A Wilderness in the City: How Diller Scofidio + Renfro’s Zaryadye Park Could Help Fix Moscow

Moscow’s proposed park, that is using a naturalised “theme park culture” as a model, has to withstand the criticism of being as artificial as its environment, not that the idea is without precedent i.e botanical gardens around the world have been using this  “ecological theme park-ism” for years, its just how its implemented that has changed, with technologies that provide control of the environment and the use of process based horticulture to grow these artificial renditions of natural habitats, which by their nature, have to be configured and edited to fit into limited space, the idea of wild design is fraught with design decisions of what to put in and what to leave out.

From archdaily


Courtesy of Zaryadye Park
In late 2013, Diller Scofidio + Renfro won first prize in the international competition to design Zaryadye Park, Moscow’s first new park in 50 years. The project is a headliner in a series of high-profile schemes that aim to improve the city’s green space, including the renovation of Gorky Park and the recently revealed plans for the Moscow River. This article, originally published by The Calvert Journal as part of their How to Fix Moscow series examines how DS+R’s urban “wilderness” will impact the city.

In a 2010 interview, the critic and historian Grigory Revzin complained that Muscovites wishing to “walk in parks and get pleasure from the city” would have to “come out into the streets” before anything was done. Hoping that architects would respond to the problem, one of Revzin’s suggestions was a park to replace the site of Hotel Rossiya, which had become overgrown since being abandoned in 2007. This wild area in the city centre was, in fact, a harbinger of what is to come: Zaryadye Park, Moscow‘s first new park in 50 years, which the American design studio Diller Scofidio+Renfro won the international competition to design in November 2013.

Courtesy of Zaryadye Park
A popular idea in the early stages of the park was that it could be made up of plants that appear all over Russia. Diller Scofidio+Renfro took this further, proposing that native flora be included, but as part of four artificial microclimates that mimic the landscape typologies specific to Russia: the steppe, the forest, the wetland and tundra. The principle behind this is similar to Park Russia, the proposed theme park south of Moscow, which promises to represent every region of the country in one space. Zaryadye’s microclimates will be maintained at consistent temperatures throughout the year by means of heating and cooling technologies, making Russia’s ”wilderness” into both an attraction and an exhibition.

Courtesy of Zaryadye Park
Diller Scofidio+Renfro plan to meet halfway between the wild and the urban, and create a periphery in the centre of Moscow. This is appropriate for the area of Zaryadye which, located on the edge of the river in one of the oldest districts of Moscow, within 300 metres of Red Square and the Kremlin, is a suburb of the old city, but in today’s city centre. The term “wild urbanism”, used in Diller Scofidio+Renfro’s proposal, is described by the firm as “an opportunity to leave the city, and at the same time be closer to it”. Zaryadye Park isn’t the first project by the firm that explores the intersection between nature and the city. Diller Scofidio+Renfro are responsible for the High Line in New York, a singular linear park, 1.45 miles long, built on an abandoned freight-railway.


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Landform Building: Stan Allen & Marc McQuade

More investigations on the origins of Landscape as the source or basis of architecture and its divergence form the precepts of Landscape Urbanism and its closer alignment with Mat -Building as I commented in recent article: Diller Scofidio + Renfro Beat Out Strong Competition at Aberdeen City Garden Project the thickening of the land into a multilevel connected landscape is the antithesis of New Urbanism and other reactionary ideas of how we build the cities fabric, integrating existing fragments, infrastructures, retail clusters and green spaces into a new vision of public to private space as a set of nested hierarchies within a dense urban context, : embedded “heterotopias”  a la David Graham Shane’s  Recombinant Urbanism and Urban Design since 1945 or in semi rural “natural” environments,. such as the visitors centers, experiential museums and restaurants built at historical or “natural wonder” sites,  which in their nature use are still actually very urban.

A book review by Ethel Baraona Pohl from Domus

In their recent book, Marc McQuade and Stan Allen analyze the evolution of the critical relationship between architecture and landscape

Landform Building

Stan Allen and Marc McQuade, eds. in collaboration with Princeton University School of Architecture. Schirmer/Mosel, 2011 (416 pp., US $65)

The common link between landscape and architecture can be defined by the concept of megastructure, or at least this is the first message perceived when opening the book Landform Building and flip through its pages. But this close relationship has been changing fast in the last ten years, from the biological to the geological; the desire to make a responsive architecture is now fulfilled with references to landscape. As Stan Allen points, now a parallel trend looks not to the biology of individual species but to the collective behaviour of ecological systems as a model for cities, buildings and landscapes: “Architecture is situated between the biological and the geological—slower than living but faster than the underlying geology.”

