The project of “Golden City” housing complex is unique in many respects: as an example of consequential implementation of the results of the competition, as an experience of joint work of a Russian and a Dutch team, and as an experiment of developing a high-profile construction on the basis of the city block technology.
Written by: Elena Petukhova Translated by: Anton Mizonov
14 May 2018
The houses that are built along the embankments, seaside or riverside alike, are subject to particularly high quality requirements. There is more than one objective reason for that. The architecture that exists at the borderline between the earth and the water, belonging at the same time to the material world and the “mirror wonderland”, thanks to being multiplied in its reflection in the water, adds a lot to the romantic flavor that subconsciously influences the mind of the designer and the observer. Of course, there are also arguments of a purely practical nature: at the expense of the broad space before the building’s façade, these buildings influence a far greater part of the city, although this statement is equally applicable for the modern broad avenues, which, by the way, never stopped the architects from experimenting with silhouettes when designing the longitudinal construction fronts. It is not out of the realm of possibility that the waterfront construction took on a special high-profile status thanks to a large number of great examples: it’s enough to recall Venice, Amsterdam, New York – the list can go on and on. Even Moscow has quite a few buildings to show, not to mention Saint Petersburg. The Saint Petersburg waterfronts, which create the legendary skyline, are the veritable treasure of this city, so it comes as no surprise that people of Saint Petersburg cherish these panoramas and are so wary of every new inclusion that is meant to violate the beauty of the picture.
Luckily, the negative examples of the last few years are few and far between. One of the major reasons for this is the fact that the building space of the waterfront areas within the city limits is extremely limited. Today, the town planning map of Saint Petersburg got a new vacant land site at the edge of the water. It literally appeared out of nowhere because it is of an artificial origin. We are speaking here about the alluvial land lying on the west end of the Vasilyevsky Island, the decision of recreating which was adopted by the government of Saint Petersburg in 2006. Currently, over 170 hectares out of the planned 476 rose above the sea level. The land that has already been washed up is witnessing a major construction boom, which comes as no surprise. This area is located rather close to the center of Saint Petersburg, and, with the launch of the Western High-Speed Diameter highway, its transport accessibility soared, new subway stations being built nearby as well.
In addition to the new complex of the new passenger sea port of Saint Petersburg with a terminal for cruise ships and ferries, built upon the project by “A.Len”, the city is planning to build here almost 500 000 square meters of housing stock, most of which will be comfort and business class. It is these buildings that will form the new “sea façade” of Saint Petersburg. Besides, building on the alluvial land is about the only chance for this city to form a new standard for the residential construction that will be modern and comfortable, the kind that will meet the high requirements of the “Nation’s Northern Capital”. Taking this task seriously, some of the developers and designers do strive to find a decent and harmonious solution for this “high-profile” type of construction meant to serve as the precursor of the famous city, to see which so many tourists come from near and far away.
Doubling the Advantages
An extra proof of the vital town planning and typological importance of building on the alluvial territory is the competition for the best concept of developing this new city land run by GLORAX Development upon the initiative of the government of Saint Petersburg. The organizer is the company TOPMARK, while the consultants are the architectural school MARCH and the research center MARCH Lab.
Several Russian and the world’s top architectural firms took part in the competition. Suffice it to say that the shortlist of the second round included “Ostozhenka”, “Studio 44”, and “A.Len” as well as Cino Zucсhi Architetti Srl. (Italy), KCAP Holding B.V. (Netherlands), and Snøhetta AS (Norway) that submitted six totally different but equally bright and promising concepts. The judging panel awarded the victory to two teams – the Russian firm “A.Len” and the Dutch “KCAP Holding B.V.” that participated in the competition together with its partner Orange. It seemed that, instead of solving the most complex problem, the results of the competition made things even more complicated by shifting to the developer’s shoulders the burden of responsibility for bringing two projects, albeit based on similar planning principles but still different, to one common denominator.
