Artur Sharf: Designing revolution. Ukrainian experience in the world scene.
The biography of Ukrainian design and architecture consists actually of four stages. The first one is connected with the comprehension stage of existence of the “design”. This period is chronologically defined as the end of XIX – beginning of XX centuries. At this time, the development of artistic-industrial activity of Ukraine was mainly due to the rapid growth of industry in the eastern regions of the country. The new stage of development of design happened already after 1930-ies – the era of Stalinist industrialization, when the real progress was achieved in the development of factory engineering culture. During after war period in USSR, there was a problem of technological inferiority. Especially it was evident in the production of consumer goods. The plants manufactured goods depending on the possibilities and requirements of factories, and the final consumer was content with copies and modifications of not always high quality of foreign samples. In 1960-ies, at some new enterprises, started to appear artistic design teams. However, Ukrainian design differed poorly from the design of western countries. The prevailing ideological dogmas and schemes interrupted the development of aesthetic culture, and planned economy and bureaucratization prevented the introduction of progressive design and architectural projects into mass production.
What happened with Ukrainian design and architecture after collapse of Soviet Union?
Until 1991 AUSIID (All Union Scientific Institute of Industrial Design) was a developing institute with 15 huge branches, young personnel and experience sharing. After the collapse of USSR, a single document management system was lost. Euphoria, which appeared in the early 90’s that had illusions of transition to new knowledge, which will open incredible horizons to us, has led to very deplorable results. The moment of documents translation was missed, the data was not digitized. Results of many fundamental researches in the field of design and architecture were destroyed together with the libraries and funds of all AUSIID branches. Professional communities and collectives had also disappeared. Due to the circumstances, professional design of Ukraine of the beginning of the XXI century had, basically, a laboratory and exhibition demonstration, due to which its originality and uniqueness was saved.
A new stage in design development is associated with the appearance of young specialists in the industry. The recent graduates of leading art, architecture and design universities in Ukraine demonstrate restrained optimistic results.
Over the last five years, the number of design studios that do not just create, but also realize successfully and sell their ideas, have increased in more than three times. The evidence to this is that our designers receive well-known architectural awards and have numerous publications in the international press.
The increase of the number of successfully accomplished foreign orders shows that the Ukrainian design really exists.
One of the most promising architectural bureaus of the new generation is the YoDezeen studio, under the guidance of Artur Sharf and Artem Zverev. For quite a long time, the architects receive orders from all over the world and they are successfully promoting their unique style in the western countries. Artur Sharf a co-founder and a chief architect of YoDezeen studio told us about his experience of work with foreign clients, and what is the difference of architect’s work on different continents.
Could you please, tell us how do your clients differ in Ukraine and abroad?
All our clients in all over the world are financially and professionally self-made people who travel a lot and follow trends in fashion, art and design. Billionaires have moved to a much more subtle demonstration of their social position. People from new elite try to consolidate their status through knowledge and cultural capital, they prefer to invest money in education and health, rather than in ordinary material goods. On the one hand, it is easy to work with such clients, because they know what the design is, but on the other hand it is kind of difficult to surprise them, so you always have to study, to keep your hand on the pulse and practice your outside-the-box thinking. Such changes you can find the most in the USA. For example, the main distinction of American clients is that they spend more time on making the decision, but as soon as this decision was made, they want to receive a maximum of competent information and quickly move forward. Less talking – more action – is one of the basic rules of successful American entrepreneurship, which we try to follow. In addition to determination, American clients demonstrate openness to interaction: they are opened to discuss new actions with employees of any level. In this case, the conversation happens personally, and not using the secretary. The more ideas, the more the process is effective.
How, in your opinion, does American interpretation of architecture and design differs from the European?
If we are talking about architecture in countries with a warm climate, it should be noted that it has more opportunities to implement outrageous and startling ideas. The same applies to a client from developed countries – he has more financial opportunities, and therefore more chances to implement the most extraordinary ideas.
What do people like more about design? What do they want almost always? And what, on the contrary, was unacceptable for Americans?
We have many projects in Miami and Los Angeles, and the clients everywhere want to receive a modern European design: consolidated spaces, maximum functionality, decoration of natural materials, several lighting scenarios and a well-thought color palette. New luxury style, metal and stone panels, marble and wood are very modern nowadays. In Los Angeles, and in all America, when buying a property, the first thing you pay attention to is the view from the window, not only from the living room or bedroom, but also from all the other rooms in the house. A great importance is given to the amount of water because of the hot climate, for example, to swimming pools, fountains, artificial ponds, and spacious terraces, where you can hide from the heat. Also, customers from Los Angeles are asking to make several parking spaces, for the house design – not less than 5, for a flat – two.
There are some particular aspects concerning zoning. It is necessary to equip day and night zones, large and small living rooms (large for the reception of guests, small – for a meeting with the family). Also in the US, large wardrobes at the entrance give way to spacious halls.
You have an experience to make a design for foreigners. How do you think, why in these cases, the clients invited a designer from Ukraine?
We have a very strong design and not standard fresh ideas in Ukraine. Thanks to or against the totalitarian past of our country, Ukrainian designers studied and developed in some kind of a vacuum, based on national traditions and borrowed international experience. Exactly thanks to this, today, Ukraine has its own design identification, flexibility and spontaneity, which is very popular around foreign clients.
Tell us about the distinctions of the Western customer service
Almost all Ukrainian entrepreneurs are trying to provide their client with a good service and forget that a satisfied customer is a satisfied employee. Without loving his job, the employee will not smile and will not serve the customer with pleasure. Don’t try to convince me that everyone is the architect of their own happiness; the happiness of one person is affected by another one. That is why, a high-quality client management is not only a hotline number which can be easily remembered, but it is the first and foremost a well-established policy of the company. If you want to create a well selling cover, you need to take care of what it contains.
Can you please, give some advices to young architects, how to succeed in this area, what is the main thing, they should pay attention to?
If you want to succeed you need to every day work on yourself, learn something new, follow trends, read professional press, attend specialized exhibitions and festivals. I recommend students to start working on the first or second year of education, so that at the time of graduation they already have sufficient experience.