A tree house made of leftovers from abandoned dachas, Lothlorien Resort in Elven Forest Kingdom. 2045

Lothlorien Resort 2045: Suburbanized Elven Forest Kingdom

An interview with Anton Belov and Mikhail Maiatsky about the future of labour, leisure and the entertainment industry

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An interview with Anton Belov and Mikhail Mayatsky

An interview by Katya Krylova

Is it possible to have a good rest in the city of the future? According to the experts, future Moscow can be imagined as an eco-friendly park/office with a highly developed infrastructure, providing a huge variety of activities that allow citizens to combine work and leisure 24/7 in any proportion. The professional structure of the future workforce is determined by the unwritten law of personal choice: to work 21 hours a week and have plenty of free time, or to be a highly qualified creative professional, who is available every minute. Imagine that the number of creative professionals is exponentially increasing from the early 2020’s, when cultural standards become the most significant factor of social identification: by the year 2045 a simple choice 'how to spend your free time?' – for entertainment or self-development – has divided the society into two opposing classes. Ultimate diversification of daily activities have actualized such forms of ‘pure’ leisure as dacha and called up the experiments on new leisure formats that can protect vacationers from the temptation of hyperconnectivity in favor of face-to-face socialization. Carefully curated natural reservations have been developed for low-distributed territories of Russia – in the taiga. These forest resorts were surrounded by an electromagnetic firewall that blocks any internet-connected device. By 2045 the Lothlorien settlement, a large-scale elven kingdom with tree houses, has become the most popular international leisure camp.

Anton Belov is the director of Garage Museum for Contemporary Art and co-founder of ‘Art-Guide’ magazine.

Mikhail Maiatsky is a philosopher and historian of philosophy, works at the Higher School of Economics in Moscow and University of Lausanne. A member of the editorial board of ‘Logos’ magazine, an author of ‘A Resort Named Europe’ (in Russian and French), ‘Platon penseur du visuel’ (in French), ‘The Controversy over Plato: The Circle of Stefan George and the German University’.
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In the last decade, contemporary philosophy tended to take a strong interest in the idea of a civilization of leisure that is coming in ahead of a civilization of labour. Can you imagine that leisure will substitute professional work as a platform for personality development?

AB: Never! Labour is essential to develop your personality. It does not matter, if you keep bees, grow tomatoes, herd sheep, raise a child, or lead a company, it is impossible to live in harmony without work. I do not believe that leisure could be an organizing force.

ММ: This statement is a working hyperbole. Leisure has not taken the place of labour: people are not paid for leisure yet, but there are numerous tendencies towards it. People choose a profession and career with a careful eye to their life and leisure preferences. If it is not possible to eliminate labour altogether, people, at least, prefer to change their job to bring an air of novelty and adventurousness into their daily routines. Corporations think about organizing workspaces in order to make them similar to a playground, a park, or even an amusement ground. Marx had already seen clearly that at some stage our free time will become the only substance for social progress.

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Hiking is a long, vigorous walk, usually on trails (footpaths), a popular activity with numerous organizations worldwide. Frequently walking tours are undertaken along long-​distance paths, including the National Trails in England and Wales, the National Trail System in the USA and The Grande Randonnée (France), Grote Routepaden, or Lange-​afstand-​wandelpaden (Holland), Grande Rota (Portugal), Gran Recorrido (Spain) is a network of long-​distance footpaths in Europe, mostly in France, Belgium, the Netherlands and Spain /​Photo: blog​.codyapp​.com

Can we say that people’s desire to rest more is a deliberate aspiration?

AB: That is an international trend. Everyone needs self-​realization, and it means more than just professional success. It is rather a long-​term process of feeling joy and excitement about life. The idea of working non-​stop to earn money is still valid at a certain stage of life, but as people become more serious and independent, they tend more and more toward harmony in both personal and professional life. After the economic crisis of 2008 – 2010 people understood that money is not a measure of everything and that investing in yourself, and your leisure time, in particular, is not less worthwhile than investing in your business development.

