Plans have been laid to fundamentally rethink Moscow. The Kremlin and the rest of the historic center of Russia's capital city are groaning under the weight of automobile traffic thanks to the boom in car ownership that followed the collapse of communism. Traffic in the city, memorably described by Keith Gessen for The New Yorker in 2010 as feeling "like an existential threat," frequently coagulates into jams which were reported by Pravda last year to be the longest in duration in the world: on average 2.5 hours long. The plan is bold: to create a new Federal District that would move the seat of government out of the old center and into a brand new district, doubling the size of the city. Following a six-month international design competition, a particular vision has been chosen.

Under the anonymous, if descriptive, banner of the Capital Cities Planning Group, an international team of consultancies came up with the winning plan for the new Federal District which, according to the design images released by the group, is looking decidedly green and wet.

"The proposed physical form builds on the natural system of waterways, lakes, forests and meadows as the foundation for a green infrastructure network to support the development of a zero carbon city," said a statement released by the group.

The new district appears to be making maximum use of the available space, with four new mixed-use urban centers spread out with plenty of room to breathe. These include a "Federal City" and "Innovation City" nearest to what will become Old Moscow, and a "Logistics City" and (comparatively large) "Science City" set farther out. All four are set into existing woodland, with the natural water courses envisaged as idyllic leisure havens.

New Moscow depicted as four distinct cities in the forest

The whole idea is to relieve the pressure on the transport system in the existing center, and to that end a new high-speed rail terminal is planned for the new Federal City, while the expansion of Metro, Tram and road systems is also on the cards.

Crucial to the success of the master plan is the fate of Old Moscow, which was also to be considered under the scope of the competition. The group's website speaks of "a dual strategy for the urban development approach Old Moscow and New Moscow that links regeneration of under-utilized land in the existing city," which is somewhat vague. However, the plan for the existing center appears to involve the restoration of the old narrower streets and the "upgrading" of "former Soviet housing" (if housing can be formerly Soviet). Whether more specific action will be necessary to avoid Ghost Town Syndrome remains to be seen.

Of course, neither is the success of New Moscow guaranteed. New towns don't always turn out as envisaged, and it'll be interesting to see what carrots will be dangled by Russian and Moscow authorities to attract business to relocate to the new centers from the old city and elsewhere.

As interesting will be how the claims of a "zero carbon city" will pan out. Presumably the claim is confined to New Moscow, with Old Moscow carrying the burden of the city's numerous airports.

Here's the list of the members of the Capital Cities Planning Group:

  • Urban Design Associates – US (Lead, Urban Design)
  • Beasley and Associates – Canada (Lead, Planning)
  • Gillespies – Scotland (Environmental Planning)
  • John Thompson & Partners – UK (Urban Design and Master Planning)
  • Nelson/Nygaard Consulting Associates – U.S. (Transportation Planning)
  • Buro Happold Ltd. – UK (Infrastructure Planning)
  • Group Ark – Moscow (Planning)
  • Solving Efesco – UAE (Economics)
  • Professor Stuart Guilliver FRSE – UK (Economics)

The video below published by John Thompson & Partners's contains more images for the planning group's vision of New Moscow.

Source: Capital Cities Planning Group, via The Architects' Journal and Wired UK