Andrei Sharonov, President of the Moscow School of Management SKOLKOVO, and Gor Nakhapetyan, Co-Founder, speak to Garage assistant curator Andrey Misiano about working with David Adjaye.

Andrey Misiano: Why did the school choose David Adjaye to design its campus?

Andrei Sharonov: Originally, the founders of the school—Russian entrepreneurs and international companies—wanted to have a standard European campus, but then they changed their mind and decided to go for a more original and ambitious design that would reflect Russian reality. They had the idea of putting everything together in one building—accommodation, study rooms, entertainment, food, sports facilities, etc.—so that students wouldn’t need to go outside during the cold Russian winter. This would save them time and energy, which students really need. So they had to find an architect who could offer an interesting solution for this extraordinary project. I hope Gor can tell us more about what followed.

Gor Nakhapetyan: I raised this topic in conversation with the art dealer Gary Tatintsian, explaining that we were looking for a young and ambitious architect who would become a star within a decade. Gary consulted a friend in London and suggested we contact Adjaye, who flew to Moscow three days later. We liked the fact that Adjaye specialized in public buildings and spaces— he did not design business centers or shopping malls. His philosophy seemed to be close to ours. And we were right to choose him, because within a few years the media were calling him a rising star.

AM: What is it about Adjaye’s approach that people value most when it comes to designing public spaces, and in particular universities?

AS: I can talk about our building, as someone who uses it. I find it very unusual. When I saw it for the first time—it was not finished at that point—it really struck me. It is a composition of geometric shapes, a building with an original design and vast spaces. For example, the large disk contains all the study spaces, a canteen, a reception, etc. It has quite a few spaces that can be used for big events. All of our lobbies and foyers are easily converted into event spaces. Above the disk there is accommodation, so students don’t have to waste any time commuting: they live and study in the same building. We also have one of the best sports centers in Moscow, equipped with a gym, a yoga space, a swimming pool, and a spa, among other things. It’s important, because we have intensive programs—people come for four or six days and study for twelve or even fourteen hours a day—and they are completely absorbed in their studies. I believe our building allows them to manage their time more efficiently.

AM: Were the school’s founders specifically looking for an international architect like Adjaye, who has lived and worked in Africa, Europe, the United States, and the Middle East?

AS: The thing is, we share the same cosmopolitan approach that Adjaye’s architecture represents. He is a true citizen of the world. At the same time, it was important to us that the building was based on Malevich’s suprematist composition, because our school also needed a national focus. I believe Adjaye found a perfect balance between the local and the international.

The material was first published in Garage Gazette 2017 issue.