Money is not a measure of everything and investing in yourself is not less worthwhile than investing in your business

ММ: This applies not only to leisure but to all spheres of life. People are less likely to accept their living conditions as they are and instead try to choose or to change them. This affects their identity, daily routines, intimate sphere, and – certainly – labour and leisure. Mature economies are facing the fact that people do not want to sacrifice their lives for work, and in newly industrialized countries this process is about to begin. People do care how they earn their living and whether they feel engaged at work or not.

Let us imagine that society has taken advantage of technological capability accumulated over time to shorten the labour time to 3 – 4 hours per day (according to David Graeber’s hypothesis). How do you think people would spend the additional 4 hours of free time that they will acquire?

AB: The level of technological advancement is very ambiguous factor – the process of innovations distribution is lop-​sided and it is not possible to guarantee the general right to use them. Anyway, automation is not a key success factor: only deep personal involvement that takes you more than 4 hours per day can ensure a sustainable future for business.

MM: There is an interesting discussion on this topic concerning the so-​called ‘existential grant’ that can benefit each member of the society despite his or her employment status and salary. There are two possible extremes: some people can use the extra time granted to them to improve their professional skills and gain competitive advantage, following the logic of contractual relationships between capitalists and workers, as opposed to this others can fall into an idle and destructive pastime. Both poles are real and possible, and show a clear evidence of the fact that ’society is not yet ripe’, but on the other hand, it never will without large-​scale experiments. 

Are people actually ready to have 4 (or even more) extra hours of free time per day?

MM: Graeber’s experiment is speculative. The society might have offered a good and valuable job to everyone and abolish all ‘bullshit’ ones – such as telemarketing, corporate law and suchlike spheres of paid employment – and give people extra hours of free time. But Graeber himself knows better than you and me that in fact there are overly busy and overly free people among us and this situation is caused by the way society is organized. Some dream of having free time, but have forgotten how to manage it long ago, as for others – the joy of having free time does not make them happy.

Фонд Бейелер, Риен, Швейцария, 1997. Архитектор Ренцо Пиано. Музей представляет коллекцию искусства Хильди и Эрнста Бейелер. Музей вписан в живописный парк, а из выставочных залов открывается вид на кукурузные поля и виноградники, покрывающие холмы Тюллингер / Фото: pressimages.fondationbeyeler.ch

Fondation Beyeler, Riehen, Switzerland, 1997. Designed by architect Renzo Piano. The museum owns and oversees the art collection of Hildy and Ernst Beyeler. The building features a glazed façade largely looking out onto the cornfields and vines covering the Tüllinger Hills. /​Photo: pres​sim​ages​.fon​da​tion​beyeler​.ch

In the fields of contemporary art, architecture, advertising, and other creative industries people work more than 8 hours per day and more than 5 days a week. I would not say that it does not give them satisfaction. In your opinion, how effective overtime work can be for the cumulative economic impact of the company?

AB: The work process is not flat. It includes both exciting and monotonous actions – signing papers, for example. The main thing is how you organize your workday. You can work effectively even 12 or 16 hours if you manage to combine different working formats in proper proportion: you can not be able to perform highly intelligent tasks all day long, on the other hand, you can go crazy if your only job is to sign documents day by day.

ММ: The concept of ‘overtime work’ is valid only for industrial temporality known as ‘nine-​to-​five’ job. The creative process is based on free time. In this regard, the future of work oversteps the flexibility of social guarantees and other historic attainments that were gained by proletarians within the centuries-​old struggle for just labour relations. Nowadays working time is becoming porous and stretching virtually to absorb all your life.

What types of leisure activities do you consider as the most important for the progress of leisure economy in 30 years from now?

MM: The most promising leisure activities are very close to labour! The most evident trend of the past two decades (and probably the next few) is the eventual blurring of borders between work and leisure. This is the result of a great deal in the sphere of post-​industrial labour: employers have liberalized the labour process, released their employees from fixed working hours and job descriptions, but in return have demanded two things. First: if you want to have a free schedule, be ready to stay ‘in touch’ 247. Second: since you are bored with the routine duties your main responsibility is to take initiative; nowadays it is not advantageous to us if you just execute assigned tasks indifferently; now you are allowed to extend the list of your functions. Hegel would have seen this unwritten agreement as another step towards the self-​actualization of spirit’s freedom. Indeed, it seems like we’ve got more freedom. But on the other hand, we have less rest (time and space beyond labour relations) and more stress.

