Industrial zone turned recreational area: Makeovers for abandoned factories

August 24
Construction and renovation

Repurposing abandoned industrial areas has become a strategic priority for Moscow. Until recently, old factories occupied a huge amount of land, about 18,800 hectares (the entire Liechtenstein site covers only 16,000 hectares). The facilities still in operation account for only one-fifth of the industrial zones in Moscow.

These areas are sometimes called “the rust belt” of Moscow. With the original factories having been built in the 19th century, most of these production facilities were shut down by 2000. Some were outdated and required an upgrade while others did not survive the 1990s and failed to adapt to the new economic reality. The buildings included many valuable examples of industrial architecture; however, they fell into decline without proper maintenance, their structures becoming corroded, the design detail crumbling and utilities systems failing.

Moscow plans to support well-functioning industrial companies, but they must have access to advanced technology and be competitive. The factories and plants that have been closed for decades for financial reasons are gradually turning into new city residences and innovation companies with new job opportunities.

Cultural pioneers of redevelopment

There are many examples of successful industrial redevelopment in Moscow. Old workshops are being replaced with residential districts, office buildings, techno parks and public spaces. Moscow projects are regular recipients of international architecture awards. In the 2000s, art centres were opening up in former Moscow factories, making the city’s creative community trendsetters in this movement.

Winzavod Modern Art Centre is one of these projects. It was built on the site of Moscow Bavaria, an early 19th century brewery that produced beer and wine at different times and changed owners several times. In the 20th century, the Soviet plant produced up to 170 types of wine, but in the early 2000s it went bankrupt. The former brewery is now home to modern art galleries, artists’, designers’ and photographers’ workshops, cafes, showrooms, children’s studios and various shops.

Winzavod is now part of a large creative district that also comprises Arma Centre that replaced the 1866 Moscow Gas Plant. The buildings are now compared to similar redesigned factories in Vienna, Copenhagen, Dresden and other cities. The plant supplied gas to the city until the mid-20th century. After perestroika, it changed its name to Arma and produced isolation valves, pressure controllers, and other valves and filters. Production almost completely shut down in the late 1990s and in 2003, musicians, designers, craftspeople and artists flocked to the area. In the 2010s, the plant was rebuilt as older buildings got a makeover and gas storage tanks were turned into office space while keeping their external appearance. Today Arma is a business centre with co-working areas, lofts, cafes, printing works, a rehearsal studio, a design bureau and architecture workshops.

Another industrial area that’s a good example of successful renovation is the famous Bolshevik Confectionery Factory. This group of red brick buildings was built on Peterburgskoye Motorway (now Leningradsky Prospekt) in 1884 for the heirs of French entrepreneur Adolf Sioux. The factory was the first industrial company in the country to have electricity. It was there that the famous Yubileinoye (“Jubilee”) biscuits were created to commemorate the 300th anniversary of the Romanov House. After the Revolution, the factory was nationalised and in Soviet times continued to produce biscuits and cakes. In the 1990s, its owners turned most of the space into storage rooms and the buildings gradually became dilapidated.

A turn-around station on a cooling conveyor at the Bolshevik biscuit factory. Photo by A.Cheprunov. December 1954. Courtesy of the Moscow Main Archive Directorate

In the early 2010s, the factory moved to the Vladimir Region while the facility on Leningradsky Prospekt was subject to a major renovation. The façade décor that resembled a biscuit ornament was restored based on archive drawings and photographs. The three buildings facing Leningradsky Prospekt (which are considered the most valuable parts of the building design) were preserved in their original state. The Bolshevik’s former flour storage buildings became a new artistic venue as the hi-tech building welcomed the Russian Impressionism Museum. Architects ‘wrapped’ the huge glossy cylinder of the museum into perforated sheet metal and built a glass roof on the top.

Peninsula of the future

Reinvention of Moscow’s industrial areas was in full swing in 2010. Over that period, the upgraded neighbourhoods expanded with residential buildings, public service and production facilities. The new buildings now cover more than 23 million sq m.

The former ZIL plant is one of the most promising areas in the city, according to local construction companies. A residential area will eventually replace the site of the famous car company, with parks, schools, healthcare and sports facilities, recreational areas and creative studios. The Nagatino ZIL Techno Park will provide jobs to local residents.

ZIL was severely affected by the production decline after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Its empty workshops fell into disrepair and this enormous area was neglected and deserted. In 2012, the city decided to restructure the industrial territory and leave 50 hectares in the southern part for production facilities. A ‘peninsula’ covering several hundred hectares between Avtozavodskaya Street, Simonovskaya Embankment and Andropova Prospekt will become a city inside a city after the makeover with its own infrastructure and landmarks.

ZIL will boast a branch of The Hermitage itself, as well as parks, a boulevard, a beautiful promenade, theatres, concert halls, art galleries and art centres. A unique landscape park, Tyufeleva Roshcha (Grove), opened in 2018. The park’s collection includes thousands of trees and shrubs, plants and grain varieties. Visitors can also enjoy the sight of a crystal clear pond and a long louvered pergola resembling a giant conveyor belt. One of Moscow’s longest boulevards will be built in the former industrial area, stretching for more than 1.2 km.

