Wednesday, 11 November 2009

From Russia, with love... Part 1

Click to enlarge - further details and PDF download of the publication see bottom of blog post

OK, nothing much I can say about this as what can I add?  This postcard from Moscow is  brought to you via MAPS, the Moscow Architecture Preservation Society.

About MAPS

The Moscow Architecture Preservation Society (MAPS) was set up in May 2004 following the demolition of two major Moscow landmarks: the Moskva Hotel, Voyentorg department store and the fire in the Manezh.

The initiative group of MAPS consists of young architects, historians, heritage managers and journalists from different countries. We work in close cooperation with preservationists, architects and historians within Russia and abroad to raise awareness about the present destruction of the city's historical buildings. Through these contacts, we are working to give Russian preservationists and Muscovites a greater international voice. We invite international experts to advise on more sustainable approaches to the historic built environment.

MAPS believes that every effort should be made to preserve certain buildings. Through such work MAPS hopes to convince the Moscow Government, developers and architects that the unchecked demolition of old Moscow is not in the city’s long-term interest.

Queries: Kevin O'Flynn, 8916 173 2536

Edmund Harris, 8916 524 5722

Clementine Cecil, +447968003595

Marina Khrustaleva, 8903 612 4686


Greetings from Moscow Postcard - ARKHNADZOR

Happy is he who has the courage to defend what he loves

Yuri Bocharov

Letter to President D. A. Medvedev of the Russian Federation

On the restoration of the rights of federal authorities and liquidation of the Mayor’s Office monopoly on the development of Russia’s capital

Dear Mr. President!

This letter is being sent in connection with the preparation of your annual State of the Federation address to the Federal Assembly. The main goal of this letter is to draw attention to the need of the Russian government to take control over the development of the federal capital. All capitals in the world develop under the control of presidents or heads of government. The exception to that rule has been Moscow for the last fifteen years.

A unified General Plan of development for Moscow and Moscow Oblast through 2010 was passed in 1992. After the Supreme Soviet RSFSR passed (1993) the law “On the status of the capital of the Russian Federation,” the Moscow government rejected the strategy of a holistic development of the capital region and started elaborating its own General Plan to 2020, the realization of which has led to serious negative phenomena. The law did not establish the powers of the federal authorities in the capital. This reflected the political confrontation of the legislative and executive branches in that period, which ended with the shelling of the White House. The Moscow City Duma was too hasty in approving the inventory of municipal property (approximately 7,000 major sites) and turned over the property to be managed by the Mayor’s Office. The land and the lion’s share of real estate that had belonged to the USSR government, Union republics, and the COMECON ended up in the monopoly management of the Moscow Mayor’s Office.

The centrifugal development of the city was replaced by a centripetal one, focused on maximal profit from building on the most liquid lands in the central zone around the Kremlin. The Soviet slogan “Proletarians of the world unite around Moscow” was changed to a new one: “Investors of the world get rich in Moscow.” Close to 9 percent of the country’s population was concentrated in the capital, i.e., on 0.0006 percent of the country’s territory. While the national population is reduced by 0.9 million people annually, the capital’s population is growing by 150,000-180,000 people a year. No federal capital in the world has such population density. This evinces the fact that the zone of settlement for Russians has been compressed.

Moscow’s territorial resources are exhausted, but the population density is 5-8 times higher than in London, Paris, Washington and other capitals of democratic states. Nothing can be built in Moscow without taking down residential housing, sports complexes, industrial enterprises, or destroying green areas. The General Plan to 2020 was not coordinated with the Russian government. It calls for increasing housing by 25 percent and razing totally acceptable 5-story houses with an area of 12 million sq meters. (The 5-story houses are usually replaced by 20-25-story buildings, which doubles or triples the population density, significantly decreases living conditions, and blocks traffic.) The draft General Plan to 2025 calls for increasing housing by 60 percent and for that purpose razing 7,500 residential buildings with a total area of 22 million sq m; that means the forced removal of more than one million residents. In order to get land for construction, the Mayor’s Office in the last fifteen years has razed around 500 buildings that determine the image of Moscow as a historical city.

