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Alexandra Kuzmina: “Working is easy when the rules are the same for everyone”

The subject matter of Moscow Region’s booth and presentations at Zodchestvo Festival was the concept of “Integrated Land Development”, and for a good reason: this task is very challenging, very relevant, and Moscow Region has already accumulated quite a formidable experience in this regard. In this article, we are speaking to the main architect of the region: about master plans and who makes them, about where you obtain resources for creating a comfortable environment, about her favorite projects, about why there are so few good architects, and what we should do with the bad ones.

27 November 2023
Interview
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Archi.ru
What are the mechanisms that the Moscow Region uses for managing Integrated Land Development projects?

Alexandra Kuzmina, Chief Architect of the Moscow Region. Mosoblarchitecture at Zodchestvo 2023
Copyright: Photo: provided by the Union of Architects of Russia


Alexandra Kuzmina,
Chief Architect of the Moscow Region: 

At the end of 2020, Federal Law No. 494-FZ on amendments to the Urban Planning Code of the Russian Federation was adopted. The law introduced the concept of Integrated Land Development into the Code, as well as a new mechanism for the implementation of investment projects, which, among other things, involves the resettlement of people living in dilapidated and hazardous buildings. In this regard, we have made appropriate changes to the regional standards of urban planning design and developed a number of normative legal acts, including the law of the Moscow Region No. 2/2021-OZ “On some issues of Integrated Land Development of municipalities of the Moscow Region ...” and the Decree of the Government of the Moscow Region No. 29/3 “On approval of the Regulations on the procedure for Integrated Land Development of in the Moscow Region regions”, which further defines the procedure for the implementation of the Integrated Land Development. The decision on implementing the Integrated Land Development in the Moscow Region is assigned to local governments, and the regional government remains the controlling body. Quality standards for housing construction have also been developed, as well as a set of rules guaranteeing a high level of design and construction of housing in the region.

In 2021, the Fund for Assistance to the Integrated Land Development of the Moscow region was also established, in 2022 – the Integrated Land Development project office, which employs a whole group of experts from different governmental agencies, which allows for an integrated approach to project development.

Alexandra Kuzmina, Chief Architect of the Moscow Region, with the golden sign of Architecture 2023, received by Mosoblarchitecture for the project presented at the festival
Copyright: Photo: provided by the Union of Architects of Russia


In how many districts of the Moscow Region has the Integrated Land Development program been implemented?

At the moment, 85 projects are at various stages; 11 contracts have already been concluded. Almost a third are located in previously uninhabited, empty and former industrial territories, and the regional Fund for the Promotion of Integrated Land Development is specifically engaged in them.
 
At the same time, we allot only abandoned and vacant territories for complex residential development.

Round table “Renovation and Gentrification”, Zodchestvo 2023
Copyright: Photo: provided by the Union of Architects of Russia


Mosoblarchitecture at Zodchestvo 2023
Copyright: Photo: provided by the Union of Architects of Russia


Where are the Integrated Land Development projects more numerous – closer to the Moscow Ring Road or closer to the borders of the region? 

Of course, the first belt near the Moscow Ring Road is more attractive for investors. This is where the region’s first Integrated Land Development project is situated, which was awarded the first prize at the architectural competition “Best Moscow Region Project” in the nomination “Best Multistory Housing Property”, and which was awarded the Silver Sign at Zodchestvo 2022 – this is the housing complex “Dolina Yauzy” (“Yauza Valley”). The situation is more difficult, of course, with the second and third belts – the return on investment is obviously lower, and it’s harder to start an auction.

There is a rare lucky case of Naro-Fominsk. People spent years working on returning the historical memory to the place; and they implemented the concept of redeveloping the historical part of the former silk factory and gracefully integrating the historical buildings into the modern public space with a multifunctional environment and a pedestrian area. The architectural company DNK ag developed an interesting housing project that became the continuation of the red-brick factory ensemble. The place changed for the better so much that we and the architects texted each other: hey, maybe we all should move to Naro-Fominsk? And they go: yeah, probably, a good idea! This small town has everything that Moscow has to offer, save for the University. If it did have a branch of the University, then it would really have it all: the young people could study there, and then the elderly could teach. You are very lucky when conscious people, real professionals, and I am talking about both the developer and the architects, start working together on the same territory.

Mosoblarchitecture at Zodchestvo 2023
Copyright: Photo: provided by the Union of Architects of Russia


“City on an island”, the authors of the concept – DNA ag, the layout was the main exhibit of the stand of the Moscow region at Zodchestvo 2023. Mosoblarchitecture at Zodchestvo 2023
Copyright: Photo: provided by the Union of Architects of Russia


How do you achieve diversity of development, and, at the same time, its homogeneous character? Where do you take the resources for development?

We don’t work with a land site – we always work with a territory. In resolution 29/3, which I mentioned above, we stipulated the requirements for a comfortable environment. These are additional encumbrances beyond the regional town planning regulations. If they did not exist, each site would yield more output of “useful” areas that actually sell.

