Images: Iwan Baan / rendering by Diller Scofidio + Renfro
In Moscow’s oldest district, a new public park is unfurling — the first to be built in the Russian capital in over 50 years. Zaryadye Park sits on a historically charged site in close proximity to the Kremlin and Red Square, as well as surrounding heritage buildings. Since the demolition of the colossal Rossiya Hotel that existed there until 2007, the most expensive real-estate in Moscow was left in ruin. After winning an international competition organized by Moscow Chief Architect Sergei Kuznetsov in collaboration with Strelka KB, NIIPI Genplana of Moscow and the Moscow Committee for Architecture, a design consortium led by Diller Scofidio + Renfro (DS+R) in partnership with Hagreaves Associates and Citymakers has applied their approach to fostering inclusivity, openness, access and porosity to the project. The defining part of the design’s basis is the idea of “Wild Urbanism” — an elemental confrontation between the natural and artificial, the local and global. Expanding on this overarching concept, the overall lack of paths and predefined routes allow people and plants to exist and move freely alongside each other. Unpredictable conditions give as little instructions as possible and therefore offer a more genuine sense of exploration. Visitors can meander between the different landscapes that blend into one another, and reconcile urban life with the desire to be in proximity to nature. Zaryadye Park’s concept is specific to Russia by including native flora in four artificial microclimates that mimic the landscape typologies dominating Russia: the tundra, the forest, the wetland and steppe. “Moscow lost and found” runs as an underlying thread throughout the project: Once inside the park, large swatches of forest and vegetation allow immersion in nature and escape from the city. Elsewhere, promontories offer singular outlooks from which the city is rediscovered and appreciated anew. Based on the principle of lamination, the park buries built structures underneath, which host different cultural programs, restaurants and a philharmonic hall. Thus, a multiplicity of experiences are embedded in the same space in an ostensibly organic manner that resists over-calculated design. Scheduled to be revealed in September 2017, the current transformation of the Zaryadye district into a public space, represents both a historic moment for the Russian capital, and a powerful opportunity to rethink the purpose, potential, and value of parks in the 21st century.