Interview with Nastya Tulaeva
The head of BASA in 2016-2019
Author: Daria Akhrameika
Ph: Alexandra Prigodich
About being students with no budget and organising meta-events
- So, you are the head of BASA?
- We don’t have any chiefs, I just sing and stamp documents, that’s it.
- Tell me more about BASA itself. What is it?
- BASA is the Belorussion Assosiation of Students of Architecture, juridically, it is a youth public association established in the 1994. Generally, Its main activities are summer programmes, trips, restoration, informal organisations and local meetings.
- And who created it, students?
- Students created it and the previous head of the faculty, Galina Vladimirovna Polyanskaya supported the idea, she helped a lot in the beginning.
- Did she support it later? No?
- If I’m not mistaken, Galina Vladimirovna left the post of the dean of the faculty in 2004. Now it appears that BASA is not conflicting with the faculty, but… we are different and have different aims. We are rather punks, hanging around and so on, then the faculty comes over and says that we are disturbing them from work. Generally, we exist peacefully, BASA lives in parallel with the faculty, but extremely… separately. We don’t have any relation to the faculty legally. We are an independent organisation.
- Don’t you receive any help from them?
- The only support we get is, for example, when students need exemption from lectures because of forums or events.
- And that’s all? You don’t receive any other help?
- Yes, for us, the most important is that they don’t disturb us.
- Don’t you ask for help?
- We ask ad propose, but as you know, something that is profitable for us, in most cases, not profitable for the faculty. In the sense that BASA itself is an informal organisation and represents itself as the alternative option to the faculty. In some sense, we are trying to compete with it. However, we don’t have any confrontation with the faculty, we have very diplomatic relationships and none of the sides tries to ruin others life. If they ask us to do something, we organise and do it. If we need anything from them, for example, to hang the BASA banner, we get a positive answer.
- Then it’s cool.
“We are rather punks, hanging around and so on, then the faculty comes over and says that we are disturbing them from work”
- We haven’t been doing much during the last year. We have opened a spring architecture school - SESAM (Small European Students of Architecture Meeting), that appeared to be an architecture forum, like a studio, as a part of EASA (European Assembly of Students-Architects). That occupied a huge amount of resources, because we had to organise something in the middle of nowhere.
- I admire SESAM, it seems to me to be something unbelievable on Belorussian space/platform.
- We were all shocked, after that we had to take a very long vacation. For the upcoming semester we have a lot of plans. Series of lectures in Minsk and the “Minsk Architecture Forum”.
- How did you actually get there?
- I heard about BASA when I was on the first course, some members came for the Saturday lecture, with was attended by one and a half person. They were talking about something and everybody thought “wow, they are brilliant”. After that, I have applied for summer programme in Lubcha - I was not accepted as the level of competition was very high. Later, in August, there was an announcement that they are organising the “Minsk Architecture Forum” (the 5th). I had to write a motivation letter. I wrote it and was accepted. Later, I took part in it and it turned out to be an actual fun. After that (in 2016) older guys wrote that older generation is looking for the young blood for assisting in SESAM (SESAM Terra Incognita in Minsk) organisation, there was a lack of resources. So I joined them and everything started this way.
- Up the career ladder?
- This is not a career ladder, basically, we do not have any hierarchy. I mean, seriously, all my power consists
of the stamp and signature.
- How did you become the chief? Was there anyone before you?
- Yes. Anna Smirnova was before me, but she was on the 6th course already. Once we had a meeting regarding the Architecture Forum discussion and they said that they were leaving their positions and had to focus on dissertations to write.
- So they leave when they finish their education?
- Something like that, yes. Actually, the chief term lasts approximately for 2-3 years.
- You have such a democracy.
- We do!
- How many of you are there? Is there a staff, generally speaking?
- There are a lot of people in BASA, the exact number is abstract and blurry. I’m planning to leave this year too and ask a new girl to take my place.
- Do you know whom you are going to ask?
- I have some options, yes.
- Do you vote?
- Candidates are promoted and usually there are no
conflicts, BASA is a very solid team. Moreover, the position
doesn’t really change anything.
- As you say, you are a legal entity. What is the official name?
- It is called Youth public association. The Architects Union is a public association and we are a youth one, YPA.
- What is about money in general?
- We don’t have the accountancy and budget.
