The authors of the concept of Zaryadye Park: about wild urbanism and preparations to the opening

10 August 2017
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The Moscow team of architects and contractors met again with their American colleagues — DillerScofidio + Renfro and Hargreaves Jones, the authors of the unique concept of Zaryadye Park, to discuss the construction progress and coordinate the work up to the planned opening in September.

— The construction of the park is nearing its completion. Is it really going to be the same ‘wild urbanism’ that you proposed in 2013 at the competition?

Charles Renfro, DillerScofidio + Renfro: Yes, the concept of ‘wild urbanism’ is unique for this project. I don’t think that there is any similar place located in the heart of the city which has its aim to integrate nature, that is, flora native to the region, into the urban environment taking into account its specific density of buildings, materials, mindset of city residents. The core project design, strategy, and architectural solutions that are being implemented at the site now by the authors’ team led by Chief Architect of Moscow Sergey Kuznetsov do not differ from the initial concept and no external circumstances have affected them. Specialists constructing the park are keen to embody that exact design project which we made.

We think that the whole world should learn about Zaryadye Park. This place is worth of special attention.

— Still, what do you mean with the notion ‘wild urbanism’, are there any other examples in the world?

 The first thing that comes to mind is New York, as I’m from there, and for me a lot of thing are associated with this city — Central Park in New York. Such kind of landscape we call ‘improved’ — it is based on ideas developed by Olmsted and Vaux, the park designers. They improved what was there: cleared the undergrowth and added trees — a great solution. It is like a guided wild environment, improved natural landscape. Central Park had been created before New York grown around it, so originally there had been no clear city boundaries. A hundred years passed and such proximity of city and nature turned into something that reminds ‘wild urbanism’.

Zaryadye embodies this confrontation between urban conditions and landscape. It is in contrast with the city, but, at the same time, we put efforts to combine both environments in harmony. At a certain point it becomes impossible to find where ends one environment and begins another one. The integration of urban and landscape forms and architecture was the main purpose to which we aspired, and this it what makes this Moscow project special.

This site was transformed from private ownership into public space for Moscow residents and tourists

— Will your consortium participate in further development of social and cultural, managerial concept of the park?

— I think, that as soon as the project is completed, our energy will be directed to provision of assistance in the specifying the line of its future development so that Zaryadye could operate on a par with other world-known parks. Our design group will probably act as consultants to the same extent as it was in the design phase. At the moment we are not involved as architects, we are just consulting on design. But I suppose that we’ll keep acting in this quality, if Moscow needs our further involvement for project development, and we hope that it will be so.

— And what about further development of Zarydye, after the opening, have you thought it over? I am interested in this question with regard to the history of your High Line Park in New-York...

— Yes, there are two reasons why we can call High Line a remarkable one: first of all, because of its financing scheme and structure of its maintenance in economic terms. Secondly, it is because of the plan of its development. All aspects fall under planning: from art and carrying out various activities to training functions and public works. And we consider that such model suggests all necessary solutions which could be applied for future development of Zaryadye Park.

For Zaryadye project to become a success, the park must become a part of Moscow, which means, that it should be built for Moscow residents rather than just for tourists visiting the Red Square

That is exactly what we were pointing at from the very beginning. I believe that now the park management is working on that the plan on the use and development of the park includes those aspects which could make this place attractive for visitors, so that they would return here again and again. It’s not just an amusement park. Zaryadye is a space where you can get a cultural experience, listen to lectures and visit a seminar, do some yoga and so on, and want to come here every week.

In fact, the park should become a reflection of Moscow character. We can suggest a suitable solution to implement this plan from our native New York within our project, and I think that Hargreaves bureau has similar projects where they have been involved specifically in relation to planning. Of course, we cannot clearly anticipate on how Moscow residents will react; still it is incredibly important, that the specialists consulting in relation to the creation of the park development plan were familiar with Moscow and its peculiarities, minuses and weak points, as well as needs and mindset of the city residents. All these points should be kept in mind at planning future life of Zaryadye.

Ken Haines, Hargreaves Associates: A lot of projects we are working at all over the world are implemented on difficult urban territories. For example, sites with integrated infrastructure, complicated constructions systems, recultivation of polluted sites, restoration of habitats, and solving problems of transport infrastructure — are the nuances we are working with and they are peculiar in terms of every project and every city.

Zaryadye has a lot of such difficulties, as the project constitutes a complex multilevel structure, and in the process of realization it is necessary to decide on the issues of placement of extraction and ventilation systems, emergency exit from the underground garage and so on, without breaching the stunningly beautiful landscape on the surface of the park and its cosy atmosphere. Finding well-balanced solution for all technical issues is no easy task, but we are getting well with it.

Zaryadye Park is not one of those attractions which you would visit and say «I did it!», so that afterwards it may be crossed off the list

—Returning to High Line, what happened with this place after opening?

— Development of High Line comprised both huge success and unforeseen difficulties. Huge success was that the alley was designed to host about half a million people a year, and in the result the number of visitors exceeded seven millions. Just imagine how much these figures have increased in the percentage terms! It is incredible, and for sure such sight drew much attention to the West Side.

Moreover, such development contributed to the increase of private property prices, which reached its peak value, as locals say who have been around there since long before High Line. Among that, it served an economic catalyst for some project on construction of the social dwellings. The project gave a strong impetus to the development of the adjacent territories and increase in the property prices.

At the moment, the project of zoning for office functions, which is aiming to control the cost of particular properties, is being implemented in the district. It turned to be really effective for some of such properties and resulted in preserving many enterprises located there. Yet, it doesn’t contain sufficient measures to restraint other influences. As soon as appropriate conclusions had been drawn, the project managers launched a training program and started preparing the community, having an aim not only to attract local residents who appeared to be ‘on the other side’ of the project, but also to train them as High Line gardeners.

— And which risks are likely to appear with regard to development of Zaryadye?

 It is extremely important that transformation of the district was held not only for well-off people and consisted not only in shopping in chic boutiques. The development should include educational aspect of planning, it can even involve university programmes and programmes of elementary school, and such directions that can attract diverse audience to the center of Moscow. It is necessary to ensure that this territory will not become a place for «upper class», elite residential space, not intended for all Moscow residents. As for me, it would be a very sad outcome.

It seems to me that the interesting programme which I told about with regard to High Line project may be realized in Zaryadye. It is one of solution we would like to advise while taking into account that this park is a unique site with peculiar landscape and it is about to pass the programme of development like no other park of Moscow. Such programmes must be integrated into school system and other types of social programmes which could involve people who need training and getting work in this place.

— Recently, you and bureau West 8 have implemented another interesting park in New York — Governors Island Park. Is it also about ‘wild urbanism’?

— No, West 8 rather created a landscape park on, so to say, ‘ruins of urbanism’. The hills were formed on the debris left after the demolished structures of the coast guard base. It was not a visual overlay of urban on natural, it was more like a ‘green blade’ laid over ruins of the park. Still we can note some resemblance of the relief with Zaryadye Park: there were some elements that have been integrated into the field rather than conditions of ‘prescribed path of development’ — that’s what we are trying to do here, in Zaryadye.


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