Kargopol Familia cluster

New life to old historical houses in Kargopol

Kargopol is an old small town on the shores of Onega river in the southern part of Arkhangelsk Oblst, with population of up to 10K residents. Once an old international merchant town, it is famous for its northern architecture and crafts. After several of town wide fires, it has been rebuilt and got a modern Renaissance look with straight roads and a unique belltower in its center with memorable northern wooden baroque elements on it in 18th century. Hidden deep in vast northern forests, it became one of the largest wood processing centers in Arkhangelsk oblast. That made it reserved from urban impacts and it feels like out of time town with all its eternal calm. After our successful project on developing Arkhangelsk brand, we had been invited to visit Kargopol. Here's how it looks now:

Client: Regional Association of Kargopol District

Work: research, branding, design

Status: active

Kargopol photos by Viktor Karasev, Yuila_B (Shuttestock)
Problem with old houses
Discussions of implementing a town brand, that nobody knew how to handle, has soon been changed to a much more urgent town problem that needed to be solved: the number of abandoned old historical houses in need of conservation, left in risk of demolishing. As of 2016 there were eight of them, whereas every had been honored to be the architectural memorial. They're called by the name of the merchant they originally belonged to:

Plaque on the Krasavin house, built in the middle of the 19th century
  • Pryadunov house
    Oktyabrsky prospect, 39
  • Khromulina house
    Oktyabrsky prospect, 71/16
  • Krasavina house
    Leningradskaya st., 20
  • Baranova house
    Lenina st., 66/21
  • Veshnyakov house
    Arkhangelsky lane., 5
  • Lekhov house
    Gagarina st., 2
  • Turygina house
    Bolotnikova st., 22
  • Sergeev house
    Oktyabrsky prospect, 56/16
Idea of creating a cluster and including all the abandoned historical building in it seemed like a plan to begin. Well packaged and designed, it would be much easier to raise attention to them. That's how we switched from fancy town branding to creating a brand for the cluster of old Kargopol houses.
Natalia Rybalchenko
Our small team of two came to Kargopol for investigation on what local residents think would be the unifying idea of the product that could include these buildings inside. We held plenty of round tables, talks, discussions. Predictably, young people had been most inspired and fun, but lacked pragmacy. Same with officials, whose ideas were outstandingly foreseeable.
It took almost a year and six visits to come up with the unifying idea (counting Natalia dresses). Kargopol residents were thorough and hesitant
The names that had been historically given to the old houses were the key to the answer of the unifying idea: the old families of its owners. Looks like, the residents were proud with this historical link through these families. So we came up with the title almost unanimously:
Cultural and historical cluster "Familia"
Since a significant period of 6-7 years, it imperceptibly and slowly transformed into more accepted and encouraged by the Russia authorites who tend to support creative industry pretty much. Anyway, all the ideas, introduced later to fill up those houses were very creative.
Creative cluster "Familia"
That's what they called family those days, that's what they mean by it now
The cluster that includes houses is a story told through the family tree, a material embodiment of the link between generations.
Svetlana Zenovskaya
New business in old houses
While talking about the unifying idea, we had been asking residents if they can help those empty houses to stay alive again. We've got series of initiatives from different kinds of residents: some were experienced entrepreneurs, some newbies and even a clerical bell ringer.
Some call it interviews with entrepreneurs. Better call it inspiration talks instead
Our aim was to package every house with a set of ready made businesses that could fit in without violation of historical and aesthetical appropriateness.
  • Workshops

    1. Blacksmith
    2. Carpentry
    3. Pottery
    4. Weaving shops
    5. Art
    6. Bakeries
  • Public spaces

    1. Library
    2. Bookcrossing
    3. Caft
    4. Anticafe
    5. Hostel
    6. Souvenir shop
    7. Open folk theater
    8. Lecture hall
  • Personal start-ups

