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A Single-Industry Town

Kola MMC and Nornickel are building a residential neighborhood in Monchegorsk for their future employees. It is based on a project by an international team that won the 2021 competition. The project offers a number of solutions meant to combat the main “demons” of any northern city: wind, grayness and boredom.

20 December 2023
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Monchegorsk is a single-industry town that was formed back in 1937 due to the discovery of copper and nickel deposits and the opening of the Kola Mining and Metallurgical Company, which is now part of Nornickel. Until recently, this place was a bit scary to live in: industrial emissions caused the concentration of sulfur compounds and other substances in the air to be such that hectares of forest on the leeward side were dying. However, Nornickel is gradually modernizing its production, making it more environmentally friendly, and shifting towards “white metallurgy”. For example, in 2021, the copper shop in Monchegorsk was shut down to be replaced with a new copper refining plant; its environmental impact is expected to be minimal.

To attract specialists for the new production facility, Nornickel plans to build housing of its own. Two years ago, a competition was held for the project. We told you about the competition quite a long time ago, and now we have an opportunity to take a closer look at the winning project – it has some interesting solutions in it. The authors of the project are a consortium of NIIPI Gradplan of Moscow, Dialectica (Spectrum Group) and the Dutch company Atelier PRO.

Metallurgists in the tundra

The name of the city comes from the Sami word “moncha”, which means “beautiful”, but this definition so far refers exclusively to the surrounding nature. Monchegorsk is located far above the Arctic Circle, between the Lapland Reserve and Lake Bolshaya Imandra, in the Monchetundra and Chunatundra mountain ranges. It is surrounded by hills and rocks, rivers and lakes.

Monchegorsk itself essentially consists of the Kola MMC, which occupies almost a third of the city, five-story Khrushchev-era buildings and wide streets blown through by an icy wind. There are also many water bodies within the city limits – lakes of various sizes and, again, the Moncha River. The neighborhood of the natural and man-made is reflected in the names of the streets: near Metallurgov Avenue and Nickel Highway there are Moroshkovaya (a kind of local berry) and Lesnaya (“Forest”) Streets.

The residential complex will occupy a plot of land that is now empty and divides the established neighborhoods. It is planned to build a cultural and leisure center and an ice arena in the same quarter – the city is very fond of sports. There are a lot of trees growing on the site; on three sides it is surrounded by water bodies, which gives ample opportunities for the arrangement of recreational areas. If all the projects are implemented, the site will claim the status of a central location, including in terms of concentration of public functions – which will be the right thing, as it is located in the layout center of Monchegorsk.

Each consortium member had its own tasks. NIIPI Gradplan was in charge of territory planning, while Dialectica, together with Atelier PRO, was responsible for the master plan and architecture. Spectrum Group, of which Dialectica is a part, helped with the structural design, soil studies, insolation and the “wind blowing” factor, which played a role in the jury’s choice of this project. It takes into account the main “challenges” of the city: icy winds, monotonous buildings and lack of public spaces.

Against the wind

One of the significant factors that influenced the layout of the neighborhood was the wind, which affects the residents of Monchegorsk. Because of this, the authors immediately turned to perimeter development and placed a kindergarten and a school in the center of the future micro-district, thus creating an area protected from the wind and endowed with urban significance: the school is planned to be used as a community center during extracurricular hours, and events for children and adults will be held there.

Luckily, there are no through streets where the wind could pick up any serious speed, the air flows are crushed by the frontal buildings of the outer perimeter, while inside they are separated and regulated by stylobates. On the other hand, it was necessary not only to protect the interior spaces from the wind, but also to ensure constant ventilation: since, as we remember, the ecological situation in the city is still far from ideal, it is important to avoid stagnation of industrial emissions. For ventilation, air corridors were provided, which are planned to be formed with the help of natural terrain, minor architectural objects, and green spaces.

