DECEMBER 9, 2018


A talk by Irina Irbitskaya, an architect and an urbanist, about what is happening to cities and their architecture, took place today at the SCA LAB Urban architecture laboratory in Yekaterinburg, supported by ARCHINFORM bureau. Irina Irbitskaya is the director of the Urban Competence Center at the Russian Presidential Academy of National Economy and Public Administration (RANEPA); the organizer of the 'Doctor of cities' international project; a UN development program expert.
As an architectural bureau, we often face practical situations at work when it is necessary to define the balance between functional utility and creative innovations in architecture. This is the result of the so-called 'cultural gap in the perception of architecture' that Irina Irbitskaya's talk was about. According to the expert, the majority approach this issue in a pragmatic way; those who consider art to be the fundamental feature of architecture are outnumbered.
Here are the main points of Irina Irbitskaya's talk:

1. The majority of people – culture A bearers – have rather utilitarian pragmatics in their heads. A critical majority of developers, our clients, city officials, bankers, financial experts, economists, city planners, sociologists and engineers believe in the optionality of architecture as a form of art. And renovation is the direct proof of the conviction that architecture is a purely utilitarian thing, not art in any way.

2. I belong to culture A. I am one of those people who know that architecture is art, that it is not limited by utilitarian things; that architecture equal to utilitarian pragmatism is a typological shed – a temporary structure.

And I consider art to be the immanent feature of architecture.

3. Architecture is art that relies on high pragmatism. This refers not only to the nowadays pragmatics, but to the future one as well. That is when we do architectural design, we should understand what will be useful and pragmatic at least 50 years from now.

4. Planners and architects talk a lot about city problems. In reality, these are not city problems but urbanization mistakes. And the bigger the cities are, the more mistakes are made there. As a consequence, a trend is forming of people fleeing out of town. There are, undoubtedly, also economic reasons for this, as well as many others; however, declining economy is, among other things, also an urbanization mistake. It is crucial to realize that correct urbanization helps people get through economic crises easier.

5. Everywhere in the world, urban environment is just a city. In Russia, urban environment is understood as a purely physical space. Moreover, quite often, the perception of urban environment is reduced to urban design. A misconception occurs.
6. In reality, a city, unlike the country, is not one but a number of ecosystems. According to my proprietary methodology, ecosystems are, primarily, contexts, urban morphotypes.

7. A city exists when there is a certain degree of negotiation capacity present. A considerable amount of tenacity and endurance is required in order to promote culture A in a situation when the majority of people are culture B representatives.

8. In the end, a successful city is a city with successful people. No urban environment, no beautification by itself can provide any success.

9. Providing feasibility is difficult when it comes to national strategies. Different countries make attempts to overcome this difficulty, but there is no effective mechanism. While big heads analyze people's opinions or conduct other research, the issues lose their relevance.

10. We often build schools, kindergartens and other buildings based on custom designs. The rest of the world, however, has realized the inefficiency of this strategy and is organizing architectural competitions instead of tenders. The use of custom designs in the world of rapid changes results in reinforcement of mistakes.

11. At the same time, however, it is necessary to introduce standards of the quality of living. Nowadays, two thirds of residential units in Russia are not supplied with toilets.

12. The majority of cities develop not due to national programs and state support but in spite of it. And due to informal economy sector as well.

13. The country is tired of revolutions. People are not ready for innovations and do not want any changes. That is why moving towards culture A will be effective only in an evolutionary way.
Photo: GlobalLookPress