The urban problems faced by Russian cities

, Cities

Author: Maksim Grachev

Architects from all over the country share their opinions on how to improve urban life in Russian cities.

In October, 100 architects and urban planners taking part in the ARCHITECTS.RF leadership development program organized by Strelka Institute and DOM.RF went on a field trip all over Russia. From Kaliningrad to Vladivostok, they explored the best urban design practices and looked into the challenges faced by Russian cities, big and small. Divided into five groups, they went on five routes, visiting 12 cities in total. Here is what they think about Vladivostok, Yakutsk, Perm, and Veliky Novgorod, and what solutions they have in mind.

 

VLADIVOSTOK

1 / 6

The coastal city is built upon a hilly terrain

2 / 6

Soviet-era mass housing

3 / 6

More embankments need to be beautified

4 / 6

Architects suggest turning lighthouses into public spaces

5 / 6

Some apartment owners insulate their homes from the outside, so building facades look like patchwork

6 / 6

Vladivostok invites street artists from around the world to the city, while having its own street art community that needs space for self expression

 

IVaN SHILNIKOV

Chief projects architect at Tsimailo, Lyashenko & Partners, Moscow

“The two of the main problems of Vladivostok are that historical buildings are being demolished and the quality of new architecture is low. In the long run, this harms unique visual and historical layers of the city.

Another problem is the misuse of natural resources. Citizens practically don’t have access to the sea, and the hills from which you have wonderful views are dominated by cheap and depressing prefab houses and garages.

In order to preserve the city’s heritage, we need to impose restrictions on developers and seek co-funding from the state. The issue is very complex though, so I'd recommend to start with a system of pedestrian-friendly embankments that have access to the sea.”

 

YAKUTSK

1 / 6

Yakutsk is the biggest city in the world built on permafrost. The average temperature in Yakutsk fluctuates between +30°C in summer and –40°C in winter, so the city has to look for materials which are resistant to such differences

2 / 6

Because of the permafrost, there is no underground parking and all of the pipelines are above ground

3 / 6

Ethnic art-themed murals

4 / 6

“Us Khatyn” is a park near Yakutsk which was built to celebrate Yhyakh — the New Year in the Sakha Republic

5 / 6

Around 200,000 people come here every year to celebrate Yhyakh, but this is the only time when the park is actually used

6 / 6

Irina Alekseyeva, chief architect of the Sakha Republic (Yakutia) (center)

 

YULIA POPOVA

Deputy head of Urban Planning Authority at Tyumen Region Construction Administration, tyumen

“People in Yakutsk tend to spend most of their time indoors, while streets and surrounding premises are used just for transportation. Perhaps there is no other way in such a harsh climate. Due to permafrost it’s really hard to develop outdoor spaces, locals say. They seem to put up with the fact that the streets have turned into a transportation/infrastructure zone.

In terms of architecture, Yakutsk is no different from any other Soviet-era city. However, considering its climate, this city should be totally different. I think that Yakutsk should learn how to turn its disadvantages into advantages: outdoor infrastructure could be turned into public art objects, for instance. The city should create more indoor public spaces and even come up with special legislation to support this. The buildings should be built closer to each other and be connected by a network of warm passages and public spaces.”

 

PERM

1 / 6

“Despite the huge size of public areas here, they appeared to be completely underdeveloped, except for a small part of the embankment,” the architects say

2 / 6

The regional authorities have bought a former machine factory, with an aim to turn it into a public space with museums and cultural venues

3 / 6

The architects say it would be great to reconnect the city with its waterfronts and green spaces

4 / 6

The streets of Perm are still car-oriented

5 / 6

According to the architects, Perm lacks an independent project management system. Consequently, its masterplan always changes when a new administration comes into office

6 / 6

Perm’s famous public art installation “Happiness is сoming” was recently damaged by an artist who replaced the word “Happiness” with “Death”

 

SERGEY FOMIN

Chief projects architect at Plan B, Yaroslavl

“Every new city administration in Perm comes up with different plans, so there is no consistency in urban planning. What is special about Perm is that for the past 15 years it has been working on its strategy, but yet to no effect. The creative boom of the early 2000s and multiple attempts to create a new cultural capital have not helped.

I did not come across any public space that was bustling with life; the streets look abandoned. The only exception is the Perm Museum of Contemporary Art (PERMM).

Attention to the industrial history of the region and the creation of a cultural cluster in a former industrial zone are positive changes.

The right cultural programming of public spaces can bring people together. Perm should focus on places that could become hotbeds of development. The left-bank and the right-bank parts of the city are completely different and could be transformed in two absolutely different ways. It is necessary to identify historical and political centers in the city, as well as to emphasize the value of its urban planning.”

 

Veliky Novgorod

1 / 6

Veliky Novgorod turned 1,159 this year, but it has not yet discovered its full tourism potential. Only 237,000 people visited the city in 2017, compared to 560,000 in Nizhny Novgorod and 7.5 million in St. Petersburg. "Veliky Novgorod features unique historical heritage – there is huge potential, but the city lacks a robust development strategy," the architects say

2 / 6

The medieval fortress is open to visitors, but the surrounding infrastructure is not well developed

3 / 6

The participants conducted in-depth interviews about tourism with locals

4 / 6

As the city’s population is aging, people want younger generations to be more involved in city life

5 / 6

Despite the fact that neither the economy nor the population is growing, every year some 100,000 sq meters of housing is built in the city

6 / 6

Alexander Nevsky Embankment, located across from the Novgorod Kremlin, is not actively used

 

Azat Akhmadullin

Co-founder at Akhmadullin Architects, Ufa

“Even though Novgorod has preserved its historic and cultural heritage, it is not really doing anything to attract tourists; the quality of services and accommodation is low.

The Novgorod Kremlin should bring in more businesses – places where tourists can have a coffee or grab something to eat in a cafe or a restaurant. You can look at how historical Italian cities are developing such areas. This, as well as a new student campus, could bring young people back into the city. It is crucial to understand that heritage is not a burden, but a key to development.”

If you noticed a typo or mistake, highlight it and send to us by pressing Ctrl+Enter.

Share