AMO Strelka (2013)

While the architectural field has changed more in the last 30 years than in the previous 3,000 – thanks to the rapid acceleration of globalization and the convulsions of the market economy – architectural education has mostly failed to keep pace. The Strelka Institute, in Moscow, proposes a different way of looking at architecture: not only for the general improvement of design, but with the intention of introducing research as the most essential basis of architectural education. AMO develops an educational program with Strelka to address a range of issues that are pertinent worldwide, and particularly urgent in Russia.

Strelka, a non-profit and independent institute based in Moscow’s former Red October Chocolate Factory, brings together architects, intellectuals, designers, and media professionals in a relationship of creative interdisciplinarity. Each year, a select group of 30-40 students (all studying for free) undertake pioneering and innovative research, which is formatted as a report, book, website, film, object, or something else entirely. With an ethos of “thinking and doing,” Strelka’s students are tutored and guided by a network of prominent cultural figures selected and mobilized by AMO and Strelka. During the first year AMO also oversees and supports the implementation of the proposed educational program. OMA headquarters in Rotterdam frequently provides an EU base for Strelka students and collaborators.

AMO and Strelka takes a series of questions as a starting point for its research: How is design impacted by economics, politics, and journalism? How can architecture engage with energy and sustainability beyond the scale of individual buildings – especially given the vast renewable resources that Russia can tap? What should Russia preserve from the Soviet era, and how is the issue of preservation embedded in new architecture everywhere? In a moment where vitality is shifting to the digital realm, what are the implications for physical public space?

2010-2011: Five Themes

The students research focuses on one of five topics developed by AMO: design, energy, preservation, public space and ‘thinning’, engaging students with ideas and issues beyond the realm of a standard architectural education. Each theme is framed with a paradox that reflects contemporary shifts in architecture and the way it is perceived and inhabited from a social, economic, and cultural perspective. Rather than providing solutions, each paradox describes an apparent impasse that is in fact an opportunity.

The student projects include a proposal for intangible heritage listing of mass housing, process of creation of public space in contemporary Moscow, reorientation of the energy sector and thinning tourism potential.

2011-2012: Moscow


On the flipside of Moscow’s emergence as a megacity, is the ever «thinning» of its Hinterland: a vast reserve of space with ever less substance to fill it, developing a distinctly Russian perspective for a global momentum of de-urbanization. A reserve of space once charged with use / meaning / intentions, subject of a deliberate policy to distribute people across the country, currently seems a film played in reverse, ever more abandoned cities! Dismantled infrastructure, oil and gas as the only remaining purpose of territory once charged with expansive ambitions…

In an effort to conquer territorial enormity in a systematic way, the team deployed a point-grid method, examining over 50 cases across the country, through fieldtrips, conversation, observations and desktop research that are representative of broader tendencies: potential for integrating Russian hinterland in a global context, the legacy of uniform Soviet-style approach of grand scale cultivation in the age of climate change and increasing wilderness, and the state of folk art – importance of the production site, its role in regional economy, its support system and its impact. This project continues as part of AMO’s research on the Countryside.


The emergence of Moscow (region) as Europe’s first (and perhaps only ever) megacity. Through the pending merging of Moscow City and the Moscow region into a single administrative entity, Moscow’s population will double, and Moscow’s problem should be addressed at the scale it deserves. Moscow recognized as a subject, educating Moscow’s future elite. This theme examines Russia’s centripetal process of urbanization within the global context of the free market. What structure is needed to administer a city at this scale…

In 2011, Presidential decree announced the addition of a new Federal District to the southwest of the city. The Megacity team explored a range of scenarios and conditions for a Greater Moscow – the ever larger bureaucracy, the unnoticed economies, largely underexplored role of the church, the new administrative borders as more than just a planning matter and others.

2012-2013: Agents of Change

Foresight in Hindsight: A History of Predictions

Throughout history, mankind has exhibited a desire to ‘know’ the future: from biblical prophecies to Marx’s dialectic course of history; from Kennedy’s man on the moon to Kubrick’s Space Odyssey; from speculative assumptions about the effects of climate change to assessments about the future of the global economy… predictions manifest in many forms. The advance of science has been, in some ways, an interesting catalyst: with its ability to endlessly simulate the future consequences of present decisions, cyberspace has given the future a whole new dimension. Medical science has enhanced this transparency, subjecting even our own health to a genetically predestined path…

However, despite the benefits of scientific progress, history’s most radical changes are rarely the result of scientific calculation; instead, more often than not, they are the product of a leap of faith. Maybe therein lies the real essence and value of predictions: as the ultimately mythical drivers of the supposedly rational process of modernization. Perhaps modernization is nothing other than man’s ability to believe his own predictions, even when the validity of these predictions remains questionable…

Russia is no exception: five year plans ‘shaped’ the future of the nation for over 70 years. Much of Russia as we know it today can be interpreted as a ‘lived prediction’ – the result of a past intention to set the country on an inevitable course – which, true or false, continues to affect it until today.

Can Russia ever be objective about a world beyond oil and gas? What is the real legacy of the Soviet technology and its desire to simultaneously conquer man, earth and space? Can enhanced knowledge about their ideological mission endow ‘architectural crimes’ with a new lease of life? – a selection of topics explored by the team.