Zaryadye Park: Urban Wilderness at the Kremlin's Doorstep

What's all the buzz about?

Zaryadye is a new park in Moscow located right next to the Kremlin and St. Basil's Cathedral. The park took around 4 years to complete and it finally opened to general public on 11 September. For Russia it's a groundbreaking project meant to revive the neighbourhood around the Kremlin which was practically deserted for many years. It also shows a shift towards the importance of quality public spaces in the centre of Moscow.
For a long time this ill-fated piece of land on the Kremlin's doorstep tormented Moscow's mayors, city planners and architects. It seemed like the construction would never finish. In fact, a whole generation of Russians grew up only seeing Zaryadye first as a wasteland, and then as a construction site. 

So who built it?

The project was created by American design studio Diller Scofidio + Renfro who won the first prize in the international competition. These are the guys behind the famous High Line Park in New York. 

What does it look like?

‚ÄčAs with other DS+R projects, the architects wanted to create urban 'wilderness' by emulating various kinds of landscapes which you can find on the territory of Russia. So you get a chance to wander through a birch forest, climb the hills of tundra, hide in an ice cave, take a relaxing swing in a hammock amid wetlands, or have a picnic on the meadow overlooking the Kremlin. One of the main attractions is the 'floating bridge' which hovers over the Moscow River and offers some of the best views over the Kremlin. There's also a large open-air amphitheatre covered with a dome known as 'the glass bark' which is meant to keep warm temperature even in winter. 

What does this name mean?

A long time ago, before GUM (State Department Store) even existed, there were market rows all along the Red Square. The place currently occupied by GUM (State Department Store) was known as the 'first rows' (pervye ryady), further down towards St. Basil's there were second and third rows. While the area further down, squeezed between the rows and the Moscow River was known as Zaryadye, the place beyond the rows.

Why should I go there?

Well, firstly, because Zaryadye is just destined to become the best public space in the city. Secondly, it has a lot to offer. There's an ice cave where the temperature are going to be kept below freezing all year, a concert hall (due to open in 2018), a floating bridge above the Moscow River which offers great views over the Kremlin and the centre of Moscow. The hills of the park is a great place for a shot of St Basil's Cathedral which looms between the birch trees. There's a huge food court with regional cuisines of Russia. You can grab a gigantic Kamchatka crab or hot Russian pancakes, savoury Ossetian pie or a box of Siberian dumplings, and eat them on a lawn of the park overlooking the Kremlin. There's a museum containing historic objects found in Zaryadye to keep you occupied for an hour. You can also visit a few old churches and the Old English Court that have miraculously survived Stalin's urban demolition project. And then sip a coffee in a café on the bank of the Moscow River.     

What was here before?

There used to be a historic district which existed up until the 1930s when the Soviet authorities demolished the whole neighbourhood in order to build one of the Stalin's skyscrapers. But soon after they laid the foundation the World War II came. Eventually, the project was abandoned after the death of Stalin. If you wish to see what the old neighbourhood looked like, watch Sergei Eisenstein's film called Strike made in 1925. The place was deserted until 1964 when it was decided to build a large five-star hotel. The new hotel called Rossiya opened in 1967. With 3182 rooms, it was registered in the Guinness Book of Records as the largest hotel in the world. Rossiya welcomed its last guests in in the end of 2005. In 2006 the hotel was demolished. There were various projects to build office spaces, a shopping mall or another hotel but all of them were turned down. The place once again was abandoned until 2013 when Putin took the stage and said, 'Why don't we build a park on this land?' And everyone was like, 'Oh, what a wonderful idea! How comes it never came to our mind!' Anyway, the destiny of the place has been decided, and the tender has been held and won. It took them a long time (and many maimed excavators) to remove the high-strength concrete laid by the Soviets for that unrealised Stalin's skyscraper.