Sergey Kuznetsov: We can change urban environment for the better

10 July 2017

Applications for the Architectural and Urban Planning Competition for development of concepts of pilot sites of the Renovation Program in Moscow are being accepted. The Chief Architect of Moscow Sergey Kuznetsov told that a creative task to design a universal model of a quarter having an area of 80 hectares has been added in the first stage of the competition.

— Have architects started to apply for the competition yet?

— On 6 June we held an open seminar which was visited by about 200 architects. A great number of experts, including foreign ones, are interested to take part in the event. We started receiving applications as soon as the competition was launched, because on 25 April we made a public statement about this competition. I think all major architectural offices involved in urban development will participate in the competition.

— How long will applications be accepted?

— Due to the fact that a creative task has been added, applications are accepted until July 10. Archcouncil of Moscow website contains the application form, where all the requirements are specified. The applications will be assessed by the professional jury that will select 20 finalists. After that, the shortlisted will have two and a half months to develop the projects. The announcement of the competition results is scheduled for 10 November this year. The competition is held at the initiative of the Mayor of Moscow Sergey Sobyanin.

— How many participants are expected to take part?

— We have to shortlist 20 strong teams, and I think we’ll have a lot of choices. When we held the competition for Zaryadye Park concept, about 500 applications were received. Now the contestants are to solve even more specific task: create a whole city planning concept.

— What foreign architects are interested in the competition?

— We interact with a number of well-known experts. For example, Ricardo Bofill (Spanish architect, designed the building of the National Theatre of Catalonia in Barcelona. — note) is now working in Moscow. I’m sure he will participate in the competition.

We also met with Markus Appenzeller (Dutch architect, designed metro stations in Amsterdam. — note), representatives of Zaha Hadid Architects, Herzog and de Meuron, a Swiss architecture firm which is now designing the Skolkovo University. Perhaps not all of them will take part in the competition, but they have already expressed interest in it.

— What materials are the participants required to provide?

— The application contains their portfolio, description of the team potential, and previous work record; in addition to this, a creative proposal for the project, that is, a sketch. To help the participants, we made a collective image of a Moscow microraion with five-storey buildings. The teams should suggest the ways to change it.

The teams shall come up with a universal model of a quarter. It should be a microraion with social infrastructure and public facilities — shops, cafes and restaurants, pharmacies, banks and so on.

In psychology, there is such a term: third function — we use it in relation to the city. These are workplaces, leisure and entertainment facilities in residential neighborhoods. The existing bedroom communities lack this ‘third function’. Nowadays we are sure that this is necessary, because quarters cannot have only residential functions. So we added a task to create office, retail, cultural and recreational functions in the competition projects.

The creative task quarter won’t be created from out of nowhere: the participants will have to make it in the area with the existing buildings. The task shall be carried out in accordance with the approximate technical and economic indicators: the area of a microraion is 80 hectares and the average density is 25 thousand square meters per hectare in a quarter.

The creative task in the application is not required to pass the qualifying stage, but it can increase the chances to be shortlisted.

The jury will select 20 best applications. The list of finalists will be posted including explanations why they were selected. The teams will have two and a half months to develop the project proposals. It’s quite a long period, as usually participants of such competitions are given only a month. But we are willing to wait to get the highest quality material.

Unfortunately, it often happens that because of short deadlines for competitions, unfinished and ill-advised proposals which cannot be implemented are provided. We want to avoid this. We are planning to get concepts of high quality to bring them to life.

— Who’s in the jury?

— It will be selected for the second stage of the competition. The expert panel will include heads of relevant departments, the Higher School of Economics (HSE), Graduate School of Urbanism, Academy of National Economy (RANEPA), Academy of Architecture and Construction Sciences (RAASN), members of the Public Chamber of Moscow, the Union of Architects of Russia, and other experts, Russian and international architects.

— What will the second stage of the competition consist of?

— The teams will develop a project proposal for one of the five sites. We will choose quarters where the residents most actively support the renovation. They will be defined, after the vote is held on the inclusion of houses in the program.

— Will the participants be able to choose sites?

— No, groups will be formed, like in football. We may as well arrange lot drawing, or distribute them evenly. It is being discussed at the moment. In each group, the jury will choose the winner that will continue to work with the city services for the further design of the site. Its timing has not been defined yet. Thus, we will have five winners.

— Will the winners receive a cash prize?

—Yes, all finalists will develop designs on a fee basis. The winners will also receive a cash reward for the further development of the project. Their fee is 11 million rubles for each of the five teams.

— Will the new residential quarters eventually be created according to standard or individual designs?

