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.

26 December 2023
The master plan for Chernigovskaya Street in Nizhny Novgorod was recently presented by the architects of Ostozhenka at the Zodchestvo festival, and in the hustle and bustle of the exhibition, it was one of the most beautiful booths. The beauty of the booth, however, is not the main thing here.

The model showcased at the Zodchestvo 2023 Festival. The “Project” stage of the development of four clusters of the Blagoveshchenskaya Sloboda territory in Nizhny Novgorod
Copyright: © Ostozhenka / Photograph © Julia Tarabarina, Archi.ru

What is more important is the fact that the task of the master plan is to regenerate the urban fabric, to include the territory, about which not every taxi driver knows yet, into the life of the central part of Nizhny Novgorod, without damaging monuments and preserving the morphology based on patterns of historical development and the history of the place. Sapienti sat – this is a task suitable for Ostozhenka, a company that is not just interested in the topic but was also created more than 30 years ago specifically to solve a similar problem in the center of Moscow. So it’s not surprising that two years ago, its architects won a competition for the concept of the master plan to be implemented in Nizhny Novgorod.

Pavel Gavrilov, Vice President of the Design Unit at GloraX

The site is very complex, with an elevation difference of about 30 meters and a lot of restrictions, both in terms of elevation and landscape and visual analysis. We knew from the beginning that this would be the case – and we wanted to turn the limitations into an advantage, creating a decent background for the architectural monuments, and implementing a history-based approach... For example, we are now working on an immersive route that will tell the history of the place through QR codes. 

So, in the brief for the 2021 competition, we included a wish for small-scale development in the historical part – some people heard this recommendation, some did not, but of the three participants, it was the Ostozhenka architects who solved this problem most accurately.

Integrated development of the Blagoveshchenskaya Sloboda area in Nizhny Novgorod
Copyright: © Ostozhenka Architects

In 2021, a competition was held for the territory on both sides of the Metro Bridge – we are now talking about the area between the Metro Bridge and the Kanavinsky Bridge, just behind the Blagoveshchensky Monastery.

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    Integrated development of the Blagoveshchenskaya Sloboda area in Nizhny Novgorod
    Copyright: © Ostozhenka Architects
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    Integrated development of the Blagoveshchenskaya Sloboda territory in Nizhny Novgorod. The location plan
    Copyright: © Ostozhenka Architects

The monastery is a monument from the 17th century and is one of the primary tourist attractions in the city. The bridge, however, was only recently built and launched in 2012. So the territory is divided into two obvious parts: the high-rise modern one, which gravitates towards the bridge and forms a compositional pair with it, and the historical one, burdened with numerous restrictions but rightfully inheriting the morphology of the city center’s development.

Master Plan stage of the Blagoveshchenskaya Sloboda territory in Nizhny Novgorod. Development parameters of territorial sub-zones TOI.5 and TO-1.5
Copyright: © Ostozhenka Architects

In addition to the monastery in the historical part, the Church of John the Baptist has been preserved. Built in 1725 and rebuilt in the 19th century, it stands closer to the mills in a relatively elevated position, on the slope, and can serve as a landmark if it is competently restored.

A model. Below is the Church of John the Baptist and the staircases leading, according to the project, from it towards the river. Integrated development of the Blagoveshchenskaya Sloboda area in Nizhny Novgorod
Copyright: Photograph © Julia Tarabarina, Archi.ru

In Nizhny Novgorod, the design work for the territory around Chernigovskaya Street has been ongoing for 10 years, and there have been plenty of options. So, if you look at the project in conjunction with its history, it resembles a sum of “underpaintings”, like in the works of old masters – refinements and variations. You can see the previous concepts for Chernigovskaya Street here.

The significance of preliminary research and discussions in the working process is emphasized by the head of Ostozhenka’s project group, Rais Baishev.

We are not the first to work with this site – the heights, parameters and approaches have been determined before us. In addition, the project was born in repeated discussions with our colleagues, and we have great respect for the Nizhny Novgorod architects and the Nizhny Novgorod school – they are all our friends and excellent professionals, we consider them full-fledged co-authors. Of course, we took into account both historical and architectural research, and the data of visual-landscape analysis. We restored and developed the historic street network and did everything to pick up the morphology of the historic building in terms of modularity, so that the new background fabric would not be alien. We positioned the buildings at angles to create more interesting views.

The towers near the bridge are a different story – they were needed as a counterpoint to the powerful horizontality of the Metro Bridge: its length is about a kilometer, and here we needed to work on a different scale.