After all the preliminary calculations – and this is where it gets interesting – modern technologies were involved: Spectrum Group “blew” the layout options in the Ansys software environment until it calmed down the air flows in all pedestrian spaces and courtyards. The calculations also involved the insolation factor – the architects started by making a “shadow map” of the city, which helped them to determine the best location of residential facades and playgrounds; parking lots and covered pavilions were also placed on shaded areas.

Our task was to offer a comfortable and compact urban environment, designed for pedestrian accessibility of services and social infrastructure, with a highly developed system of public spaces, and with a recognizable urban silhouette and eye-catching highlights. At the same time, we had to take into account the specifics of the climate and environmental situation, minimize the negative aspects, and enhance the positive ones. This approach will create a synergetic effect that can attract potential new residents and reduce population decline. Calculations to increase the economic potential of territories are one of the important skills of the consortium’s specialists.

I think our solution could become an example of developing Arctic single-industry towns according to the methodology of reducing the impact of harsh climatic conditions – and at the same time designing a modern image.


The architects also took into account the landscape features, height differences and existing surroundings – primarily the Umka sports complex to the north of the site and the Magnit supermarket to the south.

Architectural and urban planning concept of a micro-district in Monchegorsk. Axonometry of the project proposal
Copyright: © NIIPI Gradplan of Moscow, Dialectica Spectrum, Atelier PRO


Architectural and urban planning concept of a micro-district in Monchegorsk. Scheme of transportation service of the territory
Copyright: © NIIPI Gradplan of Moscow, Dialectica Spectrum, Atelier PRO


The houses are grouped into several residential clusters that form the outer contour of streets, large courtyards and a system of internal public spaces – streets, little parks, sports facilities, and playgrounds. The heart of the neighborhood is a spacious central square next to the school and kindergarten, a place for meetings and celebrations, as well as lessons or exercising in the fresh air. Another preschool facility is “hiding” in the stylobate of the corner block, the center of which is “carved out” to host a playground. An amphitheater staircase leads here, oriented towards the main square.

Architectural and urban planning concept of a micro-district in Monchegorsk.
Copyright: © NIIPI Gradplan of Moscow, Dialectica Spectrum, Atelier PRO


Architectural and urban planning concept of a micro-district in Monchegorsk.
Copyright: © NIIPI Gradplan of Moscow, Dialectica Spectrum, Atelier PRO


Against the grayness

Another peculiarity of Monchegorsk is the monotonous uniformity of the existing buildings, which is further aggravated by overcast weather and polar night. For this reason, the authors turned to the idea of colored sections of houses: by changing the height, configuration and finish of the facades, as well as the coloristic solution, it is possible to mitigate the perceived scale and come to the desired diversity of the environment. In another place, the “gingerbread-like” quality of some angles might seem excessive, but the garishness is offset here by monochrome inclusions and the structure common to all the neighborhoods: there is a first floor gallery, there are variations for the “body” of the building, and there is an increased height of the last floor with a usually pitched roof. And in general, in Monchegorsk, where gray prevails on the streets, the eye wants to rest on something colorful.

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    Architectural and urban planning concept of a micro-district in Monchegorsk.
    Copyright: © NIIPI Gradplan of Moscow, Dialectica Spectrum, Atelier PRO
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    Architectural and urban planning concept of a micro-district in Monchegorsk.
    Copyright: © NIIPI Gradplan of Moscow, Dialectica Spectrum, Atelier PRO
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    Architectural and urban planning concept of a micro-district in Monchegorsk.
    Copyright: © NIIPI Gradplan of Moscow, Dialectica Spectrum, Atelier PRO
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    Architectural and urban planning concept of a micro-district in Monchegorsk.
    Copyright: © NIIPI Gradplan of Moscow, Dialectica Spectrum, Atelier PRO


Each residential cluster – there are seven of them in total – received its own reception and name. For example, “City of Five Lakes” is characterized by houses with pitched roofs and two-level courtyard space; “Russian North” has predominantly light-colored finishes with wooden accents.

