"Moss" - a famous landscape and architectural bureau from St. Petersburg, founded in 2008. The bureau team designs and builds private gardens around the world - in St. Petersburg and the Leningrad Region, Moscow and London. Sometimes their work can be seen in public spaces: for example, the garden for the Russian Museum at the Chomon-sur-Loire Garden Exhibition in France or the modular garden created for the recent exhibition of designer Jean Prouve at the Manege in St. Petersburg. The chief architect of the bureau Yuri Fomenko and commercial director Dmitry Golubev told Life around how private landscape bureaus can work with city parks and what St. Petersburg should be like.
About working on the garden at the house of designer Jean Prouv
Dmitry: The Manege directly invited us to participate in the design of the garden for the house-constructor, and it is a great honor for us: the modular house-builder Jean Prouve is a symbolic phenomenon in the history of architecture of the twentieth century. We saw our task in presenting the work of Prouvé on the one hand brightly, on the other - organically for the center of St. Petersburg.
Yuri: The idea of a garden for the Pruvé house lay on the surface: the house is extremely simple in architecture and would itself be lost in this square. It was necessary to create at the same time a very simple, vivid and memorable image. If you look at any photographs of this house, then there is no difficult landscape anywhere, it always stands among nature. Therefore, it was necessary to concise volumetric solution with the most natural landscape. The garden should complement, support the house, but not overshadow it.
In the project, we actively used cereals, namely, soddy pike - this is our meadow plant. Cereals are now generally very fashionable to use in the landscape, and in our case they also symbolize the natural component. The same story with birches that appeared in the garden is a very understandable tree for Russians. Plus a fruit apple tree - it’s sincere and close to everyone.
I want to dwell on cereals in more detail. They have just begun to be used in urban landscape architecture in Moscow, although they have long been widely used abroad. Cereals are perennials: once planted, and it pleases for many years, without requiring special care. In addition, for the most part they are very spectacular: during flowering, their panicles are beautiful. In general, in urban landscaping, you need to get away from annual plants that spend crazy budgets: the future is with shrubs and sustainable perennials.
About landscape architecture in Russia and in the world
Dmitry: In Russia, a difficult situation with personnel. The profession "landscape architect" has recently appeared in the register of specialties. Take, for example, Petersburg. We have GASU, which graduates architects: for them, plants are abstract designations on the plans. And there is LTU, which produces specialists who are knowledgeable in plants, but they are not strong in design. It is impossible to get a special education that would stand at the junction of at least these two areas in St. Petersburg. And the profession of landscape architect, as it is understood in the world now, is much more complicated - it combines the social, economic, engineering components.
Yuri: The education that can be obtained from us, in fact, makes it impossible to work in the landscape sphere. Either we get people who understand plants and agricultural technology, but are not able to draw and design, or, conversely, designers who think in space ideas, but treat plants like furniture. But plants are not furniture, and the landscape is not a static interior. This is a very moving thing, developing not only in space, but also in time.
Dmitry: We have no other choice but to invest in personnel training ourselves. Because it is practically impossible to get a ready-made specialist on the market. And the realities at the moment are such that if a person knows how to do something, he will be 99% likely to try to work independently.
In Germany, for example, everything functions according to completely different principles. There is one of the strongest schools of landscape architecture in the world. Only the technical universities of Munich and Berlin annually graduate about 100 specialists who are in demand on the market. Moreover, this demand is from landscape bureaus, which are engaged in the improvement of public spaces. German landscape architects have their own stars: for example, Lutz or Rainer Schmidt's bureaus, who work all over the world. What is extremely important, in Germany a clear mechanism has been formed for paying for the work of landscape artists. This is a certain percentage (about 12%) of the cost of the project. Absolutely transparent and understandable rules of the game allow you to conduct professional activities and move this market forward. The state ensures that both an architect and a certified landscape designer are involved in each construction project. The developer will not be able to coordinate with the authorities the project of a residential building without involving a professional and certified specialist in the field of landscape architecture in the design of landscaping.
Yuri: Using the example of Zaryadye, we see how important it is to set sound deadlines and not try to fulfill the five-year plan in three years. I have a feeling that with this project you need to wait a bit - and everything will return to normal. The hype that has been raised lately is completely in vain.
First you need to wait until the flow of people subsides, and allow the plants to grow. Now the mistakes associated with different areas are already clear: where people want to be photographed more, what they pay attention to, where you cannot go with the stroller and what places are trampled down. Naturally, the specialists working there perfectly see this and eliminate errors that are inevitable for a project implemented in such a short time. And there is no drama in this.