The obvious strong point of the project by KCAP+Orange was its freshness and clarity of idea, which consisted in the composition of rectangular city blocks composed of parallelepipeds of varying height and packed into an orthogonal façade structure. The laconic set was livened up by a few architectural and planning elements that were meant to make the Dutch concept look more authentic. Channels running between the city blocks were to be traced back to the image of the “Northern Venice”, while the asymmetrical tops of the towers – looking like the frameworks of the golden spears of Saint Petersburg – claimed the status of the new landmarks in the new reformed skyline. For all its flashiness, one could easily see significant discrepancies between the concept and the Russian construction rules and regulations, as well as the realities of the Russian building practice. It was only the input from a highly professional domestic team – which would be (a) experienced in implementing projects of similar magnitude and (b) working with foreign partners – that could ensure just as bright and high-quality realization of the idea. The best candidate for that was “A.Len”, whose project with clearly structured city blocks and a number of planning and façade design solutions similar to those proposed by the Dutch firm clearly was playing to win. Ultimately, according to the leader of “A.Len” Sergey Oreshkin, “the judging panel made a wise decision. They selected the two similar concepts and suggested that the developers and the authors (both the Russian and the European one) take the very absolute best from each concept, thus creating a single synchronized town planning and architectural system”.
The Integrated System
The land site, upon which “Golden City” will be built, borders on the U-shaped port bay, flanking its south corner. The narrow site stretches westward and is divided lengthwise into three blocks #7, 8, and 9. Two more blocks (#5 and 6) lie at a right angle in the direction of the last block #4, which is situated outside the main perimeter and is separated from the main body of the complex by a crossroads and a small square. Currently, the working documents of the corner block #4 are ready and the construction of its overland part is underway.
The perimeter type of the city block construction helps to protect the inner yard from the bone-chilling sea winds that blow here from October and well into the wintertime. At the same time, the architects are leaving a few breaks in the perimeter, designing them as arches, in order to keep the visual connection between the residential buildings and the world outside, particularly the bay. In order to further protect the residents from the wind and the rain, the architects designed covered galleries running along the first floors and resting on V-shaped columns.
Defining the sizes of the blocks, the architects proceeded from their historical prototypes, based on the measurements of the town planning grid of the center of Saint Petersburg, as well as on the expertise of modern suburban housing construction. The height of the buildings that form the blocks varies from 20 meters (the level of the cornice of the Winter Palace) for the main bulk of the houses to 50 and even 100 meters of the corner towers, which create extra compositional accents and add to the beauty of the silhouette of the complex. The façades are clad in a structural grid that is formed by the horizontal and vertical ribs marking the levels of the floors and a 3.3 meters regular axis span (the construction span being 6.6 meters, double that size). One of the things that also make this architectural concept different is the asymmetrical spears and rooftops of metallic framework painted gold. These “crowns” or, rather, architectural “headdresses”, are essentially an interesting compromise between the fashionably laconic and even minimalist style of the entire complex and the architects’ desire to accentuate its connection to the historically formed image of Saint Petersburg.
The inner yards are closed for the non-residents’ cars. Developed by the Gensler Company, the outside traffic and pedestrian infrastructure is meant to make the locomotion around the complex safe and easy.
The range of the apartments in “Golden City” meets the current trends of the market. Out of the 588 apartments, only 20% are three-room ones with a floor space of about 90 square meters. The rest are studios (10%) with a 25 square meter floor space, single-room apartments (20%), and double-room apartments (40%). “The Russian architects better feel the needs of the market – Sergey Oreshkin explains – And they are capable of proposing design solutions that are more effective in terms of ergonomics. The Russian conditions are harsher, and the market is much more volatile that the European one. Regretfully, the buying power rises and falls all the time. And now we are in yet another shrinking phase – in terms of the apartments’ floor space and the technology. Only because of the floor space alone our complex is marketed as comfort class. At the same time, the level of the architectural, engineering and design solutions, as well as the detailed work with landscape, façades, and public places, including the lobbies, the elevator halls, and such like, meets the world’s highest standards”.
Over two years that have elapsed since the results of the competition were announced, the project has moved a good deal ahead. The construction of block #6 is underway, the other four being in the phase of detailed design and definition engineering. The Russian and the Dutch teams are in constant contact, handling arising issues together. The designers of KCAP and Orange are focused on the development of the architectural image, striving to keep up the purity and clarity of solution that the judging panel liked so much. The Dutch teams work methodically, dividing their sub-projects into phases, each of which is preceded by a survey, and justifying their solutions by analytics.
