Gagarin

2. Public interiors

3. Museums

11. Streetscapes

Built

2019

2019 — Grand-prix of Zodchestvo Festival. Gagarin Airport, Saratov. Project by ASADOV, NOWADAYS office, SAGA, RADUGA design, Macrofabrica

2020. Honorable mention as «Best Russian Public Interior Project» by the architectural magazine Project Russia

In recent years, Russian airports have been renamed in honour of great compatriots, one such example being the new Saratov airport, which was named after Yuri Gagarin, the first person in space. Architecturally, this presented a not unimposing task — to weave a single narrative into a rich, multifunctional space, which was still strictly defined to its logistical character. An additional difficulty lay in the conceptual theme of the story for which a poetic, rather than heroic tone was chosen, centring on space as a vast dreamscape, rather than a territory to be conquered.

The main terminal is the area a visitor first finds himself in upon entering an airport. It’s a space brimming with a profusion of information: adverts, departure and arrival boards, check-in counter numbers and much else besides. In order to break through the visual noise, but not mute the important passenger information, while keeping in line with the logic of the pre-existing premises, the first museum component to meet the eye is a huge screen. While broadcasting beautiful imagery that opens up the cosmic narrative from inside the airport, the screen can also convey a message without overwhelming the recipient. This technique itself is a reference to the modernist architecture from the heyday of the Soviet space program, when storyboard panels were actively used to decorate public spaces.

The second museum piece appearing on the passenger's path is a 50-meter interactive table on the second floor balcony. In a similar fashion to the screen, the table occupies only a small part of the valuable airport space, but due to its visual connection with the double light, the lobby appears larger. The history of the space quest is revealed in the exhibits of the museum where texts, images and artifacts lead us to the eventual realization of the Soviet dream for outer space - Gagarin's flight in April 1961.

The next chapter of the story, consistently iterated through multimedia installations, is devoted to the personal experience of an individual preparing for celestial travel – a sequence which culminates in a telebridged countdown as the traveler approaches the plane door. This event represents an invitation to the wildest fantasies of space – a realm destined to become as real as the skies when atmospheric flight first became possible for the human race.

The Earth is an important character in the unfolding story of a celestial dream. It invariably appears in the nostalgic image of home – near, yet remote at the same time. This portrayal of Earth as a home is the prevailing theme of the park through which visitors enter the airport. To provide transport access, but not as an asphalt wasteland in front of the terminal, the border between the parking lot and the park is blurred in a diffusion which creates a single green space.

The park is also home to a vertical kinetic sculpture in which 18,000 metal blades silently follow the whims of the wind, and an airy, ephemeral stele rises from a flat fountain. The surface of the fountain’s granite slabs, covered with a thin layer of water, turn into a mirror reflecting the sky. The water surface is a reference to the Volga, which spans the entire Saratov region, while the reflection of the sky underfoot is a reminder that the airport, the city of Saratov, and the rest of the planet are suspended amid endless space, whose first pioneer gave his name to the airport.

Saratov was where Yuri Gagarin undertook his astronaut training, and the Saratov steppes saw the landing of a round capsule which completed the first manned flight into space. In the installation, this moment is encapsulated in the form of a smooth concrete ball in a rye field – representing a happy ending for the first space story and the starting point for the narrative that stretches through the park and airport to the very door of the plane.