Transforming a generic piece of city
into distinct and unique neighbourhoods

Hrushchevka micro district regeneration in Moscow

When in 1955 then Secretary General Nikita Hrushchev issues a new decree “About the elimination of extravagances in design and construction” it meant a tremendous shift in architectural and urban design in the Soviet Union. Aesthetics changed from highly decorated eclecticism of the Stalin era to serial rational modernist reduction. This new approach was a response to the notorious housing shortage and the relatively high cost of construction. Designers and urban planners went to work on rational solutions for city making and architecture equally. New districts were designed using the new paradigm of the micro rayon, the micro district where everything for daily life – housing, schools, kindergardens and shops could be found within walking distance. Public transport was organized along the perimeters where the big roads were located. Inside the neighbourhoods were largely car free.

To be able to construct housing cheaply and on an industrial scale, the Hrushchevka, a five story housing segment, was developed that could be prefabricated in factories and assembled on site. The way the construction was done and the industrial approach did not allow for specific solutions to special places. It also did not allow for built corners and therefore perimeter blocks were replaced by the modernist approach of slabs (and later also towers) in a sea of green.

Our plan is an answer for the improvement of the urban environment of 70% of all Russians

The approach helped solving the housing crisis by the end of the 1970s and to this very day about 70 % of all Russians live in micro districts. The early examples built have become dated and need upgrade. While they have turned into beautiful nature with mature trees, other aspects have less well developed: There is a notorious shortage of parking and many of the buildings are in bad condition due to structural lack of maintenance.

To help the situation, the Mayor of Moscow initiated a program to upgrade these micro districts by replacing the old structures with new ones – also allowing for a further densification of the sites in question that are all quite centrally located.

Regeneration is more than replacing buildings – it is a once in a lifetime opportunity to repair what doesn’t work well

We believe regeneration offers the opportunity to not only replace buildings with other building but to also solve other issues that have emerged over time.

One of the big problems of micro districts is their generic appearance. They all look and feel the same. Regeneration is an opportunity to turn them into diverse neighbourhoods – each one with its own distinct character.

Other problems are:

  • the lack of permeability and slow movement networks
  • the sheer amount of public space and the lack of semi-public or private outdoor space
  • the lack of functions that serve audiences from a wider area, reducing the exchange between people
  • outdated utilities
  • a monotonous urban setting with a lack of typological diversity of buildings
  • a lack of future proofing in dealing with climate change, changing demographics and changing use patterns of the city

To tackle these shortcomings, we have defined four principles:

Embedded

A neighbourhood that is attractive needs to be embedded. Micro rayons often are separated from other parts of the city by big arterial roads that are hard to cross. Therefore we propose to create a set of linkages between the different districts. Pedestrian an cycling bridges, tunnels or on street crossings weave them them together and gradually form a secondary network for slow movement away from the noisy bog roads.

With Identity

Micro rayons have been designed with the elimination of a local identity in mind. Luckily the industrial and serial approach only worked on ideal sites – whereas ideal sites barely exist. Shape, topography, natural features, existing streets…. all lead to conditions where the system didn’t work. We use these situations as the nucleus for the creation of a local, specific identity. This could be a park with an irregular shape, a step in the topography that creates a balcony or a leftover space that turns into an urban square – all contributing to a more unique identity of the place.

Structured

The key to create more distinctive micro districts is to integrate a new structure within the existing. A new local network of secondary through routes, the better definition of key spaces and open space networks and the creation or urban ensembles – groups of buildings that relate to each other and together form an urban logic within the wider neighbourhood form the basis. These measures also help in the decision making process of which buildings are to be kept, adjusted or built new.

Future proof

Regeneration of any district should be future proof. It should leave room for further adjustment and changes in the coming decades. Key to this is a process driven approach: Do not try to change everything in one go but do it in steps that allows a neighbourhood to adjust to the changes. Our plan accounts for that in renewing the utilities and other supply system to meet current and future demands. The new streets we propose can transform without much effort and a fair share of the parking garages are above ground structures that can be regenerated, should the demand for parking space change in the future. But what is even more important: We propose an open system with multiple places. Future changes rather increase the distinctiveness of a neighbourhood than that they reduce it.

 

A comprehensive blueprint for the regeneration of micro districts

The result of this approach is a blueprint for the regeneration of micro rayons. The process and principles applied lead to a different outcome for every neighbourhood and help cities developed in a serial and industrial manner to become more special and different than all the others. This will not only lead to a stronger sense of place and belonging for the local residents – it will also allow the city to become more competitive on the global scene as a place like no other.

Future proof

Regeneration of any district should be future proof. It should leave room for further adjustment and changes in the coming decades. Key to this is a process driven approach: Do not try to change everything in one go but do it in steps that allows a neighbourhood to adjust to the changes. Our plan accounts for that in renewing the utilities and other supply system to meet current and future demands. The new streets we propose can transform without much effort and a fair share of the parking garages are above ground structures that can be regenerated, should the demand for parking space change in the future. But what is even more important: We propose an open system with multiple places. Future changes rather increase the distinctiveness of a neighbourhood than that they reduce it.

 

A comprehensive blueprint for the regeneration of micro districts

The result of this approach is a blueprint for the regeneration of micro rayons. The process and principles applied lead to a different outcome for every neighbourhood and help cities developed in a serial and industrial manner to become more special and different than all the others. This will not only lead to a stronger sense of place and belonging for the local residents – it will also allow the city to become more competitive on the global scene as a place like no other.

Hrushchevka Regeneration Report – Russian Version

 

Hrushchevka Regeneration Presentation Short – Russian Version

 

Hrushchevka Regeneration Public Presentation – English & Russian Version

 

Location: Moscow, Russia
Client: City Government of Moscow

Programme: Regeneration masterplan for 3 micro districts

Stages:
2017 Masterplan competition

Team:
MLA+: Markus Appenzeller, Yana Golubeva, Viktor Korotych
Buromoscow, Fabrications, Felixx Landscape, Mobility in Chain, Habidatum