Flexible Living The Russian Way

Today we celebrate article number 300 on Pop-Up City. No champaign though at our office in Amsterdam, but a serious article about Russian pop-up culture. On this special day we found out about a topic on flexible cities at a Russian website dedicated to campers, caravans, et cetera. The topic must have a name, but we can’t read it. We don’t even know what phrase is meant to be the name. Anyway, this rather obscure topic full of flexible buildings, DIY campers, truck houses, and limousine-caravans is definitely worth a visit. It features all crazy stuff that can’t hardly be taken seriously, with rolling houses as a central fascination. Some of the pictures, by the way, appeal to a serious suspicion of being fundamentally retouched.

Russians are strange guys, but ultimately creative in creating whatever is needed for daily convenience. The complete DIY culture and recycling hype must have been big in Russia decades ago. The complete Russian culture is naturally focused on recycling and re-using, and they just don’t call it Cradle to Cradle. Re-use in Russia is a practice within the private sphere. There are no central programs set up by the government to stimulate eco-friendly behavior. The real reason to recycle old stuff and give it new function is based on simple individual needs.

This culture of re-using could be considered as a societal heritage of the Soviet era. During this period, that was based on a centralized and planned production economy, some products just weren’t available for big groups of consumers. Scarcity of all sorts of consumer products like cars and electrical equipment was no exception at all. The five years plans made by the Soviet government were pretty unilateral, and always based on a new theme rather than on the rules of demand and supply. The only way to deal with a broken vacuum cleaner was to fix it with the motor of a hedge trimmer, or iron pipes from a bike frame. After decades of communism, a lot of Russians still live with this idea in their minds, and that’s what makes them doing this kind of funny things, at a serious level.