So, do I get it right that this comes at the developer’s expense?

The requirements depend on the size of the territory. A small site, let’s say, under 5 hectares, will lose no more than 2% – mainly this will be bicycle trails running along its perimeter. For the larger territories, like 10 hectares and more, you need to provide a whole complex of arrangements aimed at creating a comfortable environment – up to 20% of the area may be occupied by parks, boulevards, minor architectural forms, retail, and entertainment. And these requirements, they are not just an encumbrance – they are also factors that increase the property’s attractiveness – a forward-looking developer always understands that. 

We try to reserve possibilities for developing a comfortable environment at the very start of putting together the master plan. Of course, there are territories situated next to the forest or water, where you are lucky to have an opportunity for making a park or a riverside boulevard outside the boundaries that you have, and we use this as well, thus creating new improved spaces, but this is rather an exception than a rule – such land sites are few and far between.

We also strive for public spaces to be thematic and connected to the history of the area, so that the memory does not fade away with new development: unlike Moscow, the renovation of the Moscow region is funded by extra-budgetary sources, and the population growth in the locations is quite significant.

If I were to ask you how the renovation of the Moscow region differs from renovation in other regions and in Moscow, how would you formulate it?

We differ in that our project goes through several stages of urban planning analysis and development before construction begins. First, we do not follow the path of dense point development, even if space is limited. An example is Microdistrict 20 in Mytishchi: you see a small plot, seemingly filled with residential buildings – but in fact, this is not the case. Beyond the territory, we find opportunities for expanding social infrastructure, making additions to schools, and so on.

The second point is that in the Moscow region, we introduced the concept of a master plan. This document represents a meticulously developed architectural and urban planning concept that, at the stage before signing the agreement on Integrated Land Development, establishes all the key parameters of future development, from technical and economic indicators to the plan for the future use of the territory.

Most regions operate through land-use planning documentation, but this is already the next stage after the master plan, which we develop at the start. We have made master plans mandatory at the legislative level, and some regions have already followed our example.

The master plan, which forms the basis for the project, on the one hand, guarantees the quality of life for residents during the implementation of new comprehensive development, and on the other hand, minimizes the risks for developers and the region because it allows for cost assessment at an early stage.

Mosoblarchitecture at Zodchestvo 2023
Copyright: Photo: provided by the Union of Architects of Russia


Mosoblarchitecture at Zodchestvo 2023
Copyright: Photo: provided by the Union of Architects of Russia


Just for my information, is the master plan in the Moscow region legislatively established? How, where, and by whom is its development managed?

It is enshrined in the law “On the General Plan for the Development of the Moscow Region”. We have outlined an implementation mechanism, such as comprehensive territorial development, based on federal estimates, assessing it as a specific percentage of the layout and demarcation project. We assigned the authority for overseeing its development to the Committee on Architecture and Urban Planning of the Moscow Region.

We have excellent subordinate institutions: Mosoblgazotrest, responsible for data collection, and the Institute of Urban Planning of the Moscow Region. True professionals work there, and thanks to their expertise, we can jointly provide an initial assessment of the territory – typically, they are the ones working on the master plans. However, if the municipality decides to involve another designer, we will support their work in the same way. Working is easy when the rules are the same for everyone.

A pressing question for our audience – how do architects become part of the Integrated Land Development program? Who selects the authors: your department, the client, or does the client consult with you?

A pretty strange question!

When we talk about the decision made by the client regarding the architect they will work with, I must admit that I have no mechanism of influence. The market is the market. From an ethical standpoint, I do not have the right to recommend anyone – not only by law but also morally, as it would be unfair competition. Unfortunately, sometimes, not architects but designers win some competitions, and then a lot of work is needed to bring their projects up to our standards through recommendations from experts in our Working Group of the Architectural Commission and the staff of the Committee on Architecture and Urban Planning. We try to help everyone and never make exceptions for anyone, whether they are a good or a less experienced architect.

Unfortunately, there are now many poor architects out there. I state this with regret, and I believe the problem lies deep, perhaps linked to the disappearance of specialization and the shift to academic mobility, which gives us excellent “technician” architects. However, upon graduation from the master’s program, many are, for the most part, undereducated. Fortunately, there are good design firms with strong traditions, where the elevation of qualifications occurs through mutual exchange, essentially through mentorship. Much, of course, depends on the individual.

Our standards are written the way they are due to the fact that the average quality of design here is very low. The slogan of our standards is “better is allowed, worse is not”. We have described, through text, the minimum set of quality requirements.

Certainly, the process is inert. We plan now, and we will be able to evaluate the results, as the Zodchestvo slogan goes, “tomorrow”. Or even the day after tomorrow. Currently, we hypothesize that our measures and standards will be sufficient to achieve the necessary quality of development, regardless of the quality of the designer.

27 November 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.