(Note: this post is full of opinion and assumption, please do not take offense at anything presented here, but rather help me to correct the errors. This post is meant to be more of an emotional, humanistic apprehension of my visit to Ekaterinburg and Salda in light of several conversations about the V2V project.)
Yekaterinburg is a wonderful city with an amazing connection to its industrial heritage and to the history of Russia. I had the distinct pleasure of spending almost a week there in March as part of the symposium for the intellectual platform for the 2nd Ural Industrial Biennial of Contemporary Art. I am a terrible tourist, but managed to visit the Uralmash (enormous factory complex just on the edge of the city), the State University, the Titanium Valley (proposed site) and the villages near the Salda River.
The proposal to make a special economic zone focused around the manufacturing of titanium materials is very exciting, billions of Rubles will be invested in the valley and consequently a lot of changes will be felt by the people of Salda. Not the least of these changes is the influx of a lot of foreigners, and potentially changes in the standard of living.
Salda is home to one of the oldest titanium manufacturing plants, which is expect dominates the local economy. From one visit there I saw clean streets, bucolic houses, and what came off as a pretty simple and straight forward way of life. The attitude in the city focuses more on the idea that these folks are poor, and there is a sense of the provincial whenever people talk about life outside the big city. This surprised me. Being from a smaller town in a more rural part of a post-industrial state growing up I never questioned our level of sophistication. And though I am severe when I talk about that place, it seems to be more of a reflection on things that have not changed rather than things that have, and much more about the people I knew than the level of sophistication (which actually seems to be on the rise).
That brings me back to one of my major impressions from Yekaterinburg, Visozky Tower. Visozky Tower is this enormous glass and steel construct that is visible from most of the city. Visozky Tower is out of place in the landscape and is reviled by the residents. Hated for its style, height, positioning, it becomes a central landmark about which people are passionate. What does it represent? The disconnect of the business world from that of the resident population? The challenge of aesthetics that are not in context and not democratically considered?
I can read it another way too, this is about the march of progress. Visozky Tower represents the future which does NOT connect directly to the past, it is a divergence and a disruption. The way the architecture brutalizes the entire city, visually, represents both the challenge and blazes a trail towards the future.
Either way I cannot emphasize the importance of this building. When I return to Yekaterinburg I want to visit it. For me it is a cultural anchor, and I think it is kind of humorous, but it also is a potent parable of things to come.