building.”

Conceived as a series of vertically stacked plates off-set at each level with connecting curved elements, a central atrium rises through all levels to bring natural light into the centre of the building. Balconies at each level project into the atrium and correspond to the displacement of the outer envelope and a series of staircases interconnect through this central space.

“The Dominion Tower is a kind of critique of mass architecture, where each floor is the same as the other.

“We have tried to break this trend toward standardisation, putting into the building’s exterior something more challenging and chaotic. In this case, the selected shape helps to hold a dialogue with the environment.”

The office spaces are arranged within a system of standard rectilinear bays to offer many different possibilities for small, expanding or large companies.

“The client was Peresvet Group, which is developing residential and office buildings throughout the Moscow. Their headquarters will also be moved there, but at the same time there will be additional spaces and they are looking to attract creative professionals and start-up companies,” says Passas.

Located on the periphery of the atrium and housing the lifts, fire-escapes, washrooms and service shafts, the service cores provide a degree of privacy to the separate office spaces, with gaps in-between these cores giving some transparency and allowing light to penetrate into the office areas from the central shared atrium space.

This service core ring around the atrium, together with an additional bay of columns close to the outer envelope of the building, provides the structure. The off-set floor-plates are balanced between the opposite sides of the building. In some zones, columns are removed and replaced with transfer beams to increase the uninterrupted floor space for larger tenants or public programmes.

The office building stands in a mostly residential area of Moscow, surrounded by long rectangular five-story houses built at the end of the last century and newly constructed apartment blocks.

“It doesn’t have a smooth facade, which would transform the building into a box. Instead it presents several spaces that convey the idea of diversity. It is not a single object, but several objects,” said Passas.

Talking about the purpose of the building, Zaha Hadid Architects director Patrik Schumacher told reporters at the opening that “uplifting work” needs to be done not only in special places like museums and opera houses but with the “generic components with our everyday life.”

The interior — dramatically different from the exterior — features a black and white atrium lit from above and crisscrossed by flights of stairs. It is a scene of spacial liberation and effortless dynamism that almost creates a “feeling of flight,” according to Passas.

“The atrium is indeed a centerpiece of the entire project. It is a space where you can see the whole interior from a different levels. It provides a visual guidance throughout the building.

Passas further explains that the new building is designed to spark collaboration by allowing people to use space in more exciting ways.

“Wouldn’t it be great to work in a place where you can meet all the people that work there – people who are not hiding behind closed doors, but have a common space where they can meet and communicate with each other, where they can potentially exchange ideas and build new communities depending on their interests. We think that contemporary buildings are becoming little bit mundane and perhaps even boring.”

Although some spaces on the upper floors have not yet been completed, according to the owners, 40% of the building’s space has already been rented. The architects are also still working on a special project on the top floor — an art installation within the building that will be finished before New Year’s and Christmas celebrations.

“The purpose of it is to give an end to the building — an epilogue of the experience. We wanted to create a sculpture or art installation that talks a language of the entire building. In Russia, it is very common to have an interior art,” concludes Passas.

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