Symposium Programme “Tracing the Future City”

The International Scientific Symposium “Tracing the Future City” will be held in Moscow, December 20-22, 2018. The symposium is organised by the Graduate School of Urbanism of the HSE Faculty of Urban and Regional Development. The symposium is held as part of the educational and exhibition project “NER: History of the Future”. It coincides with the opening of the exhibition “NER: Tracing the Future City. 1959-1977” (curated by Alexandra Goutnova and Masha Panteleyeva), which will be held at the Schusev State Museum of Architecture from December 20, 2018 to February 10, 2019.

The three-day programme consists of a series of lectures and roundtables with architects, urban theorists and architectural historians from around the world. It will address several major themes derived from the work of the Soviet experimental group NER (Noviy Element Rasselenia, 1959-1977) — “Spatial planning”, “City & Technology”, and “Space and Society”. The members of the group were primarily concerned with the future development of Soviet urban planning and their innovative work had a significant influence on present day architectural theory and practice. Presentations will cover the periods of Soviet disurbanist proposals of the 1920s, the Thaw of the 1950-60s, as well as present-day urban theories.

Venue of the symposium: Schusev State Museum of Architecture
Russia, Moscow, Vozdvizhenka str., 5/25
Date: December 20-22, 2018
Working languages: Russian and English

The Symposium is organised with the support of the Schusev State Museum of Architecture, Center for Franco-Russian Studies in Moscow, French Institute in Russia, US Embassy in Moscow.

Download the Symposium Programme in the PDF format:  Symposium_Programme_20-22_December_2018


Day 1 / December 20 (THURSDAY)

18.00  Tour of the exhibition “NER: Tracing the Future City. 1959-1977” (by appointment).

19.00 – 20.30 Keynote lecture “NER, or the Architecture of Optimism” by Professor of the New York University Institute of Fine Arts and Princeton University Jean-Louis Cohen.

Over a period of nearly twenty years, the members of the NER group have made Russian architecture interesting again. For the first time since the demise of the avant-garde in the early 1930s, an exciting message was sent by Moscow to the broader world. The theories and designs of NER were deeply rooted in the renascent discussion about Soviet cities, but they should also be understood within the broader context of the radical architecture then being articulated in Europe, North America and Japan. Based in part on the personal reminiscences of encounters with NER’s members, the lecture with measure the group’s ambitions and achievements on the international scene.

Day 2 / December 21 (FRIDAY)

11.00 Registration and Reception. Welcome by Gleb Vitkov (Dean of the HSE Faculty of Urban and Regional Development) and Masha Panteleyeva (exhibition curator, architecture historian, Princeton University)

11.30 – 13.00 “Spatial planning”

As in many countries, urbanisation and industrialisation in the Soviet Union took place simultaneously. The industrialisation played a fundamental role in the formation of cities and agglomerations, set the direction for the development of transport systems, and formed the prerequisites for further urban planning changes.

In the 60-70s 20th century Russian (Soviet) social geographers (B. Khorev, G. Lappo, P. Polyan) introduced the concept of “the basic skeleton of economic spatial structure”, which is a network of large settlements (nodes) and their transport communications. The “nodes” of the “basic skeleton of economic spatial structure” become centres of settlement, which concentrate population, goods and services, and information and create conditions for the development of industry, leading to the formation of large urban areas – agglomerations and megacities.

Rejecting the future of urban sprawl and standardised construction, young architects of the NER group (A. Gutnov, I. Lezhava, A. Baburov, N. Gladkova and others) proposed their own radical solution—the “new unit of settlement”— outlining the city as a self-sufficient socio-spatial complex where an Individual was seen as a social molecule within a harmonious coexistence of urban components. NER’s visionary Socialist City was designed in opposition to the existing industrial city model, which NER deemed to be obsolete, intending to reconcile everyday life and production through open communication between urban citizens.

How have the ideas about spatial planning evolved? Which factors play a key role in the settlement system today? Is it possible to manage the urban growth? These questions define the framework of this session.


Alexei Novikov, PhD, geographer and urban scientist, President and Co-founder of Habidatum


Pavel Polyan, DSc, geographer and historian, Leading researcher of the Institute of Geography of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Professor of the National Research University Higher School of Economics

Alexander Skokan, architect, Corresponding member of the Russian Academy of Architecture and Construction Sciences (RAACS), Academician of the International Academy of architecture (IAA), Head and Chief architect of Architectural Bureau “Ostozhenka”

Boris Levyant, Professor of the International Academy of Architecture (IAA), Member of the Union of the Moscow Architects, Head and General director of ABD architects

Gleb Vitkov, architect, urban planner, Dean of the HSE Faculty of Urban and Regional Development

Pavel Chistyakov, economic geographer, Vice President of the Infrastructure Economics Centre (IEC)

13.00 – 13.30 Coffee break

13.30 – 15.00 “City & Technology”

With the accelerated development of technology, the “quantitative revolution” in the 20th century has permeated all scientific fields. In the 50s of 20th century it got to the regional geography as a response to its inability to explain general spatial dynamics. Urban studies and planning were no exception. Since the 60s of the last century researchers have begun to emphasise the analysis and interpretation of data through mathematical and statistical models and methods.

