Enlightenment, not entertainment


How to use architecture to instill values? How to design a building that embodies a desired future and provides the means to bring it about? A building at once open to and separate from the wider world; a building where teamwork, pride, and social consciousness are embedded in the architecture. A building with walls that teach…

At YPPA, we believe that children require their own special space, separated from, but embedded in, the adult world. Our mission is to define and program these spaces, to generate environments that develop children's initiative, self-reliance, and community commitment. 


YPPA takes its inspiration from the traditions of the Young Pioneers. For 70 years, the Young Pioneer Organization of the Soviet Union was the world's preeminent socialist youth group. In structure, the Young Pioneers were similar to their capitalist counterparts, the Scouts. But in perspective and approach, they were as different as the US and USSR. The Young Pioneers were a socialist organization, charged with bringing up future citizens, fit in mind and body; nurturing their all-round talents; and developing political consciousness, patriotism and team spirit. The Young Pioneer Palace Atelier works to extend this legacy into a new age.


The original Young Pioneer Organization was distributed in campsites across the Soviet Union. The camp was their base for outward-bound activities, expeditions and adventure. The actual distance traveled mattered less than the trip's preparation and its dislocation from the normal routine. Through exposure to nature and rigorous regimes, the Pioneers' bodies and wills were tempered. Our Atelier strives to replicate the qualities of the original Young Pioneer camps, in a modern urban context.

Like the camps, our Young Pioneer Palaces combine protection with exposure; freedom of discovery with discipline and ritual; and promotion of self-reliance with the tight bonding of a collective. These dichotomies are central to the design and programming of every one of our projects.


Palaces occupy a special role in children's culture: they are the enchanted space of fairy tales, where miraculous transformations take place and nothing is quite as it seems. In contemporary capitalist society, palaces are most often associated with Disney and its entertainment and consumption-driven approach to youth culture. In this world, children are pacified with entertainment and amusement rather than activated by enlightenment and challenge.

At YPPA, we design to instill a different set of values. Ours in an architecture that seeks to challenge the status quo by inspiring children to invent and inhabit a new, more equal world.


Our work is based on Modern principles: we believe that a rational, harmoniously designed physical environment, close to nature, can help shape the young person and, ultimately, our future society.

Our projects reflect this: more than just a building, the Young Pioneers Palace is an entire environment - a 'Pioneer Republic' - designed to ease the socialization of children and facilitate their aesthetic and scientific education, play and fantasy. Although it possesses monumental qualities, each Palace is, above all, about flexibility: our buildings aspire to freedom, truth to function, transparency, and the dynamic use of space. They are experienced in movement -  as much through art, music, and other aesthetic cues as through actual, physical barriers and openings.


Great monumental art and architecture creates a "force field" around it. Like children playing amidst the frescos in Campanella's City of the Sun, anyone located within this force field comes under the influence of a piece of monumental architecture. In addition to our Palaces' internal function of educating young pioneers and bonding them into a community, they also exert outward-reaching, inspirational influence. We call this the "Pioneer Effect".

An enclave of the future, the Palace's good example irradiates the wider adult society that surrounds it. From there, we work to catalyze the transition toward a less consumer-based society. "Pioneer Action Zones" are developed around schools and clubs, where the Pioneer Effect is exerted both directly, through environmental and social work, and indirectly, through shining example.

Our architecture is designed accordingly: through a free interaction between interior and exterior, each Palace advertises to the outside world the joyful, non-commercial life to be found within. A combination of great expanses of glass and facades decorated with mosaics, sculptures, and other forms of monumental art communicates to the area around it and welcomes the Young Pioneer.

Once inside, a Pioneer encounters a highly adaptable microenvironment scaled to child size. An assortment of educational spaces, gardens, theatres, workshops, and play areas accommodate an educational program designed to cultivate a child's interest in labor, creativity, professional work, and amateur talent. For large scale performances, and to foster the self-recognition of the Pioneers as a community, interior spaces are designed to join together through the removal of partitions.