Final stages in global competition

Monday 16 Dec 2013

Irish, Spanish and Russian teams battle it out for National Centre for Contemporary Arts

Three teams have been selected to compete in the final stage of an international design competition for the National Centre for Contemporary Arts (NCCA) in Khodynskoe Pole, Moscow. Irish firm Heneghan Peng Architects, Spanish Nieto Sobejano Arquitectos and Russian practice Mel will go head-to-head in the third phase of this closely-watched competition.

The three practices were selected from an initial 900 entries to provide detailed designs for the new NCCA. The cultural complex will be situated in an area destined for future development and must meet the needs of art professionals and enthusiasts alongside the social needs of the local community.

Denis Leontyev, General Director of project consultant Strelka expands: “It is crucial to understand that Khodynskoe Pole, the site of the future museum, is a location for new development of considerable scale.  Simultaneous with the NCCA museum and exhibition complex, a new shopping centre, park, hotel, residential and office buildings are being planned. 

"A hybrid environment will result, where the most varied functions mix - cultural, commercial and residential. Such close proximity often acts as the catalyst for the appearance of striking and bold architecture.” 

Heneghan Peng Architects

The shortlisted entry from former WAN AWARDS winners Heneghan Peng Architects centres on a vertical element where flexible exhibition spaces are stacked one on top of the other. This enables those visitors interested in viewing a particular exhibition to travel directly to this floor, while those more interested in browsing the collections can do so at their leisure.

On entering the NCCA, visitors will find an escalator system which rises through the administration areas and storage workshop to give the public a glimpse of the ‘working museum’. The exhibition spaces are pared back because ‘the architect provides the infrastructure, the curators and artists make the museum’.

Externally, the building is anchored by runways and naturalistic landscaping to provide an escape from the surrounding urban environment. Plans also include outdoor activities such as ice rinks, formal flower gardens and skateboard parks.   

Nieto Sobejano Arquitectos

The second shortlisted scheme is by Spanish firm Nieto Sobejano Arquitectos and looks to ‘the Russian avant-garde, powerful industrial structures, and the contemporary art ‘factory’ typology’ for inspiration. The result is a cluster of silos with exhibition spaces layered vertically but divided horizontally by an internal ‘street’.

This public walkway has been incorporated to foster the social element of the NCCA, encouraging visitors, experts, researchers and artists to mingle and share ideas about the work on display and the wider artistic realm.

Three of the silos are to host temporary exhibitions while four are reserved for permanent exhibitions and one for artist workshops, residences and parking. The grandest of these volumes will be home to a versatile auditorium for film performances, audiovisual artworks and conferences.

Also playing a defining role in Nieto Sobejano Arquitectos’ proposal is a large media façade which wraps the exterior facing towards the park, enabling the theatrical and artistic features of the NCCA to extend to an external arena.


The concept by Russian firm MEL takes a different approach, lifting the green public spaces and placing them on the roof of the NCCA to form an accessible structure with zigzag pathways, grassy mounds and ribbons of steps.

Dotted across this manicured roofscape are a series of pavilions which will host the permanent and temporary exhibitions, teaching areas, media centre, café amenities and artists’ residences. The change in use will also be clearly noticeable, as the textures of the rooftop paving will be altered depending on various 'zones'. The cladding of the pavilions is austere, with natural stone tiles and polished concrete.

Visitors will be able to enter a number of the pavilions from this rooftop space as well as engaging in outdoor workshops, film screenings, open-air lectures and rooftop installations. Internally the space has been left basic but flexible to the needs of exhibitors and curators, with access to the outside available from many of the volumes. 

A final decision is due in the next few weeks.

Sian Disson
News Editor

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