Portal of the "Empire"

  • contemporary architecture

Taking part in the contest for the project of the second stage of construction of "Empire Tower" Complex, the architectural group DNK treated the last unfinished building on the Krasnopresnenskaya Embankment as a laconic-shape volume with dramatic and expresive facades.


The contest for the construction on the land site "Moscow City" next to the 60-floor "Empire Tower" on the Krasnopresnenskaya Embankment was already covered by our website. This area has quite a long story behind it: projects of a most diverse nature have been designed for it at various times. This circumstance is to be seen not only on paper - for example, the underground and some of the above-ground levels of a once-approved aqua park have long since been actually built in concrete. Due to the fact that now the investor has made a decision to place here the public multifunctional premises, as well as a car park, the above-ground part will be dismantled, while the existing underground part will remain unchanged, and, in the capacity of the parking garage, will be put into operation in the nearest future. This is why one of the contest specifications was the task of integrating the underground part with its surface exits into the new building.


Panorama of the construction site in "Moscow City"

Panorama of "Moscow City" with the insert of the contest proposal

The architects of DNK group opted out of building their solution around the "catchy" curved shape, and chose a fundamentally different and austere geometry. "We proceeded from the fact that Moscow City is full of unusual shapes as it is, so we thought that yet another strangely shaped building would be too much, all the more so because this building is smaller than its neighbors, and its reserved character will help it to be in proportion with its surroundings, will add some importance to it, - explains their choice one of the founders of DNK Natalie Sidorova - Plus, the implementation budget was very-very tight, so it is just not meant to cover any large-scale experiments with the shapes".


The dimensions of the construction footprint of an almost square shape of 90 x 75 meters, and the reasons having to do with finding the optimum depth of the building necessitated dividing the conditional parallelepiped into two blocks with a lit space between them. The latter was positioned perpendicular to the embankment - it is this particular position that lets all the interior spaces of the building get a river-commanding view. Both blocks were encased in a single casing in order to conform to the dimensions of the surrounding skyscrapers. Thus, between the two buildings, a spacious atrium appeared, a "visual corridor" of sorts that connects the embankment and the "Empire Tower" standing on the second construction line. The architects deliberately centered the complex strictly along the axis with the 60-floor high-rise, connecting in this way the two parts of the "Empire Tower" and enhancing their connection. The new volume is similar to propylaea, a sort of the proverbial Acropolis Propulsion before the high-rise. On the other side, the plan of the atrium that narrows in towards the center and widens out towards the exits - like a concave lens - conceptually echoes the "trademark" oval niche on the main facade of "Empire Tower" skyscraper and provides for a better river view from most of its premises.



One of the main tasks of the competition was creating the new public territory integrated into the single pedestrian structure of "Moscow City" and leveling out almost a 5-meter height difference between the embankment and the entrance to "Empire Tower" high-rise. In the architectural discussions it was repeatedly noted that the Moskva River is under-engaged into forming the public territories and a fully-fledged riverside promenade is all but a rare sight in Moscow. Moscow City complex had every opportunity to repair the omission but one cannot really say that the already-built buildings succeeded in that. This is why the DNK architects laid particular stress on turning the embankment into the project priority, setting the goal of breathing life into it. In their project, the inner passage is not confined inside the building - it spills out onto the embankment in large two-level terraces with cafes and restaurants. As for the passage, DNK made it inclined, thus providing a direct link between the embankment and Moscow City with no moving staircase, in the shape of a natural landscape. The wide "terrace" promenade is oriented along the axis of "Empire Tower" skyscraper, and it leads from the embankment up to the high-rise's entrance and further on into the center of Moscow City. The inner "stairs", interconnected with spiral ramps, have on them various planting and landscape elements. Along the street, cafes and shops are situated; the "high-profile" entrance lobbies of the upper tier of the multifunctional "towers" also have their exits here, and one gets easy access to Moscow City system of pedestrian underpasses.


The view of the complex from the embankment

Inside covered passage

Cross-sectional plan

In spite of the fact that it is in fact the second construction stage of "Empire Tower" high-rise, the "dress" of the new volume is fundamentally different from it. The least "exposed" northern and western facades are executed almost flat, while the eastern one has a "stepping" structure which accentuates the corner position of the complex: in the construction array of the embankment and starting from "Bagration" bridge, the new building will be in fact the first one in the row. As for the southern facade that faces the river, its main theme is all about fracturing into vertical fragments that are meant to introduce the "intermediate" scale between the streets and the tower upon this, rather extended, surface. In fact, the architects piece it together from grilled fragments the width of which is equal to the width of the atrium - which allows for articulating the overall structure of the building more clearly. What is important is the fact that each of such fragments DNK places at a slight angle, and this seemingly simple technique helps give the building a more "chamber", transitional-scale character and adds extra dynamics to the embankment: when viewed from one side, the asymmetric movement is more prominent, and when viewed from the other side - less active.

According to the authors of the project, they treated the facade rather like a "windowed wall", reasoning that, for the embankment that serves as a sort of buffer between the city and the island of skyscrapers, the plastics of the pylons introduce the detailed design that is necessary for the building to be adequately perceived from the pedestrian level, as opposed to the predominantly flat surfaces of Moscow City high-rises. According to the initial plan, DNK were to even dress this "wall" into stone but later on they opted in favor of a more subtle solution - the opaque structured glass in the framework of polished steel with "windows" made of glass of a slightly greenish hue.


The authors paid a lot of attention to the development of the optimum functional structure of the building: the car parks are compactly placed on the four floors in the back part of the building, further away from the river, so as to free the facades with river views or the offices; the ramp in the parking garage at the corner of the building is made unheated which provides for substantial savings on the energy consumption; the positioning of the vertical communication nuclei allows people to easily move around the building - in particular, the parking garage provides easy access to any of the floors; the two blocks feature the optimum depth from the light front to the communication nucleus, and the convenient for the commercial use area of 2000 square meters with free planning; most of the maintenance premises are located in the central "dark" part of the basement floor; the technological loads and communications of the shops and restaurants are designed in such a way that they do not cross with the main public areas.


Plan on the level of the inside street

Plan of the car parking floor (left). Plan of the typical floor (right).

The project answers all the specifications of integrating the new building into the existing underground levels. For instance, the architects were able to keep intact all the numerous underground emergency staircases leading to the embankment level. It should be mentioned here that not all of the contestants were able to meet this condition. According to the construction plan, for the transition from one column spacing to another, the project provides a ribbed relieving platform that, due to its thinness, allows for using the space beneath it to the fullest, while the spaced-out positioning of the building nuclei and the columns kept the structure of the underground parking with no losses of the parking stalls.


Longitudinal section

Landscaping of the territory between the building and the embankment and creating a covered passage is not all what the theme of public spaces is about. DNK decided that the new complex needs them just as much as the city, and this is how an oasis of their very own was granted to the tenants of the second stage of "Empire Tower". The atrium sports a stepping structure and is treated as a nice little courtyard that opens up to the river panorama. "The quality of the environment seems to us just as important as the quality of the space that arises in the city with the advent of the new building - explains Natalia Sidorova. - Only by forming a single environment within and without, we achieve the balance between the interests of the investors and the interests of the city, which, in our opinion, is the key to a successful project".

View of city from the rooftop restaurant

Text by: Konstantin Khodnev, Daniel Lorenz, Natalia Sidorova, Anna Martovitskaya
Translated by Anton Mizonov

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