“Fishermen’s Village” and “Scandinavia” are not enclosed in a block, but consist of separate sections resting on a stylobate – each has a color of its own; the houses are placed at bigger intervals, as they are closer to green areas.

When selecting shades, the architects were inspired by the nature of the Kola Peninsula: combinations of warm shades of forests, moss, dried grass and cold shades of rocks and lakes, emphasizing the contrast of warm and cold.

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    Architectural and urban planning concept of a micro-district in Monchegorsk.
    Copyright: © NIIPI Gradplan of Moscow, Dialectica Spectrum, Atelier PRO
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    Architectural and urban planning concept of a micro-district in Monchegorsk. Variability of architectural solution
    Copyright: © NIIPI Gradplan of Moscow, Dialectica Spectrum, Atelier PRO
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    Architectural and urban planning concept of a micro-district in Monchegorsk. Variability of architectural solutions
    Copyright: © NIIPI Gradplan of Moscow, Dialectica Spectrum, Atelier PRO
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    Architectural and urban planning concept of a micro-district in Monchegorsk. Functional levels
    Copyright: © NIIPI Gradplan of Moscow, Dialectica Spectrum, Atelier PRO
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    Architectural and urban planning concept of a micro-district in Monchegorsk. Fundamental solutions
    Copyright: © NIIPI Gradplan of Moscow, Dialectica Spectrum, Atelier PRO
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    Architectural and urban planning concept of a micro-district in Monchegorsk. Differentiation of housing types
    Copyright: © NIIPI Gradplan of Moscow, Dialectica Spectrum, Atelier PRO


The diversity of houses will also affect the apartment layouts. The climate does not allow adding front gardens to the first floors, but the upper floors have higher ceilings and mezzanine apartments. In total, there will be about 2000 apartments in the new microdistrict, the range of their typology proposed in the project is designed for different social groups.

Against boredom

Not only in Monchegorsk, but also in any small town, it can be difficult to find an alternative to going to the store as a leisure activity, so it was important to offer people different scenarios. As already mentioned, an ice arena is planned on the territory of the neighborhood, the Umka Sports and Recreation Center with a swimming pool is also located nearby, and the architects tried to satisfy other demands.

Architectural and urban planning concept of a micro-district in Monchegorsk. The basic section view of the first phase
Copyright: © NIIPI Gradplan of Moscow, Dialectica Spectrum, Atelier PRO


The entire area between the houses works as a public space: human-scale pedestrian shopping streets lead to a public garden or square. Commercial spaces are planned in the first floors: cafes, stores, pharmacies, beauty salons, bank branches, as well as a children’s medical center, co-working space, media center, social and sports clubs. Since all residents of the neighborhood will work at the same enterprise and most likely will have common interests, it was necessary to provide a place for informal, yet at the same time corporate communication.

The community center located in the stylobate of the residential cluster of the first stage of the City of Five Lakes became such a place. Its space is aimed at residents of the new district, but it will also be open to all residents of Monchegorsk. The community center is complemented by mini-zones for residents to socialize: somewhere they are located in the stylobates, and sometimes in the upper floors, the very ones with high ceilings.

Architectural and urban planning concept of a micro-district in Monchegorsk. Scenarios of territory development
Copyright: © NIIPI Gradplan of Moscow, Dialectica Spectrum, Atelier PRO


Improvement of the territory around the neighborhood will give the residents of the city an opportunity to take long walks, do sports and contemplate the discreet but expressive nature of the Polar region. In the north and east, where the houses are adjacent to water bodies, a natural park with observation platforms, approaches to the water and infrastructure for active recreation on the water is proposed, such as a kite station, which, thanks to the wind and snow cover, can operate all year round. The cultural and leisure center will be complemented by a garden with flowers of the far north and a pond that turns into a skating rink in winter. A bicycle path runs through the network of recreational spaces, and a cross-country ski trail appears in winter.

In addition to landscaping, as part of the competition's terms of reference, the team offered their thoughts on the direction of recreational development outside the design site, thus thinking through its connections with its surroundings.


