Putin plan for park beside Red Square taking shape

Tue Nov 12, 2013 11:48am EST
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By Gabriela Baczynska

MOSCOW (Reuters) - For decades, it was home to the Hotel Rossiya, a white concrete-and-glass hulk that for some symbolized Soviet architecture at its soulless worst.

Now, by order of President Vladimir Putin, a prime patch of land off Red Square is to be transformed by a New York firm into a 13-hectare (32-acre) park as part of a drive to make Moscow's congested heart more liveable.

The big lot between the Kremlin's red brick turrets and tiny Orthodox churches dating back to the Middle Ages has been empty since the razing of the Rossiya, a 3,000-room warren built in a 1960s construction frenzy, was completed in 2007.

Many ideas were floated for the site, including a massive complex housing Russia's parliament and government.

Putin stepped in and ordered its use as a park at the height of unprecedented protests that swept through Moscow in 2011-12, attended largely by young urbanites tired of a leader who has dominated politics since 2000.

Putin weathered the protests to win a third term in the Kremlin in March 2012 after four years as prime minister.

On Tuesday, Moscow city authorities announced the winning design project for Zaryadye Park, its name derived from the old neighborhood that was bulldozed to make way for the hotel. The new park costs are estimated at up to $200 million.

"We really want the city center to be as pedestrian-friendly as possible, accessible and pleasant for residents and visitors," Sergei Kuznetsov, Moscow's chief architect, said in announcing the winner, the New York-based Diller Scofidio + Renfro studio.   Continued...