Kazan’s New Garden City Competition

An “eco-district” Master Plan

Winning plan by Knight Frank (image © Knight Frank) courtesy: Agency for Strategic Development

 

Moscow has been short on housing for decades. Now the need for housing in the far-flung reaches of the Russian Federation is taking shape. Kazan, a city east of Moscow on the upper reaches of the Volga River in the Republic of Tartarstan, has just announced the winners of a competition for a completely new suburban plan. Although such a competition might not appear as anything new to western countries, where new towns were built in England and elsewhere, and especially in China, where new towns are sprouting up on a regular basis, this represents a new way to approach urban planning in the Russian Federation. According to Kazan’s mayor, Ilsur Metshin, “The competition featured the world’s best architectural and design players, who fought for the right to reach the final. This has enriched us all – we really did see completely new approaches to design, or at least unusual for Russia. This is a large territory, and there is enough of everything: both land, and scale, as well as the desire to see the eco-district of tomorrow.”

The competition was open to international participants, and drew 47 entries from a number of countries outside Russia. Three finalists, each receiving 2 million rubles for their work, were selected to present their designs to a Russian jury.

After reviewing presentations of all the concepts, including the functional programming strategy, the architectural and urban planning concept, the framework financial and economic model for implementing the concept until 2030, and a preliminary design of the territory for the initial implementation stage, the jury discussed the projects submitted and determined the winner by vote. 

The winner was the Anglo-French-Russian consortium led by international consulting company Knight Frank (Russia, UK), which included XTU Architects (France), OXO Architects (France), John Thompson & Partners/JTP (England), Architectural Landing Force (Russia, Republic of Tatarstan), and TERRA SCAPE (Belgium). Their team presented the “Ecopolis ‘Two forests’” project, featuring the infiltration of green fingers in the future eco-district. “The concept involves the formation of active clusters with dense buildings, where life will be in full swing, a “clearing” with less dense buildings, and local public spaces with playgrounds and meeting places. There will be clusters, and groups of clearings, and the ‘fingers’ are united by a long park in the region and a large green ring. The park threads sub-centers at the intersection with the roads, where children’s sports and event zones and cafes will be located, as well as a square with the main cultural center. Thus, the three elements are active clusters, the green ring and the district park, forming the basis for the successful development of the eco-district. As a result, the existing ecosystem, biodiversity and high quality of the environment are prioritized at the highest level.


First place images © Knight Frank courtesy: Agency for Strategic Development

 

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Interview: James Mary O’Connor FAIA (Winter 2017)

After receiving his Diploma in Architecture from the Dublin Institute of Technology and BS in Architecture from Trinity College in Dublin, James received his Masters in Architecture from the University of California, Los Angeles while a Fulbright Scholar in the U.S. Shortly after his time as a student in Charles Moore’s Master Class at UCLA, he joined the Moore firm in Los Angeles, now Moore Ruble Yudell. Beginning in the late 1980s, he was involved in the firm’s many projects in Germany, many of which dealt with masterplanning and the construction of large housing, primarily in Berlin. Subsequently, he was involved in the Potatisåkern Master Plan & Housing, as well as the Bo01 Housing Exhibition, both in Malmö, Sweden.
James was MRY’s point person in its subsequent involvement with the firm’s many projects in the People’s Republic of China, beginning with their winning competition proposal for the Century Center project in Beijing. Although unbuilt, it didn’t escape the notice of the Chinese, who invited the firm to participate in a competition for the Tianjin Xin-He large neighborhood masterplan—which they won. This was followed by the 2004 Chun Sen Bi An Housing Masterplan competition in the city of Chongqing, located in central China—completed in 2010. This high profile project resulted in a number of affordable and high-end housing projects throughout China. The firm’s most remarkable sustainability project was the COFCO Agricultural Eco-Valley Master Plan project outside Beijing, envisioned to become the first net zero-carbon project of its kind in the world.
In the meantime, the firm’s focus in China has evolved from its concentration on housing to institutional projects, such as the Shanghai University of Technology‘s research buildings. In the meantime MRY has been noted as a leader in the design of campus projects in the U.S. and abroad, as well as numerous government projects—courthouses and embassies.

 

 

Interview: Axel Schultes (Spring 1997)

 

with Stanley Collyer

 


Bundeskanzleramt Berlin Competition (1996); Completion (2000) Photo: courtesy Schultes Frank Architekten

 

COMPETITIONS: In our last conversation, we talked about the whole issue of Berlin's identity and what approach one should use in reconstructing the urban fabric between East and West—where the wall used to be.

 

Axel Schultes: Maybe I learned something during a recent lecture I gave in Palermo (Italy). Afterwards, some German specialists in philosophy and German thinking—brilliant people, I must say—came up to me and said, 'What you said about Berlin and what you are doing there with the Federal Chancellery (Bundeskanzleiamt), for us is what Ernst Bloch and Walter Benjamin talked about, especially when they looked at Italy and the cities in Italy. We noticed immediately in your work that (same) issue of porosity.' Both used this term: Benjamin wrote a small article on Naples, and Bloch wrote about Italy as a whole.

 

We always had a tendency to avoid the term, 'transparency.' Transparency is usually the use of glass to make buildings less alienating to someone outside. But for us, glass is no material to create spaces; so transparency as we see it is depths of spaces or layering. Porosity is something much more precise—what we strive for. We wanted the same effect in Friedrichstrasse (Interior Mall): it should not be this close-up thing of the Galeries Lafayette (Jean Nouvel) or Ungers, where you only have some holes in it. Porosity for us is like a sponge—to enable a building to fill up with life, to turn a private space into a public one by penetrating it with a public space. The old buildings in Berlin are examples of this, with two, three, sometimes even four interior public spaces.

 


Berlin Baumschulenweg Crematory (1993)

 

 

COMPETITIONS: You are referring to the interior courtyards (Hinterhöfe)?

AS: Yes. Nothing of this sort exists anymore in Berlin. Most buildings (at the street) are flat, sometimes elegant, sometime ugly. The Galeries Lafayette, with all its glass, is as closed (to the outside) as one of Unger's sandstone buildings. It's the same issue in the construction of every building. Take, for instance, the Berlin Schloss (the palace in the center of Berlin), which was completely demolished after WWII, and which some people think should be resurrected. This has been on our mind constantly.*

 

It would be such a contrast to urbanism—needing to punch holes in it to get inside—open to all the people and all walks of life. I can give many examples of this, for me very northern, very restrained, very alien to everything which infuses a culture with life. All the people here like Kohlhof, Ungers, Kleihues, etc.; all have that tendency of closing. Even Libeskind—and maybe he doesn't think about it or want to have it appear in such a manner—does it with the Jewish Museum where there is no penetration. There is always this hiding, this animosity to the urban fabric. They are not interested in breaking it up.

 


Bonn Art Museum - Competition (1985) Completion (1992)

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