No other world capital has been subjected to such destruction. If Russia’s cities follow the example of the capital and start tearing down their 5- 9- and 12-story residential buildings, 18 – 20 million people will have to be resettled and two cities the size of Moscow built. In order to put up commercial buildings, the Mayor’s Office is using public areas and sanitation conservation zones of enterprises. In violation of the Presidential Decree of 24.08.1995, No. 873 “On the reconstruction of the Frunze Central Airport,” an elite residential region was created around the zone of the former runway. The conservation zone around the Kremlin is being built up uncontrollably. Moscow’s population density is outrageously over the limit, since local norms (MGSN-01-99) permit the construction of residential housing with a density of 1.5-2 thousand people per hectare of residential area, which is three times the limit in other capitals. The increase in population density and stories of buildings are leading to stress, the increase in mental illness and suicides. According to data in Foreign Policy Magazine, Moscow is in the top five capitals with the highest crime rates. The volume of construction rubbish is 5 million tons annually. In the international ratings of the Mercer Human Resources Consulting, Moscow is in 171th place in quality of life. And in 200th place for diseases of the endocrine system and oncology.

The law “On the status of cities of federal significance” has not been elaborated over 15 years. The proposals from the Federal Assembly and the Administrative Affairs Office of the President for a preserve zone for a new Parliamentary Center, sent to the Moscow Administration on 19.11.1998 (No UDI-3986) have yet to be realized. Some parcels of land (from 4 to 100 hectares), proposed previously for the Parliamentary Center, are now being built up by investors close to the Mayor’s Office. A number of Representatives of Federation subjects are still housed in apartments, and eight Representatives do not even have addresses in the capital. At the same time, the Moscow Administration managed to find territory for the Moscow City Duma and the Mayor’s Office and even ran an international competition for the buildings.

While the General Plan to 2020 gave the area of federal land in Moscow as 14 percent of all the territories (13,954.7 hectares, Moscow Land Committee Report, 1999), the project of the new General Plan to 2025 (vol. 4, p. 42) lists that the share of territory containing objects fulfilling capital functions is only 0.3 percent of the total territory of the city. Gosstroi RF drew the attention of the General Procurator’s Office (No. NM-1567 on 27.03.02, and others) to the illegal transfer of federal lands and objects to the property of a Federation subject, but without result.

There is no plan to solve the transportation issues of the capital. Close to 80 percent of Moscow roads have exhausted their flow capacity. On work days around 650 traffic jams form in the capital’s streets, holding up more than 400,000 cars. Up to 500,000 cars commute to the capital from the region, and the traffic jams stretch for 10-18 km. The annual time lost on commuting is estimated at 600 billion rubles. But the Mayor’s Office does not care about transportation problems, it wants to obtain the greatest investments. Therefore they are building hyper-expensive and practically useless two-level car tunnels under the metropolitan lines at a depth of 30-40 m! The land reserved by the General Plan for 1971 for four high-speed highways (“chords,” or spans) have been sold off or rented by the Mayor’s Office for investment construction. In cities in Australia, the US, and Canada roads and parking lots take up 30-35 percent of a city’s total area, in Western Europe, it is 20-25 percent, in Asia, 10-12 percent, and in Moscow, it is 8 percent. Yet Moscow is continuing to increase the density and number of stories of buildings, and is not taking into account the decision of the Supreme Court of the RF on limiting the operator of Moscow’s norms for insolation.

The area of the forest and park conservation belt is absolutely inadequate (the ratio of Moscow’s area and the belt is 1:1.6. For comparison, in Minsk, it is 1:11, in Tokyo, 1:4, in New York, 1:15). There are frequent incidents of building on the shores of water reservoirs and other unique territories. By 2015 the forest and park conservation belt of Moscow will be practically gone, since 75-80 percent is already reserved for construction by investors from Moscow and Moscow oblast. For the last 15 years the two subjects of the Federation have been struggling over land, airports, and resort zones. A letter from the oblast administration No 2-11863 dated 01.08.2008 lists 22 territories, illegally intended by the Moscow General Plan to be included in the capital’s territory. The remains of the forest and park belt are under additional threat in connection with the Moscow government’s resolution No 313-PP on the construction of six major garbage incinerators, whose environmental damage is enormous.