Dmitry: You can have a different attitude to the concept of the park itself - this is a moot point. It seems to me that it was more designed for a wow effect than for solving certain problems. For our part, we certainly see a number of design errors. For example, the design did not take into account the enormous load on the park: due to the flow of people, some of the plants were trampled, there was a need for the installation of fences. There are errors in the vertical layout.
About working on public spaces
Dmitry: We are not so much involved in public spaces. Sometimes we build exhibition gardens, but mostly we are engaged in private projects. We have been working for a long time and with good understanding of what design and construction of public spaces in Russia is today. We love ourselves - so we stay away.
The main problem: what is being designed and what is being implemented are two big differences. For a long time we tried to improve the residential complexes, and it quickly became clear that the builder needed us first of all in order to show a picture and sell an apartment. In fact, it turned out like this: a concept was ordered, and that’s all. The project in the form in which it was conceived by the designers was not implemented. The next stage - working documentation on which the concept was implemented - was already done by architects who do not understand anything in the landscape.
Yuri: It happens that in the end you just don’t understand why it was all done. I will give an example. Often in public spaces there is no place for landing, but there is a roof of the parking lot on which you need to turn out, but still plant something. Specifically, in our case, the idea was this: to introduce greenery into the space of the courtyard to make it comfortable for people. For this, we designed retaining walls inside which plants could be planted: birches were planned that would give excellent verticals and a lot of greenery. Birch trees withstand lateral freezing and our climatic conditions as a whole are a lifesaver for such spaces in St. Petersburg. As a result, dwarf weeping birches were planted there, which will never grow more than two meters in height. Bulky retaining walls, like the whole venture as a whole, simply lost their meaning. The result was just stupid.
Dmitry: At some point, when we had a separate office in Berlin, which was engaged in the design of public spaces. We opened it with the expectation that we could do cool projects in Russia, taking advantage of the German school of landscape architecture, but in the process, faced with all our realities, we realized that this is a meaningless direction that does not give any return. And we focused on private gardens.
On the specifics of working on private and public spaces
Yuri: Of course, in these two areas, skills and abilities intersect, but the principles of design are different, because the problems vary - in goals, objectives and ways to solve them.
Dmitry: Public spaces should be designed taking into account a huge number of social, economic factors, load factors, transport, lighting, norms and communications.
Yuri: In addition, the city is one scale, and a private garden is a completely different one. In the latter, you can play with forms, dwarf plants, flowers, going into the nuances of their shades, the color of leaves and so on. In public spaces it is necessary to think more globally and solve a different range of issues.
About amateur gardeners
Dmitry: We believe that landscaping and beautification in the yards should be done only by professionals. We strongly dislike, for example, stories when, in order to plant trees, residents are offered to go on a community work day. I do not like it, because this is done completely thoughtlessly. Trees need to be planted according to a certain technology and in a properly prepared seat. And to begin with, this tree needs to be correctly selected.
Yuri: You probably saw the results of this unprofessional approach: paths that you don’t follow, and natural paths nearby, lawns with soft toys, groves with trees, trunks in which are a meter apart, and trampled ground below. Therefore, beautification should not be led by grandmothers who think they know how to do it. Initially, the basis of any landscape space should be created by professionals, while it is possible to allocate some places for amateur creativity of residents, but this should be regulated at the project stage.
Dmitry: Let's remember what we recently got from public spaces for citizens? Private project New Holland and the 300th anniversary park, built 14 years ago. That, in fact, is all.
The tools used in the design of New Holland are quite simple. What we see: there they planted beautiful, large and mature trees, made high-quality coatings, made it convenient for people to move from point A to point B, and correlated this with the historical context. It turned out already well. Everything is simple, but of high quality, a comfortable environment is created. Of course, New Holland was designed by a world-famous bureau. I do not know the budget, but I am sure that it is rather big. Everything is well built: it is obvious that working documentation has been issued and field supervision has been carried out. And we clearly see how much demand this space is among the townspeople.
Yuri: What public spaces do we have in the city? Tauride Garden, Summer Garden, Mikhailovsky, Elagin Island, and, in fact, that's all. There is an extreme lack of parks for people.
Dmitry: In general, in Russia the role of the park is very highly commercialized and is moving towards the farce. Throughout the world, the park is a place where, on the contrary, you can abstract from and go away from commerce. And we are trying to sell, feed, ride on a carousel or pony on every square meter of the park. Because of this, we lose the opportunity to change the scenery and just stay a bit among nature.
In general, Petersburg now lags behind even Russian cities. In Moscow, for example, there is a program called “My Street”, in Kazan, improvement work is underway. And in our city over the past 10 years, except for New Holland, practically nothing has been done. Look at the landscaping around the new stadium in St. Petersburg and the park near the Krasnodar stadium, which was built by Galitsky, and you will understand.
Interview: Natalya Vasenkova