Architectural and urban planning concept of a micro-district in Monchegorsk. Landscape and architectural organization of the territory
Copyright: © NIIPI Gradplan of Moscow, Dialectica Spectrum, Atelier PRO


20 December 2023

Headlines now
The Mirror of Your Soul
We continue to publish projects from the competition for the design of the Russian Pavilion at EXPO in Osaka 2025. We are reminding you that the results of the competition have not been announced, and hardly will ever be. The pavilion designed by ASADOV Architects combines a forest log cabin, the image of a hyper transition, and sculptures made of glowing threads – it focuses primarily on the scenography of the exhibition, which the pavilion builds sequentially like a string of impressions, dedicating it to the paradoxes of the Russian soul.
Part of the Ideal
In 2025, another World Expo will take place in Osaka, Japan, in which Russia will not participate. However, a competition for the Russian pavilion was indeed held, with six projects participating. The results were never announced as Russia’s participation was canceled; the competition has no winners. Nevertheless, Expo pavilion projects are typically designed for a bold and interesting architectural statement, so we’ve gathered all the six projects and will be publishing articles about them in random order. The first one is the project by Vladimir Plotkin and Reserve Union, which is distinguished by the clarity of its stereometric shape, the boldness of its structure, and the multiplicity of possible interpretations.
The Fortress by the River
ASADOV Architects have developed a concept for a new residential district in the center of Kemerovo. To combat the harsh climate and monotonous everyday life, the architects proposed a block type of development with dominant towers, good insolation, facades detailed at eye level, and event programming.
In the Rhombus Grid
Construction has begun on the building of the OMK (United Metallurgical Company) Corporate University in Nizhny Novgorod’s town of Vyksa, designed by Ostozhenka Architects. The most interesting aspect of the project is how the architects immersed it in the context: “extracting” a diagonal motif from the planning grid of Vyksa, they aligned the building, the square, and the park to match it. A truly masterful work with urban planning context on several different levels of perception has long since become the signature technique of Ostozhenka.
​Generational Connection
Another modern estate, designed by Roman Leonidov, is located in the Moscow region and brings together three generations of one family under one roof. To fit on a narrow plot without depriving anyone of personal space, the architects opted for a zigzag plan. The main volume in the house structure is accentuated by mezzanines with a reverse-sloped roof and ceilings featuring exposed beams.
Three Dimensions of the City
We began to delve into the project by Sergey Skuratov, the residential complex “Depo” in Minsk, located at Victory Square, and it fascinated us completely. The project has at least several dimensions to it: historical – at some point, the developer decided to discontinue further collaboration with Sergey Skuratov Architects, but the concept was approved, and its implementation continues, mostly in accordance with the proposed ideas. The spatial and urban planning dimension – the architects both argue with the city and play along with it, deciphering nuances, and finding axes. And, finally, the tactile dimension – the constructed buildings also have their own intriguing features. Thus, this article also has two parts: it dwells on what has been built and what was conceived
New “Flight”
Architects from “Mezonproject” have developed a project for the reconstruction of the regional youth center “Polyot”(“Flight”) in the city of Oryol. The summer youth center, built back in the late 1970s, will now become year-round and acquire many additional functions.
The Yauza Towers
In Moscow, there aren’t that many buildings or projects designed by Nikita Yavein and Studio 44. In this article, we present to you the concept of a large multifunctional complex on the Yauza River, located between two parks, featuring a promenade, a crossroads of two pedestrian streets, a highly developed public space, and an original architectural solution. This solution combines a sophisticated, asymmetric façade grid, reminiscent of a game of fifteen puzzle, and bold protrusions of the upper parts of the buildings, completely masking the technical floors and sculpting the complex’s silhouette.
Architecture and Leisure Park
For the suburban hotel complex, which envisages various formats of leisure, the architectural company T+T Architects proposed several types of accommodation, ranging from the classic “standard” in a common building to a “cave in the hill” and a “house in a tree”. An additional challenge consisted in integrating a few classic-style residences already existing on this territory into the “architectural forest park”.
