New Academic Year – New Plans

- Professor Galazhinskiy, for its 139th anniversary TSU prepared a present for itself: a new building on the embankment of the Ushayka River. How was it possible to carry out such a huge project? It is not a secret that TSU and other universities suffer from a scarcity of money. 

- The University was really short of premises for years. The situation with the building on Lenina street, which was washed away by subterranean water, pushed us to the wall. We were deprived of 7,000 square meters. 500 students lost classrooms! We could not teach them on the street! To build something from scratch is extremely expensive and takes a long time. There was only one thing left for us to do: a long-term rental. We came to realize that we had another problem as well. TSU had a serious shortage of spaces that could meet the modern requirements and could be used to hold events with various formats.

We have written many times that universities are the centres of initiatives and the three-way communication between the members of the Triple Helix (universities–industries–government). Meanwhile, there is a shortage of well-equipped communication spaces in Tomsk and at the University where one could conduct forums, lectures, and discussions. In other words, the Triple Helix is not going to spin itself. We need spaces and places where people can meet and feel comfortable. All that made us look for some new ways to solve old problems. Why choose the particular building? It is very spacious and located comparatively close to the university campus. There is also the Drama Theatre, the Concert Hall, and the City Hall near the new building. So we will have the opportunity not only to teach students but conduct major events at different places at the same time, along with state and business organizations.


- Does it mean that the new TSU building is a joint project that was carried out along with the government and local business?

- Yes, it does. We did not spend any TSU money, that is, any money from the budget, taken from its other “pockets”. We spent only the money that was given by the Ministry of Education and Science specifically for purchasing multimedia equipment for the new building.

When six months ago we started the project, we fell to thinking over all possible sources we could find to finish it. Then we thought of cooperating with the government and local business. We tried to take into account the interests of all potential stakeholders. We designed the concept of the building and discussed it with the owners. We found mutual understanding. We also found a sponsor who agreed to pay for the equipment.

What motivated us the most? At present, many local large companies have the need to educate and re-train their staff. However, they do not have a proper environment and other sources to do that. For them, it is expensive to send their personnel abroad or to the central cities, because they would need to send them more than once. Knowledge and technologies become outdated, people need more and more training to keep their companies competitive on the market. We and the investors thought several moves ahead and figured that top-notch premises would be demanded by companies and state organizations when they wanted to perform tasks in the training of their staff. 


- A number of Tomsk citizens still consider the style and the design of the new building to have failed. What do you think about that?

- We came and made ourselves comfortable in a fully constructed building. So the issue of its style and design was beside the point for us. We needed to deal with much more relevant problems that I have already mentioned earlier. Nevertheless, I would like to receive an answer to the following question: Is there a building in Tomsk that has been built over the past 100 years and has made all the citizens esthetically satisfied? As a psychologist, I must say that everything connected with people’s perception is totally comparative and subjective. It is too short a time since the new building was finished, and it is too early now to come up with the final verdict. Many people still perceive this object of architecture with the story connected with its registration at the Federal Agency for State Registration. But it came to an end some time ago. And the new history is about to be made. We believe we can succeed in it.


Besides, we really like the building. Despite the fact that originally it was constructed to be used otherwise, we find it very convenient. Any architectural object must be considered from the points of both external and internal parameters. Everybody who has already attended events held in the building was impressed by the interior. People found it functional, aesthetically pleasing, super- technological, and comfortable. At present, this is the best building TSU has at its disposal.

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- Could you talk a little more about its internal secrets for those who have not visited it yet?

- First of all, we decided to give the new building to the recently established Institute of Economics and Management. Its master’s degree students and post-graduates will study there. 500 people can be in the building at the same time, including students and staff. We want this new space to become a driving force for the whole University. The force that dictates new standards. A year and a half ago, we began our collaboration with the Corporate University of Sberbank that has great experience in organizing new education spaces. They shared their experience with us. It turned out that there are many details in this sphere. For example, designing an amphitheater, one should leave a particular distance and angle between the rows, so that lecturers will see the eyes of all the spectators.


 Such visual contact is vital when cases are considered. To use the classrooms more efficiently, special sound-absorbing transforming glass walls must be installed along the halls. They also can be used to divide the space. Floor coating must be made of sound-absorbing and ecological materials. Like all other materials, of course. Furniture is supposed to meet certain ergonomic requirements too, such as height, adaptability, color, and so on. The Corporate University of Sberbank ordered chairs from the Boeing Company. Not because it was prestigious and expensive, but because of the quality of the chairs. Students and professors can sit on them all day long and never get tired. 

- The students of the Institute of Economics and Management will also use the chairs from the Boeing Company?

