Zaryadye's wild urbanism and Skoltech rings: architecture of the future in Moscow

February 13
Construction and renovation

Moscow's future is around the corner... Today smart transport system or healthcare digitalisation are nothing out of the ordinary. Naturally, the architectural appearance of the Russian capital is also gradually changing. Over the past decade, Moscow has seen a plenty of magnificent projects. has already told about four buildings created by world-famous foreign architects. Now let’s take a look at designs by renowned bureaus, from OMA (Holland) to the American Diller Scofidio + Renfro.

History and modern times at the Kremlin walls

What: Zaryadye Park

Who: Diller Scofidio + Renfro

When: 2013–2017

Where: 6 Varvarka Street

Diller Scofidio + Renfro is the American design studio that focuses both on architecture and art. It creates installations and artworks, with its architectural offspring also tending towards culture. Just look at the Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston, the Broad Art Foundation Museum, the Berkeley Museum of Art, and the Pacific Film Archive. Also, they are also authors of the famous High Line Flyover Park in Manhattan.

In 2013, Diller Scofidio + Renfro won a competition for Zaryadye Park's concept. Their team headed a big international consortium that included Russian specialists. According to the architects, their design is based on wild urbanism, meaning close proximity of nature and buildings. The park's pavilions blend in with the scenery. Small paved sections are interspersed with soil paths.

The authors of the concept decided to present four natural areas of Russia in the Park. A relatively small area has vegetation varieties typical of forests, steppes, meadows, and the northern Russian landscape. It was not easy to implement this idea, since the trees and shrubs were to survive in Moscow. They were selected by specialists of the Moscow State University Botanical Garden.

Another challenge for the architects was to merge the old and the modern, since Zaryadye Park is situated next to the Kremlin, a historical and cultural symbol of Russia. The location as a whole has a very rich history, as the trading area near the Moskva River appeared as early as the 12th century.

Today, we can see extant cultural heritage sites such as the Chambers of the Old English Court, the Chambers of the Romanov Boyars, the Church of the Conception of St. Anne dating back to the 15th–16th centuries. Now these buildings coexist with a high-tech Media Centre, Nature Centre, River Overlook Footbridge and the glass crust of the Philharmonic Hall. By the way, the latter was designed by Russian architects guided by Sergei Kuznetsov and Vladimir Plotkin, but the concept of Diller Scofidio + Renfro already implied a glass-crusted concert hall.

In 2018, Time shortlisted Zaryadye as one of the best places in the world. In 2019, the Park received the Grand Prix of MIPIM Awards in Cannes.

'Involvement of international bureaus is surely good for all stakeholders. Apart from image building, we enjoy sites of the highest possible standard. It raises the bar and gives our teams a visual incentive to upgrade their skills. This is also true for Zaryadye. All public spaces across Russia have reached a new level, which is good for architects, residents, and authorities,' said Sergei Kuznetsov, Moscow's Chief Architect.

Heart of innovation city

What: Skoltech

Who: Herzog & de Meuron

When: 2011–2018

Where: 30/1 Bolshoi Boulevard

Design solution

Recently, we wrote about the campus of the Moscow School of Management SKOLKOVO designed by the world-famous architect David Adjaye. The Skolkovo Institute of Science and Technology is a noteworthy neighbour of this supremacist site. Its design, first in Russia, has been made by the Swiss architectural firm Herzog & de Meuron, a Pritzker Prize winner and the author of the Hamburg Philharmonic, the Allianz Arena, the Kolkata Museum of Modern Art, the Tate Modern gallery building, de Young Museum, and dozens of other stunning buildings.

From above, Skoltech looks like a ring of impressive size, with two circles, many rectangular buildings inside, and a plenty of courtyards and front gardens. So, the big ring comprises small blocks forming entire University campus. Given that many internal buildings stand on supports, raised above the ground, all courtyards are interconnected.

Despite its sophisticated design, the space is arranged in a clear and logical way. Apart from labs and classrooms, Skoltech has many public spaces. According to the concept, they are designed for students to work on the team projects of the University program.

The key parts of the building have their own names: Agora (outer ring), Eastern Ring, and Western Ring. Agora façades are finished with wood. This natural material combined with triangular mountain-like roofs looks like a natural landscape. The interiors are finished with Siberian oak planks, industrial vinyl, concrete and aluminium.

Skoltech occupies one of the five blocks provided for by Skolkovo general outlay, approved as early as 2011. It is located in the centre of the innovation city, to highlight the significance of the University.

Last year, the Skoltech building was awarded the Grand Prix of the annual Prix Versaille architecture award as the Best University Campus.

Herzog & de Meuron have also created a development concept of the former Badayevsky Brewery's grounds. So, we may soon see the second design by the renowned bureau implemented in Moscow. It has already been shortlisted for MIPIM Awards.

New life of modernist heritage

What: Garage Museum of Contemporary Art

Who: OMA

When: 2012–2015

Where: 9/32 Krymsky Val Street

Since 2015, Garage Museum of Contemporary Art has had a new home in Krymsky Val Street. The Museum had a very decent temporary shelter, though, built by Pritzker prize-winner Shigeru Ban, but it has not become permanent and has long been dismantled.

Garage moved to a spacious but minimalistic rectangular pavilion. A raised panel above the central entrance is arguably the only sophistication of the building. It is difficult to discern the typical restaurant of the 1960, 'Four Seasons', behind the two-layer polycarbonate panels, partially burned down in Perestroika times, but it is still there.

The reconstruction design was developed by the renowned OMA Bureau (Holland), headed by the most high-profile architectural theorist of our time, Rem Koolhaas. Being a fan of Soviet modernism, he treated its legacy in a very original way.

The architect preserved the original elements, adding new design twists. Walking through the Museum, visitors can spot Soviet-time floor tiles here and there. He covered the old walls with light panels, and restored the staircases and brick-and-mosaic walls. The red-haired girl mosaic is one of the Museum’s symbols.

Garage is designed as a very rational and functional space that can be transformed to fit any current exhibitions. Apart from display halls, there is a lecture hall, a shop, a café and a Children's Arts Centre.

Crystal-based towers

What: OKO Tower

Who: SOM

When: 2010–2015

Where: 21/2 1st Krasnogvardeisky Proyezd

In fact, OKO is a structure consisting of two towers on a common foundation. The Northern Tower is 245 m high (49 floors) and houses a Business Centre. The Southern Tower is 354 m high (85 floors). The tallest residential building in Europe houses apartments and a hotel.

OKO residential tower was named the Best Implemented Development Project in the Russian Real Estate Market 2016 in FIABCI Prix d'Excellence Award.

Two high-rise buildings have one irregular polyhedral foundation called 'crystal'. In fact, the mysterious abbreviation OKO stands for Russian 'bases united by a crystal'.

There is an observation deck ― the highest in Europe ― on the rooftop of the Southern Tower offering a spectacular view of Moscow.

The concept belongs to SOM (Skidmore, Owings and Merrill), an American architectural firm with over 70 years of high-rise construction experience. SOM architects have created more than 180 high-rise buildings in 27 countries around the world, including the tallest ever building — the 828 m high Burj Khalifa in Dubai. The OKO concept is based on simple geometric shapes, state-of-the-art materials and a balance of residential and non-residential property in one


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