Peter Tolpin

Dominating huge empty spaces
Peter Tolpin
interview: Svetlana Kazakova / photo: Oliver Gant

What exactly is Central Manege?
Central Manege was built to commemorate the victory of Russian troops over Napoleon. It is a historic building and had been used for horse exhibitions. In 1957 it was turned into the Central Exhibition Hall. You could easily build a 5-storeyed building inside Central Manege, it is a huge space of 12 thousand square meters. And more than 70 times per year, this space is transformed for art. And every time it is different.
You are Head of a team. How many people work here?
We work with few departments. Architecture, visual communications, graphic design, we have a video production team and a Development Department for Manege. There are 30 people all in all.
What is your vision when you take on a project?
It depends. For example, our work for the Manege association consists of seven subdivisions and includes Central Manege, New Manege and other exhibition halls and museums. We consider it to be one big project, because it is very important for us that every venue has its own zone of influence in our city. The city responds to the museum, responds to culture. There are some museums located on the outskirts of the city. They are important since they contribute to the decentralisation of the city’s cultural life. There are big major venues like Central Manege in the very centre of the city. The events they hold are city-wide and sometimes even bigger. And for us they are all united into one big project. It is very interesting. The main goal is to create a top quality product – visual, spatial and educational. There is this phenomenon of huge empty spaces where we must create a special art space. It is a complex story that involves visitors, curators, architects, artists—art itself.
Doesn’t it frighten you when you have to deal with something that huge?
Not at all. It inspires me. It is mostly curators and artists who feel intimidated. There are very few places like this in the world which are that huge and ready to accept art. While working on the latest Biennale of Contemporary Art, I showed the venue of Central Manege to Yuko Hasigawa who is a Director of Contemporary Art Museum in Tokyo. She was an invited curator for the Moscow Biennale. She got confused when she saw the space but changed her ideas right after she saw the project. That is why an architect is not just a person who creates some space where the curator can work afterwards, but he is the one who puts together all the ideas of the artists and curators and turns them into form (shape). He materializes ideas.

Architect Peter Tolpin explains to Svetlana Kazakova how it feels to dominate huge empty spaces for the sake of art. (NOMAS, Moscow, p. 84)