- No, almost all our furniture was made in Russia, but according to the highest international standards. And it is much cheaper. We found several Russian options that are of high quality. Some pieces were custom-made. For example, high doors with thin glass inserts for each classroom. That allowed us to make all spaces open and integrated. Walking along the halls, one can see what is going on in the classrooms and join the audience, if it is interesting. The most successful global companies, such as Google, Facebook, and others, work that way.


The new building is a four-storeyed construction with one ground floor and three upper levels. The first and the second floors will be occupied daily by the students of the Institute of Economics and Management. They will have 11 big lecture halls and 2 amphitheaters at their disposal. There are some smaller rooms for individual work as well. All premises are equipped with multimedia hard- and software. There is a room for professors to prepare for work and to rest, with a kitchen to have a cup of coffee and to microwave snacks, if necessary. A very good ventilation system allows doing that. The most state-of-art library in Tomsk is on the second floor. It has an automatic system of book delivery.


 The third floor is for special events—conferences, open lectures, and presentations. If necessary, the big hall may be divided into two smaller spaces by the glass screen. There are also classrooms, meeting rooms, and a co-working centre on the third floor. Co-working spaces, by the way, can be found on other levels as well.


There is a cafeteria on the ground floor. One can have coffee or tea there, or even have lunch. Some premises for meetings, group work, and workshops can be found there too. 


When the repair work was being done, we found out that the fire safety system should be provided differently from how we had expected. The investor had to break two walls in order to make two additional exits and to re-consider the accessibility of the building for people with special needs.

The government showed interest in the premises, and we hope that the ground floor of the new building will become one of the hottest places in Tomsk to “spin the Triple Helix” in the region. 


- This is a very large “household” to maintain in order! It was hard enough to build it and to open it. But now we have to take care of it and develop it!

- Yes, we do. We have to maintain the infrastructure and make it help us to attract finances. We believe that our potential clients will understand that it is more expensive to use and rent such state-of-the-art spaces for work than ordinary conference halls in business centres.


In any case, to invite visiting experts and to train staff in our building will be much cheaper than to send staff to Moscow, Europe, or the USA. We are sure that companies that are interested in educating their staff will realize how convenient it can be and become our regular clients. This will bring us additional money to maintain the building.


Those people who have come to see the premises were very impressed and ready to collaborate. We have the first reservations. But the entire structure of managing the building is still being evaluated. The management team is being created. Its main goal will be to find premium class clients to rent the spaces.


- Now students and professors from other faculties and institutes will envy their colleagues. Everybody wants to study and work in such a technological and convenient environment, at least, sometimes.

- What stops them from it? We started changing the environment of TSU two years ago. First, the Director of the TSU Research Library initiated opening a 24/7 study hall for students and professors. It has been very popular since then. Some time ago, we opened a new iMac classroom. Please, everybody is welcome to use these spaces!


Besides, people are welcome to attend the open events held in the new building. Here we will conduct all-University events when it is possible.

We think a lot about the future of our campus, its design and functional capacity. How to make it attractive for youth and new employees. The environment must encourage people to collaborate and work transdisciplinarily. To inspire them to create innovations.

- The famous Russian designer Artemiy Lebedev developed special instructions for those who build schools. Does it mean that the idea of design as a source of creating new things is becoming popular in our country?


 - Yes, and I think it is great! We know that such an approach to designing spaces helped such companies as Apple, Google, Samsung, and many others to succeed, including universities that occupy the top positions in global rankings. The ecosystems of Harvard, Stanford, MIT, and Oxford are extremely impressive with their functionality and unique design. Reconstruction of historical buildings may lead to marvelous results. A good example is Delft University of Technology (Netherlands).


Its size and age are close to the size and age of TSU. All premises of Delft University have undergone major reconstructions, including its old warehouses where new classrooms and creative studios have been arranged. There are just a few new buildings there, only the library and a couple of new study buildings. The campus of Delft University is famous today all over the world for its outstanding architecture. This is one of the reasons why enrollees are motivated to enter this university. The success of Delft University in attracting young people inspired other universities to pay more attention to reconstructing their infrastructures.


- How long will it take to change the TSU campus and make it famous in the global community?

- If we keep the pace, major changes will take place in the next 5 to 10 years. We have so much to be proud of! The wonderful Main Building, the old building of the Research Library… And we are not the only ones who think so. All visitors admire what we see every day here. These places will be centres of attraction in the future campus, which, I hope, will represent the idea of making it a teleport from the 19th century to the 20th and the 21st centuries that was proposed by French experts. Classical architecture will be well-embedded into modern infrastructure. This will attract more people and make them want to be part of our community!

The interview was conducted by Irina Kezheleva-Sagan