Nine connected towers offer panoramic views over the city while restoring the straight grid of the urban plan, creating an engaging street-level atmosphere. The full integration, on all levels of the design, of an ambitious landscape plan creates healthy and lively living environments for a wide range of residents and commercial users. A design that brings together urban planning, architecture and landscaping, to solve some of the most pressing problems facing Russian inner-city life.
One of the problems in the centre of Yekaterinburg is the lack of inviting public space. This is often the result of a discontinuous layout of the urban plan in many residential neighbourhoods. When buildings do not align with roads, the street-level experience can become anonymous and distant, marked by characterless open spaces and car parks.
The straight grid is a key historical feature of the city plan, but it is often lost in the segmental development of individual projects. Forum City repairs Yekaterinburg’s historical urban grid structure, through a combination of towers and façades that stretch out along the main routes around this 103,000 sq m plot. By combining a continuous façade along the streets with open towers, the design creates a European-style metropolitan experience inside a residential complex.
In the 19th Century, Yekaterinburg was a city with many buildings made of brick; strong façades with details in the brickwork were found all over. Many of these were replaced over with highrises out of concrete, steel and glass. The design reflects this transition from the past, to the present and into the future.
The outside façades are straight and of red bricks; the brickwork extends to the 10th floor at most, after which the taller towers climb up to a high point of 100 m with predominantly aluminium and glass elements. On the inside, facing the inner towers and landscape, the façades are always curved. Diagonal views between them open up towards the skyline of the wider city.
The site of Forum City for many years functioned as one of the city’s main open markets and this too was integrated in the plan. The slim and elongated shopping mall that extends along the eastern side of the plot will be directly connected to a semi-public courtyard with plants, benches and a fountain, where residents and visitors can sit down for a drink. The covered food court that lies in between is simultaneously a hint at the site’s past function as a market and an answer to the modern urbanite’s desire for comfortable, safe culinary experiences.
The green spaces in this plan are ambitious. For the extensive landscape design, LEVS architecten worked together with S&P Architektura Krajobrazu, with offices in Poland and Russia, and with whom they shared the ambition to use integrated landscape plans as a means to deal with concerns over biodiversity, climate change and quality of life in densely urbanised areas.
In Forum City, a total of 150 mature trees will be planted, and thousands of shrubs and flowers will be spread out over the park, terraces and rooftops. These are commonly started with saplings that still need a few years to mature. Planting mature trees, of up to 25 years old, has two important advantages. First, they immediately start making their contributions to the neighbourhood’s air quality, and come next summer, the first renters will be able to enjoy the shade of trees and the cooling effects of large amounts of green surface area around them. By planting a variety of tree species, the park should eventually have live foliage and a changing colour palette year-round. From evergreen pine trees to deciduous trees such as several species of maple. The inside and outside should make for varied and interesting landscapes to explore.
All trees come from nurseries in Poland and Germany, specialised in growing them to develop extensive yet compact root-systems, making it possible to transport them over such long distances before planting. Importantly, the landscape covers an underground parking area, and it is only possible to lay some grass on top of a parking lot. The specific construction of the decks creates deep and stable soils for serious vegetation. Outside the building, places that would otherwise typically host cars are now turned into squares, where pedestrians and bikers share a public space and where trees and plants mark ideal sites for an encounter or a break.
Open spaces between the towers and the layered park with transitions from semi-public areas to private areas are intended to facilitate the mixing the dynamism and activity of a large city with the intimacy of a secluded neighbourhood. It has become possible for residents to move around, from house to work to leisure activities to day-care centres to doing groceries, all on foot. The private landscapes that connect all these elements in the complex are full of small paths and benches. The plan functions like a small city within a bigger city; from a compact apartment to a luxury penthouse, and from a sky-bar to a bench in the park.