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© RIA Novosti. Sergey Pyatakov

Wind of change for Gorky Park

by at 25/07/2011 20:45

Moscow city authorities have begun stripping Moscow’s historic Gorky Park of its aging attractions in preparation for the construction of a hip new park early next year. But critics say the park’s current users may be left with little of value in the new public space.

The vast park, which straddles a long stretch of land on the south side of the Moscow River, is famed for its rickety 90s-era fairground rides, its Soviet-style shows and its cheap-and-cheerful shashlik stands.

But now, under a new plan to spruce up all of the city’s public parks, the rides and attractions, including the Buran Soviet-era spaceship, are to be relocated, the shashlik sellers removed, and a fashionable new park, complete with yoga facilities and pricey restaurants, set up in its place.

“All of the park’s historic landmarks and public facilities are extremely dilapidated and outdated; we are clearing the space now as the park’s territory will be totally reorganized next year,” said Alla Semenisheva, the park’s PR and marketing director.

‘Public space’

Reconstruction work near the park’s Girl with an Oar statue

© RIA Novosti. / Sergey Pyatakov

Reconstruction work near the park’s Girl with an Oar statue

Sergei Kapkov, a former State Duma deputy for United Russia, was appointed as the park’s new general director earlier this year after an order from Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin to spruce up all the city’s parks.

The authorities have been keen to promote the concept of a “public space” when discussing plans for the park’s renovation and even held a public contest to find the best ideas for the park’s redevelopment. Winning designs included public kitchen gardens, drinking water fountains and an interactive map of Moscow.

The park’s entrance fee (formerly around 100 rubles) has been dropped, and free Wi-Fi set up on most of its grounds.

Some critics have complained, however, that most of the park’s attractions, which include open-air DJ sets and Starbucks stands, are not accessible to all areas of the public and offer little to its former frequenters, largely low-income families.

“Where are all the attractions? The park is becoming just another elite hangout, and not a public space at all,” Anastasia writes on the park’s fan group on social networking site Vkontakte.

Too trendy?

A 6-kilometer promenade is expected to be constructed between Gorky Park and Sparrow Hills

© RIA Novosti. / Ruslan Krivobok

A 6-kilometer promenade is expected to be constructed between Gorky Park and Sparrow Hills

The renovation is being supervised by Strelka Institute, a trendy architecture group, and the final design will be selected from a contest involving Russian and international designers.

The park’s designers have made attempts to give the project some family-friendly features. A 500 square meter wooden “beach” has already been rolled out on the Moscow River embankment with shower cubicles, parasols, sun loungers and olive trees in tubs, and a 6-kilometer promenade is expected to be constructed between the park and Sparrow Hills. A family restaurant with a children’s playground is also planned for the embankment.

However, some families may be put off by the park’s trendiness. The Garazh Contemporary Culture Centre, the modern art gallery founded by Roman Abramovich’s girlfriend Daria Zhukova, is set to move to the park from its current location near Mendeleyevskaya metro station. The gallery will take over a building of the dowdy Vremena Goda restaurant, which is currently being redesigned by fashionable Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas.

In early July, the park’s management announced that St. Petersburg restaurant chain Ginza Project would become the park’s main restaurant operator. The holding, which owns dozens of mid-range and upmarket restaurants across the city, has already opened a trendy café on the park’s new beach.

‘Necessary development’

Sunbathing at Gorky Park’s brand new beach

© Photo / Courtesy of Ginza Project

Sunbathing at Gorky Park’s brand new beach

Natalya Chernyayeva, a coordinator at independent architecture watchdog Archnadzor, says Gorky Park is in desperate need of refurbishment, so the developments are a step forward.

“The park has suffered for a long time from illegal constructions and the old historical buildings were in a very bad state,” Chernyayeva said. “The park’s authorities are probably hosting high-end facilities to draw financing for the park’s refurbishment. But it should remain accessible to the general public.”

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