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Brief Published: 5 Sep 2012

Future Communities: Russia’s I-City Pavilion at 2012 Venice Biennale


Common Ground – the theme of the 2012 Architecture Biennale in Venice – provided a rich hunting ground for architects keen on exploring the prospect of how to create more productive (read: competitive) communities as we look to the future.

The standout exhibition on this score was the Russian Pavilion’s interactive i-City concept. Cue tablets all round, enabling us to read the information embedded in walls of QR (quick response) codes – exploring the past and future of Russia’s experimental cities.

Designed by Russian architect and curator Sergei Tchoban, the i-City exhibition came in two parts. At basement level in a pitch-black room punctuated only with peepholes, it revealed a fascinating look at the history of the Soviet Union’s 60 secret gated cities. These were established between 1945 and 1989 to boost specific areas of scientific and technological research.

After leading visitors through an almost surreal history of the country’s invisible cities, the real impact came from the second, ultra-futuristically styled level above, where the team revealed the contemporary version of such cities: the Skolkovo Innovation Centre, located just outside Moscow.

Using individual tablets, visitors scanned an interior matrix of giant QR codes to peruse details of the Skolkovo Project – a city the architects claim will provide not only optimal conditions for research and business development, but also highly favourable living conditions for its residents. The other difference this time around? The city is open for all to see.

The 2012 Architecture Biennale runs until November 25. Our full coverage of the event will be published on September 14. 

Sergei Tchoban

Architecture Biennale