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Competition: Alternative Layouts in Standard Housing, Russia

The Russian government has launched an open international ideas contest for new standard apartment layouts across the country (Deadline: 3 August)

Open to both emerging and experienced architects from around the world, the anonymous two-stage competition seeks proposals for a range of residential floorplans for small, medium and large-sized dwellings.

The project – backed by Russia’s Ministry of Construction Industry, Housing and Utilities Sector – aims to generate a new standard approach to residential development which could be rolled out in cities and urban areas throughout the federation.

Golovinsky District, Moscow

Golovinsky District, Moscow

Source: Image by Svetlov Artem

Golovinsky District, Moscow

According to the brief: ‘The purpose of the competition is to expand the typologies of apartment layouts of medium and large size, which comply with modern requirements for providing for the comfort and security of the living environment, and which will be completed with the use of advanced construction technologies.

‘Competition participants have the task of creating optimal planning solutions that will be easily adapted to the needs of various users groups and climate conditions in Russia, as well as to the changes introduced during the project implementation phase.’

Russia is the largest country in the world, spanning 11 time zones and with a population of more than 140 million. A large chunk of the population live in prefabricated 20th-century housing developments, many of which are now in need of renewal.

Standard housing types in Russia

Standard housing types in Russia

Standard housing types in Russia

The competition aims to generate new standard layouts which can be used across the federation to provide modern, comfortable and affordable housing. Participants must submit five alternative layouts for small-sized apartments, and five floorplans for larger sized apartments.

Concepts must also cover three out of the four standard Russian housing block typologies found across the country: the urban villa, section building, tower and deck-access gallery building. The competition languages are English and Russian.

Up to 20 teams will receive around €13,600 each to participate in the design development phase of the competition during which international teams will be expected to partner with local firms.

The five overall winners, to be announced in November, will receive around €27,200 each while five further teams will be awarded approximately €20,400 and 10 other participants will take home €13,600 each.

How to apply


The deadline for applications is 3 August

Contact details


Visit the competition website for more information

Forest Gate co-housing case study: Q&A with Miranda MacLaren

The associate director at Duggan Morris Architects discusses lessons learned designing a competition-winning co-housing scheme for Forest Gate, London

How did your contest‐winning scheme propose a new typology for small‐scale urban apartments?

We followed Bedu‐uk’s competition brief which was to provide approximately 40 19m² units, and to design shared communal spaces that would be used by each resident within the development. Shared living in London is in its infancy and therefore there are no guidelines to follow.

We started by ensuring that each dwelling was double-aspect and had a relationship to an outdoor amenity space, creating a greater feeling of space. Each dwelling was designed as a simple repeated module allowing for the dwellings to merge if the resident’s circumstances changed.

Forest Gate co-housing by Duggan Morris Architects

Forest Gate co-housing by Duggan Morris Architects

Forest Gate co-housing by Duggan Morris Architects

We designed the dwellings around a shared courtyard garden. Each dwelling is accessed by a generous shared deck overlooking the courtyard, with recessed front doors to each dwelling for the residents to animate their entrance as they wish. The communal spaces, including a café and coworking spaces, were situated at the main entrance to the building, encouraging residents to pass by their neighbours or to stay and enjoy a coffee together while they watched their children play in the shared garden.

Which architectural, material, visual and other methods did you harness in your design?

Whenever we start a design process, we always start with the site, understanding the site constraints and the opportunities through simple sketches and diagrams. These lead us to understand which housing typology would best meet the client’s requirements. We also always build physical models to test options for our proposal, we then photograph views from the model to test the form and materiality of our scheme in relation to the existing context. To ensure we were designing specifically for the residents, we created a sequence of views, tracking their journey through the building from the shared main entrance to inside their home. We looked to references outside of the UK for inspiration, where shared living schemes have been successful and embraced by residents.

Forest Gate co-housing by Duggan Morris Architects

Forest Gate co-housing by Duggan Morris Architects

Forest Gate co-housing by Duggan Morris Architects

What advice would you have to contest participants on designing new standard layouts and typologies for Russia?

In designing micro-dwellings, it is important that whatever you are ‘taking away’ from a typical housing typology, there is something you are ‘giving back’ in return. In this case, we designed our proposal as one large home, where each resident acted as a custodian to the entire ‘house’. Therefore, the amenity spaces were far in excess of what each resident could afford if they were living on their own in a typical studio apartment in London.

Forest Gate co-housing by Duggan Morris Architects

Forest Gate co-housing by Duggan Morris Architects

Forest Gate co-housing by Duggan Morris Architects

Q&A with Denis Leontiev

The chief executive of competition-organiser Strelka KB discusses his ambitions for the contest

Denis Leontiev

Denis Leontiev

Denis Leontiev

Why are you holding a competition for new standard housing layouts and typologies across Russia?