    1. Cakes from Lyuba by Lyubov Shukina
    2. Fresh air workshop by Sergey Vlasov
    3. Museum of skies by Oleg Danilov
    4. Bereginya craft yard by Bereginya
    5. Sewing workshop by Arina Ivleva
    6. "Dragonfly" Yoga center by Marusya
    7. "Pirouette" fitness by Alena Piskunova
    8. Accessible environment by Maria Pozdysheva
When the unifying idea had been accepted and initiative entrepreneurs found, we found out that nobody could imagine how all that would look.
No matter what you think on the importance of design, the inspiration based on words would be weak without visuals. That is the most thing in the world I'm aware of.
Natalia Rybalchenko
Ideas went visual
That's why we invited a family of arcthitecs, Dmitry and Olga Zubkovy, who could show evident relevant examples and inspire residents visually.
Dmitry and Olga Zubkovy perform in Kargopol, visually inspiring the residents
Dmitry and Olga showed how ideas could transform visually from one to another. Dmitry has quickly illustrated the following ideas and showed how houses could look like, when they would be fully functional and alive. The speed with wich verbal ideas got their visuals mesmerized the interested residents.
Illustrations of Likhov House transformation by Dmitry Zubkov
Kargopol identity inspiration
Visually, there are plenty much of visual content in Kargopol to inspire with. We've chosen the most obvious two ones and put them one on another.
Curvative linear teterki (left) and massive kargopol toys (right)
Financing of the project was very poor and I couldn't afford the full design project at the time, so I had an idea to come to design classes in Moscow. I went to British Higher School of Art and Design (BHSAD) and offered to design this project with the diploma designers in seek of a good real life project. That's where I met Anna Rufova, designer of this project.
Natalia Rybalchenko
Familia visualisation
On the intersection of linear teterki and flat kargopol toys, we got a very recognizable visuals with a local vibe. Main logo stands for the family tree simplified, the other ones almost doesn't need an explanation. That's just teterki laid upon kargopol toys silhouettes.
Kargopol Familia cluster logo
Each house in the cluster got its own teterka-styled individual logo, to begin with these eight:
  • Pryadunov house
    Oktyabrsky prospect, 39
  • Khromulina house
    Oktyabrsky prospect, 71/16
  • Krasavina house
    Leningradskaya st., 20
  • Baranova house
    Lenina st., 66/21
  • Veshnyakov house
    Arkhangelsky lane., 5
  • Lekhov house
    Gagarina st., 2
  • Turygina house
    Bolotnikova st., 22
  • Sergeev house
    Oktyabrsky prospect, 56/16
Set of silhouettes inspired with the Kargopol toys
When I added geometric typographics, it got that joyful and unforgettable bright look we all were craving to achieve.
Anna Rufova
Number of bright postcards that had been made to stay unforgettable bright
As you might notice, the heavy emphasis was made on the poster and banner design, because we had to speak about the project as loud as we could: the abandoned houses were slowly falling into disrepair. Staying bright, modern and daring was in the concept of our communication strategy to raise attention towards the problem.
These Familia posters are unmistakable
Kargopol merch
Like the sun hitting your eyes in the sparkles of the snow in the Kargopol morning by the Onega river, the Familia merch leaves you blind with its awesome brightness.
Merch that is looking sunny even in the darkest kargopolian night
Kargopol Familia today
Being the most creative and bright project in Kargopol, it has been was evolving the whole time with the speed, that non-profit organization can afford. Crowdfunding, grants, and close cooperation with charitable Timchenko Foundation helped to achieve many initiatives since public launch in 2017. Constant collaboration with high architectural institutions lead to opening the art-residence in Kargopol is one of the most manifested. Branding is widely used across all of them and recognizabale, which is plainly visible:
Left-to-right: Olga Zubkova, Natalia Rybalchenko, Andrey Egorov, Ekaterina Zabaldina, Dmitry Zubkov
  • Natalia Rybalchenko
    Brand strategist, researcher
  • Anna Rufova
  • Dmitry Zubkov
  • Olga Zubkova
  • Nastya Obudenkova
    Journalist, manager
  • Andrey Egorov,
    Ekaterina Zabaldina,
    Olga Gracheva,
    Viktor Grachev
    Thanks for support
More projects in Arkhangelsk Oblast