— Of course, the industry involves replication of certain elements. But for sure, there won’t be any more landscapes which are indistinguishable from each other. Today, when you see pictures of areas in different parts of Moscow, it is not always possible to understand where exactly the picture was taken.

We want to build areas different from each other, so that each of them will have their own specific features and the residents will feel this identity. In the city life, it is important for people to associate themselves with a certain place, with their home place. This makes a lot of sense.

Even with the use of a limited number of tools you can provide variety. The final image of a quarter should display its individuality. This can be achieved through original design of houses, various finishing, and infrastructure elements in the quarter.

— How will the new neighborhoods fit into the old housing estate?

— You see that we speak about development of the urban environment, which today, frankly, is not attractive at all. So I do not think that we should fit in. I’m all for creating a completely new environment, rather than mimicking khrushchyovka buildings. Otherwise, people will not understand that renovation has been carried out.

— But some kind of harmony between the new blocks and the surrounding areas is needed?

— I believe that there are things which you shouldn’t find harmony with —it’s unnecessary and even harmful. In the present situation, areas with old five-storey buildings look ugly in stylistic and architectural sense. I want to break away from the position that the aim of the project is to be in harmony with the existing environment. We have a chance to change the environment for the better, and we shouldn’t be afraid to seize this opportunity. We hope that Muscovites, when seeing the new blocks projects, will accept these changes positively.

As far as I’m concerned, I used to live in a house like that. I came from that environment and have the right to speak from experience that it has no value. What is really important and what we will take into account when designing new quarters is greening the areas. The districts under the renovation program shall remain green. That is what should be preserved and enhanced.

In my opinion, the outdated houses that cannot be repaired have nothing to cling to. The renovation program will make a breakthrough towards comfortable development of the urban environment. The people that live in old five-storey buildings need help and admit it. And the city can help them.

— Are you going to be oriented to some already existing areas of Moscow?

— Yes, for example, pre-war or post-war Stalinist housing on Frunzenskaya Embankment, in Sokol district. There you can see very comfortable quarters with buildings up to 10-12 floors. When analyzing the Moscow housing development, we came to the conclusion that Muscovites like this format of residential planning the most.

The city is currently developing regional standards for urban planning, in fact, these are standards for new quarters. The main thrust of these norms is to create a structure and a grid of blocks, providing possibilities for movement in different directions to facilitate traffic. Also it’s necessary to make quiet courtyards, and locate parking lots, playgrounds for active sport outside, and implement landscaping to form garden squares and promenades. That is to rearrange the infrastructure, rather than reduce it.

There will be clear standards for construction of roads, parking space, landscaping of yards and streets, number of parks, playgrounds and recreational areas — all issues that were stated in the recently adopted city law (“On additional guarantees of the housing and property rights of natural and legal persons in the implementation of the renovation of the housing stock in the city of Moscow”).

— Is it possible to solve a parking problem in new quarters?

— Yes, this problem is not new; it is caused by a lack of planning. Nowadays parking around five-storey buildings is spontaneous and chaotic, which is, of course, wrong; but it’s an established practice.

When planning districts under the program of renovation, we will develop more efficient use of land. The courtyards will be free from cars, but in the streets behind the houses, residents will be able to park twice as many cars as now. Specifically for this purpose we’ll arrange pocket parking lots.

— Some Muscovites fear that neighboring communities will be destroyed after resettlement. When people live in five-storey buildings they know each other, but after renovation they might have new neighbors.

— I believe it is the other way around. Moving to a new comfortable place of living will create and strengthen neighborhood relations. The city will help to achieve it through a reasonable modern design and space planning. The new quarters are going to be carefully structured. There will be courtyards that are quiet, green and free from cars — perfect places where neighbors and friends can communicate with each other. And there will be streets, which are busier and where people can go for a walk or on business. There won’t be any empty or neglected spaces.

People will feel as if they belong to beautiful neighborhoods and houses. That’s why I am sure that they will organize their communication and work together to make their porch, yard, and quarter even more comfortable. That is, communities will develop themselves in a good environment. This also will be achieved thanks to the public function of the ground floors.

— Will the ground floors be non-residential in all new houses?

— Yes, this is actually very convenient for the residents. Yyou go out to the yard — and find everything you need there: shops, cafes, hairdressers, household services, bank, and dental clinics — even closer than in walking distance. You just need to ride an elevator down a few floors. It’s a completely different level of comfort.

Owing to these conditions small businesses will be developing, as a result, the number of jobs will grow. Besides, the residents who will be regular customers can “vote by ruble”, thus controlling the quality of goods and services in their neighborhood.

Images: MKA


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