Grigori Fateyev is a St. Petersburg native who studied theatre set design there, then came to the US to study architecture at Cooper Union. His AF architecture practice, based in Hillsdale, has been responsible for a succession of conceptually original and ambitious houses and commercial buildings in Columbia and Berkshire counties, with a refined sensitivity to how structures fit into landscape. He’s particularly good at windows, which tend to sprout throughout his inventions in unexpected places. He’s also an excellent watercolorist, in the mold of Steven Holl, and modelmaker. As modernist architects go—and there’s plenty of competition, even locally—he certainly knows what he’s doing and doing it well, including in Hudson on Willard Place. See grigorifateyev.com.
I was curious then, when a few weeks ago he invited me to tour his latest project, in West Stockbridge, Mass. I had next to no idea what to expect.
Fateyev, a tall, athletic and rather serious Russian in his forties, but with a gentle face, and almost always dressed in black, greeted me at a construction site on appropriately named Moscow Road, tucked in behind the asymmetric cluster of boutiques and bars backing the twists and turns of Main Street. Dominating the site is a stucco-faced single-story structure with a lot of windows, some curious gaps, and a profile that mimics the rolling horizon of the Berkshire mountains in the middle distance. At first glance, it could be a futuristic gas station or a helipad.
We were joined by Alexander Konstantinov, a robust and energetic, somewhat older Russian, who is lead architect/master planner on the project (Fateyev is designated “architect of record”, a distinction I’m not quite clear about). Konstantinov was in for a week from Moscow to check on the progress of the project. The two spoke together in rapid Russian, but in deliberate English to the contractors on the scene, and seemed to be quite satisfied with the way things were going, and there was a lot going.
The central structure looked as if it was nearing completion, and from the makeshift parking lot you could see a lot of landscaping in progress, with some pretty serious machinery. Fateyev led me into a temporary gallery in an adjoining shed, filled with maquettes and monumental sculpture of a distinctly Russian variety, its walls covered in impressive renderings of every aspect of the scheme: which is in fact a sculpture park. In no less, an abandoned marble quarry, the contours of which are, to say the least, rather dramatic.
I started to get it. As the blurb on its website explains: “Turn Park Art Space boasts a unique, diverse landscape—hills, meadows, a lake and a 65-foot vertical drop offering breathtaking views of the surrounding landscape. Visitors can explore, enjoy the natural beauty and engage with a variety of artworks. The mission of Turn Park Art Space is to inspire.”
I asked Fateyev what makes Turn Park different from other sculpture parks in the region, such as Art Omi, Storm King, the nearby annual outdoor sculpture exhibition at Chesterwood, or the Pepsi Park in Purchase, and he referenced its intimacy, its location in the heart of a small community, and its intention to fully engage the local community, not only in art, but in events, and particularly events for children. Not all of it was being built immediately. There are elaborate plans for additional structures—studios, residences, galleries—out toward the periphery of the 16-acre park, which is being funded, apparently very generously, by Igor Gomberg, a Ukrainian philanthropist and collector.
As Fateyev, walking and talking at breakneck pace, led me on a 20-minute trip through the site along a snakes and ladders series of trails, into and out of gullies gouged out of the rock, along artificial pools and creeks amidst a huge variety of vegetation, and up onto the landscaped roof of the helipad, I started to appreciate the ambition and dedication behind the project.
When more work is installed, I hope that they’ll be able to move beyond Russian sculpture, which might be a little too idiosyncratic for local tastes, and to my view a little too decorative. But the overall scheme is by equal measure compelling and charming in its unique setting and variations of scale. A soft opening is planned for October, with a full-fledged exhibition and event program scheduled for Spring 2017. West Stockbridge should, and I suspect will, welcome it with open arms. As I was leaving, I asked Fateyev about the name. He explained that the original meaning of “turnpike” (the Mass Pike is visible from the park) meant a road along which travelers would be forced to turn back if they couldn’t afford the toll. “Turn Park” will simply ask visitors to come by, explore its twists and turns, and likewise head back home in the opposite direction. In other words, it plans to be a destination. I hope that is what it will become, because it’s a rare and worthy endeavor.