The Art of Real Life

At Shchusev Architects, we work to carry on the legacy of our founder, the great 
Russian architect and patriot Alexey Shchusev. 
In his writings, lectures, and design work, Alexey Shchusev always stressed that 
architecture must respond to the needs and desires of everyday life. This obligation, he 
argued, is a defining feature of the discipline, one that distinguishes the architect from 
his peers in other creative fields. Writing in 1923 for the Moscow Architectural Society's 
monthly magazine Arkhitektura, Shchusev explained that "alongside all the other 
branches of the arts, architecture reflects the life that surrounds it; however, the role of 
the architect is somewhat more complex than that of other artists. Forced to take his 
creative motive from without, in an externally defined task, the architect must 
inescapably reflect in his art all the sum of phenomena characteristic of a given 
historical moment". 
During Schusev's time, the siren song of the new was felt especially strongly by Russian 
architects seeking to lead, or at least keep up with, their revolutionary, rapidly 
modernizing society. Shchusev shared their desire to innovate; but, unlike many of his 
peers, he believed that the best new ideas spring not from wild speculation but from a 
deep understanding of the past. This embrace of heritage defines his work — as well as 
his approach to office culture. In a 1933 article for the journal Stroitelstvo Moskvy, 
Shchusev describes the work process that he developed and that we continue to use to 
this day: 
Each commission is to receive preliminary discussion involving all members of the 
studio and, in dependence on that location or street in which the object is to be erected, 
the situation and architectural approach taken to remodeling the street, square or entire 
urban complex should be worked out in advance. The studio shall solve its tasks 
according to the principles of contemporary architecture, armed with all the knowledge 
and theoretical achievements of the architecture of past ages. 

The creation of new forms from ancient ideals is possible only through a combination of 
historical knowledge and technical competence. Without the latter, architecture can 
easily drift off into abstraction and lose its essential connection to real life. In laying out 
his "Principles of architectural construction", Shchusev emphasized this point: "The 
tasks of forecasting for architectural work consist not of beautiful quotations, analogies, 
prophecies or abstract definitions", he wrote, "but involve a grasp of the essentials of 
the works themselves in the sense of their form and construction". A Shchusev 
Architect, in other words, must be fluent in the language of modern building. "He must 
know the organizational bases of construction, study building materials, their production 
and working, and he must understand the tasks of painters and sculptors, from the 
plastic arts that are so closely related to architecture". Our founder's passion for intimate 
interdisciplinarity continues to define our firm — and today it extends far beyond the "the lastic arts". 
"Architecture is not a pretty picture", Shchusev once wrote. "It is a combination in outline 
and form of all the prerequisites of a building’s program, dictated by the economist, 
technician and sanitary officer". A truly skilled architect must be able to balance these 
interests, to communicate productively with every stakeholder, to produce work that 
satisfies the client while achieving the architect's artistic ambitions. 
More than anything, though, Alexey Shchusev taught us that these should not be the 
architect's ultimate concerns. The smoothness of its interdisciplinary collaborations, or 
the satisfaction of its patron, the originality of its concept or strength of its aesthetics do 
not ultimately determine the success of an architectural project. The people do. 
Shchusev saw architecture as a public service and encouraged all those who worked 
for him to get to know this public personally. "The Russian architect must love his own 
native architecture", he once wrote, "and just as […] Tchaikovsky produced Russian 
works based upon a knowledge of folk music, so must the architect be aware of the 
nature of the country in which he builds, and the life of the people with whom he is 
dealing. The Russian architect must lead from the front, without isolating himself away 
in the circles of narrow interests". 
Today, our practice is global and covers almost any conceivable program. Still, Alexey 
Shchusev's principles guide our work, setting a standard of artistic imagination, 
professional competence, and social engagement that allows us to expand and explore 
without ever losing our way. During moments of confusion or conflict, we turn to these 
principles — known in the office as The Shchusev Method — for increased perspective 
and pride. They provide professional guidance and creative inspiration. They remind us 
that we are not simply an office — we are the fulfillment of a personal philosophy. We are 
Shchusev Architects.