You won’t believe what Moscow looks like: How world-class architects changed the city in 2017

Russia’s capital is witnessing the most significant wave of renovations in its history. Dozens of streets, squares and parks have undergone a massive, and sometimes controversial, facelift. Have architects really succeeded in making the city a better place for everyone?

The list of famous architectural firms is impressive: France’s Irène Djao-Rakitine; the Netherlands’ West 8; Germany’s Topotek 1; Russia’s Plan B; and many more. Renovations of downtown Moscow streets began in 2015, and according to the business newspaper, Vedomosti, 50 billion rubles ($850 million) were allocated in 2017 for this project. Renovations will continue until 2020, but how have central city streets changed so far?

Khokhlovskaya Square

For more than 20 years an empty pit that was meant to be underground parking held away over this space. During construction, fragments of the defensive walls of medieval Moscow’s `White City,’ were unearthed. (Today, the Boulevard Ring runs where the White City’s wall once stood). After renovations, which were done according to the designs of Irène Djao-Rakitine and Strelka KB, the square became a small archaeological park with an amphitheater.

Tverskoy Zastavy Square

The square in front of Belorussky Railway Station was previously one giant endless traffic jam, in large part due to parked cars. So, in doing away with the parking, West 8 proposed squares, benches and a pedestrian zone.

Tverskaya Street

Moscow's main street was repaired in two phases: in 2016, and in 2017. Tverskaya is the backdrop for major national celebrations, therefore, it was important that the street be especially pleasant for the public. For example, the trees that were cut down in the 1990s returned to the sidewalks. "Trees are better to plant in autumn when they're prepared for winter time. It is better to plant medium-sized trees for streets, so all the trees are older than 15-20 years," Strelka KB told Russia Beyond.

Novy Arbat Street

Central streets, with their cafes, shops and cinemas, always attract tourists. Unlike the Old Arbat Street pedestrian street, however, New Arbat Street was congested with randomly parked cars. So, architects widened the sidewalks, installed new benches (including Moscow’s longest bench - 300 meters), and planted red maples and lindens.

Romanov Lane

This small lane between Bolshaya Nikitskaya and Vozdvizhenka streets is home to several late 19th century buildings and a 17th century church. The lane, however, was difficult to walk along because of the narrow sidewalks and poor lighting. So, Strelka KB is widening the sidewalks paved with granite slabs, and it’s installing streetlights, as well as benches for rest. Finally, building façades are being restored.

Malaya Dmitrovka Street

With old mansions and the Lenkom Theater, as well as numerous cafes, this street is beloved by Muscovites for its historical and cultural value. Thanks to reconstruction, the sidewalks were widened and equipped with new benches.

Vozdvizhenka Street

This street is home to the Russian State Library, the Detsky Mir shopping center and many cafes, but due to the narrow sidewalks the street was uncomfortable for pedestrians. Now, there are three public zones, and trees decorate the newly widened sidewalks.

GardenRing

One of Moscow’s busiest streets was reconstructed in 2016 and 2017. Eleven Russian and foreign architectural firms were involved. Sidewalks were widened, the number of car lanes decreased and new intersections were set up.

Turgenevskaya Square

The area around Myasnitskaya Street boasts a theater, a metro station and many shops, which is why the square was full of cars! Now, there’s a “green” pedestrian island, new parking and public transportation stops.

Square by Krasnye Vorota metro station

This square was always crowded with cars, and was a major headache for pedestrians trying to reach the metro. After reconstruction, the parking lot became additional car lanes, and a pedestrian area was set up around the square.

All photos by Strelka KB.

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