A New Meeting Place for Moscovites


SWA/Balsley Wins Paveletskaya Plaza Landscape Competition


Aerial view at night – courtesy SWA/Balsley 5+ Design


0f the nine railway stations in Moscow, Paveletskaya is the largest and one of the last of those that opened around the turn of the century. Compared to other Moscow stations, Paveletskaya, designed by Alexander Krasovsky and opened in 1900, represented a lower-key presence in its sprawling configuration, similar to palaces such as a Sans Souci without the ornamentation.

   The original site for the recent competition included a small park facing the station, bordered on one side by the Ring Road. Post WWII, the site was bifurcated by a road, thus separating the front entrance of the station from the grassy area facing it.


Paveletskaya Station (2020) Photo: ©A. Savin


   The competition was launched with the purpose of addressing this situation—reducing the size of the drop-off area in front of the station and also introducing retail as an integral element of a new park design. The project began with an invited competition for the entire site, which included the retail venue below grade. Here one should note that only one competition was initially planned for the entire project, whereby SWA/Balsley of New York and 5+ Design of Los Angeles—the eventual winners—had already teamed up in that initial stage. Although already identified as the winner in the competition for the entire site, the client then decided that a subsequent competition between SWA/Balsley and Gillespies for the landscape scheme should take place to bring more clarity to the project.

   This subsequent event was the basis for the total landscape design of the site. Although Gillespies from the U.K. had already been involved in several landscape projects in Moscow, SWA/Balsley from New York had only been involved in one invited competition in Russia, and that without success. Their luck turned out to be better this time, as the SWA/Balsley scheme prevailed.

   Since the location of the two entrances to the below-grade mall had already been determined in the initial stage, the landscape element, in the words of Tom Balsley, was simply putting “icing on the cake.” Still, their scheme had to present an idea that would set it off from a conventional approach to this challenge. As is the case with many landscape plans including major buildings, the client insisted in this instance that that height restrictions be honored to guarantee unobstructed sitelines to the station from the plaza.


The section (left) and diagram (right) illustrate the transitional, two-level site strategy.


   SWA/Balsley settled on an innovative, but logical solution, which would not only address the height issue, but add some positive features to the plan. Their strategy was a two-level park, with the edge at street level, then transitioning gradually to a lower level, which contained the two major entrances to the underground mall, café, and other amenities. The oval-tilted roofs of the two entrances to the mall were not only aesthetically welcoming, but eliminated the necessity of major signage to lure potential shoppers to the lower level mall. At the same time, pedestrians arriving at the park’s edge could look down to identify the various options they might be interested in, facilitating their journey to an intended destination.

   One cannot ignore the two-level strategy as a time-honored contrivance employed by landscape architects to create an impression that the distance from one point to another is greater than it might actually seem. Thus, one walking along the edge of this site will come away believing that it to be actually larger than normally would be the case with its 7+ acres.

   Because of the plaza’s proximity to both the Pavaletskaya Station and the Metro, this site represents your typical high-volume traffic situation. Because of the inclusion of a mall to the mix, other amenities, and a very well conceived, thoughtful concept containing all the features needed for multi-generational appeal, it promises to not only serve as an asset for the local neighborhood, but a major meeting destination for many Moscovites. -Ed








Above: mall section


Unless otherwise noted, all above images courtesy SWA/Balsley 5+ Design