Mr. President! When you were First Deputy Prime Minister, you ordered the Ministry of Regional Development to participate in the elaboration of the capital’s General Plan in the development of capital functions on 03.02.2006, and then on 02.04.2007 (No DM-P9-1880) charged that ministry with responsibility for the issue. However, the Ministry of Regional Development has not written a Technical Task and has not sent the draft General Plan for approval of the State Non-Ministerial Analysis of Glavgosekspertiza of Russia. The administration of the Ministry of Regional Development has been studying the draft plan for 14 months. This, when the rule states that if the Moscow City Duma does not get a conclusion in under 3 months, the project is considered coordinated, with all the concomitant consequences! (par. 3 of the Resolution on coordination of schemas for territorial planning for subjects of the RF, dated 24.03.2007, No 178).

The General Plan lacks a section of security for zones with government objects, foreign embassies, and Representatives of the RF. Security has become an important issue after the murder of the Governor of Magadan Oblast at the entrance of his Representative office on Novy Arbat, 19. The materials in part 4 of the General Plan to 2025 have no indices on the territorial development of capital functions. The Ministry of Regional Development sent the materials to agencies of the executive branch, forgetting about legislative and judicial branches.

The Moscow public and the expert community protest against the General Plan to 2025. The project was studied by the Commission on Regional Development of the Public Chamber, the nongovernmental movements Moskovsky Sovet, Zhilishchnaya Solidarnost, the Committee for Defense of Citizens’ Rights, and the Ecological Union. They note that the General Plan does not reflect the interests of the residents of the capital but the commercial interests of the Mayor’s Office and the investors close to it.
In view of the danger of losing control over the capital region with a population of around 16 million people and deteriorating sanitary, ecological, and transport situations, it is reasonable to:

1. Propose to the Government of the Russian Federation to develop and send to the Federal Assembly laws “On the status of the capital of Russia” and “On the status of cities of federal significance,” which will give the leading role to the Federal Government in developing the political and historical centers of the capital.

2. Preserve through legislation a large federal zone in Moscow that corresponds to the structure of power in a presidential republic, taking control of the Conservation Zone of the Kremlin complex and create a large reserve territory for the new Parliamentary Center of the Russian Federation.

3. Charge the Ministry of Regional Development to elaborate an Ad Hoc Federal Program “Development of a United Engineering and Transportation Infrastructure for the Moscow Region to 2025” and assure it coordinates legislative and normative support bearing in mind the legal documentation of the Russian Federation, Moscow, and Moscow Oblast.

4. Charge the Ministry of Justice to check whether the resolution of the government of Moscow on elaborating the General Plan and other city-building documentation related to the capital’s development are in accordance with federal legislation.

Biographical information:
Bocharov Yuri Petrovich is a major Russian urbanism scholar, a member of the “world laboratory” of Urban and Transportation Planning.

His circle of scholarly interests over the years included theory and history of architecture, town building and land use; the history and methodology of urban and transportation planning; the theory of settlement; the evaluation of social, demographic, and economic factors in planning large cities; zoning of industrial regions and complexes.

In his youth, he got three higher degrees in architecture, construction, and transportation.

He is a Doctor of Architecture, an academician of the Russian Academy of Architecture and Construction Sciences (RAASN), a professor at the Institute of Communal Economy and Construction, chief scientist at the Central Scientific Research Institute of Town Building, a member of numerous foreign academies of architecture and urbanism, an advisor of the Social-Economic Foundation (New York, USA), a member of the international board of Town Planning Review (Liverpool, UK). He is the author of general plans for many major cities in the USSR; from the 1970s to the present he consults on the elaboration of master plans for cities and urbanized territories in various countries.

He was head of the Institute of the Theory of Architecture and was president of the All-Union Society of Urbanists.

He is author and co-author of about 360 works, some published aboard (Great Britain, US, Germany, Switzerland, Chile, and Japan, among others)
His works include monographs that were very popular:
“Organization of Pedestrian Traffic and Transport in Microregions” (1960);
“Planning Structure of the Modern City” (1972);
“The City and Production” (1980);
“Architecture of the USSR: 1917-87” (1987);
“Production and Spatial Organization of Towns” (1988);
“History of Land Use in Russia” (in English, New York, 1995).


A  plug here for the latest version of MAPS and SAVE Europe's Heritage joint publication, Moscow Heritage at Crisis Point, revised, updated and expanded edition of the original 2007 publication, of which more information on the authors and the publication can be found at this past blog:

Here, for the impecunious, is a free download as a PDF, although I do recommend the book. Warning - large file:

There's also included a chapter on St Petersburg.

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