For its 870th birthday, Moscow got a gift that’ll keep on giving—Zaryadye Park, the city’s first large-scale park in 50 years, brought “wild urbanism” into Moscow to perhaps transform the international perception of Russia’s capital.
Designed by an international consortium, the 35-acre park samples the country’s distinct regional landscapes: steppes, tundra, wetlands and forests, all beautifully set mere steps from the Kremlin and Red Square. Apart from the 70-meter-high “floating” bridge over the Moskva River, the park, which is scheduled to be fully completed this fall, features an amphitheater, five pavilions, and a philharmonic concert hall.
The $245-million park stands in the eponymous historic district and on the former site of the Rossiya Hotel, which was demolished in 2006 during the former mayor’s attack on unattractive Soviet buildings. The initial idea was to turn the $1b central site into a retail complex, but it was decided to give park-hungry Muscovites a new public space instead.
Having announced an international design competition in 2012, and receiving 90 submissions from 27 countries, the City of Moscow and Chief Architect Sergey Kuznetsov selected American design studio Diller Scofidio + Renfro (DS+R) in partnership with Hagreaves Associates and Citymakers in 2013 to transform the overgrown area.
Known for their work on New York City’s High Line, the New York-based architects DS+R introduced the idea of “wild urbanism,” gracefully blending hardscape and landscape and giving “an opportunity to leave the city, and at the same time be closer to it,” as stated in their proposal. Harmonizing urban life and nature, the architects created a space where visitors may meander freely, traversing between each corner of the park to encounter terraces that recreate and celebrate the diverse regional landscapes found in Russia.
Zaryadye Park will be perfect for a green respite among its 750 gardens. Visitors can also enjoy a spectacular view from the “floating bridge,” explore Moscow with a multimedia flight simulator and walk through an ice cave.
Aside from being an exceptional architectural project and a futuristic public space, some expect Zaryadye Park will provide an entirely new outlook on Moscow and Russia in general. Although the Red Square and Kremlin are the country’s most symbolic landmarks, there are just a few places with decent photo-ops that are reachable for tourists—one possible reason Moscow’s Soviet past is almost tactile in photos. Now that Zaryadye Park is open, we can expect to see more photos of St. Basil’s Cathedral hovering above a birch tree forest, or tourists laying on the grass in proximity of the Kremlin walls, perhaps changing the somewhat stand-offish image to a more vibrant and open one.