Moscow, like other global cities, is faced with a challenge of transforming industrial zones. These areas cut deep into the city’s living fabric, separating the centre from the periphery. The “Industrial Zones in the Post-industrial City” session brought together some of the leading experts, architects, and investors who shared their vision of the ways to modernise Moscow’s industrial facilities and the benefits those could bring to the city and its residents.
As noted by Alexey Komissarov, Head of the Department of Science, Industrial Policy and Entrepreneurship of Moscow, moderator of the panel, industrial zones have enormous potential of boosting the megacity’s economic growth. Moscow’s 200-plus industrial zones have a combined area of 150,000 sq m – it’s about 1.5 times the area of Paris. According to Mr Komissarov, projects to transform these areas should take account of investors’ interests, benefit the city residents and be consistent with the city’s long-term development goals.
The main challenge faced by the Russian capital is that most industrial facilities are owned either by private owners or by federal authorities. The Moscow City Government cannot take full responsibility for integrated development of industrial areas. Development plans for each area are to be discussed and considered on a case by case basis. The city authorities’ key task is to sustain Moscow’s high-tech sector, which will help employ and retain skilled labour.
Daniela Brahm, a German artist and co-founder of ExRotaprint, spoke about the project she had led to re-develop the bankrupt Rotaprint factory in Berlin. The premises of the former factory were transformed into a new cultural venue with artist workshops, music studios, language courses, and other civil society groups / NGOs. It gave the historic facility not only a new lease on life, but also helped support culture and arts. According to Ms Brahm, the Rotaprint conversion project benefits the citizens, and their communities in turn form new partnerships.
Sergey Gordeev, a Russian urbanist, shared his experiences of overhauling the Stanislavsky Factory, a pre-revolutionary industrial facility owned in the past by the Alekseyev family, into a viable commercial property incorporating a hotel, a restaurant, offices, and a residential block. The investor into the project reconstructed the original theatre for workers, which now houses a theatrical studio. According to Mr Gordeev, despite the initial discontent of the complex’s dwellers and occupiers, the cherry orchard in the yard and the entire complex were opened to neighbourhood residents, which made the Stanislavsky Factory an integral part of the city space.
In the opinion of Yury Grigoryan, an architect, Head of Project Meganom Bureau, the highlight of Moscow’s industrial zones is their vast potential that needs a consistent development concept. As an example, he cited his bureau's Green River project suggesting an extensive park that would link all industrial zones from Bitsa to Elk Island. The ZIL Project, another reconstruction concept developed by Meganom, could well become a new centre with enough potential to change the city's appearance. Yury Grigoryan listed key reconstruction principles for industrial zones such as accessibility, mixed developments, and proactive partnerships with developers. Industrial zones are supposed to link city districts than divide them. "Both architects and other professionals should participate in city development," summarised the architect.
Markus Appenzeller, co-founder of MLA+, the Netherlands, who has taken part in reconstruction of Chinese industrial zones, believes that each reconstruction project is unique and needs a customized approach. Old buildings should be preserved while developing loft culture, with Moscow becoming a centre of it. According to the expert, the major problem is closed spaces inaccessible for people, and their reconstruction can improve the city infrastructure a lot.
However, this approach has its pitfalls – reconstruction or relocation of industrial sites often takes much more time than planned. Richard Tibbott, Chairman Advisory Services, Cushman & Wakefield, Russia, warned developers against overwhelming euphoria that often accompanies the initial project stage. Nevertheless, competent reconstruction of industrial zones gives momentum to transformation of megacities, Moscow included.