Russia reinvents the architecture festival format

Wooden building foundations
The Goroda and Archstoyanie festivals provide participants with a chance to design and construct something that wouldn't be possible in an urban contex. Pictured is the 'Lighthouse' installation by Moscow's Q-Home for Goroda 2012
(Image credit: Ivan Ovchinnikov and Andrew Assad)

Russia is famous for its grand landscapes stretching out to the horizon, free and wild. Some of these green fields and ex-farm collectives not too far from Moscow also serve as platforms for architectural experimentation. In 2005, two festivals with a truly unique format were born, where architects, designers and artists of all ages gather to build a showcase for visitors to camp around and enjoy the show.

The Goroda (opens in new tab) and Archstoyanie (opens in new tab) festivals both provide their participants with a chance to design and construct something that wouldn't be possible in an urban context. For some of its young contributors this is often their first chance to build.
 
Both events fully exploit their sites' rural potential. Goroda has previously travelled around Russia and beyond, finding its permanent home last year in an abandoned Soviet collective farm, the Archfarm. Ten structures currently remain from last year's festival, all site-specific 'answers to the place'. Some of them are playful and some truly functional - including the elegant and simple wooden huts, now rented out to frequent visitors.

Those participating in these festivals use natural local materials to full potential and build for the future. Archstoyanie, set over 120 hectares of land, is home to Alexander Brodsky's (opens in new tab) wooden Rotonda and Boris Bernaskoni's (opens in new tab) Arc. They were designed for the festival, but also help develop the surrounding national park.

Over 10,000 people visited Archstoyanie this year, joining special walks around the site and attending performances by contemporary artists. Both rural festivals are known for their thought-provoking designs, but also offer a fun day out for all; a sample of what the numerous Russian architecture and design festivals have to offer, both in town and the countryside.

Here's our pick of the top five Russian architecture festivals:

Archstoyanie festival
Organiser: Nikola-Lenivets
Curator: Anton Kochurkin  
When: Annually, every July for 3 days
Where: Kaluga's region, Dzerjinskiy district, Nikola-lenivets village

Goroda festival
Organiser: Ivan Ovchinnikov
When: biannually, every August and February, over 2 weeks in the summer and 2 weeks in the winter
Where: Tula region, Zaokskij village

Sretenka Design Week
Organiser: Andrei Samonaev
When: annually, every October for a week
Where: Moscow

Moscow Architecture Festival
Curator: Bart Goldhoorn
When: Annually, every May for 5 days
Where: Moscow

Moscow Biennale
Organiser: Vasiliy Bychkov
When: annually, over two weeks between May and June
Where: Moscow

Wooden structure in triangular shape

Goroda architecture festival 2012: A pavilion by OMAX

(Image credit: Ivan Ovchinnikov and Andrew Assad)

Temple

Goroda architecture festival 2012: 'The Temple' was an installation made of straw and wood

(Image credit: Ivan Ovchinnikov and Andrew Assad)

Wooden structured building

Goroda architecture festival 2012: Birdhouse installation by Tatyana Pryakhina

(Image credit: Ivan Ovchinnikov and Andrew Assad)

hanging pendulum

Goroda architecture festival 2012: 'Foucault's Pendulum' installation

(Image credit: Ivan Ovchinnikov and Andrew Assad)

Stone building in a park

Archstoyanie festival 2012: ARC pavilion by Moscow-based architect Boris Bernaskoni

(Image credit: Andrej Yagubskij)

Rustic wooden pavilion

Archstoyanie festival 2012: Storming Heaven wood pavilion by Manipulazione Internazionale

(Image credit: Andrej Yagubskij)

People wearing green suits walking in a line holding a tree each

Archstoyanie festival 2012: 'Kiss of the Tree' performance art work by Andrei Bartenev

(Image credit: Nikita Shoho)

Man wearing a skirt walking bare feet

Archstoyanie festival 2012: 'Fast Track' performance piece, produced by Salto Architects. A trampoline was hidden under the track.

(Image credit: Nikita Shohov)

Two people walking in the dark

Archstoyanie festival 2012: 'Fast Track' performance piece, produced by Salto Architects

(Image credit: Nikita Shohov)

Wooden capsule

Archstoyanie festival 2011: 'Your Closet' capsule hotel by ArhNah Bureau

(Image credit: press)

Wooden structure

Archstoyanie festival 2011: 'Saray Sarayev' pavilion by architecture studio Manipulazione Internazionale and the Missippi art group

(Image credit: press)

Inside a wooden pavilion

Archstoyanie festival 2011: 'Saray Sarayev' pavilion by architecture studio Manipulazione Internazionale and the Missippi art group

(Image credit: press)

Inside a wooden pavilion

Archstoyanie festival 2011: 'Saray Sarayev' pavilion by architecture studio Manipulazione Internazionale and the Missippi art group

(Image credit: press)

Steel building

Archstoyanie festival 2011: 'Standless Steel / Steel nestoyachaya' installation by a group of architects, including Alexander Ryabskiy Xenia Kharitonov and Dmitry Baryudin

(Image credit: press)