The U-House
The Jois complex combines height with terraces, bringing the most expensive apartments from penthouses down to the bottom floors. The powerful iconic image of the U-shaped building is the result of the creative search for a new standard of living in high-rise buildings by the architects of “Genpro”.
Black and White
In this article, we specifically discuss the interiors of the ATOM Pavilion at VDNKh. Interior design is a crucial component of the overall concept in this case, and precision and meticulous execution were highly important for the architects. Julia Tryaskina, head of UNK interiors, shares some of the developments.
The “Snake” Mountain
The competition project for the seaside resort complex “Serpentine” combines several typologies: apartments of different classes, villas, and hotel rooms. For each of these typologies, the KPLN architects employ one of the images that are drawn from the natural environment – a serpentine road, a mountain stream, and rolling waves.
Opal from Anna Mons’ Ring
The project of a small business center located near Tupolev Plaza and Radio Street proclaims the necessity of modern architecture in a specific area of Moscow commonly known as “Nemetskaya Sloboda” or “German settlement”. It substantiates its thesis with the thoroughness of details, a multitude of proposed and rejected form variants, and even a detailed description of the surrounding area. The project is interesting indeed, and it is even more interesting to see what will come of it.
Feed ’Em All
A “House of Russian Cuisine” was designed and built by KROST Group at VDNKh for the “Rossiya” exhibition in record-breaking time. The pavilion is masterfully constructed in terms of the standards of modern public catering industry multiplied by the bustling cultural program of the exhibition, and it interprets the stylistically diverse character of VDNKh just as successfully. At the same time, much of its interior design can be traced back to the prototypes of the 1960s – so much so that even scenes from iconic Soviet movies of those years persistently come to mind.
The Ensemble at the Mosque
OSA prepared a master plan for a district in the southern part of Derbent. The main task of the master plan is to initiate the formation of a modern comfortable environment in this city. The organization of residential areas is subordinated to the city’s spiritual center: depending on the location relative to the cathedral mosque, the houses are distinguished by façade and plastique solutions. The program also includes a “hospitality center”, administrative buildings, an educational cluster, and even an air bridge.
Pargolovo Protestantism
A Protestant church is being built in St. Petersburg by the project of SLOI architects. One of the main features of the building is a wooden roof with 25-meter spans, which, among other things, forms the interior of the prayer hall. Also, there are other interesting details – we are telling you more about them.
The Shape of the Inconceivable
The ATOM Pavilion at VDNKh brings to mind a famous maxim of all architects and critics: “You’ve come up with it? Now build it!” You rarely see such a selfless immersion in implementation of the project, and the formidable structural and engineering tasks set by UNK architects to themselves are presented here as an integral and important part of the architectural idea. The challenge matches the obliging status of the place – after all, it is an “exhibition of achievements”, and the pavilion is dedicated to the nuclear energy industry. Let’s take a closer look: from the outside, from the inside, and from the underside too.
​Rays of the Desert
A school for 1750 students is going to be built in Dubai, designed by IND Architects. The architects took into account the local specifics, and proposed a radial layout and spaces, in which the children will be comfortable throughout the day.
The Dairy Theme
The concept of an office of a cheese-making company, designed for the enclosed area of a dairy factory, at least partially refers to industrial architecture. Perhaps that is why this concept is very simple, which seems the appropriate thing to do here. The building is enlivened by literally a couple of “master strokes”: the turning of the corner accentuates the entrance, and the shade of glass responds to the theme of “milk rivers” from Russian fairy tales.
The Road to the Temple
Under a grant from the Small Towns Competition, the main street and temple area of the village of Nikolo-Berezovka near Neftekamsk has been improved. A consortium of APRELarchitects and Novaya Zemlya is turning the village into an open-air museum and integrating ruined buildings into public life.
​Towers Leaning Towards the Sun