Most of the solutions proposed in the competition concept proved efficient upon the detailed analysis but some of them did not pass the Russian reality check. The first thing that the architects had to give up in the beginning of their joint work on the project was changing the configuration of the construction blueprint and enlarging its size, which the Dutch proposed to do in their competition proposal “to harmonize the construction”. Then the developer for economic reasons decided to abandon the idea of the channels. This turned out to be a prohibitively expensive luxury for a housing complex that is officially marketed as “comfort class”. In connection with the specification of some of the clauses of the city’s town planning code, difficulties arose with getting the approvals for the maximum allowed height, including that of the golden spears.
“During the development of the project and specifying its details, a lot of the solutions proposed by the Dutch team had to be altered in favor of the ideas that were originally proposed by “A.Len” from the very start – Sergey Oreshkin shares – And this was a natural thing to do because we have a better knowledge of our regulatory structure, and we took it into consideration all along. Besides, we are experienced in working on alluvial lands, and we know just what kind of design and engineering solutions must be used in such a project. All of our structures rest on 30-meter piles that in turn are based on the natural hard ground below. Everything that’s above that mark must be designed with regard to the fact that this land was actually washed up. If you are aware of it and if you know how to deal with it, it’s not really a problem but if you are oblivious of the fact, you are in for a whole number of risks”.
In order to implement some of the key elements of the project, the architects oftentimes had to revise and improve their design and engineering solutions. For example, designing the units of the V-shaped columns which support the covered arcades running along the first floors of all of the buildings, the Russian proposal was to be revised in favor of the more elegant and aesthetically pleasing solution that the architects insisted upon, the Russian and the Dutch teams bring unanimous on this issue.
The architects also had to find the design solution for the railing structures of the top floors of the towers, from which spring the “golden” asymmetrical spears and the structural “crowns”. The diagonal elements of the grilles, necessary both for the rigidity of the structure, and for purely aesthetic purposes, would slice the window apertures, and the Russian designers were to find the optimum solution for each joint, turning a beautiful picture into a no-frills technological draft.
Rather serious changes had to be made to the floor plans of the buildings and apartments as well. In this respect, the team of “A.Len” also plays the leading part. Unlike their European colleagues, the Russian architects pay a great deal of attention to the orientation of the apartments, the insolation level, and the views that open up from the apartments’ windows, trying to smoothly distribute these qualities among the apartments within the limits of one floor. This approach is in fact inherited from the soviet design tradition but it is still relevant for the realities of the modern market economy, ensuring that there will be no non-sellers among the apartments.
On the other hand, in terms of their architectural solution, clarity of technique, and the absence of “fuss” in working with the façades, the Dutch architects, according to Sergey Oreshkin, outdo their Russian colleagues: “The Dutch have a very keen eye for the purity of architectural lines. It’s hard to say what exactly is the reason for that – maybe their market is adequately developed or the specific education is really up to the mark – but they do very well realize that any fuss, something like a couple of unnecessary details or frontons, is just not architecture. This is equally applicable to the design code of the façade and the silhouette of the building. They chisel away the surplus. The problem is that, as is often the case in this country, we often see the author trying to use a pileup of different techniques and complex shapes as a coverup for his inability to achieve architectural harmony”.
The team also collectively selects the construction materials from suppliers and contractors. What the Dutch designers propose cannot always be implemented in Russia – not all of the materials are available on the market, and you cannot always be sure in the quality of those that you do get, and the practical knowledge of “A.Len” helps to substitute the conceptual solutions to visually similar ones that are at the same time just as dependable.
In actuality, this, of course, is a whole different project now. The differences are considerable also on the level of the town planning solutions, and in terms of the volumetric composition. Which inevitability happens in the process of fine-tuning the competition project to reality anyway. What is amazing, however, is the fact that the international team was able to keep the original image and character of the project turning it into real sustainable architecture which did not lose a bit of its quality and preserved the message of the “sea façade” of Saint Petersburg – the purpose that all of the members of the project set two years ago.
Inside of a Drawn Grid
Designing the apartment complex PLAY in Danilovskaya Sloboda, ADM architects placed their bet on the imagery of construction. The area where it manifested itself the most vividly was the sophisticated grid of the facades.
