Comfortable City: Unique Projects — New Competences

17 December 2016

Four ongoing projects for urban development in Moscow, considered in the course of the Conference «Comfortable city. Success stories», prompted reflections on the new competences that have to be obtained by all those engaged in the work with unique objects. Here are some quotes from participants of the discussions and members of the Public Chamber of Moscow concerning the points that were overreaching in the process of their implementation, and what knowledge was not enough.

Repeating the same old mistakes

Teams of best experts are working on such projects as Zaryadye, Skolkovo, ZIL and the Luzhniki Stadium, yet difficult challenges and errors are unavoidable. The Chief Architect of Moscow Sergey Kuznetsov believes that, in relation to architecture, it is an illusion that one can learn something and then will always be doing it correctly. «It works only in respect of design objects, telephones or cars, where a new model contains the best accomplishments tried and tested in the previous ones. But, in contrast to mass production, the problem of construction is that every time you have to „reinvent the wheel“. Of course, there are some regular technologies, but here frequency of occurrence is much less, from the master plan, exploitability scenario on down to many other details. The environment that we create is to be multifarious. As a result, every city and building is arranged in their own way.»

A thorny path from urban development vision to reality

According to Anton Yakovenko, ODAS Skolkovo General Director, in the middle of a project implementation you cannon think about the things that could have been done differently. «For example, our original requirements under the standards of „green“ building turned out to be overreaching; we wanted to apply them everywhere. We underestimated their attractiveness to the end user. We assumed that all these innovative companies that will settle here will definitely vote with their money for „green“ solutions that will pay off during their operational phase. But this is an illusion. For example, Cisco Company specified certification of a building as one of the conditions of their stay. However, not all companies are like this.»

Anton Yakovenko also said that at the stage of concept planning, the creators of Skolkovo didn’t consider the fact that it is difficult to find significant architectural solutions for industrial R&D, while a great demand in this project concerns such industrial buildings that resemble industrial boxes, logistic centers or Auchan shopping centers. «Of course, they should have been concentrated in one area. Now we are thinking of how to shape them in the aesthetically right way.»

And again about the transport issue

Speaking about what ZIL project lacked, the architect Yuri Grigoryan mentioned the transportation issue, «ZIL lacks connectivity, but not inside; because there it’s got great connectivity, as it consists of a rigid network of quarters. ZIL lacks a puncture under the railway to get from one park to another; in other words, integration with the city is needed. I think, ZIL should have the metro; I believe that underground railway should be under the MCR. The city is now striving for external connectivity. ZIL is a peninsula, which is separated by the river, that’s why it lacks pedestrian bridges. The project implies three of them — two bridges over the old river channel and one over the new one. In my opinion, they should just be built, at least the main bridge, where two boulevards would connect. It is necessary to include it in the agenda right now, because it will be connected with Nagatinskaya and become a new sight of the city.»

Sergey Kuznetsov added that the city has already allocated about forty billion for ZIL project. «A strategic decision concerning the bridge over the old river channel has been adopted and it is already included in the city plans with account of the allocated money. And now the Mayor Sergey Sobyanin approved the assessment of the prospects for building a bridge across the large stream course to Varshavskoe Highway. The project doesn’t stand still.»

There must be plan B

Mikhail Kusnirovich, a member of the Public Chamber of Moscow and one of the co-founders of Skolkovo Moscow School of Management, said that creation of life environment is not restricted only to urban planning and architecture. «We have about 90 thousand square meters of educational, campus and residential space. Both the world-famous architect and the Venice Biennale pointed out our project; but it is necessary to try to do a lot in order to fill those thousands of square meters with environment. Try to imagine how SKOLKOVO employees will be living there and how to attract all others and create the proper environment. Although our project has been already implemented in full for 5 years, we still have a long way ahead before the School becomes a significant landmark. Don’t shift it on shoulders of architects, because a large number of our firm solutions can destroy this environment. You said that it would be like in London — all bankers will take the subway — and what if they won’t? We need some other variant B.»

Sergey Kuznetsov added that they had done project about Skolkovo for the Biennale in Venice, and this year they presented an exposition about VDNH. Not only had the understanding of the role of the environment changed, but also the profession of architect. «The role of the architect was to predict in what way the territory will be developing, instead of only painting facades.»

Where to get a creative designer

Galina Gordushina, the Head of the civil object engineering of JSC «Mosinzhproekt», says that while working on unique projects it turns out that there are few people in this sphere who can work creatively. «When working on Zaryadye project, I faced the problem that whether the regulations or educational principles have become so outdated, that only few professionals could think creatively. We need good designers who are able to find unstandardized solutions, interacting with other participants of the process. We need architects that will pay attention to every detail. We don’t have enough engineers that can apply different technologies well, and for example, will make best efforts to design a restaurant which won’t have a kitchen twice bigger than the hall...»

Alexander Asadov, the Chief Architect of Polanski Institute (MAGPI) added, that a park does not have main façades, places to take the rubbish out, engineering system, or a roof to install the ventilation, because the roof is a park itself, and all services are carried out from the level of underground parking. Such difficult projects require not only architectural but also engineering concepts which should be developed at the beginning.

According to Sergey Kuznetsov, expertise competency and the overall position of the state are also important in this matter. «General priorities are important, because we pay a lot of attention to typical projects and very little to unique ones, even though they can help develop the necessary competence. Whatever „star“ architect or designer can be invited, our expertise will immediately limit his possibilities with the standardized requirements, and all the romance will come to an end. Of course, it’s necessary to find a special approach to such projects.»

Key question — functioning and filling

Sergey Kuznetsov considers that the challenge of time and the profession of architect, and project manager is the question of the design composition through the understanding of how the object will live and function, why it will be in demand. Coming up with these ideas is the most time-consuming part of the work, but it is the key to success. «The initial stage and ideology finding for Zaryadye project were really difficult. We had a lot of advice that the park is in the center of the city, and therefore there should be a fence, fountains, and busts of kings... We had to abolish that pseudo-historical point of view, and show the world that we are open to it. It was important so that the park would become popular not because tourists delegations would be brought there, but because it could become a real urban wonder. To create a world-class project we must show that our city is open to the world, innovation, international fashion and current trends.»

Images: Василий Буланов

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