The paradigm of public spaces: center or periphery?

Resource: UrbanLook

Any modern city, even a small one, is a complex structure consisting of separate territorial zones with different functional purposes. Public spaces are an integral part of it and have a great influence on the formation of the urban environment. But as urbanization increases and cities are constantly growing, the question arises where to create this comfortable environment: in the historic part of the city or on the periphery.

Neighborhood dominants: a personalized approach

Initially, it so happened that the development was formed around a dominant feature, first natural - along the river or on the lake shore, then - urban - next to the cathedral, church, royal palace or royal chambers. Today these are historical places, which are points of attraction not only for residents of the city, but also for tourists. Therefore it is here that the improvement and creation of modern public spaces begins. Moscow has much more opportunities in this respect than European cities where historic buildings are well preserved, but they are very dense, so it is hard to squeeze in an art object or a modern lounge area. Perhaps the most striking example where this was implemented is the Spanish city of Seville. Here the largest wooden construction in the world "Encarnación Mushrooms" seamlessly blended in the medieval quarter. Although there are still enough supporters and opponents of this construction. In short, public spaces today are not just promenades, parks and squares, but lounge areas with art objects, creative clusters, pedestrian and bicycle paths, and much more. It is no wonder that the center is getting crowded for the implementation of such ideas, and knocking them out of their historical context, they can even have a negative impact on the urban environment. That is why the modern urbanistic approach in megacities is based on the model of a decentralized structure. "Each neighborhood creates its own dominant feature and its own centers of attraction. It can be both parks and original residential and commercial complexes with landscaped areas", - says Maria Nikolaeva, Head of MAD Architects. As an example, the expert cites New Moscow, where the office park Comcity was created, which became a new local center for the south-west direction, accumulating activity. Architect Maxim Atayants believes that the projects implemented in the city center are noticeable, but objectively, not so badly needed: after all, there is already an established historical environment there. "Instead, it is more correct to create high-quality attraction zones in other areas, where such places have developed spontaneously or are still absent: suburbs, industrial zones, new districts", - he believes. Maria Litinetskaya, managing partner of the company "Metrium", a member of the CBRE partner network, believes that if we talk about a territorial delimitation of "historical" and "new" areas in order to organize the proper public space, it seems to be a utopian task. "Urbanists, officials and art historians will break all spears in disputes about which area can be considered sufficiently "historical". For example, no one would doubt that Patriarch's Ponds is a historic public space. But there is a natural area "Krylatskie hills", which can hardly be called historic, but at the same time - it is an established and well-known space, so not every project of its redevelopment may be liked by local residents and citizens in general. It requires an individual approach in each case", - says the expert.

Metamorphosis with industrial zones: a good start

Perhaps the most successful metamorphosis in the world happens with industrial zones. It is here, as practice shows, that the most atmospheric places can be created. Such a creative cluster was the LXFactory public space in Lisbon, where former factory buildings and sites were given over to artists. Now there are cafes, galleries, stores, offices and, of course, art objects. In St. Petersburg, such projects have included New Hollandandia; the Street Art Museum, located on the site of an existing factory and now home to exhibitions and concerts; the "Fligel" space with a library, exhibition hall, show room, and hostel; and the creative space Weavers (a former weaving factory now hosts theatrical shows, master classes, and other events). In Moscow, the former Red October factory, Artplay, Flacon, and Danilovskaya Manufaktura have long been such atmospheric places. The most recent example is the futuristic redevelopment project on the territory of "Badaevsky Brewery" presented recently by Swiss architects. There are plans to build a building "on legs", which will provide a visual link between the modern urban space and the old buildings of the plant. A similar concept has a project being implemented on the territory of the factory "Svoboda" on Vyatskaya Street. Walking zones, cafes, and stores will be created here. Its dominant feature, as in the case of "Badaevsky", will be the old factory buildings, which are monuments of history and culture. Such projects, according to Maria Nikolaeva, have a balance of old and new, which is why they do not look like a remake, spoiling the image of the district, but fit harmoniously into the existing buildings. According to Yulia Zubarik, the founder of architectural bureau Master's Plan, urban polycentricism is the only reasonable way to develop a big city like Moscow, where it is impossible to transfer all public and cultural functions to the center: it would not withstand such a load. "The formation of points of attraction scattered in different parts of the city is a global trend, tightly connected with the gentrification of territories. The emergence of green areas, cultural centers raises the status of adjacent areas, changes the social composition of permanent and visiting population, increases the value and demand for the surrounding area," - says the expert.

A garden city on the periphery from scratc

New public spaces have recently been created during the integrated development of the territory. Dozens of new residential complexes, which form urban neighborhoods, are implemented in areas remote from urban infrastructure. Developers, as Maria Litinetskaya explains, are eager to create unusual concepts of the space adjacent to the complex also because it can become a "highlight" of the project, attracting the buyer. At present, for instance, in Nagatinsky Zaton, on the bank of the Moscow River, a city quarter "River Park" is being built. The project provides for the construction of a 1.5 km embankment with recreation areas, pedestrian and bicycle lanes, an open terrace, fishing bridges, art objects and a lighthouse, in addition to apartment houses. All this will also have an impact on the formation of the environment within the entire neighborhood. Another interesting example is the already built residential complex "Embankment City" in Khimki district of Moscow region. This is just the case when, literally, in a "bare" place appeared a mini-city with its embankments, "Venetian" channels, bridges, pedestrian zones and arches. A less "local" project is the Lakhta Center, which is being completed in St. Petersburg on the Gulf of Finland. More than a third of the space in the new complex will be occupied by conceptual public spaces. There will be a panoramic restaurant, an observation deck, scientific and educational and medical centers which will be popular among the citizens and guests of the Northern Capital. Speaking on a global scale, the most famous project for the creation of the city "from scratch" is a man-made island "Sail" in Dubai (UAE). Yana Volodina