The most promising leisure activities are very close to labour

AB: Today Moscow seeks to resemble Europe – there is a substantial evidence that the tendency for citizens to socialize is gaining ground. Moreover, people show their interest in communication with different social groups – that means that people are ready to take the role of active and responsible citizens. At the same time the project ‘dacha’ revives – and what is more, nowadays people, that travel out of town for a weekend, are not hiding behind a giant fence, but making an effort to build a community of interest. I think these trends are the most important ones for the next decades, they will affect a new generation, and we’ll see where it will lead us.

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Louis Vuitton Foundation, Paris, France, 2014. Designed by architect Frank Gehry. An art museum and cultural center sponsored by the LVMH group and its subsidiaries but run as a legally separate, nonprofit entity as part of its promotion of art and culture. /​Photo: phaidon​.com

I do not like to spend my vacation in the capitals of leisure, I prefer spending time in nature. Look at the success of Norway and other countries in the field of eco-​tourism, hiking, farm tourism and volunteering. I think these are very important leisure activities, and their popularity definitely will grow.

Can we say that people’s needs have evolved in last few years – which of two potentials is prevailing today in leisure products, entertainment or self-​development?

AB: The developmental potential of leisure activities is very important, such projects as Polytechnic Museum, Masterslavl and Experimentarium meet these expectations. The segment of education in the leisure sector is growing significantly – everybody is bored with visiting the cinema, people are hungry for leisure products heavy with meaning. I feel it analyzing the work of my Educational Center.

MM: The public perception of leisure activities is changing. Cultural preferences will play an increasingly important role as a criteria of social division instead of the class principle. A choice of light entertainment and developmental leisure will affect the quality of life in general.

Leisure infrastructure and cultural institutions in particular traditionally appear as the primary drivers for experimental architecture – a large number of museums, galleries, theaters, cinemas, performing arts centers, music venues, and workshop spaces were erected all over the world. Can we still consider leisure facilities as the main driving force of urban development? Or can we identify some other spheres that have a greater influence on urban tissue?

AB: It is absolutely evident that cultural facilities are accepted as a pulse of progressive urban transformation and regeneration because these institutions have to show off a priori. The architecture of cultural institutions is a much-​discussed topic: these projects are public and have a great impact on people’s minds according to their function. My priority is the Fondation Beyeler that was built by Renzo Piano.

Every extravagant work of architecture strongly affects the city development – Rem Koolhaas’s House of Music in Porto, the Guggenheim Museum in New York and its ugly, but very influential affiliate in Bilbao are the best examples. Look at the much-​anticipated Louis Vuitton Foundation in Paris – it caused a lot of criticism and blame, everybody is discussing this building today, and although I think it is a monster rather than a masterpiece, I’m interested in visiting this place in person.

MM: You may find a lot of good examples starting with Centre Pompidou in Paris. Together with ‘pure’ leisure, there will be another influential sphere that forms in the point of intersection of work and leisure. Tomorrow is with the diversity of factory-​labs, co-​working spaces and other facilities that integrate cafes, libraries and studios, where the range of ‘porosity’ may vary between work and leisure. Such spaces should try to find their optimal ‘shape’ by themselves, because if you will put such project at the disposal of government agencies, they would pitch it too strong and turn it into the Palace of Culture.

What are the key factors that determine the success of leisure project? It could be flexibility, multifunctionality, contemporary architecture, effective PR campaigns or other forces that motivate the audience to become active users of these facilities.

MM: You’ve mentioned four crucial ingredients. Probably, the key point here is the first one. The lifecycle of the building can be estimated at many decades, and the different types of leisure activities are replacing each other and developing very quickly. Even a unique constellation of leisure, work, recreation, and communication is springing up two or three times a decade. Therefore, the mission of the architect has already radically changed – nowadays there is no need to build for eternity, but to create the objects that can be easily modified.

