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: Ralph Johnson of Perkins+Will (Fall 1995)

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COMPETITIONS: you have been in both open and invited compe-titions—both as a juror and as a participant. Which type do you prefer and why?

 

RALPH JOHNSON: I think both are viable. For a young architect, open competitions are great, because they are not going to get invited. It’s a way for young architects to break into a bigger scope of work. It’s an oppor-tunity for someone who doesn’t have the experience in that particular building type to get into a new area.
Shanghai Natural History Museum Photos: courtesy Perkins and Will

 

An invited competition usually involves some kind of portfolio or resume of the firm’s work, and you usually get selected on experience in that particular building type. In the latter case, you are probably dealing with fairly extensive presentation requirements and a big outlay of money. It often also involves a couple of stages. If the compensation is adequate, which is usually six figures—$100,000-$200,000—it’s great. Most of the time, it’s inadequate. For the recent (Beirut Conference Center) competition, we did in Lebanon, it was $200,000, and that was enough to cover (our) costs. So there are benefits for both types of competitions.

 

COMPETITIONS: And as a panelist?

 

RJ: It’s much more difficult to jury the open ones because it takes longer. I was on the Astronaut Memorial jury, and there were over 600 entries. You normally don’t interview the architect; it’s single-stage. It’s more a process of winnowing out inadequate submissions—which is easy to do—and getting down to the ten percent after the first cut. In the case of an invited competition, you have five to ten submissions from very qualified firms. I think it’s good if you can actually interview firms and have a question and answer period. In an open competition, it’s almost inevitable that you wonder who is actually doing the project, how qualified the architect is. It’s hard to keep that out of your mind.

 

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Shanghai Natural History Museum Photos: courtesy Perkins and Will

 

COMPETITIONS: In other words, the presentation isn’t necessarily an indication of the qualifications of the designer?

 

RJ: I wasn’t on the jury in the case of the Vietnam Memorial, which was a famous competition. There were very sketchy charcoal drawings (by Maya Lin), which really didn’t indicate anything other than conceptual design capabilities. How could you possibly come to any conclusion of technical competence based on those drawings? You really have to read into it and assume a lot in terms of the person. In that case, of course, it was a great success as a non-complex building type. As a laboratory or something else, it’s a different story.

 

COMPETITIONS: There are a number of anecdotes concerning jurors speculating about the author behind a competition entry—the one in Paris resulting in the Grand Arch is an example. Richard Rogers, a competition juror, supposedly remarked to another juror, Richard Meier, that the author of what eventually turned out to be the winning design, “might be a nobody.” Meier reminded Rogers that, before Pompidou, he was a “nobody.”

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