- So, no money?
- No, we don’t have any.
- So how do you live?
- Simply like that.
- To be honest, I can’t understand how was SESAM organised.
- SESAM was organised partly for personal budget. In the beginning, we all gave some personal money. Then were sponsorship, partnership, barter, friends and debts forgiveness. We have some permanent partners as Velux or Knauf. These are the companies which are related to building and materials production. They have been our sponsors for a long time. For them, BASA events are one of the rare options to present themselves to students. So, if we place their banner on the Architecture forum, thank the Knauf or Velux for supporting us, people become interested and find out that Knauf is the leading providers of drywall and finishing strokes in Belarus. Velux produces skylights. This is the way it works. The kind of sponsors that give ad much as they can, not that much, but in the end it’s enough. Apart from that, some things are given almost for free. The Ministry of Architecture and Building together with municipality helped as a lot with SESAM.
- Can you tell me more about how they helped?
- The head of the Architects Union, Alexander Iosifovich Korbyt, assisted us by telling the Ministry of Architecture about the association. Also, we asked him for help with the informational support. The Ministry has many channels, they are able, for example, to contact the regional executive committee and ask them to “assist with the organisation of the event on the Chereya village”. After that, this executive committee may call the village council or somewhere else. This is all about the human connections. As a result, we had an actual support there. For example, there were students standing during SESAM. It was unclear if they were under eighteen or not near the reception with some beer bottles. The police stopped nearby, everyone hided the beer quickly. The precinct said “Are you doing alright? Is anyone bothering you? Okay then!”. I mean, everyone was for us and supportive.
- I wonder how to achieve that.
- I wasn’t the one who managed thing like that, for example, I was responsible for the communication with EASA. BASA has Andrew Krokhin, he is extremely determinate and straightforward. He just knew how to communicate and prove his point and how to adapt to the bureaucracy language.
- Are you planning to do anything new, to extend the association?
- We are planning to contact MSAC. Also, our association of students-architects is located within Minsk and there is just one facility here. Whereas Brest and Gomel remain a bit anticipating, its unclear how to change it. We want to do that as a part of our promo company.
- How do you usually attract students?
- We come for Saturday lectures, for example, the History of Art or it goes as a word of mouth. We are making series of lectures before the forum and planning to visit Brest, Gomel and Novopolotsk.
- Speaking of Novopolotsk, it goes really well there. They are so active.
- In my view, in Novopolotsk, due to small scale, they gain some independence. The faculty is small, so they may afford to do “silly” things.
- It’s similar to the notion that the small countries are the most prosperous.
- Yes. The faculty is a part of administrative machine, it is more flexible and compact. As for us, we have to go through all the levels… For example, we went through a number of levels of hell, when we were trying to get an exemption from lectures for some students for SESAM. We had to involve almost all the administration of the faculty: the dean, the deputy dean, the heads of department. When we start to bother them, firstly, they start to be irritated by that. After, when they see that something great is appearing, they start to assist.
“On the last evening during EASA we were absolutely wasted and discussed how it would be”
Photo: Alexsandra Prigodych
- Can you describe SESAM in details?
- Oh, that was completely insane.
- It is insane, yes.
- It started when me and Krokhin were together in Denmark for EASA ( I am a national contact of EASA together with Nikita Akylenko). When we were selecting the candidates, we decided to take Krokhin with us and see whats going to happen. As a result, Andrey was amazed by the atmosphere and on the day of the national evening (this is the most terrifying multicultural disorder of all the two-weeks assemblies) and at some moment he comes up to me and says:
- Well, Nastya, I have agreed on everything and invited everyone, we are having SESAM.
- I mean, we are running SESAM. Just let’s do it somewhere away from the city.
- Alright, lets do it in a countryside.
On the last day of EASA we were completely wasted and discussed how it would be.
Then it all started to extend. Later we faced several problems, someone became sick, I got into neurology (CCPD) because of the stress. For example, we had a planned accommodation in the hangars of mechanical factory behind the village. At some moment, I got a phone call from Andrey and he said that it is forbidden to live there. We ordered an expertise and it revealed that because of the chemicals people are not allowed to sleep there. The end! All the raves and the industrial atmosphere were gone! Andrey had a breakdown, however, we had a plan B - a school. As a result, guys had to do there to clean up and do the wiring form the beginning. They also had to receive the washbasins and everything else. There were lots of troubles with signing the papers, new professors helped us a lot with that and they deserve great gratitude. All in all, all this 10 days passed in absolute happiness.