The Anastasia Davydova Olympic Centre for Synchronised Swimming, an ice stadium, a quayside with a 150-metre amphitheatre, the country’s largest school, a metro station and a Moscow Central Circle (MCC) station are among the landmarks already finished at the former car plant. Europe’s largest indoor amusement park, Dream Island, is located nearby. 

Labs for scientists, art for poets

The industrial zone in the modern Lefortovo district was built in the late 19th century when a French entrepreneur founded the Moscow Metal Company there. During Soviet times, the company grew to become the largest plant in Central Russia and was named Hammer and Sickle Moscow Metal Company. It operated throughout the 20th century, but production came to a halt in the 21st century. Now a new district is gradually taking over the 58 hectares formerly occupied by metal shops.

The project concept was selected through an international competition. It was won by LDA Design, a British architecture firm known for industrial area renovation projects in Europe, the Olympic Park in London and a renovation of Central Park in New York.

Some 19,000 people will find a new home in this modern residential district covering more than 1 million sq m. Space will also be allocated for housing to be built under Moscow’s Housing Relocation Programme. In addition to residential buildings, the district will have a concert hall for 3,700 people, with music studios, singing classrooms and other infrastructure.

Two schools, including a magnet school with advanced physics and mathematics, established in partnership with Bauman Moscow State Technical University, will be built for residents of the new district, as well as eight kindergartens, an outpatient clinic for children and adults, and sports facilities and shops. Green areas will take up one-third of the territory. The first section of the new Green River Park has been open since last summer, with a pedestrian bridge supported by massive planters, hanging gardens, an amphitheatre with swinging chairs, a maze in a centennial oak, a giant sandbox, a “cloud” of stumps and other sights worth seeing.

Streets in the new district will be named after Russian travellers and explorers. There is already a Senkevicha Boulevard, a Shelikhova Proyezd and a Nevelskogo Proyezd. The district’s high street will bear the name of Admiral Adam Johann von Krusenstern.

Modern art deco

Another residential district is developing in the northwest of Moscow where storage and production facilities used to be. Architects proposed building a residential complex there that would imitate the Soviet art deco style typical of this part of the city. The Oktyabrskoye Polye Industrial Zone will be redesigned as part of Russia’s first agreement on comprehensive area development signed between the project’s investor and Moscow’s Department for Investment and Industrial Policy.

Construction on the 12-hectare site began in 2015 once the investor closed the deal on the property. In the past, the area was used by several manufacturing companies. Before that, in the mid-20th century, there were barracks for Kurchatov Institute construction workers. Four buildings on Berzarina Street, completed during the first stage of construction, have already welcomed their residents, accompanied by a kindergarten and retail shops. The second stage of construction is now in progress, including a school, another kindergarten and an outpatient clinic.

The grounds surrounding the residential buildings will be fixed up for local residents’ comfort. Trees and grass will be planted on 1.5 hectares of the former industrial zone, forming a public garden and a green space along the planned street As in the style guide of Berzarina Street, a public garden and a green space along the planned street of Raspletina Street, as well as part of Generala Glagoleva Street. The section of Berzarina Street from the intersection with Maksimova Street to the intersection of Raspletina Street will also undergo renovation.

In cooperation with the Department for Investment and Industrial Policy, the project’s investor plans to open a techno park on the rebuilt territory to create around 1,500 jobs. It is expected that the Oktyabrskoye Polye Industrial Zone will be fully reinvented by the end of 2024.

Blooming quarter instead of hangars

Another point on the Moscow map that awaits redevelopment is the Graivoronovo industrial zone. It covers 360 hectares between Ryazansky Prospekt, freight railway tracks and the MCC tracks. The zone has been divided into five redevelopment projects, including several residential compounds with public services and retail.

One part of the former industrial area has been turned into a park, with cherry and apple orchards on 7.5 hectares, while birch, ash, pine and spruce trees surround the residential area. The park has an amphitheatre and an area for public events, cycling lanes, a table tennis area, a promenade with a pergola and a recreational area with benches.

The hilly park space is an extension of the boulevard landscaping that will stretch for 860 metres. More than 200 trees and 12,500 shrubs were planted along the boulevard last year. In the spring and summer, visitors can enjoy ornamental cherry and chestnut trees while in autumn and winter, pine and spruce trees enhance the boulevard’s charm.

Other construction projects in this former industrial area include kindergartens, schools, outpatient clinics, underground parking, multi-level garages and multi-purpose centres with shops, offices, retail facilities and gyms.

To be continued

In 2010, there were around 200 industrial and utility areas within the borders of old Moscow (before the newly incorporated territories) covering a total of 18,800 hectares (17 percent of the city’s area). The city decided to redevelop almost 13,000 hectares (4,700 hectares completely and 7,800 hectares partially).

Dozens of these industrial areas have already been revamped and replaced with around 20 million sq m of residential and other properties, which has created almost 500,000 new jobs. These projects have changed the infrastructure and improved the environment of entire districts.

As for the remaining industrial areas, the majorityof them are also involved in extensive construction or are waiting for design work and urban development paperwork to be finalised. This means that for the next few years, the city will continue to transform these abandoned areas into interesting and comfortable neighbourhoods.


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