This Moscow Factory Was A Symbol Of Soviet Industry–Now It’s A Walkable Neighborhood

The sprawling Hammer & Sickle steel factory is no longer in operation, so Moscow is replacing it with apartments, offices, schools, shops, and more.

Near downtown Moscow, an abandoned steel factory that sprawls over more than 200 acres is slowly disintegrating. It’s a place that helped launch the Russian Revolution, and that operated continuously for more than 100 years. Now that it’s empty and starting to fall apart, the City of Moscow has decided to reinvent it as a new neighborhood that can help push the city away from its dependence on cars.


Since the Hammer & Steel Factory is so huge–not just a single building, but a complex on land about three times the size of the SoHo district in New York City–it has room to eventually include apartments for 19,000 people and offices for 16,000 more. The development will also include schools, shops, a local hospital, and green spaces. An old elevated track will be turned into a High Line-like park.

“We made the decision to maximize the quality of the public spaces, creating a network of habitable streets to promote pedestrian life and the use of bicycles and providing additional routes for public transport through the new neighborhood,” says Klaas Hofman, the project leader from MVRDV, the Dutch architectural firm that is working on the design. “In a city that is currently dominated by car traffic, which is affecting attractiveness and health, our proposal is sending out a message that it can be done differently.”

Moscow is becoming a hot bed of urban redesign. This park in the city used to be a four-lane highway.

New streets inside the neighborhood will link up with streets in the surrounding area, and Metro and bus stations are a five-minute walk away. The design will reuse as much of the historic site as possible: Factory halls will turn into supermarkets and art galleries, old facades will be integrated into new buildings, and other new structures will be inspired by the memory of what once was there.

Tearing the old site down was never an option. “Not only will reuse extend the life span of these buildings, but it will also help to create neighborhoods that are more unique, diverse, more attractive for a wider range of uses and more rooted in the history of the area and the surrounding urban fabric,” Hofman says.

“Cities, developers, architects, and residents are realizing that the approach of ‘tabula rasa’ is not the best solution to develop a new neighborhood, especially when we are currently facing the challenge of densifying and ‘upgrading’ our cities instead of extending them endlessly into urban sprawl,” he adds.


About the author

Adele Peters is a staff writer at Fast Company who focuses on solutions to some of the world's largest problems, from climate change to homelessness. Previously, she worked with GOOD, BioLite, and the Sustainable Products and Solutions program at UC Berkeley, and contributed to the second edition of the bestselling book "Worldchanging: A User's Guide for the 21st Century."