NER’s work was based on the scientific analysis of existing settlement patterns, which allowed identifying fundamental parameters of urban space and the development of a specific parametric system to guide the future urban planning design processes. The results of this work are embodied in the “Frame-Fabric City Model”, developed by A. Gutnov in the 60s-70s of the 20th century. Later, it formed the basis for the “Place-Node Model” widely used in the Genplan Institute of Moscow and the “Urban Nuclei Model” of A. Vysokovsky.

Recently, the volume of urban data has increased exponentially, but does it contribute to better understanding of the urban processes? At this session, urbanists, architects and city analysts will talk discuss the evolution of the approaches to modelling urban space. What approaches are relevant today, and how modern technologies of working with the city change our understanding of urban planning.


Yuriy Milevskiy, Partner and Managing Director of NOVAYA 


Oleg Baevskiy, urban planner, Professor of the HSE Graduate School of Urbanism

Egor Kotov, data scientist, Research Fellow of the HSE Graduate School of Urbanism

Elena Sushko, PhD, Leading researcher of the Central Economics and Mathematics Institute Russian Academy of Sciences

Vadim Smakhtin, data scientist, Co-founder of the digital design studio Mathrioshka, Chief Technology Officer at Partner of Habidatum

Daria Radchenko, PhD, Deputy Director of the Centre for Urban Anthropology, KB Strelka (to be confirmed later)

15.00 – 16.00 Lunch

16.00 – 17.30 “Space and Society”

Each urban design concept, no matter how different its position is from other concepts, contains the idea of how the physical space organises social life. The “Garden City”, “Linear City”, “Industrial City”, and “Socialist City” concepts are not just examples of the urban planning innovation, but they all manifest the new social system and social ideals.

The idea of the “space for free communication between free citizens” was in the centre of the NER urban concept. NER linked it with the revival of Soviet civil society and free experiment with the architectural form in the Soviet urban planning and architecture. The Centre of Communication is the heart of NER concept, connecting all aspects of human cultural and creative life.

Large-scale changes in society, caused by the developments in transportation and communication, have changed our image of space. How did this affect the perception of the urban space? What social ideologies are reflected in urban planning today? Architects, urban sociologists and specialists in cultural studies will talk about this.


Ivan Mitin, PhD, Associate Professor at the HSE Graduate School of Urbanism, Member of the Ethnographic Commission of the Russian Geographical Society


Anna Bokov, PhD, architect, urban designer, and historian, lecturer of the Cooper Union School of Architecture and Parsons School of Design

Andres Kurg, PhD, architecture historian, Professor of the Institute of Art History and Visual Culture of the Estonian Academy of Arts (EAA), Senior Researcher of the EAA Faculty of Art and Culture

Bertrand Gosselin, independent curator, artist and cultural activist, initiator of cultural actions in Russia and France

Grigory Revzin, architecture historian, Professor of the HSE Graduate School of Urbanism, Partner of KB Strelka

Ekaterina Lapina-Kratasyuk, PhD, Associate Professor at the HSE Faculty of Communications, Media, and Design

Day 3 / December 22 (SATURDAY)

18.00 – 20.00 Closing round table “NER and its contribution to Urban Studies”

The architectural group NER (1959-1977) was founded by the graduates of the Moscow Institute of Architecture in the early 1960s and it was the first large-scale collaborative urban development concept in search for the ideal communist city.

NER’s proposal for the future city had a tremendous success during the 1960s. The concept was presented at several key international exhibitions, and their collaborative book was published in three languages. In 1968 the group was invited to participate at the Milan Triennale of Architecture by Italian architect Giancarlo de Carlo. The project was exhibited among other renowned utopianists of that time such as Archigram, the Metabolists, and Peter and Alison Smithsons. In 1970 a prestigious invitation to participate at the World Exposition in Osaka'70 followed. In 1977 NER (A. Gutnov and I. Lezhava) produced their last collaborative work — a publication titled “The Future of the City.”

NER’s proposal for the future city was never realised, however, up until today their ideas have remained an important philosophical school for generations to follow.

Architects, historians, urban planners and theorists of urbanism will discuss how the ideas of Soviet city planners evolved and how they contributed to understanding the city.


Alexander Ostrogorsky, architectural journalist, lecturer at the Moscow Architecture School MARCH, member of the editorial board of the journal “Urban Studies and Practices” of the HSE Graduate School of Urbanism


Jean-Louis Cohen, Professor of the New York University Institute of Fine Arts and Princeton University

Zoya Kharitonova, architect, participant of the NER group 

Andrei Bokov, DSc, architect, Academician of the Russian Academy of Architecture and Construction Sciences (RAACS), Vice President of the Union of Architects of Russia

Oleg Baevskiy, urban planner, Professor of the HSE Graduate School of Urbanism

Mikhail Krestmeyn, PhD, Chief Engineer of the Research and Project Institute of General Planning for the city of Moscow

Sergey Sitar, architect, design critic, lecturer at the Moscow Architecture School MARCH