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Text and Photo: DE I

Dutchman Eric Van Egeraat has suggested – long before Sir Norman Foster had done so - to Moscow town-planners in implementing modern technologies to use only new ideas.
In the numbers of projects he has proposed in Russia he has out-striped even his Russian colleagues, but unlike other ‘touring’ architects, Eric wasn’t in the hunt for big money, and has stood by solutions that do minimal harm to the historical and natural environment. This hasn’t done Eric any favours, yet still demand for the architect’s explosive imagination doesn’t cease. Proof of this is “Federation Island” in the Black Sea, and the plan for the development of Khanty-Mansiisk as well as a whole array of other projects. At the Venetian biennale he presented the National Library in Kazan Project resulting in him not being left alone by colleagues and critics alike even for a minute.

DE I: When you start working on the project how do you imagine it?

Eric:   Basically a vision of the project comes by itself. I do not exhaust myself searching and don’t wait around for something creative to come. The project consists of understanding and experience. I am talking about the internal world, a self-sufficient, decision making process that influences your well-being. It’s very difficult to create the building exactly as you see it, to build what you have sketched. Artists don’t work just to please somebody. But it’s important that people still like it. Certainly, I’m not going to repeat something that somebody created two hundreds years ago, so I try to find modern approach. For the Kazan Project, for example, I borrowed the architectural styles of XVIII century but also took into account modern requirements. I work in Russia as I like its contrasts and uncontrollability. People here sense the world around more fully and more sensitively than in other countries. They put a lot of effort into trying to see something good in their surroundings and often don’t even suspect that they posses such valuable qualities. It’s impossible not to like country such as Russia.

DE I: How much the responsibility of the architect increase when he becomes famous and starts to take on the realization of such complicated projects?

Eric:   Even having reached certain level - whether you are politician, architect or artist - you should evolve and go forward and that demands much effort. The higher your social position, the more obligations you have. If you are a well known architect or journalist people will rely on your words and actions.
What I would like to add is that we should have respect for our work. Some people use religion to avoid unseemly actions. I am a humanist so, in any case, I will look for the causes of my mistakes in my own incompetence. I do not need the shelter of God’s name to achieve my goals.

DE I: What is your attitude towards the criticism aimed at architects?

Eric:   A good architect doesn’t necessarily have to be a good artist. The task of an architect is to draw what he feels, to know how to explain it and to take responsibility for what he is doing. I would never start working on a project if I knew it would be used only for propaganda purposes or would reflect on people negatively. That is exactly what respect for your profession is made up of. On the one hand you should be very attentive, on the other you should clearly understand what you are doing and for what purpose. The British newspapers wrote: “Eric Egeraat remains uncompromising”.

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