May 23—June 17, 2012
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The first Moscow Biennale focused on the question how to build new housing areas. Under the heading Kak Zhit (“Ways of living”) it aimed at defining what the life in a new Russian Utopia should look like. Developers showed us their projects for brand new housing areas that would be erected as alternatives to the worn-out post-soviet environment of the existing city.
After seeing the exhibition many visitors expressed their doubts about the possibilities to realize these grand plans in Russia. Maybe they were right. In 2009 both the financial crisis and the dangers of climate change have brought us back to reality. Reality is that there is no money to pay for the vast investments in infrastructure that are needed to build new cities. Reality is that the existing Russian city is in bad need of repair, and will not become more sustainable by building a better city next to it.
In the coming years or even decades, the task of architects and urbanists is not to build new cities on pristine land, but to deal with existing cities: cities that are often badly designed to start with, that are slowly falling apart, and that are inadequate for contemporary life. These are wasteful cities – this is their major problem, but also the key to their revival. Modernization can be financed by making the city more efficient: by reducing energy consumption, by increasing density, by restructuring open space and by developing an economical and social infrastructure that will create jobs and improve the quality of life.
In the 1990s we used to speak about reconstructing the city – to try to bring back what had been lost. In the first decade of the 21st century, Russia hoped to be able to create new cities, that would offer new environments for new ways of living. Now both credit and climate crisis make us realize that we should focus on creating this new city from within: by modernizing the existing city.
Bart Goldhoorn, curator
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