Art as Labour
Nikola-Lenivets, Russia
Outdoor classroom
“Art as Labour” Summer School
Art as Labour is a summer school that is located in Nikola-Lenivets Art Park in rural Russia. It is a collaboration between the Park and the Global Practice Unit at England's University of Brighton, which is led by the school's head of architecture, Robert Mull, architect Xenia Adjoubei, and designer Thomas Randall-Page.

Living closely with the local community, I and 12 other international students designed and built an outdoor classroom with the help of community craftspeople. Titled Sliced White, the pavilion-like classroom is affixed to an existing school building that acts as the parkland’s base for learning.
Challenge
The task was to create a teaching space that could be used both by the local community and potential summer schools, reusing a burnt-out building. In developing the project, we were asked to observe the park's tradition of using local materials for artworks and structures, as well as local labor.
Idea
Conceptually, our goal was to build an architectural intervention which addresses the social and cultural needs of the art park and local community.

Technically, we set out to create a design that would not break under snow load during
Soultion
At first, we explored the unique nature of the site and the local materials accessible to us. We were inspired and moved by Russian vernacular architecture, local materials, no waste, and forms deeply rooted in local myths and storytelling.

To create the roof, we sourced a large log from the village near to Nikola-Lenivets and ran it through an on-site sawmill that belongs to Nikolay Polissky, the park's founder.

The roof is composed of 29 cuts of timber and is bookended by two "crusts" of exposed bark. The bark is also left intact on the edges of the central segments, highlighting the undulations of the trunk's surface.
Without a top cover, the thin slats of the roof leave students exposed to the outdoors while offering shade from the harsh sun of Russian summers.Vertical beams that support the roof are also fashioned from split tree trunks, their charred exterior mirroring the dark facade of the adjacent burnt-out building.

Rows of birch saplings felled from a nearby forest surround the perimeter of the platform the school is set on to form permeable classroom walls.Left in their natural state, the white colouring of the birch bark dramatically contrasts the main school's blackened-wood cladding to create a zebra-like pattern around its perimeter.
Result
We created a teaching and learning space for the local community that was transformed into into a year-round teaching space in 2018 as part of another workshop.

The summer school was a unique opportunity to acquire a hands-on experience in designing and building an architectural intervention in a beautiful natural landscape, working with international students and tutors.

Our end product was presented in a symposium in Moscow and later featured in Dezeen magazine.
Challenge
Creating a quality living environment in an existing urban environment is a challenge in itself. This is due to the struggle between historical heritage, public functions of the city, as well as the privacy of the living environment. This is very much apparent on the banks of the Zunda Canal, where industrial inheritance, intensive educational and business developments, as well as an increasing need for housing can be observed together.

Idea
One of the key elements that makes a living environment desirable is the presence of a healthy and happy community. The inhabitants of the Zunda Canal area vary from local fishermen to international students. My main goal was to create an environment that would respect this diverse community and allow it to evolve and grow, as well as creating a desirable environment for potential residents and visitors. Therefore, my proposed designs involve creating both luxury and co-living residences, small scale fisherman docks and private workshops and extensive public promenades. My vision proposes the Canal as the connecting link between these diverse inhabitants.

Housing
In order to maintain a human-friendly scale, I designed the residential area at a maximum height of 4 stories (12m), while also positioning the buildings in a way that allows the waterfront to be seen at all times. In order to ensure easy access and to keep the inner housing area as private as possible, I situated the public functions on the boundaries of the site. Student and senior housing is situated next to the main traffic street, which helps create an acoustical and visual shield from the street, while also rendering the buildings easily accessible by foot and public transport.

De-segregation
Affordability was also a key goal of mine. Because the residential area includes residences mainly for small households and families, I wanted to make sure that they are available to a wide spectrum of people. And so in order to avoid the area simply becoming financially unobtainable for the neighboring communities, I propose a considerable number of living units as co-living residences that would include shared amenities reserved for students and the elderly.

The Waterfront
I chose to design the waterfront as a public promenade consisting of various public and commercial functions that would face the canal, such as shops, cafes, and water sport rentals. I also wanted to create a social link between the two neighboring universities, and so the three pedestrian bridges are designed to serve not only as a physical connection to Ķīpsala, but to also connect RISEBA and RTU Universities. The floating cafe and sauna is an example of this link, promoting the exchange of knowledge between the students of the two universities.

The Unfinished Bridge
I repurposed the unfinished bridge—which currently lingers above the main traffic road—as a pedestrian and cycling path, which now also serves as an observation deck overlooking the area. The descent from the bridge is designed to be intertwined with various commercial functions, and ultimately leads pedestrians and cyclists towards the waterfront. In addition, the residential area and waterfront are finally accessible from Pārdaugava as well. The Factory
I propose to develop the industrial area and its adjacent waterfront to cater to the interests and habits of the local fishermen. In order to maintain its rural vibe, I located the private docks and sheds to be alongside the canal. As for the abandoned industrial territory, I proposed reusing it as a workshop area where students and locals can exchange tools and services.

Result
I was happy to create a proposal that is based on my research which explores issues in contemporary urban development. As a result, the project prioritizes the needs of the surrounding community, and considers factors in urban mobility and environmental sustainability. It was also a valuable opportunity to explore regulatory enactments, as well as to design a proposal that takes in account the planned development of its surrounding territories.