World Architecture Day 2014
Rod Manson, Director at Buro Happold speaks exclusively to WAN about the firm's Moscow Agglomeration Masterplan
Interview: Rod Manson

How did Buro Happold become involved in the project and what was the brief you were given?

Buro Happold was invited to join the Capital Cities Planning Group, an international masterplan team consisting of Urban Design Associates, Gillespies and John Thompson and Partners. Capital Cities Planning Group has been one of ten teams selected to participate in this global design process for the new Federal City in the Moscow Agglomaeration.

Our brief for the project was to develop a sustainable infrastructure and engineering masterplan for the project – we have recently completed major sustainable masterplanning projects in the Nordics, and this has provided an excellent base knowledge to develop such a major project of global significance.

Where do you start on a project of this scale?

The project size and scale is enormous, so our work for the six month programme was broken down into three distinct stages.

The first stage was a detailed examination of the current Moscow energy, infrastructure and sustainability credentials, involving research and investigation into a wide range of metrics and data, together with benchmarks on other major cities across the world, including London, Paris, New York, Washington, Hong Kong and Tokyo. The research information provided an opportunity to make an assessment on Moscow’s performance at this stage, and allow us to define the areas of focus for improvement.

The second stage involved major analysis of the Southwest Expansion Area identifying existing infrastructure, ecology, green and blue zones, such the optimum location for the new City to be identified. The Expansion Area is large and offers development potential far beyond the practical demands of the current generation, so growth should be carefully managed to meet the principles of the regional system.

The third and final stage was the development of the specific plans for the Federal City, looking at the energy, water and waste strategies to be implemented for the new City, and integration with the proposal for the scheme.

Within the preferred settlement geography in the Southwest Expansion Area, the proposed Federal City requires a specific site that optimizes its advantages over the long run and the practicality for initial implementation. The preferred specific site has been determined, consistent with the following location principles:

• The site should honour protected forests and optimize potential for linking forest habitats
• The site should optimize potential to use water for ecological and urban design benefits
• The site should optimize potential to use topography and land forms for dramatic urban design effects
• The site should honour historic and cultural assets so these can be incorporated into the urban pattern
• The site should maximize large parcels of available land and avoid locations with small landholdings in current active use, so that capital assets in particular can be comfortably located and built with least disruption on existing settlement
• The site should be well positioned for regional rail alignments and Metro extensions so it becomes a transportation hub
• The site should have potential for good road access and an integrated street system
• The site should facilitate the integration of existing settlements in a logical way compatible with the new government and business activities

Our proposed


engineering scheme for New Moscow was developed using an entirely new and flexible utilities infrastructure to meet the long term needs of the developing district, including the new Federal City.

This infrastructure includes centralised and decentralised energy stations. Energy will be supplied by a mixture of de-centralised energy centres to complement population growth and centralised energy plants. Decentralised energy stations have been incorporated within the urban structure and include local Combined Heat and Power (gas CHP), a district cooling plant by waste heat from CHP and supplementary river cooling. The centralised energy centre harnesses energy from waste from the energy plant and wastewater treatment plant, to reduce energy demand. The new infrastructure energy network will be managed using smart city technologies.

New Moscow will enjoy a smart grid technology for telecommunications and data infrastructure underground within the public realm and within buildings. The Smart Grid system shall be implemented with an open access infrastructure to offer further opportunities for revenue generation.

What are the main design challenges you are facing?

The project offers both many challenges and indeed opportunities, some of the key issues identified are as follows:

• Cost of remediation and decontamination
• Overcoming legal and ownership issues
• Establish short and long term system for sustainable management and maintenance of environment - built form and landscape
• Integrated energy and recycling facilities
• Ensure support services are integrated, or nearby and easily accessed
• Maximize access through public transport, foot and cycle
• Minimize use of private car and manage parking
• Make use of redundant bridges and viaducts as pedestrian and cycle links

These challenges have been integrated within our proposed development strategy, with proposals set out to overcome them.

What feedback have you had from the competition organisers?

The feedback over the six workshops sessions from the competition organisers has been very interesting, most constructive and has provided a good platform for the next design phases.

How does the design relate to the existing masterplan for the city of Moscow?

Old Moscow has many challenges but can also present opportunities with the integration with the New City.

A proactive program for the renewal of engineering infrastructure and construction standards will bring about the regeneration of Old Moscow as a healthy living place and destination of a Winter City celebration. A framework for a sustainable regeneration strategy in the Old Moscow has been developed, set out as follows:

• Sustainable refurbishment of existing buildings
• Upgrade existing utilities infrastructure
• Improve air quality by reducing emissions from cars and utility plant
• Improve water quality by upgrading and enhancing existing water filtration systems
• Utilise snow as natural resource for recreational and cultural activities
• Harness snow energy (as cooling source for Thermal plant)
• Engage city inhabitants to promote sustainable living
• Clear targets set for sustainability, embedded in planning and construction legislation

Our proposals for the whole of Moscow are about repositioning and transformation of this ancient and great national place. But they are also about practical moves that can be completed and that have a high probability of success in the real world of urban development.

In new Moscow, it is vital to safeguard protected forests and implement a forest renewal strategy - for every tree taken out, a new one must be planted; and forested areas should be joined together to create a diverse and integrated green network that merges the experiential quality of the forest with a diverse habitat network. This is the way to implement the spirit of the forest in the city and the city in the forest. For all Moscow, but especially in the Expansion Area, it is important to create a pervasive blue water network with a cleansing


landscape along watercourses supporting the formation of lakes and reservoirs to store, conserve and clean Moscow’s water resource.

Which cities have you taken inspiration from in your design?

The City of Moscow is unique, with its culture, urban form, density and engineering infrastructure. Our research and studies have undertaken comparisons with London, Paris, New York, Washington, Hong Kong and Tokyo

It has however been useful to compare Moscow with Washington DC, another relatively new Federal Capital to understand the role of the surrounding region in creating the conditions necessary to be a global city. Moscow is the dominant city of the CFD area and the most dense population centre. The nearest city of comparable size is St. Petersburg. Towns in the Moscow Oblast and surrounding oblasts support Moscow. Washington is the dominant city of the DC region and it is part of the Northeast Corridor, a string of cities including Baltimore, Philadelphia, New York, and Boston.

Could this be seen as a model for future international cities?

The approach to the projects has been both challenging and very rewarding – the process of engagement with the Client through a series of open forum workshops, with the competing teams learning for each other has been particularly refreshing and has shared the ideas and the process of collaborations from international designers.

In terms of design solution, to be a seriously considered world urban leader and as a model for future international cities, , it is imperative for New Moscow to model a clean, healthy and liveable environment, supported by an infrastructure system with zero carbon, zero waste and zero contaminated water. These development principals can be seen as a model for future international cities - the clear sustainability strategy can be therefore applied as an international template – all social, environmental and economic decisions must be embedded in the process.

The principles for Zero Carbon urbanism in Moscow are integral to its planning, design and construction and can be seen as a future model:

• New growth must integrate new efficient and sustainable carbon neutral infrastructure systems
• Government must development an integrated sustainable planning framework and partnership with the public and private sectors
• Clear goals must be set with strong leadership from the start of the development programme with monitoring and incentives
• Energy use must be reduced through high energy efficiency standards and incentives
• A smart grid system must be put in place to optimise the supply and demand profile of the network
• Urban design must improve access to local amenities
• New development must incorporate decent, safe, and economically mixed housing
• Government must promote recycling and resource conservation
• Government and business must work together to support ecologically sound economic activity

Buro Happold

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