When it comes to urbanism these days, people’s attention is increasingly turning to Moscow. The city clearly intends to become one of the world’s leading megacities in the near future and is employing all necessary means to achieve its goal, with the city government showing itself to be very willing to invest in important urban developments (though not without some criticism).
A key player in this plan has been the Moscow Urban Forum. Although the forum’s stated goal is to find adequate designs for future megacities, a major positive side-effect is that it enables the city to organize the best competitions, select the best designers, and build the best urban spaces to promote the city of Moscow. The Forum also publishes research and academic documents to inform Moscow’s future endeavors; for example, Archaeology of the Periphery, a publication inspired by the 2013 forum and released in 2014, notably influenced the urban development on the outskirts of Moscow, but also highlighted the importance of combining urban development with the existing landscape.
Concluding earlier this month, the 2016 edition of the Moscow Urban Forum focused on smart cities and the impact of technology on the ways we interact with people and use public infrastructure and civic spaces. The 2016 Forum invited city officials, urbanists, and architectural practitioners – including Yuri Grigoryan from Project MEGANOM; Pei Zhu from Studio Pei Zhu; Hani Rashid from Asymptote; Reinier de Graaf from OMA; Yosuke Hayano from MAD Architects; and Kengo Kuma from Kengo Kuma Architects – to share about their knowledge and experiences in urban design. With the city looking forward to the built results of the latest Forum, we take a look back at some of the major developments in Moscow that have emerged in the past five years.
In 2010 the city government decided to improve Muscovites’ urban environment and create public spaces, and Gorky Park was the first project of note. The Russian equivalent of Central Park, it used to attract masses of tourists to its amusement park, but no residents would spend time there. Its reconstruction began in 2011 and featured infrastructure for strolling, sport, work, culture and leisure.
Inside the park lies the Garage Museum of Contemporary Art, a landmark building from the Brezhnev communist era which was renovated and transformed by OMA in 2015. The Dutch firm kept the original structure “as found,” only repairing elements from its prefabricated concrete walls – often clad with brick and decorative green tiles. Instead, the redesign focused on a double-skin facade of polycarbonate plastic that enclosed the original structure and preserved it from decay.
Due to open in 2018, Zaryadye Park designed by Diller Scofidio + Renfro is probably one of Moscow’s most cutting-edge projects. Located next to the Kremlin, the Red Square, and St Basil’s Cathedral, the project embodies what the architects calls “Wild Urbanism.” The project notably includes four artificial microclimates that mimic Russian landscape typologies: the steppe, the forest, the wetland and tundra. “It is a park for Russia made from Russia,” as Charles Renfro explains, in that “it samples the natures of Russia and merges them with the city, to become a design that could only happen here. It embodies a wild urbanism, a place where architecture and landscape are one.”
Russian firm Project Meganom has also designed an ambitious project for Moscow’s riverfront. Their masterplan also aims for a dialogue between the built and natural environment. A series of linear green spaces follow the river, and lines for pedestrians, cyclists, cars, and public transport are clearly delineated, improving the use of the public squares. River embankments are also transformed to function as areas for activities, communication, education and creativity nodes for public gathering.
Wowhaus Architecture Bureau recently transformed the 4-lane road at Krymskaya Embankment into a landscape park that connects Gorky Park with Krymsky bridge. The area used to be deserted, but is now reactivated with distinct transit and sport zones, as well as pavilions for artists’ exhibitions. Wave-shaped bicycle ramps, paths, and benches feature on the artificial landscape, which is also used for sledding, skiing, and skating in the winter.
New York architectural firm Asymptote Architecture are currently building two projects, a 150-meter residential tower and a satellite facility for St Petersburg’s well-known Hermitage Museum, where modern and contemporary art collections will be displayed. Situated in one of Moscow’s oldest industrial areas, Asymptote’s buildings will lie in place of a Constructivist factory – which explains why the museum was reportedly inspired by El Lissitzky's "Proun" painting, as the terrace interior clearly shows.
“My Street” is the largest-scale program led by Moscow’s government. The project aims to create about 50 kilometers of new pedestrian zones within the city center and periphery. The extensive program aims to solve parking issues, renovate street facades, and repair sidewalks and walkways with delimited areas for public transports, cars, cyclists, and pedestrians. “My Street” also requires a strong governance strategy and coordination; led by the Strelka Institute’s consultation arm KB Strelka, the project also involves 17 Russian and foreign architecture practices that were all individually in charge of one street, square or group of streets. Notable architects include the German firm Topotek 1, the Dutch group West 8, and the Russian firm Tsimailo, Lyashenko and Partners.
Moscow Metro is an architectural masterpiece that has been elaborated on since the 1920s. Its stations from the Stalin era are known for their unique designs with high ceilings, elaborate chandeliers and fine granite and marble cladding. To ensure that Moscow Metro remains an emblem of the city’s urban culture and powerful transportation system, the city’s government organized various competitions for the renovation of some Metro stations. Russian-based practice Nefa Architects was chosen to redesign Moscow’s Solntsevo Metro Station, while Latvian firm U-R-A will transform Novoperedelkino Subway Station. New stations are also being built, including two stations by Russian firms Timur Bashkayev Architectural Bureau and Buromoscow which should be completed by the end of 2018.
Luzhniki Stadium is Moscow’s main venue for sporting and cultural events. With Russia hosting the 2018 FIFA World Cup, the stadium should reflect Moscow’s intent to become a leading megacity, which is why $540 million has been spent on construction works. Its renovation mainly focuses on the roof and seating areas, and the capacity is planned to increase up to 81,000 seats. Works will be completed by 2017.
Find out more information and talks on Moscow’s urban development and the future of megacities on Moscow Urban Forum’s YouTube channel.