The Yard Aesthetics
Organizing the yard of a premium-class housing complex, GAFA architects took care not just about the image that matches the project’s high status, but also about simple human joys, masterfully overcoming the construction regulations.
MasterMind: a Neural Network for Developers and Architects
Created by Genpro, this software allows you to generate within half an hour dozens of development and construction options in accordance with the set parameters. At the same time, however, being more focused on the technical aspects, the program does not exclude creative work, and can be used by architects for preparing projects with a subsequent data export to AutoCAD, Revit, and ArchiCAD.
This Beetle Has Flown
The story of designing a business center in the Zhukov (“Beetle”) Drive: a number of attempts to preserve a hundred-year-old cold storage facility, at the same time introducing modern buildings interpreting the industrial theme. The project remained on paper, but the story behind it seems to be worth our attention.
The Childhood Territory
The project of the educational complex within the second stage of “Spanish Quarters” was developed by ASADOV Architects. The project is all about creating a friendly and transparent environment that in itself educates and forms the personality of a child.
Man and the City
Designing this large-scale housing complex, GAFA architects accentuated two types of public spaces: bustling streets with shops and cafes – and a totally natural yard, visually separated as much as possible from the city. Making the most out of the contrast, both work together to make the life of the residents of EVER housing complex eventful and diverse.
Andy Snow: “I aim for an architecture which is rational and poetic”
The British architect Andy Snow has recently become the chief architect at GENPRO Architects & Engineers. Projects, which Andy Snow did in the UK in collaboration with world-famous architectural firms, scored numerous international awards. In Russia, the architect took part in designing Moscow’s Stanislavsky Factory business center, iLove housing complex, and AFI2B business center on the 2nd Brestskaya Street. In our interview, Andy Snow compared the construction realities in Russia and the UK, and also shared his vision of architectural prospects in Russia.
The Living Growth
The grand-scale housing complex AFI PARK Vorontsovsky in Moscow’s southwest consists of four towers, a “slab” house, and a kindergarten building. Interestingly, the plastique of the residential buildings is quite active – they seem to be growing before your eyes, responding to the natural context, and first of all opening the views of the nearby park. As for the kindergarten building, it is cute and lyrical, like a little sugar house.
Sergey Skuratov: “A skyscraper is a balance of technology, economic performance, and aesthetic...
In March, two buildings of the Capital Towers complex were built up to a 300-meter elevation mark. In this issue, we are speaking to the creator of Moscow’s cutting-edge skyscrapers: about heights and proportions, technologies and economics, laconicism and beauty of superslim houses, and about the boldest architectural proposal of recent years – the Le Corbusier Tower above the Tsentrosoyuz building.
The Red Building
The area of Novoslobodskaya has received Maison Rouge – an apartment complex designed by ADM, which continues the wave of renovation, started by the Atmosphere business center, from the side of the Palikha Street.
The Uplifting Effect
The project of Ostankino Business Park was developed for the land site lying between two metro stations (one operating and the other in construction), and because of that its public space is designed to equally cater for the city people and the office workers. The complex stands every chance of becoming the catalyst for development of the Butyrsky area.
In this article, we are examining a rather rare and interesting case – two projects by Evgeny Gerasimov situated on one street and completed with a five years’ difference, presenting the perfect example of example for analyzing the overall trends and approaches practiced by the architectural company.
Raising the Yard
The housing complex Renome consists of two buildings: a modern stone house and a red-brick factory building of the end of the XIX century, reconstructed by measurements and original drafts. The two buildings are connected by an “inclined” yard – a rare, by Moscow standards, version of geoplastics that smoothly ascends to the roof of the stores lined up along a pedestrian street.
Hearing the Tune of the Past
The Church of the Beheading of John the Baptist in the park near the Novodevichy Convent was conceived in 2012 in honor of the 200th anniversary of the victory over Napoleon. However, instead of declamatory grandeur and “fanfare”, the architect Ilia Utkin presented a concentrated and prayerful mood, combined with a respectful attitude of this tent-shaped church, which also includes some elements of architecture of orders. The basement floor hosts a museum of excavations found on the site of the church.
The high-end residential complex STORY, situated near the Avtozavodskaya metro station and the former ZIL factory, is delicately inscribed in the contrastive context, while its shape, which combines a regular grid and a stunning “shift” of the main facade, seems to respond to the dramatic history of the place, at the same time, however, allowing for multiple interpretations.