Image: Vicente Guallart, a Barcelona-based architect whose work explores the mineralogical remaking of whole terrains – including how to make a mountain

The start point of this new way to understand architecture was in the early 1990s, when the emergence of Landscape Urbanism was focused on experiments on folding, surface manipulation and the creation of artificial terrains. Mostly all of these strategies can be related with some avant-garde projects of the 1960s, such as Hans Hollein’s Aircraft Carrier City in Landscape or Raimund Abraham’s Transplantation I; a time when architectural proposals included per-se the transformation of landscape, better explained by Erwin Rommel [quoted by Marida Talamona], “Any work of architecture, before it is an object, is a transformation of the landscape.

Natural tectonic can be understood as the architectural reconstruction of nature, as pointed by David Gissen and it could be a positive approach if we start thinking again on the idea that architecture can also bring nature back into the view and experience of the city. We want to end quoting Gissen: “Through this lens, we understand “nature” as something that was (past tense) in the city. By bringing it back, we reconstruct the former reality of the city but also acknowledge the end of nature as we understand it.”

[1] Landform Building, Architecture’s New Terrain. Conference at Princeton University School of Architecture [visited on 29th August 2011]
[2] Thinking big. John Rajchman talks with Rem Koolhaas [visited on 29th August 2011]
[3] Michael Jakob, “On Mountains, Scalable and Unscalable” MS [4] Reyner Banham, “Scenes in America Deserta”. The MIT Press, 1989.
[5] Fumihiko Maki, “Investigations in Collective Form.” 1964. PDF available. Visited on 29th August 2011]
[6] Kenneth Frampton, “Megaform As Urban Landscape”. University of Michigan, 1999.

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Diller Scofidio + Renfro Beat Out Strong Competition at Aberdeen City Garden Project

From Archinect a multilevel interconnected web surface is created as a structural response to the multiplicity and heterogenous needs of a dense  urban area brings an integral thickened surface – Stan Allen’s ‘Mat Urbanism: The Thick 2-D” With a now familiar idea diagram from a rubber band  the design displays D&S’s out of the box thinking.
Aerial view of the winning proposal by Diller Scofidio + Renfro in collaboration with Keppie Design and OLIN (Image: Courtesy of Malcolm Reading Consultants)
Aerial view of the winning proposal by Diller Scofidio + Renfro in collaboration with Keppie Design and OLIN (Image: Courtesy of Malcolm Reading Consultants)

Diller Scofidio + Renfro have won the Aberdeen City Garden Project design competition which seeks to transform the center of Aberdeen, Scotland. New York City-based DS+R collaborated with local Scottish architects, Keppie Design and landscape architects OLIN, on this project and emerged as winners from a head-to-head race with another finalist team led by Foster + Partners. — bustler.net

Image: Courtesy of Malcolm Reading Consultants


Malcolm Reading, the competition organizer, commented:

‘This is such an exciting outcome and a great coup for the city. This ingenious and inspiring design for Aberdeen’s key public space gives the city a new social landscape but one rooted in its extraordinarily rich heritage and natural assets.

‘The runner-up concept, by Foster and Partners was outstanding, elegant and thoughtful, but did not, in the end, persuade the Jury that it could match the promise of connectivity, excitement and spatial diversity of the winning scheme.’

Check the Bustler article to also see the projects of the five shortlisted teams led by Foster + Partners, Gustafson Porter, Mecanoo, Snøhetta & Hoskins, and West 8.

The trajectories of Elizabeth Diller

From domus an interview with Elizabeth Diller of ‘trans-disciplinarians extraordinaire” Diller & Scofido whose work on numerous projects with a wide range of professionals is so remarkably memorable and shapes the environments and perceptions of all who come across them or even see them for they are very photogenic , yet it is a loss to only see them in pictures …..

An interview from Beijing by Brendan McGetrick

he famed partner of Diller Scofidio + Renfro discusses her rebellious impulses and the development of an intensively interdisciplinary contemporary practice

Over the course of the millennia-long, multinational development of architecture, the contributions of women have been essential but under-recognized. In the age of early modernism, female designers began to gain prominence, but largely behind the scenes and often without fair compensation. The history of modern architecture in particular is contaminated with anecdotes in which female collaborators were relegated to the shadows while their male colleagues soaked in the spotlight: the movement’s most revered masters, Mies van der Rohe and Le Corbusier, each had a female collaborator—Lilly Reich and Eileen Gray, respectively—from whom they famously took inspiration and credit. The fact that these women’s efforts were misidentified is both a personal injustice—to Reich, Gray, and others—and an intellectual deprivation to the generations of designers that have followed them but not benefited from access to their thoughts and ideals.

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