Designer Aliaksej Kulbicki: Are Belarusian officials capable of creating something "simple and tasteful"?

What are the problems of modern urban design

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I am almost sure that each of you, walking around Minsk (or any other Belarusian city), periodically caught himself thinking: “How could THIS be built?” And it doesn't matter whether we're talking about a building or a park bench. The main thing is a clear realization that the presence of a minimal, one might say, rudimentary sense of taste directly screams that the official who gave the go-ahead for the creation of the object has committed a crime against the eyes of the townspeople. Personally, I find it disturbing that our country is increasingly being described as "clean but dull". Even more worrying is that this characterization is less subjective and more and more truthful.

And I absolutely do not want to look for someone to blame in this column. After all, this is what we usually do when we see another "masterpiece" of unpretentious design thinking - we wonder who we can blame or defame, or better yet, hold accountable for the outrage.

But let's take a broader look at the situation: by defaming and accusing, without even noticing it, we become part of a system that crushes any attempts at experimentation. How does this happen? Let's find the answer.

Aliaksej Kulbicki — PRAS Art Director. Master of Design, member of Belarusian Union of Designers
Aliaksej Kulbicki — PRAS Art Director. Master of Design, member of Belarusian Union of Designers

Decisions on the creation of parks, transformation of streets, construction of buildings, installation of benches, painting of transformer houses are taken by committees. Approving any project is the prerogative of officials. An official has two main tasks: to create something useful for the people and, at the same time, not to harm himself. Thus, one has to do something universal, something "for everyone" - that is, in fact, for no one. Fear of the new, unwillingness to go beyond the familiar and what has already been created by others, leads to the birth of impersonal forms.

Let's go over it again, for a full understanding of the situation.

A utility-type bench will not be an eyesore to anyone. It won't be praised, but it won't be criticized either. It will dissolve in our impersonal everyday life. 

Paint this bench a bright lime green, and two camps emerge - those who approve of this bold decision and those who criticize it. Do officials need this polarity of opinion? No. And there is no way to say "this is how an artist sees it", because the artist did not even pass by here. Therefore, the presence of taste and desire to do something bright and unusual in the domestic nomenclature is not very welcome.

But let's be more specific, down-to-earth, and take some real "case". For example, the Minsk Green Diameter, the pride of the city, which is the range of parks that follow one another. They walk in line, in step and with the same expression of park faces: Gorky Park is no different from Kupala Park, Kupala - from Kazei Park, and Kazei - from the park around the Opera Theatre. Concrete paths and standard benches. You can walk, sit, send your child to the trampoline, feed the squirrel or soak the forehead in the fountain water. But it could be possible to show a little more imagination. Gorky Park could have more zones for children, Kupala Park could be made for romantic strolls and reading, and Kazei Park for the youth (for example, there is already a workout area there). Besides, a person comes to the park in order to get out of the city, without leaving it, and communicate with nature. What's the point in concrete and benches? Why not fill the paths with gravel, put sun loungers on the lawns, hang hammocks from the branches? Both asphalt-paved paths and my fantasies will be called "park reconstruction" in the official's report, but how different urban spaces can look in the end. Why then do these "reconstructions" follow the worst-case scenario?

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