In short, the essence is as follows. Initially, Blagoveshchenskaya Sloboda (the area lying just behind the monastery) developed as a merchant district, that is, as a residential urban area. By the mid-19th century, mills with their berths appeared here, as it was convenient at that time to bring grain along the Oka River and then take away flour. The settlement gradually merged with the mills during the industrial revolution, along with their warehouses and similar establishments.

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    View of Blagoveshchenskaya Sloboda from the pier
    Copyright: Early 20th century postcard / source: pastvu.com
  • zooming
    View of Blagoveshchenskaya Sloboda from the Oka River
    Copyright: Early 20th century photography / source: pastvu.com

Blagoveshchenskaya Sloboda area and its surroundings. Map of 1859
Copyright: Zodchestvo 2023. Source: retromap.ru

Subsequently, the wooden buildings that once created significant density gradually disappeared, and the place became semi-empty. What remained was the monastery, the Church of John the Baptist, and the stone houses along Chernigovskaya Street – these three buildings, which bear the status of cultural heritage sites, are still present. These buildings are occupied by tenants and are not directly involved in the immediate development, but GloraX plans to restore their facades as part of the company’s contribution to the development of the area and the city.

From the industrial period, several red-brick buildings remain, four of which also have a protected status. The largest building, the Bashkirov Mill, is planned by GloraX for restoration as loft apartments.

Integrated development of the Blagoveshchenskaya Sloboda area in Nizhny Novgorod. The master plan
Copyright: © Ostozhenka Architects

Integrated development of the Blagoveshchenskaya Sloboda area in Nizhny Novgorod. The elevation marks of the buildings
Copyright: © Ostozhenka Architects

Below it, near the river across Chernigovskaya Street, Alexander Dekhtyar designed (for a different client) the reconstruction of an abandoned hangar into a public center with restaurants. Further south and higher up on the slope behind the bridge, the construction of a large educational building for the IT campus Neymark is planned, designed by Studio 44, also commissioned by GloraX. KOSMOS Architects have already developed an urban fabric development project for this area, connecting Chernigovskaya Street and the campus. Additionally, the project includes the building of the former Romodanovsky Railway Station, a pseudo-Renaissance edifice from 1904 on the other side of the Metro Bridge, with surrounding pedestrian space.

Finally, the embankment fortification and improvement of the riverside, which occupies a wide strip west of Chernigovskaya Street, are planned to be implemented through urban programs, closely linked to the public spaces of the new district. For example, near the Pretechenskaya Church, a square and a complex of restaurants are planned, and still closer to the river, there will be a market – a kind of cross-axis of urban public spaces with a vibrant atmosphere, connecting the residential area and the waterfront promenade.

The “Project” stage of development of four clusters of Blagoveshchenskaya Sloboda. Square and stairs leading to the Church of St. John the Baptist, Cluster 4, version proposed by Ostozhenka
Copyright: © Ostozhenka Architects / Visualization © Framestudio

The “Project” stage of the development of the towers. Stage “Master Plan” of the development of four clusters of Blagoveshchenskaya Sloboda
Copyright: © Ostozhenka Architects

Behind the Bashkirov Mill, a grain elevator, 75 meters high, was built during the Soviet era, but it was recently demolished as its concrete walls were deemed unstable. The idea of reconstructing the elevator into housing, suggested in several projects, was considered unsuccessful. Sergey Popov characterizes those projects as being “mostly student ones” (one of the projects preserving the elevator can be found here). Meanwhile, the elevator determined the significant height of the future “centerpiece” in its place, and it is supported by the Metro Bridge, whose horizontal kilometer-long structure requires a counterbalance.

Integrated development of the Blagoveshchenskaya Sloboda area in Nizhny Novgorod
Copyright: © Ostozhenka Architects

Competition project for the development of the Blagoveshchenskaya Sloboda area in Nizhny Novgorod
Copyright: © Ostozhenka Architects / Pgotograph of the model © Ivan Boiko

Competition project for the development of the Blagoveshchenskaya Sloboda area in Nizhny Novgorod
Copyright: © Ostozhenka Architects / Pgotograph of the model © Ivan Boiko

A model. View from the south-west, from the side of the Oka River and the Metro Bridge. Integrated development of the Blagoveshchenskaya Sloboda area in Nizhny Novgorod
Copyright: © Ostozhenka Architects / Pgotograph of the model © Julia Tarabarina, Archi.ru

Integrated development of the Blagoveshchenskaya Sloboda area in Nizhny Novgorod. Photo montage from the Kanavinsky Bridge
Copyright: © Ostozhenka Architects

The entire project is all about “breathing life” into the currently semi-abandoned place. Someday, says Sergey Popov, Chernigovskaya Street will become part of a larger continuous route along the waterfront, from Nizhnevolzhskaya to the “Switzerland” park.

