2017-18, TU Delft Master Thesis Studio . Explore Lab 25 Tutors . Hamed Khosravi / Stavros Kousoulas / Ype Cuperus
With the first Five Year Plan of 1928 Stalin initiated a period of massive industrialisation of remote zones of Russia. This lead to the creation of several Monotowns, newly built industrial settlements based on one economical source or industry. The project takes as a study case the town of Togliatti, the largest built in Soviet Union and still functioning. Constructed in the 60s as an industrial complex for FIAT car manufacturing. The plan of the city, designed by the Soviet architect Boris Rubanenko was based on a grid of squares of one kilometer per side, each of which contained the fundamental facilities for living such as housing, commercial spaces, hospitals, schools and green areas. The fixed urban layout, together with the very regular organisation of infrastructure was planned in order to facilitate and accelerate citizen’s movements from one place to the other, minimising what was considered an unproductive time expenditure.
The city, with its very readable and concrete set of established routines, represents the fieldwork to study the creation of everyday life rituals and to understand their materialisation in architectural space. In particular, these established rituals have been unfolded in the research in order to uncover the eventual problematics that are representative of the critical condition of the city. The current economic stagnation in Russia and the slowing down of the production, has lead the mono towns to a state of inactivity, generating lack of jobs and a general feeling of discontent in the population, proving the need of finding alternative productive sources. Concurrently relating to the contemporary debate on the productive means of the capitalist system, the project deals with the current transformation of the concept of production, that is gradually shifting from production of goods to production of knowledge. In this scenario, the line separating life and work is blurred, and the city unfolds in an endlessly interlinked maze of spaces that don’t host any specific function and yet are able to host any. The project investigates how architecture becomes an instrument of control, bending to the needs of the market and imposing hierarchical systems over everyday life. At the same time, the project experiments with alternative solutions that questions the common way we perceive architecture, working places and educational institutions, highlighting the need of a transformation in the design processes and goals, considering architecture not as a problem solving practice or a profit maker tool but rather as a tool to investigate new ways of working and living. More in detail, the project wants to question the possibility of liberating production from pre-imposed economical constraints, therefore challenging the necessity of accumulation and classification and most of all private property, considering knowledge as a common good instead.
The criticality of this reflection acts specifically in relation to the economic system and the contemporary lack of attention that is currently experienced in the everyday life, simultaneously putting forward the necessity to improve social interaction and awareness, the processes of thinking and reflection, aiming to the creation of a consciousness that starting from the individual would eventually spread and influence the entire social body.The intervention unfolds design concepts against classification, categorisation, compartmentalisation but also against material and immaterial accumulation. The scale of the project seeks to represent this vision and therefore surpasses the limits of what can or cannot be built to put forward an idea, an alternative that doesn’t want to be a solution but a starting point for a further reflection. In the same way, every aspect of the design is conceived to be able to be appropriated, re-interpreted and re-proposed in a different scale and condition therefore allowing the project to be not only a site specific intervention but a trigger for new ideas, questioning the way we design contemporary architecture.