Nowadays there is no need to build for eternity, but to create the objects that can be easily modified

AB: There is a complex of factors that matter: an architecture, location, and flexibility of institutional function – the object should fit the times and adjust to its changes, provide the opportunity to represent the products that are in-​demand at the moment. At the same time, I don’t feel like a prediction of leisure trends makes sense – they are very inconstant and local: the system of leisure activities that functions in the world is quite harmonious and well-​balanced. These types of leisure are always relevant, and only their proportion changes every three years for the particular region – in some years reading and poetry gain the popularity, in others – theatre or sports…

Who sets the trends in the leisure realm – consumers or leisure workers?

ММ: The second ones, for sure. But the part of their professional role is to convince people that it was their deliberate choice.

АB: In any case, consumers dictate what they want to see. You can adjust, try to offer something interesting, fascinate and surprise them, and suggest to follow you.

There are entire cities that position themselves as the capitals of entertainment – such as Dubai or Las Vegas. In your opinion, does the format of large-​scale leisure enclaves have a potential?

MM: I think it is a dead end. There has been a smell of melancholy in the air of Las Vegas for a long time, and Dubai is next.

AB: I do not find it interesting, such cities are highly specialized a priori, so they can function in a very limited amount – one, two or three in the whole world.

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The ‘Work Station’ space in Neskuchny Garden, Moscow. 247 co-​working space invites architects, designers, programmers, freelancers and students to work in a cozy common room with a view and direct access to the garden. /​Photo: big​pic​ture​.ru

Have you noticed any new professions in the sphere of the leisure economy that have emerged in the past few years?

MM: The whole sphere of health and social care – this is a huge and very promising industry, highly connected to leisure.

AB: SPA treatment and the army of cosmetologists – the situation that we may see in Korea really makes you wonder. The industry of plastic surgery and face care is fantastic! This is the format of leisure that is becoming people’s permanent duty.

Can you imagine that the growth of the leisure economy radically changes the contemporary city? What kind of changes in the urban tissue would you predict for 2045?

MM: There is no doubt that every ‘serious’ city will acquire a concert hall (that in fact will be a multifunctional center) completed with new technologies, from the architectural and mechanical to digital. The places that attract cognitive labour will get more public attention as well. Whatever it will be – co-​working spaces for several hundred people or entirely new formats – I cannot predict. Cities will become environmentally friendly, followed by further extinction of rural settlements. They will try to compensate the lack of greenery. And for sure, there will be experiments in organizing the infrastructure for cognitive labour out of town.

AB: The sphere of leisure is already changing the city: there are footpaths, new options to charge your cell phone; the infrastructure that supports different formats of socialization is developing very swiftly; bars, restaurants, kids centers and other recreational facilities have started to select their location more carefully to provide visitors with a maximum comfort. To me, a restaurant is a second office, the place where I can perform my professional duties.

I like pop-​up projects – they are lively and worthwhile. Some leisure initiatives come up and then die, people do not want to attach themselves to a particular place, they experiment with different locations. That is splendid! Let it develop as much as possible. I consider the artificial development of recreation infrastructure in the outlying districts as absolute nonsense. Everything should happen naturally if there are necessary prerequisites such as spaces, artistic communities and the active audience interested in the process.

the artificial development of recreation infrastructure in the outlying districts is absolute nonsense

Do you feel that you still have to compromise on the quality of leisure products and the requirement to ensure its commercial success?

AB: No. Nowadays, you can provide audiences with high-​quality products and services and at the same time raise money to develop your project. There are many interesting things that audiences are ready to receive, the institutions badly need professionals that are able to organize it.

Please try to imagine and describe the perfect leisure facility of the future in terms of its functionality, architecture, infrastructure and location.

AB: A large park with a museum and comfortable infrastructure for sports and leisure that allows you to have a rest in silence, or enjoy the big company of your friends. People need water, trees, sky, the opportunity to explore art, play games, go in for sports, and have delicious food.

Is it possible that leisure facilities in the city will work twenty-​four-​hour? In Europe, people have realized the value of their leisure time and close their shops, museums, and other services very early…
AB: If the particular region or country is interested in meeting the needs of the tourism industry this could be possible. For example, the German economy is the most powerful in Europe, and it is not interested or not ready to please tourists. In Russia leisure infrastructure will be much better developed for sure, and in 30 years – all the more.