Urban Areas Have No Face

27 June 2017

The Renovation program in Moscow aims at creating a new urban environment, rather than just resettlement from the old five-storey compounds into new buildings. Chief Architect of Moscow, Sergey Kuznetsov, told Interfax about the details of the new blocks design and urban planning.

— Sergey, a competition for the concept of the five new blocks has recently been announced. Why was there a need in the competition?

— The competition held on behalf of Moscow Mayor Sergey Sobyanin will give us a set of solutions that can be effectively used in the arrangement of the new blocks. As the practice of the recent years shows, it is the competitions among the best Russian and international architects that gives the best result.

Five real Moscow districts will be the target for the competition. We are now waiting for the voting results in the Active citizen project. After counting the votes, we will know what areas will become pilot areas. In the future, this set of technical solutions can be used in the design of other blocks.

— So, there will be no competitions for other blocks?

— Theoretically, it will be possible to launch competitions for other complex areas and territories. However, organization of competitions is in itself a complex organizational task, so there is no sense in doing it over and over. We are going to get a certain pool of architectural teams that will be able to work on the projects in other areas.

— What goal are you setting for the designers of new blocks?

— Каждый московский район индивидуален и отличается от других рельефом, историей, окружением, транспортной доступностью и другими особенностями. У них есть предпосылки быть разными и запоминающимися, но сложившаяся застройка убивает эту индивидуальность. К сожалению, сегодня у городских территорий нет лица, вот наша задача и состоит в том, чтобы вернуть лица районам Москвы.

— Each Moscow area is individual and differs from others by its terrain, history, environment, transport accessibility, and other features. They have the prerequisites to be different and memorable but the existing architecture kills their individuality. Unfortunately, today urban areas have no face, so our task is to give the Moscow neighborhoods their faces back.

— Sergey, isn’t the transport situation in the city deteriorating?

— Today, many residential areas are connected by crooked roads, which often take you to a dead end. They are just used as transit routes: they are inconvenient to ride on and to live by. When creating new blocks, we will add driveways and district roads. So, the density of the street-road network in the city will grow significantly. At the same time, the ratio of asphalt and non-asphalt surfaces inside the district will be the same as now, but the logistics will be organized efficiently and logically.

Also, do not forget about the large-scale development of public transportation. Since its opening last September, the Moscow Central Circle has already been used by more than 70 million people. Third Interchange Contour of the metro is in the active phase of construction. New ground transportation routes are being developed.

— Could you tell us more about the road network inside the blocks? Will it be small blocks with a tight net of driveways like, for instance, in Barcelona?

— I would not want to make comparisons, it’s too early to tell. Barcelona is a beautiful city, but it has its own history, dimensions, and traditions. It is too early to talk about the size of blocks: it’s the task of the expert community. According to our estimates, the block consisting of several units can be 500 by 500 meters unlike in Barcelona, where the blocks are 135 m in length and width. However, not only the size, but also the density, and the height of the construction are important. In case of quarterly development, it makes no sense to build taller than 14 floors, otherwise we will get ‘wells’. Of course, special cases with higher buildings are possible, but they are likely to be an exception in the system.

— What about the parking lots?

— Our research shows that inside the new blocks, it will be possible to significantly increase the number of parking spaces only through efficient zoning without large-scale construction of parking lots. Today, cars are parked chaotically, without a pattern, and the area itself is not fit for it. According to our calculations, there will be one parking spot for every two apartments in the new blocks. This is much more than now.

— Will the green areas be preserved in the new blocks?

— I would like to remind you that the zoning in these five-story neighborhoods is very heterogeneous and unorganized. As a result, strange and unused spaces appeared in the area, like "blank spots", where trees and bushes grow sporadically. It turns out that the plants are physically there, but nobody takes care of them. There should be public gardens, trails and benches on these spots. This does not mean that all trees will be cut down, on the contrary, the planners will have to take care of the landscape as much as possible, as well as plan new greenery.

— So, the renovation program will get rid of the wasteland between the buildings?

— Land is the most important resource of the city, and its rational use should be our priority. The issue of reorganizing the area today is one of the most important. Today the wastelands are useless, but we can make them functional and nice.

— Sergey, does the new planning allow for bicycle paths?

— Of course, we have plans for a network of cycle paths. There will be designated areas with bicycle racks in residential areas and not only by the metro stations. It will also be important to think about storage facilities for bicycles on the ground floors of the buildings.

— Do you plan to create special dog-friendly areas?

— If there is such a demand from the community, experts and architects can discuss this possibility. Although, in my opinion, in many respects it is a matter of zoning and ethics on the side of dog owners.

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