There is a new wind of “global minimalism” sweeping through the architecture scene these past few years, a trend that has found its rock star in Harry Nuriev, a 36-year old Russia native who blends Bauhaus, 80s pastels and Scandinavian simplicity into one big, Instagram-loving mash up. His distinctive approach to colour and his love of cultural references from both East and West have turned the architect and designer into a singular success story. A master of monochromatic minimalism, his democratic approach to design has even led him to create accessible deco objects he calls “tiny architecture”.
In 2014, after six years at Moscow’s Architectural Institute, Nuriev set up shop right there and then, founding Crosby Studios in the Russian capital. The name, as he tells us in a recent communication with Yatzer, came about spontaneously, on a post-grad trip to America: “I’m bad at naming things. Right before I started my firm I was walking between Crosby and Mercer Streets and thought to myself ‘Crosby sounds sexy’ and so I decided to name my firm after it.” Only two years down the road, he successfully debuted his first collection during New York Design Week and moved his practice to Williamsburg. “Nowadays our clients are all over the world”, he says. “I don’t understand how the location of an office can resonate with a physical office. Good design is good design and bad design is bad design”.
Speaking of offices, Last December, The Office, his installation at Art Basel Miami became an instant hit, proclaiming Nuriev’s love for cultural and fashion connotations. Among other office staples, it featured a wooden air conditioner carrying the Balenciaga logo, while a swivel chair totally covered in lace, echoed his childhood memories of growing up in Stravropol in the North Caucasus. “Everyone is always so curious about how my culture is referenced in my work. For me it’s just my memories”, he tells us. Growing up in 1990s Russia, the brands he fetishized are the same ones he now partners with for special projects, like Nike and Balenciaga. “As a kid that came from nothing, of course, I was obsessed with these brands”, he says. But a creative mind like his would not remain astounded for long: “When I was able to afford them I realized that who you are is more important than what you wear and clothes will never make you happy. For me, clients are all the same. I work with people - not brands, no matter the title or the name on the business card”.
For Nuriev, the nineties with their affluent international influences suddenly flooding the former Soviet Union, was a blessing. “I was lucky to be brought up in this period of history, it is an endless inspiration of design, colour and most important the philosophy of most of my projects”. We wonder what and whom he chose to hang on the walls of his childhood bedroom, only to discover that his inspiration comes from further within: “I had no bedroom as a kid. I come from a big family and we lived in a one-room apartment, so I didn’t have any room for a poster. I didn’t have any famous role models growing up, just people I looked up to around me - real people like the mailman or local cafe worker. I gain inspiration from my childhood, like the park I used to walk in with my father and the schoolyard I played in as a child”.
A self-proclaimed “monogamist” when it comes to colour (“I’m a monogamist in all parts of my life” he tells Yatzer), his devotion has shifted from pink to royal blue (his New York apartment is practically bathed in these two colours), leading to today, with gray being his new infatuation as he confesses to Yatzer. Using colour as a reference is one of his favorite playgrounds, as obviously stated in almost all his architectural work, including Pink Mama in Moscow, a restaurant we recently featured. Young, fresh and talented, Nuriev is part of the so-called Russian renaissance - a group of creatives taking centre stage and making their mark in fashion and design, after years of simply looking to the West, like fashion designer Gosha Rubchinskiy and Demna Gvasalia, creative director of Balenciaga and head designer of Vetements. “It feels good!” says Nuriev, who wraps up our discussion by stating the one single thing he would like to be remembered for: “I want to produce and direct a movie one day and I want everyone to remember me by this”.