Sergey Popov, Chief Architect of Nizhny Novgorod Region (since 2011)

The territory of Chernigovskaya Street and Garshina Street is located in the center – and at the same time on the outskirts. But due to the fact that the place is a dead end, the historical environment has been preserved here, but only partly – stone houses, and wooden houses, which were also quite numerous back in the day, have been lost. So from the very beginning, in 2012-2013, when the first attempts to offer something for the site occupied by the bakery appeared, we insisted on considering the territory up to Melnychny Lane in an integrated way. Then the idea of “spontaneous” development appeared, subordinated to the relief and the street grid, and with a small number of stories – all the attempts to increase the height in the central and northern parts were “grounded”.

I believe that the concept is successful, if it is implemented, the city will have a good comfortable place, a pedestrian zone, and development, combining the historical scale with the modern one. Public transportation should appear – the site will be fully involved in the urban fabric.

So far, we have described and discussed some aspects of the master plan designed by Ostozhenka. Its key characteristic seems to be inclusivity – I would say, “in everything”: in the historical context, the landscape, the history, prehistory, as well as sensitivity to the opinions of the professional community – sensitivity to everything.

The distinguishing feature of the master plan from all other earlier projects lies in the mentioned granularity, delicate and fractional craftsmanship, turns, and perspectives of the volumes in the “historical” part – also known as the premium part, as there are few houses, they are not tall, thanks to the variation in height, they do not overlook each other’s windows, and they feature terraces, balconies, views of the river, and monuments.

Master Plan stage of the Blagoveshchenskaya Sloboda development in Nizhny Novgorod. Simplified master plan with indication of the number of stories of the designed buildings
Copyright: © Ostozhenka Architects

Master Plan stage of the Blagoveshchenskaya Sloboda development in Nizhny Novgorod. The functional layout
Copyright: © Ostozhenka Architects

Aerial photography 1943
Copyright: Source: retromap.ru

However, as a historian of architecture, I would note that, although the proposed morphology indeed corresponds to the principles of an old city, neither in Nizhny Novgorod nor in other central Russian cities, such historical development of construction ever existed. Central Russian cities, even those built on slopes, did not adhere to them in the same way. Unlike Italian cities with gardens on rooftops, Russian cities usually had reserved spaces, such as yards and gardens, which served as resources for a more expansive development. Therefore, I agree with Alexander Dekhtyar’s opinion that the resulting streets resemble Mediterranean ones, but in my view, the resemblance is not in the white color, as the Nizhny Novgorod architect believes, but in their plastique as such.

This, in my opinion, is neither good nor bad. The point is that modern requirements for construction are different, and immersing it entirely in “retro development” would not be a wise thing to do, and would hardly be technically possible. Let’s just imagine for a second the regeneration of the buildings of a steam mill that operated here on a densely built-up territory in 1943.

Stage “Master Plan Concept Competition”. View from Garshina Street to the Church of St. John the Baptist
Copyright: © Ostozhenka Architects

Strictly speaking, one could replicate all those extended sheds and unremarkable structures identically, but it wouldn’t be even close to a premium-class residential complex. Now, in new conditions and with new requirements, the proposed terraced development with stylobates running along the streets, courtyards on their roofs, unique perspectives of facades, and parking spaces recessed into the ground is a sensible solution. It is based on the scale of historical development, but it is new and modern – not copying the old morphology but evolving it.

Another feature of the design code proposed by Ostozhenka is the use of white color, or “all shades of white” as described by Rais Baishev, comparing this solution to the “glove-like plaster” of the monastery walls: it is a medieval technique, pretty simple, yet the wall looks like a treasure – the architect explains. The white color does not exclude material quality and texture, such as simple or striped brickwork, stone, fiber-reinforced concrete, and so on. Still, it should unify all the new volumes of the northern part into a common, terrace-climbing mountain background – a backdrop for colorful historical and even pseudo-historical houses on the first line of Chernigovskaya Street, as well as the red-brick industrial buildings.

