Moscow repurposes and renews a derelict site into a park that reconnects city center

In Moscow, Russia during the first week of September 2017—while the Moscow City Day festivities were going on—the city also celebrated the opening of their first new park in over half a century.

Over a million people flooded into the park before the first month was over.

The 35-acre Zaryadye Park features an overlook that’s cantilevered 70 meters over the roadway next to the Moscow River to “connect” the park with the waterfront, which is otherwise shut off by the highway. It also has five pavilions, two amphitheaters and a philharmonic concert hall.

In a perfect example of the revitalizing 3Re Strategy (repurpose, renew, reconnect) in action, the park activated an ugly, barren site that has been occupied throughout Moscow’s history. Until the early 1990’s, that occupant was the Rossiya Hotel, but the rubble-filled site sat fallow until it was repurposed and renewed as a park. Zaryadye Park reconnects the entire area: it’s the missing link that completes the collection of world-famous monuments and urban districts forming central Moscow.

Centrally located, it connects St. Basil’s Cathedral, Red Square and the Kremlin. In 2012, the City of Moscow and Chief Architect Sergey Kuznetsov organized an international design competition to transform this historically commercial territory into a public park.

A design consortium led by Diller Scofidio + Renfro (DS+R) in partnership with Hargeaves Associates and Citymakers was selected out of ninety submissions representing 27 different countries.

Charles Renfro, partner at Diller Scofidio + Renfro, commented: “Zaryadye Park provides a public space that resists easy categorization. It is at once park, urban plaza, social space, cultural amenity, and recreational armature. In order to maintain the maximum level of accessibility, our design overlays landscape onto the 14,000 square meters of enclosed program required by the competition brief. The resulting simultaneity generates a series of elemental face-offs between the natural and the artificial, urban and rural, interior and exterior.

Zaryadye Park intertwines landscape and hardscape to create a “wild urbanism”, introducing a new, more-natural perspective to complement Moscow’s historically formal, symmetrical park spaces. Characteristic elements of the historic district of Kitay-Gorod and the cobblestone paving of Red Square are combined with the lush gardens of the Kremlin to create a new park that is both urban and green.

Mary Margaret Jones, a senior principal and president at Hargreaves Associates, described the firm’s approach to Zaryadye Park, commenting, “Our ambition was for this central park in Moscow to express itself as a national park for Russia at large. The site’s natural slope lent itself to a physical palette that samples Russia’s distinct regional landscapes: tundra, steppe, forest and wetland forest.” Each landscape zone utilizes its strategic location to optimize views and exposure, while the natural slope facilitates storm-water management across the site. The horticulture of each zone evokes its regional landscape but does so with plantings that have proven to thrive in Moscow’s climate.

A custom stone paving system knits hardscape and landscape together—generating a blend rather than a border—to encourage visitors to meander freely. Traversing between each corner of the park, visitors encounter terraces that recreate and celebrate four diverse, regional landscapes found in Russia.

The sectional overlay also facilitates active and passive climate-control strategies that ensure visitors can enjoy the park through all seasons. Natural zones provide places of gathering, repose and observation, in concert with performance spaces and enclosed cultural pavilions. In addition to these programmed destinations, a series of vista points provide a frame for the Moscow cityscape to be rediscovered anew. Each visitor’s experience is tailor made for them, by them.

Petr Kudryavtsev and Andrey Grinev, founding partners at Citymakers, added: “We have integrated holistic strategies to keep the park activated year-round including: constructed environments that temper the city’s harsh climate; social and cultural programs geared towards nature exploration; and a long term, sustainable management model. The park provides an important example of international collaboration, merging best practices from around the world with the particularities of Moscow to offer a prototype for public space for other cities in Northern regions.

Moscow Chief Architect Sergei Kuznetsov, who organized the international competition in collaboration with Strelka KB, NIIPI Genplana of Moscow and the Moscow Committee for Architecture, commented: “An important feature of Zaryadye is integration. The park was created at the junction of the latest landscape design trends, intricate construction solutions, and state-of-the-art building technologies. At Zaryadye, the cultural heritage monuments — the Chambers of the Old English Court, Church of the Conception of St. Anna, Kitay-gorod wall, Znamensky Monastery, the chambers of Romanov boayrs, and others — sit alongside the new ‘invisible’ architecture.

The park’s dynamic and universal infrastructure aims to transform Zaryadye into a platform for the active integration of different cultures and social groups; a new international landmark; and a hub for creativity, where new ideas and knowledge are generated,” he concluded.

All images courtesy of Hargeaves Associates.

See DSRNY website.

See Hargreaves website.

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