While the Russian fashion community has attracted most of the international attention over the last few years, there are some spatial designers you should know that have achieved success and international recognition.
Russia’s rich history has been hugely influential on the shaping of the world’s architecture. Famous landmarks such as the Kremlin and Saint Basil’s Cathedral attract millions of tourists every year and are featured in many movies, books and magazines. There are also visible tributes to these great buildings in countless cities and towns around the world so most people are generally aware of the beautiful designs from Russia’s past.
On the other hand, it’s modern architecture and interior design scene seems to be hidden from the sight of the global design community. It is hard to define what style the new generations of Russian designers gravitate towards but they have definitely moved away from incredibly detailed Baroque palaces and churches to simpler, minimalistic solutions. Of course minimalism is a long-term global design trend that is dominant in many disciplines so it can make it trickier for us to identify what is authentically Russian. Another reason for the limited awareness of modern Russian design is that many successful professionals tend to leave Russia and chase their dreams abroad, which makes it difficult to get a full grasp on the local scene.
So who are these modern Russian designers that should definitely be on your radar?
Founded by product designers Misha Repin and Tanya Repina, Aotta studio focuses on furniture and product design that is created ‘without any harm to humans and nature’. This sustainable approach as well as the interpretation of their Russian background can be seen throughout all their works. By celebrating the country’s culture and taking inspiration from different aspects of life in Russia, these designers create unusual objects for everyday purposes.
Since Russia’s forests account for more than 20% of the planet’s forest estate, it is no surprise that the designers of Aotta focus on using its resources for their furniture. Having collected needles of coniferous trees, a component that is normally not used in production, the designers mixed them with bio-based biodegradable plastic in order to create a collection of coffee tables and seating.
Another interesting product designed by Misha Repin and Tanya Repina is a lamp lled with what is believed to be one of the symbols of Russia- Vodka. Liquid inside the lamp is hermetically sealed in a pendant ask and upon touch starts moving together with the LED module installed in the waterproof top, which creates a soft ambient light.
za bor architects
Moscow-based architectural studio za bor is known for an abundance of innovative methods used both in architecture and interior design, as well as a complex dynamic shapes, which has became their calling card. One of their most recognizable projects and a great example of how a modern design solution can fit within the city’s traditional architecture is Parasite office in Moscow, a three-storey work space suspended above a walkway between two established buildings and held by steel clamps, leaving enough space for pedestrians and cars to move underneath. Arseniy Borisenko and Peter Zaytsev of za bor transformed the wasted space by creating this additional office and bringing excitement to the area and it’s surroundings. One large window provides natural light to all three oors and becomes one of the key aspects of the structure. The interior of the Parasite is as quirky as its exterior, making it a great workspace for a creative design office. The white glazed facade walls of Parasite office are semi-translucent and made of light cellular polycarbonite, which makes the structure glow from within at night and transforms it into a local attraction.
Maxim Scherbakov, founder of creative studio Supaform, is a product designer who combines sculpture, architecture, painting and other disciplines with intelligent balance to produce his designs. By combining simple geometrical shapes made of different materials together, this designer creates complex forward-thinking structures that can be used as seating, storage space or simply as an abstract spatial concept, which he then turns into paintings. Some of Maxim Scherbakov’s creations are non-existent Supaform collections, where he experiments with form, light and materials in order to create colourful design solutions he shares on his social media.
One of the most recent and popular objects by Supaform is Yalta chair, which Scherbakov describes as “an ironic paraphrase for the luxurious resorts of the Soviet Union”. As going to Yalta’s sanatoriums used to be a dream holiday in Soviet times, the designer created simple and at the same time unexpected seating with a style reference to constructions along the Yalta coast and romantic brutalism by combining different materials, surfaces and colours.
In 2008 he was into graffiti and had just started switching his focus to street calligraphy. Today Pokras Lampas is one of the most followed and experienced calligraphy artists in the world. He is reshaping the world of this art form by collaborating with the most successful brands on different kinds of projects from milk packaging to installations and performances at fashion shows. Working across different disciplines, Pokras Lampas uses calligraphy and his self-developed style ‘Calligrafuturism’ to express his feelings about modern life and people. Although Pokras is considered to be an artist, he does not only work on at surfaces. He also transforms spaces with his site-specific calligraphy that brings new atmosphere and changes the experience of chosen spaces.
One of his biggest commissions this year was Fendi’s iconic Rome Headquarters, where Pokras Lampas used its 1,250 square mtr roof as a massive canvas for his calligraphy. Using 550 ltrs of bright yellow paint he covered the roof of Palazzo della Civilta Italiana with a poem heralding hope for the future of art and fashion. This project now marks the biggest calligraphy work in Italy. While this new Fendi campaign is definitely riling up many art historians, Pokras is already working on his new project in Dubai and making his fan base wonder how else he will push the boundaries of street culture, design and art in the near future.
Julia Salnikova is a London-based spatial designer, a 2017 graduate from Chelsea College of Arts, UAL. Having a multidisciplinary creative understanding and an experimental approach to her designs, she works across diverse scales and media. Her projects range from small-scale product design to pavilions and sets that take the viewers and visitors through radically different site-specific environments that make them experience the site in a new way.