Opportunities for street life in all seasons: Moscow’s new government has begun to implement an innovative urban revitalisationprogramme. The aim of this ambitious project is to transform the busy city centre into a comfortable and attractive public urban space. Most importantly, the new programme proposes that an 8-kilometre-long green pedestrian path be created, linking Vorobyovy Gory, a hill on the right bank of the Moskva River, the Krymskaya Embankment, Red Square and the Kremlin Embankment. The renovation of the Krymskaya Embankment was completed in September 2013 and has become a showcase of the new city planning policy.
The Krymskaya Embankment is located near Moscow’s historic centre and just next to the Contemporary Art Exhibition Hall CDH and Gorki Park. Prior to the renovaton, the embankment was dominated by traffic routes and was not suited for public use. The aim of the renovation project, designed by the Moscow-based architects Wowhouse, was to create new opportunities for various leisure activities along the river’s waterfront.
The new linear promenade is about one kilometre long and includes green hills, pedestrian and cycle paths, a fountain, a pond and pavilions. The design was inspired by the theme of “waves”, highlighting the dynamic character of the area. The pavilion roofs and arches, and the curve of numerous benches provide an interesting and sophisticated visual experience. The undulating surface creates a visually dynamic environment. Artificial hills and slopes, designed in cooperation with LDA Design, London, are used for cycling, skating, skiing and sledging. This design offers a great opportunity for a wide range of seasonal activities during the long, cold Russian winter.
For many years, a controversial Soviet modernist building, the Tretyakov Gallery (Exhibition Hall – CDH), was the dominant architectural feature of the Krymskaya Embankment. A new wide wooden deck was installed at the front of this building to create an open stage for performances, transforming the whole atmosphere of the area. A fountain square (12 x 60 metres) further enhances the dynamics of the space. More than two hundred computer-operated dry fountains with spotlights were integ-rated into the pavement surface to form a transparent and vivacious colonnade. This area is separated from the Moskva River by enormous lime trees. The fountain square can be used for many different activities, ranging from the sensual pleasures of water and water play to various performances and special events.
The architects very carefully transformed the local cultural environment while -preserving the traditional informal contemporary art fair. Asse Architects created a pergola-style pavilion where local artists sell their work. Taken together, the modest size of the pavilion, the wooden deck and the fountain area create a space on a more human scale around the long, massive CDH building. The undulating pavilion roof further supports the general theme of “waves”. The Krymskii Bridge over the Moskva River provides a rain and snow shelter for pedestrians, so wooden platforms and benches were installed under the bridge. The orientation of the benches along the banks of the river and the integrated lighting effectively structure the walkway and bicycle routes, and give the night time city a shiny new look.
Traditionally, Moscow landscape architects have adopted a conservative approach in their selection of plants for urban projects, using mostly annual flowers and lawns for public places. How-ever, the innovative plant list used for the Krymskaya Embankment includes a great variety of herbs, perennials and shrubs typical of the native flora. This creates a more natural and democratic image of the new urban area – an island of a western urban aesthetic right in the heart of conservative Moscow.
The overall intention of this project was to create many opportunities to foster contemporary active street life in all seasons. Overall, the main concept of the project has been successfully implemented and the area has achieved a unique atmosphere and distinguished identity. The quality of the space can still be improved on, but Krymskaya Embankment has already become attractive for tourists and citizens of Moscow of all ages.