The public contracts market in architecture is heavily monopolised by post-Soviet institutions and large construction companies, and our aim is to open up this market to emerging architectural offices all across Russia through such competitions – offices that, upon winning the competition, could use Strelka KB as a launching platform that will help them in implementing their own projects.

Panel and block apartment buildings account for almost 46 per cent of Russia’s housing stock. In other words, almost every other person lives in a panel building. And this is a standard product that practically has not changed in the past 70 years. The industrial giants who produce housing are not interested in completely reshaping the market and the real estate industry.

Our task is to raise the issue of revising a system that produces standard housing where so many Russians live today. This type of housing is not comfortable, it is not integrated into the urban environment and it does not provide for possibilities to enhance spaces or make them multi-functional.

Furthermore, competitions are an instrument for forming an architectural community, which is important for young, actively developing countries. And Russia is creating a precedent: taking into account many years of international experience, examples and mistakes, the country is now at the state level developing its own principles for housing construction.

The Open International Competition for Alternative Layout Design in Standard Housing is intended as a testing ground for creating apartments of the future. The brief of the new competition for alternative layout design is already published on the site.

Where did the idea for the contest come from?

Strelka KB is a platform for high-profile competitions in Russia, which is used by Russian emerging architects and more than 5,000 architectural offices around the world. Any big challenges that clients come to us with, whether they are the creation of nano laboratories, public spaces, high-tech buildings, housing or sports facilities, we conduct competitions for them. For us, competitions are a crash test of the functional models we create for a territory. Today Strelka KB is developing Integral Guidelines for Urban Development and new types of affordable housing in Russia, which will be adopted in the near future. The competition for alternative layout design is, on the one hand, a crash test — testing the parameters and ideas that make up the Guidelines, and on the other hand, a platform for developing pilot projects.

Standard housing types in Russia

Standard housing types in Russia

Standard housing types in Russia

Is a contest like this the best way to approach this challenging commission and to promote new architectural talent?

Contests were not invented yesterday (even the Acropolis was built on the basis of a competition), and debate over their advantages continues up to today. Nevertheless, they are on the one hand one of the most effective mechanisms to test the task at hand, and on the other, they lower the threshold of entering the architecture business for new, emerging talent. The competition for alternative layout design is international, the brief is provided in two languages, the jury is also international, and there is no contest registration fee. So everyone, even students, can participate.

Why is it important for judges to choose from a range of projects?

We are categorically against having a solely architectural jury, the rule dictating the majority of the jury comes from the field of architecture is outdated; the jury should be multidisciplinary and include a wide range of specialists that work with the city.

Before the jury meets, extensive analytical work is carried out to assess the feasibility of the projects under the given conditions in terms of timeframe, cost and quality.

Why are you keen for local, national and international participation?

We are interested in professional projects and powerful ideas, so for us as competition organisers, the country of origin does not play a role.

What is your vision for the new standard housing types?

It is housing that reflects the new behavioural patterns of citizens in cities and transforms housing from being simply a shelter integrated into the urban fabric, which is used by residents everyday. For a large number of people today, housing for them is the city.

What facilities or aesthetics might they provide?

This question will be answered by the contest participants.

Where might they be constructed and at what scale?

We hope that we will be able to implement several prototypes in several regions in Russia, and depending on the success of these prototypes, then decisions will be made on further implementation. Several test sites will be determined where the selected projects will be tested.

How big are the contest sites and what are the potential constraints?

Constraints are the parameters which are specified in the guidelines, and construction is planned to take place in various climatic conditions. The sites will be determined later.

How important will architectural innovation and quality be to the end result?

If we understand architectural innovation as a reflection of the way of life in the cities of tomorrow, then this is indeed important.

Are sustainable issues an important part of the brief?

Issues concerning sustainable development are undoubtedly important for us in the brief. This is one of the fundamental criteria for the jury.

What sort of architects and designers are you hoping will apply? Is the opportunity open to smaller emerging practices and undiscovered talents?

We will be happy to see architects from both established offices as well as emerging offices, but the priority will be on emerging offices that should be given a chance to implement a major project.

Could architects make their names on this project?

We are publicising the contest in both the Russian and international press as well as online, and will give the winners a chance to get acquainted and discuss their projects with decision-makers in the industry.

Which other design opportunities are on the horizon and how will the architects/designers be procured?

Since 2013, Strelka KB has conducted a total of 35 architectural competitions, 80 per cent of the winning projects have been either implemented or are in the process of being implemented. We hold several competitions annually and, for us, it is crucial that the customer is willing and able to glance into the future; that there is an understanding of the importance of the brief and of the preparation of thorough research for its development, as well as the innovative nature of the task that this competition is to solve. Primarily we are conducting competitions in mobility, education, health, public spaces and science.

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