Underground city's mythology: insightful facts about Moscow metro stations' designing

December 28, 2019

Metro construction is one of the priorities of Moscow's development. Since 2011, 42 stations have opened in the Russian capital, with the length of underground tracks extended by 80 km. In 2019, eight more stations appeared on the metro map, namely Filatov Lug, Nekrasovka, Olkhovaya, Kommunarka, Kosino, Prokshino, Lukhmanovskaya and Ulitsa Dmitriyevskogo.

Moscow metro boasts unique beauty of architecture, which has always reflected innovative concepts, and a comfortable environment for passengers. The Moscow Committee for Architecture and Urban Planning makes every effort to keep this tradition, and cares for each station to have its own peculiar and eye-catching design. Moscow's Chief Architect Sergei Kuznetsov told mos.ru more about why we need this and how new stations have their designs developed.

What is special about developing architecture of Moscow metro stations?

Unlike any other design object, architecture is tied to a particular place and has to keep in line with it. As for the metro, there are also some architectonic issues directly related to safety. These factors combined surely influence metro stations' design.

When it comes to specific features of the site in general, the key issue is the big traffic. Metro is the most visited architectural site in the city. This area is crossed by a huge number of spectators. And architects should bear it in mind, too.

One would think that metro stations are just transport hubs, places for people to get from point A to point B. But architects still try to render these places some beauty. Why?

That's not always the case. Many cities do not seek or at least have not sought before to make their metro stations architecturally attractive. But Moscow is special in this sense. In our city, the metro was originally built as something unique in terms of architecture, something really grand. Therefore, for me this is a part of Moscow's identity. Moscow metro is really impressive.

There is one more key point. If we build stations in the places with no unique or historical architecture (with typical residential buildings only), we should try to create a kind of an architectural address. This is crucial. So our priority is to provide such areas with prominent sites.

Today, focusing on the appearance of metro stations is a global architectural trend. For example, even the London underground, the oldest metro in the world, had quite utilitarian stations built for a long time. But some time ago, our British colleagues decided to hold competitions for the most outstanding design of some stations. Spain and Scandinavian countries also boast some great modern metro stations.

Public places such as the metro must be outstanding and bright, for they cultivate taste and culture in citizens in a sense. We know that the environment affects our behaviour and views much. So the metro is a very important part of the city's look.

Moscow metro's image has been changing as the overall approach to urban planning has been transforming. And what is the essential concept of architects creating stations' design today?

Our objective is to develop both attractive and functional unique designs. Architects try to follow these guidelines, and results are good. But when they fail, the Moscow City Architecture Committee corrects their designs. Over the past years, we have upgraded much in terms of the quality of new stations' designs. Their attractive and peculiar look reflects our time. It is quite natural that there are many of them, now that metro is constructed at a very rapid pace.

When we hold competitions for the best architectural designs, they are evaluated by a variety of experts such as architects, designers, metro builders, customers and metro workers. But there is no competition for the design of most stations, as it is an architect's job who submits design options. We review them at the Architectural Council of Moscow and at the regulatory commission meetings of the Moscow City Architecture Committee. Since metro construction progresses very quickly, and the competitive procedure is quite time-consuming, most of the stations are designed by the architects of Metrogiprotrans, the State Metro and Transport Infrastructure Design and Survey Institute.

If a station looks good and peculiar, it is not a luxury. Cities and architectural works are often compared to a man, and for a good reason indeed, for a city, with its sites visited by hundreds of thousands of people daily, should have its own look, unique and eye-catching. The same is true for the metro.

For Moscow, the metro is part of its cultural heritage. We must keep the historically established standard with the expectation that the stations being built today will also take a decent place in the architectural and artistic history of Moscow in the future.

What exactly helps to render a station its own peculiar features?

We always try to find some interesting topic relating to the area the station is located in. We base the design on the history of a particular area, or toponymy. So, the highlight of Rasskazovka (derived from ‘story telling’) metro station is a virtual library arranged right on the platform, Solntsevo (derived from ‘sun’) station is flooded with sunlight dapples, Nagatinsky Zaton (derived from ‘backwater’) station will have giant fish on the wall. Pechatniki (Print Workers) station’s design is associated with printing. Tekstilschiki (Textile Workers) station is about weaving.

If we cannot find some traditional associations, we are still trying to find something fascinating that can link design and history of this area, the origin of its name. We create a certain legend of the site, draw parallels based on historical facts and district features.

I believe that when they are built, each station will have its own legend in any case. We're setting the stage for an evolving urban mythology, something people like to talk about. Cities have it anyway. Each new site will have its own story soon, and I think it is important to create some prerequisite for this.

Do Muscovites have respect for the sites architects create for them? How do they treat new metro stations?

They treat them nice! We have had no cases of vandalism. Fortunately, Moscow metro has no graffiti, as, for example, the metro of some American and European cities. We have nothing like this in Moscow. In general, Muscovites behave in public places and never damage them.

Source: mos.ru

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