Integrated development of the Blagoveshchenskaya Sloboda territory in Nizhny Novgorod. Unfolding along the Oka River with allocation of the cultural heritage sites
Copyright: © Ostozhenka Architects

This solution has both advocates and opponents. Alexander Dekhtyar, the author of several earlier projects for Chernigovskaya Street, is convinced that the predominant tone of the new development on Chernigovskaya Street should be “all shades of earth” from terracotta to yellow and brown, which are characteristic of existing houses. This, he believes, would make the church and monastery stand out better against the overall background. Dekhtyar considers white color to be uncharacteristic of Nizhny Novgorod architecture, much too “seaside-like”.

However, even at the master plan stage, whiteness was not total.

The “Project” stage of development of four clusters of Blagoveshchenskaya Sloboda area in Nizhny Novgorod. Fragments of facade design
Copyright: © Arkhstroy

I also identified a southern “twist” in the project – as I mentioned earlier, not in color but in form. An interesting color story unfolds in the project, but first, it must be said that both architects are right since architectural monuments here have shades of terracotta and white. The city estates and factory buildings fall into the terracotta category, while churches fall into the white category – it’s as simple as that. In other words, if the new development is not made entirely of copper-green or black, then a choice must be made about which part of history to align with and which part to distance oneself from in terms of color. Arkhstroi leaned towards terracotta in its time, and Ostozhenka is now leaning towards white – this is a matter of individual design preferences. However, as we will see later, it’s not that simple.

Let’s return, however, to the fine-grained part of the master plan. Two kindergartens are integrated into the stylobates, and the school, according to the city’s decision, is assigned to the area located at the top, to the south. Various format apartment layouts are well thought out, ranging from smaller to larger, with views from windows, connections to terraces, access to courtyards, and underground spaces. Parking lots are mainly embedded in the slope; based on insolation considerations, the stylobates house either residential units or shops and salons facing the streets.

What I like most about this project are the multi-flight staircases. They not only create cross connections, descents, and ascents but also give a different, imposing dimension to the space, allowing you to feel the grandeur of the mountain. I would like to note that because of them, the district becomes, once again, somewhat “Roman”. I don’t deny the fact that Nizhny Novgorod has its own famous staircases, such as Chkalov Stairs, but the first analogy that comes to mind when looking at the Church of John the Baptist and its staircase is not even San Miniato but Trinità dei Monti with its Spanish Steps.

Stage “Master Plan Concept Competition” of the territory of Blagoveshchenskaya Sloboda area in Nizhny Novgorod
Copyright: © Ostozhenka Architects

Another feature of the master plan is the development of the street network, both for vehicles and pedestrians. Currently, there is only one drive-through artery, Chernigovskaya Street running along the waterfront, with Mill Lane descending to it behind the monastery, and the upper Garschina Street ending in a dead-end near the church. But if you look at old maps, historically it wasn’t like that: Predtechenskaya Street, also known as Garschina, extended to the ravine and only descended to Chernigovskaya Street there. In addition to Mill Lane, there were three (!) cross connections between them, all now completely lost.

Proceeding from the history of the site, the architects make the entire area more connected: they extend Garschina Street to the bridge, and within the development, they find a place for two internal streets above and below it. At some point, it was assumed that they could become pedestrian but open to the public; however, in the end, the internal streets became private courtyards only accessible to emergency vehicles.

Integrated development of the Blagoveshchenskaya Sloboda territory in Nizhny Novgorod. The transport layout
Copyright: © Ostozhenka Architects

Master Plan stage. Scheme of pedestrian connections of the Blagoveshchenskaya Sloboda area in Nizhny Novgorod
Copyright: © Ostozhenka Architects

Area Planning Project (APP) of Blagoveshchenskaya Sloboda in Nizhny Novgorod
Copyright: © Golden Section

The third feature, or rather a fundamental component of the project, is the towers. As mentioned earlier, they form a pair with the Metro Bridge: the bridge is long, the towers are tall, and they inherit the height of the demolished Soviet elevator with a slight correction—the elevator’s height was 75 m, and now a full 100 is allowed. It is even rumored that if a taller height were permitted, it would have turned out even better. However, 100 m is considered optimal from an economic point of view. These will also be the first 100-meter towers in Nizhny; technically, their height is 99.9 m.

