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European Prize for Urban Public Space: Strelka KB’s project makes it to the finals

The renovation project of the 16-kilometer highway encircling the historic center of Moscow, which was developed by Strelka KB, is the first Russian entry to become a finalist for the prestigious European Prize for Urban Public Space.

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Established in 2000, the award is a biennial competition organized by seven European institutions aimed at recognizing and fostering the public character of urban spaces and their capacity for fostering social cohesion.

‘Bringing Gardens Back,’ the renovation of Moscow’s Garden Ring, is one of 25 projects chosen by an international jury among 279 entries from 32 countries. Among this year’s finalists are Poblenou’s Superblock, Barcelona’s grand-scale initiative to end air pollution; Cuypers Passage, a cycle and pedestrian tunnel at Amsterdam Central Station; and Lea River Park, a major new landscape for London, extending three miles along the banks of the River Lea.

The circular form of the Garden Ring comes from medieval fortifications that were erected around Moscow in the 16th century. It takes its name from gardens that were planted in front of houses in the early 20th century. In the 30s they were cut down and the Garden Ring became a major highway designed primarily for motorists. Underground crosswalks, though created to safely bring pedestrians from one side of the road to the other, ended up sacrificing the best and most sunlit portion of the Garden Ring to traffic and breaking the visual connection between the two sides of the road.

Acting as design mediator and consultant, Strelka KB brought together 18 architectural firms from around the world, ranging from star architects to young local architects. The project was divided into linear segments which were developed by Strelka Architects, and key spaces which were developed by famous international firms, as well as young Russians architects.

The renovation made the street more pedestrian friendly, creating 13 new public spaces and adding 20 new crosswalks. With over 2,800 trees planted, gardens have finally returned to the Garden Ring.

The renovation the Garden Ring has attracted a more diverse set of businesses. According to research conducted by Strelka KB, banks and offices have made space for a greater number of food, retail, and service businesses. New greenery minimizes road dust and generates oxygen. The improvements to the Garden Ring have made the city center more accessible to all citizens and integrated it with the periphery.

The winners will be announced June 20 in Barcelona. The event, where the tenth award of the prize will be presented, is being organized by the Center of Contemporary Culture of Barcelona together with six other European institutions. Among those are the German Museum of Architecture, the Vienna Center of Architecture, and the London-based Architecture Foundation.

Past winners include such famed architecture firms as Snohetta and Foster + Partners.

Photos: Mark Seryy / KB Stelka

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