"The sensitive adaptive re-use of historic architecture in a contemporary context and the redefinition and delivery of high quality public space is one of the great challenges of delivering architecture in Russia."
Aidan Potter, Director, John McAslan + Partners
It is only when a city celebrates its history by allowing it to live alongside modernity in careful and considered moderation that it becomes truly great . This is one of the fundamental principles of urban design and growth in Moscow and St Petersburg for the new millennium and we believe its implementation will help these great world cities to fully realise their extraordinary potential and beauty.
Our portfolio in Moscow and St Petersburg is notably varied, responding naturally to different contexts, clients and briefs. Our work - both new and refurbished developments - encompasses commercial, residential, recreational and cultural sectors. In each instance, although our design is characterised by our search for authentic solutions to distinct circumstances, it is nonetheless possible to detect common themes which are particular to their Russian context.
The primary challenge we face is the question of historic repair and adaptive reuse. Undoubtedly one of the greatest assets of both Moscow and St Petersburg is their incomparable collection of historic buildings from all periods and styles. But as any visit will attest, the maintenance, repair and adaptation of this precious resource is often very poor. There are mature and well intentioned statutory controls for the adaptation of historic buildings but these have often led to a highly polarised debate about how to change and improve old buildings. The process has become highly bureaucratic and
extended, resulting in inconsistent and regrettable decisions to demolish many important buildings.
Our work constantly strives to find new futures for historic buildings which sensitively integrate new uses into old structures. The repair of the Stanislavsky and Bolshevik factories in Moscow is simultaneously bold and cautious. By which I mean these projects require an inner restraint and respect in order to find the proper balance between old and new.
The second of these is the challenge of delivering high calibre public realm - consistentacross all our work is the delivery of an integrated landscape which defines clear pedestrian priorities. Landscape architecture as a discipline is a relatively new profession in Russia as no formal qualification and training existed for the it during the Soviet regime. This in part explains the blurred boundaries between public and private spaces in many Russian cities. But the problem is also political and social and the rapidly changing mobility of an emerging middle class, with different patterns of ownership and expectations of public engagement, is now forcing change.
The problem is further exacerbated by the impact of traffic within Russian cities - there are few successful examples of congestion control or well-designed transport interchange which resolve the inevitable overlaps between traffic, people and any sense of integrated movement systems and public space. Although this is changing for the better, the opportunity to repair, unify and celebrate the setting of historic and new buildings within a distinct and civil urban realm is the greatest challenge of any development within Moscow and in some regards also St Petersburg. Our award-winning Moscow masterplans for the Stanislavsky and Bolshevik factories and Olympia Business Park all produce different solutions that focus on this central issue and, we would hope, establish a paradigm and benchmark for future projects.