Both the architects and the architectural council considered several options for the towers, all consisting of two volumes, with parking, a restaurant, and a multi-level stylobate with a courtyard on its roof. The final version became plate-like towers with a white vertical lattice on the facades and colonnade of the stylobate and volumetric stepped glass slices that mirror each other – as if someone with a very large and coarse saw walked between the towers. The colors chosen were GloraX’s “signature” colors – white and gold – so that depending on the sun’s position, the gaps and ends were supposed to appear either golden or textured and volumetric.

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    The “Project” stage of tower development. Facade options. View from the Oka side
    Copyright: © Ostozhenka Architects
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    The “Project” stage of tower development. Variants of facades. View from the Oka side
    Copyright: © Ostozhenka Architects

The height of the larger tower is 99.9 m, and the smaller one is 86 m. At the height of the 26th floor, the towers are connected by the same golden cantilever, with a truss that unmistakably echoes the Metro Bridge, emphasizing its compositional connection with the towers: as if here, at a great height, another bridge was thrown.

The “Project” stage of tower development. View from the side of the Metro Bridge
Copyright: © Ostozhenka Architects

The “Project” stage of tower development. View from the side of the Metro Bridge
Copyright: © Ostozhenka Architects

If you look at the future district from the side of the Fair, you can see how the buildings gradually grow towards the bridge, primarily due to historical buildings, mills, and even a church high on the slope – and then “shoot out” with two towers, marking the beginning of another part of the city.

The “Project” stage of tower development. Stage “Project” development of four clusters of the Blagoveshchenskaya Sloboda territory in Nizhny Novgorod. View from the Oka side
Copyright: © Ostozhenka Architects

The white color, meanwhile, unified all parts of the project, serving as a common base despite differences in height, form, and material – the facades of the towers were planned to be aluminum, with natural materials prevailing in the mid-rise section.

The master plan has been approved, as well as the detailed development plan based on it, as well as the general architectural solutions for the towers.

Meanwhile, while still working on the project, Ostozhenka architects in agreement with the client, introduced another nuance – they proposed to divide the slope into 5 parts and invited Nizhny Novgorod architects to work on the Project stage within the master plan. Thus, Arkhstroi and Alexander Dekhtyar, who had previously worked on this site multiple times, returned to the project.

The “Project” stage of development of four clusters of Blagoveshchenskaya Sloboda area in Nizhny Novgorod. The clusters
Copyright: © Ostozhenka Architects

The work on the Project stage, in anticipation of obtaining the general architectural solutions, is approaching completion. All parameters, including heights and insolation, are being refined. In some cases, based on the remarks of the architectural council, the heights are slightly reduced. The renders of individual clusters shown here are not related to the Project stage but belong to the 2023 master plan.

However, we talked to all the participants working on the development of Chernigovskaya Street, and asked each of them to comment on their decisions.

We know the area well; several years ago we worked on development projects here. We looked closely at the bakery site, but we studied it in connection with the entire territory as a whole – in the status of preliminary studies. In our projects, the density of the mid-rise part was somewhat less, and the morphology of its construction was stricter and slightly more rigid: the plans were in the form of the Cyrillic letter Ш, open to the river. And our color – on the contrary – was more picturesque, adaptively immersed in the “earthy” range of brick and plaster. I still believe that only the Church of St. John the Baptist and the monastery should remain white, so they stand out better against the background of the buildings, both old and new. White-colored houses seem to me... not meant from our latitudes, they look as if they were taken from some seaside town – I said this at the Architectural Council, and I told the authors about it too.

But now we are working in the direction set by Ostozhenka, within the framework of the master plan, so our color set is also light gray, conditionally white stone. And the texture of the facades is brick, in two variants: a simple brick surface and a relief-striped one, designed for oblique light. In addition, we suggested adding texture, most likely fiber cement, and inserts – to build up references to the XVII century and to the Annunciation Monastery. Perhaps even tiles would be appropriate here.

The “Project” stage of development of four clusters of Blagoveshchenskaya Sloboda in Nizhny Novgorod. Cluster 3, view from the Oka side
Copyright: © Arkhstroy

The first section, low-height due to its proximity to the monastery, is handled by GORA architects led by Stanislav Gorshunov. One of the kindergartens is integrated here, in the northernmost part of the complex.

I think this project is appropriate, it fits in correctly with the existing development, and I do not agree with those who oppose any development of the territory of Chernigovskaya and Garshina Streets in principle. It seems to me that this territory should be developed, to make it better for both residents and tourists.

