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A Fresh Look at Public Space in Russia by DROM

A Fresh Look at Public Space in Russia by DROM

Central Square of Naberezhnye Chelny / DROM Ph. Evgeny Evgrafov

The architects DROM renovated the main public square in Naberezhnye Chelny, a soviet city built in the late 1970s around the famous Kamaz truck factory. The original square was designed around a formal central axis that intended to connect the municipality building to the Lenin museum. Since the latter was never built, the axis lost its meaning. The square remained formal and monotonous; a relic of the Soviet past that was underused and disconnected from the city and its public life. This renovation thus brings a fresh take to the role of public space in a single-industry city.

ph. Dmitry Chebanenko

The architects transformed the square into a captivating, dynamic public space with multi-character environments and qualities for different groups of people. Through the strategic relocation of the central axis to the edge of the square, and to an existing row of densely planted trees, they stripped it of its ideological underpinning, providing visitors protection from the elements and connecting them directly to nearby neighborhoods. To intensify activity on the promenade, they designed a series of pavilions to be placed along the path.

Instead of the former central axis, the architects created a “city carpet” that functions as three squares, each with its own unique character. The “Event Square” is a paved urban space that is also used for weekly outdoor markets. The “Green Square” is for relaxing on the lawn and enjoying the seasonal landscaping. The “Cultural Square” has a renovated fountain and a shallow pool. This square is also connected to the municipality and a movie theater. 

Intersecting the promenade, each square is energized by an anchor program: an amphitheater doubles as a cafe, a “spiral” viewing platform that is painted in the emblematic orange Kamaz color adds a vertical dimension, and a circular fountain pool transforms into an ice-skating rink in winter.

DROM developed a unique paving pattern for each of the squares and integrated spaces for rest that are protected from the sun through the strategically placed “hills” and local species of trees.

In addition to the pavilions, DROM designed urban furniture and lighting elements that were developed and produced by local manufacturers. The challenges posed by the project provided a new and exciting learning experience. Some local producers transformed their production lines for the purpose of the project, creating a new niche in the city’s economy. For example, the main supporting structure for the “spiral” was made with the same technology that is used to make gas pipes. The benches were made in a local concrete factory, and the lamps were made using standard steel profiles. The architects also carefully considered the existing ecosystem, leaving most of the greenery and adding new trees. All these aspects helped to reduce negative emotions about the transformation of the city center, making the project more sustainable, resilient, and financially viable.

DATE: 2019 / LOCATION: Naberezhnye Chelny, Russia / PROGRAM: Park / STATUS: Built / DESIGN: DROM, in collaboration with Strelka KB / TEAM: Asaf Barnea, Aga Batkiewicz, Valentina Ciccotosto, Elif Gözde Öztoprak, Timur Karimullin (partner), Sofia Koutsenko (partner), Roos Pulskens, Timur Shabaev (partner), Pratyusha Suryakant  / LOCAL ARCHITECT: KMT Project Department / CONSULTANTS: KMT Project Department (Engineering), NOVASCAPE (Planting Consultant) / PHOTOS: Evgeny Evgrafov, Dmitry Chebanenko

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