The three towers of the residential complex “Novodanilovskaya 8” are new and the tallest neighbors of the Danilovsky Manufactory, “Fort”, and “Plaza”, complementing a whole cluster of modern buildings designed by renowned masters. At the same time, the towers are unique for this setting – they are residential, they are the tallest ones here, and they are located on a challenging site. In this article, we explore how architects Andrey Romanov and Ekaterina Kuznetsova tackled this far-from-trivial task.
In the spirit of ROSTA posters
The new Rostselmash tractor factory, conceptualized by ASADOV Architects, is currently being completed in Rostov-on-Don. References to the Soviet architecture of the 1920’s and 1960’s resonate with the mission and strategic importance of the enterprise, and are also in line with the client’s wish: to pay homage to Rostov’s constructivism.
The Northern Thebaid
The central part of Ferapontovo village, adjacent to the famous monastery with frescoes by Dionisy, has been improved according to the project by APRELarchitects. Now the place offers basic services for tourists, as well as a place for the villagers’ leisure.
Brilliant Production
The architects from London-based MOST Architecture have designed the space for the high-tech production of Charge Cars, a high-performance production facility for high-speed electric cars that are assembled in the shell of legendary Ford Mustangs. The founders of both the company and the car assembly startup are Russians who were educated in their home country.
Three-Part Task: St. Petersburg’s Mytny Dvor
The so-called “Mytny Dvor” area lying just behind Moscow Railway Station – the market rows with a complex history – will be transformed into a premium residential complex by Studio 44. The project consists of three parts: the restoration of historical buildings, the reconstruction of the lost part of the historical contour, and new houses. All of them are harmonized with each other and with the city; axes and “beams of light” were found, cozy corners and scenic viewpoints were carefully thought out. We had a chat with the authors of the historical buildings’ restoration project, and we are telling you about all the different tasks that have been solved here.
The Color of the City, or Reflections on the Slope of an Urban Settlement
In 2022, Ostozhenka Architects won a competition, and in 2023, they developed and received all the necessary approvals for a master plan for the development of Chernigovskaya Street for the developer GloraX. The project takes into account a 10-year history of previous developments; it was done in collaboration with architects from Nizhny Novgorod, and it continues to evolve now. We carefully examined it, talked to everyone, and learned a lot of interesting things.
A Single-Industry Town
Kola MMC and Nornickel are building a residential neighborhood in Monchegorsk for their future employees. It is based on a project by an international team that won the 2021 competition. The project offers a number of solutions meant to combat the main “demons” of any northern city: wind, grayness and boredom.
A New Age Portico
At the beginning of the year, Novosibirsk Tolmachevo Airport opened Terminal C. The large-scale and transparent entrance hall with luminous columns inside successfully combines laconism with a bright and photogenic WOW-effect. The terminal is both the new façade of the whole complex and the starting point of the planned reconstruction, upon completion of which Tolmachevo will become the largest regional airport in Russia. In this article, we are examining the building in the context of modernist prototypes of both Novosibirsk and Leningrad: like puzzle pieces, they come together to form their individual history, not devoid of curious nuances and details.
A New Starting Point
We’ve been wanting to examine the RuArts Foundation space, designed by ATRIUM for quite a long time, and we finally got round to it. This building looks appropriate and impressive; it amazingly combines tradition – represented in our case by galleries – and innovation. In this article, we delve into details and study the building’s historical background as well.
Molding Perspectives
Stepan Liphart introduces “schematic Art Deco” on the outskirts of Kazan – his houses are executed in green color, with a glassy “iced” finish on the facades. The main merits of the project lie in his meticulous arrangement of viewing angles – the architect is striving to create in a challenging environment the embryo of a city not only in terms of pedestrian accessibility but also in a sculptural sense. He works with silhouettes, proposing intriguing triangular terraces. The entire project is structured like a crystal, following two grids, orthogonal and diagonal. In this article, we are examining what worked, and what eventually didn’t.