Moscow doesn’t have a reputation as a walkable city; the main street leading away from the Kremlin and Red Square is a sprawling eight lane road, and if pedestrians want to cross, they have to walk underground. But the city is starting to change. Last year, another large highway–this one four lanes wide, running along a river near the city center–was turned into a park.
“We aimed to turn the road into a new city landmark,” says Dmitry Likin, senior partner at Wowhaus, the architecture firm that designed the park.
The road already ran beside another park, but that stretch of green space was hidden behind a fence, and, thanks in part to its undesirable location next to the highway, was rarely used. The designers tore the fence down, and got rid of a gas station that was also in the way. Then they started turning the road itself into a pedestrian and bike path.
It’s definitely no longer recognizable as a former highway. While the road used to be forbidding at night, the new park has been filled with lights. Small rolling green hills were added to the landscaping, so it’s no longer flat, and hundreds of trees were planted. Dozens of other trees were planted along the bike and pedestrian path itself, using a special technique that allows people to pass over without harming the roots. Nearly 150,000 other plants were added throughout the park.
A bike rental pavilion is topped with a ramp on the roof for skateboarders; other pavilions will be turned into cafes and shops. The park also has art studios and exhibition spaces, and a wooden stage for performances under a giant bridge.
It’s also the first “year-round” park in the center of Moscow. “The wave-shaped multilevel layout can be used for walking, cycling, or roller-skating in the summer while in winter it is a perfect setup for sledding, skating, or skiing,” says Likin. The larger goal for the park, the designers say, was to help connect with a longer bike and pedestrian trail that will eventually run throughout the city. “It’s part of a project to integrate underdeveloped Moscow embankments into city life,” Likin explains.