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Za Bor’s Parasite Office: Creative Urban Infill

Posted by
on December 31, 2015 at 03:56 PM

It’s again all about finding space in over-populated, built-up-to-the-brim, yet magnetic urban hubs; space for all the new homes, work-places and recreational spaces to cater to an ever growing population. To find this space, we keep exploring new strategies like building even denser, taller, rebuilding older structures or shrinking our interior requirements. Russian design firm Za Bor Architects approached this issue with a creatively exploratory concept in their Parasite Office design located in Moscow which, despite being the largest city in Europe, faces the now proverbial space crunch.

© Courtesy of internet resources

It seems funny, though, that the grand openness of great European cities like Moscow, rendered so on account of the grand scale of the open spaces left between the built ones, which seemed so unquestionably self-sustaining, ceases to remain so today when they too are bogged down by a quest for space. Moscow, for one, has a building typology in most of its commercial hubs, where two adjacent high rises face each other, across a wide passage leading to a rear courtyard, with blind walls. While, in the present situation, this intermittent lane translates as a wasted space, it is practically not possible to build a new structure there.

That is, not unless you delve into some intrepid creativity to make it practicable, as Za Bor Architects did. They have created a suspended structure, supported by and sandwiched between the blind walls of two neighbouring Moscow buildings, elevated a floor above the ground to leave it free as the thoroughfare vehicular and pedestrian access to the rear courtyard.

The lightweight steel structure, which is three floors high itself, has a front façade of a faceted arrangement of lightweight yet durable polygonal polycarbonate panels, with a large irregular polygonal glazed cut-out that provides light and views to all the three floors. The rear, courtyard-side face has a flat glazed curtainwall.

Modular floor panels allow for flexible interiors. The building is approached by a steel staircase rising along the wall of one of the supporting buildings. It also has an accessible guarded terrace. 

The façade panels being of translucent polycarbonate, the structure glows at night from inside, like a large lantern in an alley. The contemporary faceted form contrasts with the existing, predominantly orthogonal, built forms in the neighbourhood, serving to carve out its own visual identity while simultaneously highlighting the older aesthetics. This strategy of invasion falls in line with the precedent set by greats, beginning with I.M.Pei’s pyramid at the Louvre, where an intrusion into a heritage built-scape is intentionally contrasted by a contemporary structure which, while maintaining its individual presence, serves to highlight the heritage around it through this contrast.

‘Urban Infill’, a concept which refers to building or rebuilding on open spaces available within the urban fabric rather than adding to its sprawl to make use of available urban infrastructure, is often criticized for overloading the infrastructure and reducing the open greens. Za Bor’s lightweight, air-lifted approach to an urban infill in their Parasite Office seems to have a perfect answer to such detractors, drawing minimally or not at all on the infrastructure and open greens it skims over.

Za Bor principals Arseniy Borisenko and Peter Zaytsev have created this office space for their own use, serving as a demonstrative experiment of this explorative concept. The Parasite Office, a dream work-place for creative professionals, undoubtedly draws support from its two adjacent neighbours as any parasite would, but the visual and ambient transformation it renders to the neighbourhood makes it more of a symbiotic relationship!

A parasite, an infill or a bridge spanning two generational requirements - call it what you may, this 2011 structure surely displayed a unique and exploratory approach that opened up new avenues. It just showed us that no matter how filled up our cities may look, it’s still possible to nudge in and work around the regulations to fit in legitimate and unobtrusive new built spaces.

Designer : Za Bor Architects, Russia
Photography :Internet Sources

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