In the following interview, State Merited Artist and designer D.Erdembileg talks about the new “Khulegbaatar Boorchi” Andlalyn Urguu, or House of Friendship Vows, which is under construction in Batnorov soum, Khentii Province.
D.Erdembileg previously designed the Tsonjin Boldog – Equestrian Statue of Chinggis Khaan, Morin Khuur Tower, Ikh Maidar Project and National Amusement Park. He revealed some of the new projects he’s working on, including a new car design and a project against desertification in the Gobi Desert.
The Ministry of Education, Culture, Science and Sports has projected two billion MNT to complete the Andlalyn Urguu Project and estimates that the facility will help bring in around 280,000 tourists to Mongolia and create around 180 new jobs when it is complete. The hefty financing has caused some people to lash out.
The large financing and design of Andlalyn Urguu is under public scrutiny. How did you come to participate in this project?
The current government has initiated and is running many projects aimed to develop tourism. If the economic policy focused solely on mining in the past, now it is branching out to diversify the economy.This new initiative opens opportunities for artists to make their many years of ideas come to life. One of the government projects I’m a part of is Andlalyn Urguu.
Does it have a special meaning? How far has the project progressed?
People to tend to judge based on what they can immediately see. More and more people are becoming superficial and jumping to conclusions after seeing only the outer appearance. Truthfully, they don’t care about the meaning behind things. People will need a bit of time to figure out its true meaning.
A sculptor named L.Makhbal erected a statue of Chinggis Khaan in his birthplace, Dadal soum of Khentii Province, in the 1960s. Since then, not a single tourism attraction was built in the respective province. This is a huge issue. The first of several solutions for this matter is Andlalyn Urguu Complex. Besides this, four or five comprehensive projects will be carried out in Khentii Province, including Shikhikhutag Complex in Norovlin soum, Ikh Khuraldai Complex in Binder soum, and Chinggis Khaan Temple in Dadal soum.
Of course, two billion MNT might sound too much for a statue but this is not simply a statue – it is a facility where people can enter, walk through and sit. Around this much money is spent on building a kindergarten or a school. Andlalyn Urguu is not a statue but a tourist facility. Interior design and engineering solutions take up most of the costs of a construction project. Moreover, neither the project nor the complex’s external landscaping have finished. I don’t think it will be too late to criticize after getting to understand the meaning of the facility and see the overall finished look. Mongolians tend to critique before getting to know things.
When will Andlalyn Urguu be opened?
We’re planning to launch it in June. Currently, we’re working on the interior design, decorations and outside space. It’s at 80 percent of completion rate. Foreigners are interested in visiting Khentii Province as it is the birthplace of Chinggis Khaan. It would be beneficial for Mongolia if the government pays more attention to creating new tourism products in this region.
It’s unfortunate that some people are complaining about how high the budget is when they should be criticizing that it is too low. I’m only in charge of the sculpting part of the project. Other organizations are in charge of the construction work, electricity supply, plumbing, external landscaping, interior design and engineering network.
What does the facility symbolize?
I designed the part where two wolves, or warriors, face each other in tears. I’m having the sculpture created through a company I signed with. In the modern time, men, especially politicians, often seem to go back on their word. This deficiency not only affects their business and family but also harms relations with local and foreign investors. Almost everyone in Mongolia knows how Chinggis Khaan and Boorchi became friends/ brothers. Through this project, I wanted to remind men to keep their promises and bring back the wonderful tradition of friendship vows.
Music composers and bands create songs that express their unique qualities. Just like that, I’m striving to include my own unique qualities in this complex. As this type of facility needs to reflect the locals’ wishes and interests, I combined their ideas with my technique and design. I had originally made a modern design for the facility but had to change it to reflect social needs and traditions.
You’re known as an artist, sculptor and designer. Which is your main job?
I specialized in industrial design. I’m one of the first Mongolian graduates specialized in this field. This profession allows me to work in many sectors as an artist, sculptor and designer. People with this type of profession usually draw textile patterns and design cashmere clothes and bicycles. However, the industry hasn’t developed for 30 years in Mongolia. There’s no space for industrial designers to “live” here.