Yards and Towers: the Samara Experiment
The project of “Samara Arena Park”, proposed by Sergey Skuratov, scored second place in the competition. The project is essentially based on experimenting with typology of residential buildings and gallery/corridor-type city blocks combined with towers – as well as on sensitive response to the context and the urge to turn the complex into a full-fledged urban space providing a wide range of functions and experiences.
The Fili Duo
The second phase of the Filicity housing complex, designed by ADM architects, is based on the contrast between a 57-story skyscraper 200 meters high and an 11-story brick house. The high-rise building sets a futuristic vector in Moscow housing architecture.
The Wall and the Tower
The OSA architects have been searching for solutions that could be opposed to the low-rise construction in the center of Khabarovsk, as well as an opportunity to say a new word in the discourse about mass housing.
An Office for Concentrating Ideas
T+T Architects have designed an office for a French IT company, where the employees in any point of the premises can discuss with their colleagues new ideas or even write them on the wall.
The Energy Family
The housing complex Symphony 34 will be built in Moscow’s Savelovsky district; it will consist of four towers from 36 to 54 stories high. Each of the towers has an image of its own, but they all are gathered into a single architectural ensemble – a fragment of a new high-rise urban space lying outside the Third Transport Ring.
The Fifth Element
The high-end residential development in the Vsevolozhsky Lane features a combination of expensive stone and metal textures, immersing them into a feast of ornaments. The house looks like a fantasy inspired by the theater of the Art Nouveau and Symbolism era; a kind of oriental fairy tale, which paradoxically allows it to avoid direct stylization and become a reflection of one of the aspects of modern Moscow life.
Springboards and Patios
The central element of the manor house in the village of Antonovka, designed by Roman Leonidov, is the inner yard with pergolas, meant to remind its owner about his vacations in exotic countries. The exposed wooden structures emphasize the soaring diagonals of single-pitched roofs.
Adding Up a Growing City
The housing quarter “1147” is located at the border between the old “Stalin” district in the north and the actively developing territories in the south. Its image responds to a difficult task: the compound brick facades of the neighboring sections are different, their height varying from 9 to 22 floors, and, if we are look from the street, it seems as though the front of the city development, consisting from long narrow elements, is forming some sophisticated array at this very moment in front of our eyes.
Agility of the Modular
In the Discovery housing complex that they designed, ADM architects proposed a modern version of structuralism: the form is based on modular cells, which, smoothly protruding and deepening, make the volumes display a kind of restrained flexibility, differentiated element by element. The lamellar and ledged facades are “stitched” with golden threads – they unite the volumes, emphasizing the textured character of the architectural solution.
Polyphony of a Strict Style
The “ID Moskovskiy” housing project on St. Petersburg’s Moscow Avenue was designed by the team of Stepan Liphart in the past 2020. The ensemble of two buildings, joined by a colonnade, is executed in a generalized neoclassical style with elements of Art Deco.
In Three Voices
The high-rise – 41 stories high – housing complex HIDE is being built on the bank of the Setun River, near the Poklonnaya Mountain. It consists of three towers of equal height, yet interpreted in three different ways. One of the towers, the most conspicuous one looks as if it was twisted in a spiral, composed of a multitude of golden bay windows.
In the Space of Pobedy Park
In the project of a housing complex designed by Sergey Skuratov, which is now being built near the park of the Poklonnaya Hill, a multifunctional stylobate is turned into a compound city space with intriguing “access” slopes that also take on the role of mini-plazas. The architecture of the residential buildings responds to the proximity of the Pobedy Park, on the one hand, “dissolving in the air”, and, on the other hand, supporting the memorial complex rhythmically and color-wise.
Dynamics of the Avenue
On Leningrad Avenue, not far away from the Sokol metro station, the construction of the A-Class business center Alcon II has been completed. ADM architects designed the main façade as three volumetric ribbons, as if the busy traffic of the avenue “shook” the matter sending large waves through it.
Steamer at the Pier
An apartment hotel that looks like a ship with wide decks has been designed for a land plot on a lake shore in Moscow’s South Tushino. This “steamer” house, overlooking the lake and the river port, does indeed look as if it were ready to sail away.