четверг, 3 июня 2010 г.

Campus SKOLKOVO: town in a town

Winston Churchill once said, "First we shape our buildings, then they shape us".
This is probably the most exact and precise expression that reveals a meaning of the outstanding concept of the Campus SKOLKOVO as well as love and care, with which the founders of the School embodied that concept.

A campus is a central place of any school, so it was highly important to make it comply with bold purposes of SKOLKOVO.
The Campus has been completed in three years – a record short period in Russia. It was built for themselves after all, for students who are leaders of the future.

A key role in the building process is played by Emil Pirumov, Managing Director of the School. We spoke to him about the Campus, its creation, a future life of the students and touched upon a subject of the innovation center to be built next to the Campus.
Emil Pirumov recollected to have arrived at the construction site covered by sprawling dandelions three years ago. It’s only photos that can remind of that time now. Today we can see a cutting-edge architectural building here!
- Please can you tell us, at what readiness stage the Campus is now? When will it welcome the first students?
- We expect students to come in September, but early June the School staff are moving here. The Campus is at the completion stage, a stage of final decoration, remodeling and improvement. What is the difference between my work and the work of subcontractors? A subcontractor does and leaves, but I build the school like for myself. Therefore even now I make workers remodel something. It may cause inconveniences to the staff for some time due to the works being performed, but the result will be a quality that meets our expectations, status and ambitions of the School.
- Have you ever worked on projects of such scale before?
- No, I haven’t. And when I gave my consent to head the project, I knew neither a size of land, nor details of the project. But it is the Idea that was interesting to me! I understood that the people whom I had known long planned something very important and necessary to both people and the country. That was a key factor that prompted me to consent to join the project.


- What do you think now at the completion stage of such a grandiose project?
- Firstly, an educational system in building should be changed, the Russian building legislation should be completely altered in order to build something good, unique and innovative. I mean that those buildings that are constructed here, i.e. various high-rise buildings, are copied from the already made projects that were built somewhere, and all calculations are simply adjusted to grounds available. Secondly, to build something interesting, a market of unique buildings should emerge here. We do not have such market, and all attempts made by our architects to create something original are limited by the legislation and blurred areas of liability between the participants of the building process.
It did help me that I’m not a builder, and I feel free to ask questions that would seem silly to builders.

- What was the most difficult in implementing this project?
- It’s human element, unfortunately. I regret to say that an overwhelming majority of building companies considers self-building as a by-product that allows them to raise money. That was the most difficult.

- What can you say about the project itself drawn up by English architect David Adjaye?
- The founders chose the most ambitious project, and I understood as early as then that it was the most problem one in view of building. As an architectural project, it is brilliant; it was rather difficult to adapt it to the Campus. Beautiful and modern design has won over economy and some sort of logic. For instance, we have a lot of free zones which is not permitted in other schools: there is a ratio between the usable area and the total area there. Our ratio is incorrect from an economic point of view. Instead, our interior is beautiful, and if we use all these open spaces for the purpose of training and various events correctly, they will be free spaces only officially, but actually they will be actively used.
At first the building seemed rather unfriendly. It is difficult to describe all problems that arose. First time I came here, I saw a field of dandelions with nothing on it at all. As time went by and problems began to be solved, it became easier. In fact, the building has become a part of me. Or I have become a part of the building))) Taking into consideration that number of decisions which I’ve taken myself or participated in, I can say that I'm completely filled with the Campus, I understand what’s for what, how one can live inside with various events, how to organize the movement of people…All these things are even difficult to express in words.

- With all this you are not a builder and even consider this fact as an advantage. How did you manage to implement such project?
- I had to. I just see it. I’m asked something and imagine what should occur here, what the room should be like, what it should be used for. Of course, some things have been lost, it’s impossible to cover everything. But it’s important to feel the building. For instance, when we went with tourist groups about the Campus, I noticed that one passage-way would come in handy. And now there is a door instead of a blank wall. There were a lot of such things. It’s a constructive process.
- If we compare David Adjaye’s original concept and a present state of the Campus, how much has been changed in percentage?
- 5 percent. The remaining part complies with his idea. We carefully and seriously considered his project. We studied all colour spectra of fronts to make them match the leaden sky, for example. Adjaye has considered everything.
In order to expedite the process, we had to contract extra architects, and we were fortunate to find them. Andrey Cheltsov, our Russian “adaptor” of David’s idea, was so impressed with the English architect that they had no slightest wish to argue or compare lengths of their cell phones))) etc. We managed to unite them in one team, therefore we implemented the maximum of what David had planned. So Mr. Adjaye was pleased with results, quite a rare thing in Russia generally. And then I took a chance and assigned a hotel, a hostel, an administrative building, a disk and a sports building to four different designers in order to speed up. David approved all designs with minimum corrections.
David and I have great mutual understanding; he knows that if in my opinion something should be coordinated, I’m certain to coordinate it. He knows initially the goal of the project. Generally he is a wonderful man: he has been to all African capitals to take photos of their architecture and is having his photos exhibited at the London Museum now. He traveled to all countries and collected this unique information personally.

- Please can you tell us in more detail about areas of the Campus that will be leased?
- We will lease our areas not to raise money. We want to provide comfortable living conditions to our students. We will have a restaurant area, a health-improving complex with a swimming-pool, SPA, massage rooms as well as a retail area – a small number of necessary shops. These areas will be leased to appropriate profile companies on a competitive basis. Our purpose is to create a “town in a town”, so that students could live a full life here.
There is also a large conference hall where various events can be held. The conference hall and its adjacent territory can be isolated during receptions from the other part of the Campus, in order not to disturb the educational process. We plan to provide the conference hall only for those events that will be interesting and useful to students.

- Do you plan to lease premises for other purposes? 
- No, we don’t. It’s not necessary either.

- Please can you tell us how personal student rooms will be equipped?
- We had been hesitating what to choose – a monk’s cell or a comfortable room…)) Finally we chose the second option. We concentrated on arranging a room space in such a way that students would like to leave the room and constantly communicate, because communication is an integral part of education here. For instance, there will be no TV in the rooms. We suppose that more time will be spent in common zones specially designed for all this.
I would like to specify that each educational programme has a different focus. Full-Time MBA develops certain skills and abilities different from those developed in Executive MBA. We try to consider it all.
Lecture halls can also be different even in terms of sitting places.

- What is your favourite place in the Campus, if any?
- All of them are my favourite places in their own way. Each place has a peculiarity that admires me.

- Do you read publications about the Campus in the press or on the Internet?
- Yes, I do. Every person sees the Campus differently and they have a right to. Everyone has their own opinion. I can figure out if a publication was biased or not, for whom it was made, why the edition made such publication. There was a very good article in Domus, this is a specialized architectural journal, therefore they are supposed to know about it.

- What would be the best praise to you for the work you’ve done?
- I haven’t received it yet. I’m thrilled to wait for the staff to move here from Moscow-City. Their words will be the best appraisal of my work.

- Today they say a lot about Innograd (Innovation center), a Russian analogue of Silicon Valley, that will be built here in Skolkovo. What can you tell about it?
- We haven’t interacted actively yet, they work independently. However we are interested in cooperation prospects that students will have while participating in joint project, therefore we watch their development.

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