Ancient Russian Village Now Home to Land Art
The village of Nicola-Lenivets, which means “Nicola-the Lazy-bones” in Russian, has a really long history. The first residents, ancient Slavs-Vyatiches, arrived in 3,000 B.C. They later fortified their village, which is found along the Ugra river, by building a wooden fortress and earthen mounds. When the Russian state system formed, the Ugra river became an important strategic outpost. History is unclear, write the organizers of the Archstoyanie festival, but, the folklore says that in the middle ages, either a “horde of Tatars” or a “troop of Lithuanians knights” attacked. The Russians fled, so the invaders rested on their laurels and partied it up. Foolishly, they set themselves up for an ambush by the Russians the next morning. They write: “Since then, the settlement was named Nicola in honor of St. Nicolay, whose protection helped the Russians to win the battle. The word “Lenivets” (Lazy-bones) was added in the memory of the fast defeat of the armies, as the place itself disposes people to laziness and idleness.”
Moving past the middle ages, World War II, and the Soviet era, which saw the village’s historic church turned into a milk plant, the village perhaps reached its final nadir, with a population of three people by the early 1990s. But things started looking up: In 1992, the place become a nature preserve and archeological site. Then, it became home to the Archstoyanie festival, part land-art, party “lazy bones” party in 2005. Since then, each summer, more and more interesting pieces by Russian and European landscape architects, architects, and artists have been commissioned by Nikolay Polissky, the local artist who moved there.
This past summer saw a new piece called Fast Track by Estonian architecture firm Salto. The design blog This Is Colossal writes that this wildly fun landscape measures nearly nearly 170 feet, or about one-city block.
Salto explains themselves: “Fast track is a integral part of park infrastructure, it is a road and an installation at the same time. It challenges the concept of infrastructure that only focuses on technical and functional aspects and tends to be ignorant to its surroundings. Fast track is an attempt to create intelligent infrastructure that is emotional and corresponds to the local context. It gives the user a different experience of moving and percieving the environment.” See visitors taking it in:
Other pieces added over the years play on the history of the village or an idealized Russian nature. Nicola’s Ear by Savinkin & Kuzmin put in an ear-shaped form on the edge of the slope. “Isolation of noise from village allows us ‘to listen to silence.’”
Timur Bashkaev’ s architectural bureau created Half-bridge of Hope along the Ugra river, which offers seven flights upwards for a view of the river. The wood installation has a fortress-like feel, harking back to the site’s early history.
Another piece, Pine Pavilion by landscape architect Adriaan Gueze, International ASLA, West 8, uses wire to encase thousands of pine cones in walls, forming frame for a pine cone floor. The smell must be a major part of this sensory experience.
Lastly, the man behind the arts festival, artist Nikolay Polissky, created Border of Empire. Using local “peasant-artists,” Polissky creates “social sculptures,” in an effort to create a local utopia.
Image credits: Archstoyanie
Sustainable Cities Collective