- You had a number of workshops during SESAM, lots of foreigners ruined them. How did you organise it?
- We don’t invite anyone personally. We have announced and open call, reposted wherever we could and told about it on the meeting of the national contacts. As a result, we have received more that 13 applications. In the beginning we were scared that we would not have the options to choose form. Then we actually had to work it out for several hours.
- You don’t pay them, do you?
- We don’t.
- How is it financially maintained? I mean, there are materials used.
- It is all about the contributions. We don’t hire anyone, this is a common cause. We, the organisers, had to invest a large share, moreover, tutors and workshops members pay contributions, they give money for food and building materials. Belarusians paid the participation fee (60€ for 10 days). It is quite expensive, but it is nearly not enough for organising the event.
- I know that you make the АрхКино (ArchCinema).
- That’s right, it is our project.
- This is very nice. As far as I understand, there is no difficulty in relation to money.
- Yes, it costs practically nothing except for the strength and nerves of Mary and Vali (the organisers).
- I saw the event on facebook “Discussion Circle”, but there is nothing there, no information at all.
- Yes, this is our project, it has failed. We thought it was necessary to make meetings just for talking and discussing something, to talk about architecture, about a book of some kind, for example. We organised the first meeting, called everyone, they all said they would come. But in the end, out of 30 people only 6 managed to come. Therefore, we decided to start with it and do it in a different way.
- And what are you doing on the Minsk Urban Platform?
- I mostly do a magazine. There is a tab on the site “Magazine”, it is such an urban almanac, a collection of major serious articles.
That is, we do not work as journalists, this is not a news publication.
- What exactly are you doing there?
- I do stylistic editing.
- How do manage to have enough time for everything?
- There is a lack of it. In a magazine, I earn money in a pleasant way. In architectural offices
I do not work and do not want or plan to do so yet.
- I heard a lot from different people about the working conditions and how this is all constructed - I do not understand all of this.
- How is the study going? Do you like it?
- I wouldn’t say so. I continue simply because I need to live out for 1.5 years and get a higher architectural education.
- And then what are your plans?
- I do not know. Everything changes every six months, I have no idea what will happen. Masters degree, most likely.
- In Belarus?
- Nooo, well, except for the magistracy in BNTU to prepare for a normal magistracy.
- Where do you want to go?
- It’s a secret.
- And what direction or models are you interested in?
- Landscape urbanism or very theoretical directions. I have no interest in residential or public architecture.
- See, now you are doing a lot of socially useful things.
- Yes, but it is very exhausting. I am not a person who is able to constantly communicate with people, so I was lucky that we organised SESAM with Andrey. He is always ready to call someone, but for one call I need to gather strength for 4 days.
- All these things, like the Architectural Forum, always look very complicated, like something that is very difficult to organise and manage.
- “It's not easy, but you just take it and do it.” We must start the process and it will work. The result is not what you wanted, but it’s still cool, more often even better than you imagined. It is always worth it.
- SESAM will be no more?
- Maybe in a year?
- Well, it will not be us anymore.
- It looks very cool. I really like SESAM!
- Thank you. In my opinion, the biggest result is that the organising team became very close to each other, we can now stand up for each other in front of anyone. It turned out to connect everyone. You can learn architecture yourself, it is also important to be a human. When you have this chemistry, you teach each other, trust each other, and so you become stronger.
- Do you regret that you will leave soon?
- No. Why should I? Firstly, I have no love and desire for power, and secondly, it is not power. Just tired of bear this responsibility.
« You can learn architecture yourself, it is also important to be a human. When you have this chemistry, you teach each other, trust each other, and so you become stronger.»
- You, by the way, do not make sudden movements, you exist very peacefully.
- Well, yes. I think this is an example of political and creative existence. Previously, the faculty of architecture was quite an opposition, and now architects are very conscious people. Anyway, we all understand that we are unhappy with our education, but this is not the personal fault of the faculty’s administration, so why rush at them if you can go about your business. You will not help anyone by doing this.
- I also think that there is no need to run out and shout loudly “against”, you can't do anything better or help someone, but only make the situation worse.
- I agree.