Only two fields of design have slightly developed in Mongolia and they are construction design and fashion design. So I had no choice but to enter the construction sector. Now I work as an architectural designer, which is different from an architect. I make designs prior to an architect. For example, I will decide whether a building will be in the shape of a flower or completely different design. I’ve been working in this field for over 20 years.
People like me always want to create new buildings, developments and architectural artworks. European monarchs used to support architects and make them compete, which helped build incredible architectural pieces. Developed countries with good economy have been inspiring architects to build temples, churches and other amazing architectural feats. This is a method used to build skills and potentials of artists and keep them inspired. Unfortunately, we don’t have this type of support in Mongolia. Most of the money and support goes to the mining sector.
You initiated the Morin Khuur Tower and participated in the Ikh Maidar Project. Were these projects supported by the government?
Skyscrapers usually become a symbolic item and tourism attraction of capital cities. In that sense, I willed to build Morin Khuur Complex 10 or so years ago. Whether the government will support this project is still unclear.
In fact, Inner Mongolians proposed building this tower in China, but I turned them down saying that it can only be built in Mongolia. The Ikh Maidar Project was started by an NGO, and last year, the Buddha statue was erected. I made blueprints for the stupa and cast the Buddha statue.
The government has started demolishing historic buildings. How do you feel about that?
You’re probably referring to the Natural History Museum. It is now turning into Chinggis Khaan Museum after adding the statue of Chinggis Khaan on the original design that was selected more than 10 years ago. I’ve told relevant organizations that this is wrong. Nowadays, when buildings are reconstructed, one of its features are kept and improved with stones and glass facade. However, this method wasn’t used and the historic building with sentimental value to the public was completely demolished. Had only 10 percent of the building been preserved, the public wouldn’t have been so frustrated.
You’re working on an environmental and ecological project right now. Are you the main designer of the project?
For a long time, I have wanted to build a green facility that can be seen from space in Mongolia. At international architectural meetings, Chinese architects take pride in the fact that the Great Wall of China can be seen from space. Of course, building a large facility that can be viewed from space would be difficult financially. But I’ve initiated project to plant trees in the Gobi Desert in the shape of a horse. I’ve been waiting for a response for some time and, finally, I think I might be getting a good response soon. However, I will be required to find financing myself. I’ve asked tourism organizations to join the Green Horse Project in an attempt to make it into a tourism product. This project will not only develop tourism, help fight against desertification and stop climate change, but also create new jobs in the region and decentralize the capital.
I’m also planning to start dairy farms and grow vegetables and fruits in the area to increase local household revenue. Mongolia imports more than 70 percent of its vegetable needs from abroad. As a preventive measure against the coronavirus, Mongolia closed its borders and it hit the economy hard. Therefore, the Green Horse Project will promote domestic production of food staples, which is very beneficial. Rather than an architectural idea, this is a solution for social challenges.
As mining started to grow in 2006, practically every politician jumped into this sector. This is now affecting state management. Mining, banking and financial sectors are keeping a firm grasp over Mongolia's state policies and economy. People who got a “taste” of the mining sector are unable to keep away from it. Due to this, other sectors aren’t growing. This includes the industrial sector. However, the government has started to support our operations – there is a silver lining. As long as we’re a country, we need to improve and develop industrialization.
Is it true that you’re designing a new car lately?
We regard our future concepts as dreams. One of my dreams is to design a new luxury car called Chinggis Khaan. Eco-friendly, electric car projects are being supported worldwide. I want to design an electric car with seats for two passengers. Traffic is often caused due to the width of a car. This is an issue an industrial designer needs to resolve. It will also advance the heavy industry sector in the country.
We live on soil that contains iron contents. Taking advantage of this, we can build a steel factory and challenge the global vehicle production industry. This will then lead to advancements in small industries. Although we’d have to wait for the government to greenlight this project, we can still be open-minded and confident in our ability to develop the industrial sector.