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.
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.”
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.”
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.”
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.”