In the middle of the woods by Istra, not that far from Moscow, you can find a strange structure.
Due to Russian climate you can see everything through two different filters: covered in white snow during winter and surrounded by green trees in summer. The abandoned buildings look especially different depending on the season.
Saint Petersburg is famous for its rooftopping due to several characteristics of the urban structure of the city itself. Most of the rooftops are open and not CCTVed so it is much easier to access them unlike in Moscow. Also, the city is famous for its ‘system of roofs’: the houses stand in one line without a gap between them along the street so you can walk from one roof to another. Sometimes you can walk the whole street along the rooftops.
Approximately once a month you can potentially witness around 50-70 Russian-speaking people driving and running around London with torches in search for the codes. You might think they are just crazy (once, in the middle of the game when I was looking for a code, a policemen approached me asking calmly whether I was feeling ok) but in fact they are part of an exciting urban game called Encounter.
Approximately once a month you can potentially witness around 50-70 Russian-speaking people driving and running around London with torches in search for the codes written somewhere around the city. You might think they are just crazy (once, in the middle of the game when I was looking for a code, a policemen approached me asking calmly whether I was feeling ok) but in fact they are part of an exciting urban game called Encounter.
For some reason former Soviet Union countries have a rich tradition of urban games which involves solving tasks and riddles, often under time condition, around the city. From early teenage years we get used to playing various urban games and quests: Running City, Pathfinders, Night Watch and even a quest in the Moscow underground – Metrobooks. They have various formats but with the underlining idea of adrenaline, action, entertainment, fun, erudition and, most importantly, a chance to experience your usual urban environment in a totally different way; to view it through a different lens.
Why did it become so popular in the former Soviet territory? Of course Russians are famous for their extremity and adrenaline-seeking. But I would suggest another reason – there appeared a fruitful potential for playing with really extreme urban experiences after the collapse of the Soviet Union. A lot of original Encounter games would involve abandoned factories, underground tunnels, rooftops and high fences. One of the most well-known examples is when during one of the games the participants were actually caught by the police and, while they thought it was a complete game over for them, they found out that the code was actually written inside the cell they were put in on one of the bars so the policemen were part of the game! Of course such things could only be done in Russia.
Encounter, which was organised first in 2001 by a group of students in Minsk, Belarus, is played today by Russian communities in several European countries. The statistics says there are around 300 000 people playing Encounter in 11 countries. Of course it had to become a bit more mild as it had to adapt to the particular laws and context of each individual city. Only recently the London branch of Encounter (recently re-named into City Quest) has organised its first game for English-speakers, which went very successfully and inspired organisers to continue making games for Londoners. If you want to experience all I have been talking about above, I suggest you participate in one of the games. All information can be found here.
an abandoned maritime school in Kronshtadt, near Saint Petersburg, with almost all classrooms preserved and even the names of the students still written with the chalk on the blackboards…
According to Lenin: ‘Religion is opium for the people’. Thus, religion was banned during Soviet era and most of the churches either destroyed or reused. Furthermore, some of them became home for museums of atheism.
If you type ‘roofers’ or ‘roofing’ in google most of the searches will lead you to companies who fix roofs. Paradoxically, this term in Russian has been totally created from English language but does not really exist in English in the same sense.
If you type ‘roofers’ or ‘roofing’ in google most of the searches will lead you to companies who fix roofs. Paradoxically, the term in Russian [руферы, руфинг] has been totally created from English language but the word does not exist in English with that meaning – those urban explorers are rather called roof-toppers.
People have always climbed roofs to have a better of a city festival or to have a romantic date, but it was during 2000s (we also call them in Russia ‘zero years’ [нулевые] ) that roof-toppers formed a movement. It is based on a combination of romantic desire of young people to distance themselves from the ‘zero’ and meaningless life running down there while they are just wasting their time on the top of another roof, and of the interventionist desire to reclaim the territory of their own city (getting to a roof-top is always illegal in Russia although technically they are not anyone’s property). As roof-topers we know our city very well: all its tiny streets, all its codes and unlocked doors, all its angry inhabitants and dangerous dogs, all its back stairs and fire exists. Actually, this city belongs to us.
I have been practicing ‘roofing’ for more than three years now. Here I intend to share with you some of my thoughts about it as well as pictures.
Photos: Alisa Oleva
In the urban exploration culture there is a very straightforward but, arguably, most genuine solution for organizing exhibitions. Where to make an exhibition of photos from the roof-tops if not on a roof-top? Where to make an exhibition of pictures and photos from underground if not in an unfinished construction of the heat header?
In the urban exploration culture there is a very straightforward but, arguably, most genuine concept for organising exhibitions. Where to make an exhibition of photos from the roof-tops if not on a roof-top? Where to make an exhibition of drawings and photos from underground if not in an unfinished construction of the heat header?
In July 2011 a group of ‘diggers’ (those who explore the underground world of the city) led by moscowhite, have organised an exhibition featuring drawings by hatever and kreazot_13. It took place in a heat header right in the central district of Moscow. During one day (due to the illegal and spontaneous nature of such events they essentially have a very short life span) dozens of people would be climbing down not only to see the works but also to get the real feel of urbex life. While most of the guests were from the community itself, there were quite a few for whom the process of getting to the location was a real adventure. The location was specifically chosen so it was not very dangerous and illegal (the header is abandoned) and everyone who wanted could get to the location without getting lost in the tunnels. The exact address was not revealed – only the nickname of the place. Thus, everyone from the community knew it and could get there straightforwardly while all other guests could write a message to organisers and get directions. During that one day several hundreds of people have come down and walked along the tunnels to see the exhibition.
The organisers have installed lights (apart from candles and torches brought by spectators) and played ambient music which could already be heard in advance, as you were approaching the location along the tunnel.
Have a look at the very atmospheric video from the event: ‘Real Underground’ by Anastasia Zotova.
Photos: w-molybden, huan_carlos, jst-ru
Have you ever tried simply to walk out of your house and keep walking in a straight line through your city? Imagine how many obstacles you will meet: roads, authorities, fences, closed doors, rivers and forests. Recently a Russian artist Anastasia Ryabova has explored this topic by organizing a ‘Star Road’ expedition, where the participants were invited to walk through the city recreating the shape of a star.
Have you ever tried simply to walk out of your house and keep walking in a straight line through your city? Imagine how many obstacles you would meet: roads, authorities, fences, high walls, closed doors, rivers, ponds and forests. Recently a Russian artist Anastasia Ryabova has explored this topic by organising a ‘Star Road’ expedition, where the participants were invited to walk through the city recreating the shape of a star.
When I say ‘through’ I do literally mean it. The emphasis in the project, a bit similar to the urban practice of parkour, is on the physicality of the experience of the city with your own body. Also, it is not simply a spontaneous act of walking through the city following a certain pattern but is an expedition which is researched into and prepared well in advance. It engages with the history, the structure, the bureaucracy and the authorities of the city. Thus, it offers a new experience and engagement with the city.
As Anastasia puts it in her own words:
The Star Road is a heroic expedition, which aims to carve out a new route over existed urban landscapes. A group of pioneers will overcome all kind of obstacles, and walk through existing concrete/administrative barriers. This new street will be inspired by the form of a star.
Il Viale della Stella
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More than 1 200 people used to seat in this huge hall. And now it is totally abandoned with only a giant chandelier hanging in the middle. The round stage itself has apocalyptically fallen down.