Our site is located in the western part, next to the Annunciation Monastery, so we tried to keep on the edge between minimalist architecture and some very light “Old Russia” allusions. The building next to the monastery, with a built-in kindergarten, is light brick with wide slopes, and for the neighboring one we proposed a motif similar to open shutters – with transverse inserts. Further on, everything dissolves, becoming more modern. We did not deviate from Ostozhenka’s proposal; we tried to stay within the master plan. I would say that there was a little more certainty than usual.

Cluster 1. “Project” stage of development of four clusters of the Blagoveshchenskaya Sloboda area in Nizhny Novgorod
Copyright: © GORA Architects / Visualization © Framestudio

Now, at the Project stage, about half of the entire complex, including clusters 2, 4, and the towers, is being handled by the Moscow-based MIR bureau headed by Arkady Smirnov.

We faced many challenges in our work.
We had to comprehensively design a complex site and a non-standard compositional solution.
In the entire development we strived to realize the transition from history to modernity, using actual materials and solutions, but preserving the proportions and techniques typical of the historical environment.
The alternative facades of the Towers were designed in two materials – ceramic and aluminum panel: terracotta as a tribute to the historical context, and aluminum as a modern and technological response.

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    The “Project” stage of development of four clusters of the Blagoveshchenskaya Sloboda area in Nizhny Novgorod. Cluster 2 on the left and Cluster 3 on the right
    Copyright: © Arkhstroy / Visualization © Framestudio
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    The “Project” stage of development of four clusters of the Blagoveshchenskaya Sloboda territory in Nizhny Novgorod. Cluster 2 on the left and Cluster 3 on the right
    Copyright: © MIR / © Arkhstroy / Visualization © Framestudio

Blocks 2 and 4 are located in the southern part of the territory, closer to the mills and future towers. Their area includes the John the Baptist Church, the urban square in front of it with cross-links – a descent towards the embankment, and another of the two integrated kindergartens. As far as I could understand, the facades designed by MIR will not be very similar to the preliminary developments of the master plan, but the volumes and functional structure will be approximately the same, with minor adjustments and corrections.

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    Towers at the Metromost: facade options, 2023
    Copyright: © MIR
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    Towers at the Metro Bridge: facade options, 2023
    Copyright: © MIR

The history of the towers, in turn, developed as follows: the client asked Arkady Smirnov to make another “approach” to their facades, and preferred the red color of the facades with a transition to metallic gray.

The towers became red again, and after the departure of the Ostozhenka architects the project turned again towards the direction explored in previous proposals, particularly in the towers by Evgeny Gerasimov in 2018. Even the truss, which became a glass bridge, remotely resembles the glass horizontal in Gerasimov’s project. The shade – judging from the renders – is more purplish than terracotta, but the towers became more resonant with Bashkirov’s mill, merging with it in a single row.

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    Glorax Chernigovskaya Residential Complex, view of the towers and Bashkirova Mill
    Copyright: © MIR / Glorax
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    Towers at the Metro Bridge: facade options, 2023
    Copyright: © MIR

As for their departure from the project of Blagoveshchenskaya Sloboda, the Ostozhenka architects explained it to me like this: “we did our job and parted ways peacefully”.
However, what is interesting is not just another episode of the creative search, but the entire project as a whole. It strongly reveals a sequence of overlays, discussions, and contradictory opinions: one person dislikes one thing, another dislikes something else, someone pulls in their direction more strongly, someone does not... Someone doubts the feasibility, someone is glad that history has finally moved forward. Isn’t this how the development of a city usually unfolds? Codes transform, ideas are reworked, their core – well, at least for some time – is preserved and takes on a unifying role. But everything is constantly moving, not standing still.

In the last 15, or perhaps 25 years, it has become terribly fashionable to simulate the natural development of the city in new projects. Especially since these new projects have become so enormous that they constantly risk losing the human dimension. Hence, the architects integrate diversity into them – and sometimes it reaches desperate gaudiness, for example, in multicolored sections. Sometimes they invite different architects to make the project “naturally diverse”; this is also a trend. The Chernigovskaya Street project falls into this preference, but it differs, in my opinion, in two things. First, from the very beginning, it was not only a striving for diversity but also the ways of integrating it into a holistic solution. Second, it is so integrated “into life itself” with all its limitations, elaborations, and discussions that diversity here turns out to be more than a natural consequence of the convergence of a large number of circumstances.

It’s interesting to see what the outcome will be. Construction of the first phase – the towers near the bridge with high-end housing – has now begun, and the second phase will involve adapting Bashkirov’s mill.

26 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.