Sunday, 29 January 2012

10-of-the-best: no.4 Gorky Park

Gorky Park is in a constant process of re-invention right now, which is partly about an (almost first) attempt to make Moscow a more liveable city and partly about some weird deals between the Kremlin, the mayor and an oligarch or two (so what is new?)

The initial stage, commissioned through the Strelka Institute (set up by oligarch Alexander Mamut), was to add in some new urban designish elements - benches, more up-market cafes, an outdoor cinema and a summer 'beach', whilst clearing the last of the mini Coney Island type fairground rides from the river frontage. Then this next stage, which is AMAZING! There is now the biggest and best skating area I have ever seen, a mixture of different rinks linked by ice ways, all framed by some quite neat wooden and colourful pavilions and bridges.*  I note that their website has a fab, that is to say quite hammy, animated CAD walkthrough (skatethrough?) crooned over by Louis Armstrong.

The stage to follow in the Spring is the shift of Garage from, well the garage (Melnikov-designed constructivist) it was in, to here. This is publicised as beginning with a pavilion by Japanese architect Shigeru Ban, then a  temporary home designed by Rem Koolhaas’s Office for Metropolitan Architecture (OMA) together with Olga Trevias/Form Bureau, which will convert the Park's concrete 1960s Vremena Goda (Four Seasons) restaurant, long abandoned. After that,  Garage will come to "occupy a nearby 8,500 square meter hexagonal pavilion. The historic 1920s pavilion of six sections with a courtyard (was) first constructed to house the first All-Union Agricultural Exhibition.."

So, of course, this leads to interesting questions. Well of course the usual one as to whether it will happen. And then there is the cash.  It was already known that Roman Abramovich has had a hand (and money) in the re-development of Gorky Park and now his girlfriend Dasha Zhukova, the owner of Garage, is moving in there too. As Andrew Osbourn put it in the Telegraph earlier this year: "using part of his estimated £8.4 billion fortune to turn (Gorky Park) into a showcase for the Russian capital is an undertaking likely to further endear Mr Abramovich to the Kremlin which regularly urges oligarchs to plough some of their fabulous wealth back into society". But then - maybe - they are also getting some real estate in return.

* I took the photo just after the ice had been cleaned, hence the emptiness. In fact, each winter since Soviet times, the paths of Gorky Park have been watered and left to ice all winter. I have only not skated there in the last couple of years because it always seemed as full as rush-hour in the Metro. Having a refrigerated bed has meant that this mild winter has not caused a problem; and the rink is just as full as it was in past times. 

Go here for more about the Gorky Park facilities and a list of the best other ice rinks in Moscow. 

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