RESEARCH SIMULATOR WEEK: MOSCOW AS A VILLAGE

09.11.2012, 09:35
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As part of the Research Simulator week of small research projects, a group of students visited three “rural corners” of Moscow – Terekhovo, Kuryanovo and Kommunarka. The village of Terekhovo, located in the Horoshevo-Mnevniki district, was investigated by Anna Pozniak, Nathan de Groot, Maria Romakina and Timothy Misir. The Kuryanovo district with post-war two-storey buildings, with low fences and front gardens in full bloom, located to the southeast of Moscow, was visited by Aikaterini Exameliotou, Oxana Yatsenko and Victor Karovskiy. Glafira Parinos, Lindsay Harkema and Ondrej Janku studied another place of interest called Kommunarka.

The students were interested in issues related to the theme of “Moscow as a Village”: how the residential community in each village was organized, how it fit into its urban surroundings and what urban processes had migrated to these areas.

Maria Romakina, Moscow, journalist:

“Terekhovo was first mentioned in 17th century land registries. Its development reached its height in the 1920s. Against a background of microrayons with high-rise buildings, the village has been able to preserve a traditional rural lifestyle: water is still collected from a pump on the street and the houses are heated with coal. Whilst property developers are working on plans to develop the area, local residents want to live in the manner they know best, planting 250 heads of garlic each “from here to the birch tree”, taking pleasure in the springtime blossoming of lilac and bird cherry and caring for their horses at the local stables.

Timothy Misir, Singapore, political scientist:

I was surprised to find a place like Terekhovo located so close to the city centre. It is not remote, being a few meters just off the main road; however it is still rather isolated, though this is part of its appeal and charm. From our visit, apart from being impressed by the level of social integration and community in Terekhovo despite the often alienating urban fabric of Moscow, it reminded me of the importance of having such places which serve as a haven for individuals who want to pursue alternative forms of living, which does not seem easy in Moscow.
Unfortunately, Terekhovo functions very much like a gated community, and the village seems much like a fort, with its inhabitants defending their territory from the encroachment of the urban, and from outsiders who use its surrounding spaces and who they deem a nuisance.
The result of any development or intervention to Terekhovo will likely be that after the residents are evacuated, it will just join the many half-developed, underused spaces all over the city. I would rather focus on the provision of services, formalizing community support networks, integrating the village to the wider community and allowing for more use of its open spaces for recreational activity, all while preserving its unique characteristics of being a rural spot in the middle of an intensely developed city.

Aikaterini Examiliotou, Saloniki, architect:

Having a fieldtrip to Kuryanovo with no more information than a Google-map and a few vague and random history facts about it, I felt I landed at a place frozen in time, it felt like you were still somewhere in the 70s. Everything seemed so quiet that I couldn’t help but think that this is a weird forgotten ghost village. The houses seemed like there is nobody around, almost abandoned. When we made it to the main boulevard, I was surprised to see a lot of people walking in the same direction, despite the fact we’ve been told they would, as there was something summing them there, proving my first impression of the place completely wrong.
It’s hard to imagine a place like Kuryanovo that has remained the same for 50 years, both in built environment and lifestyle to develop into something different than what it is right now, this weird forgotten village which in its weird way is part of Moscow. Also, as long as the aerostation remains there, no development can happen because of the offset of the sanitarian zone. Its potential, for me, lies in the spirit of the place, in the feeling of the quality that was carried through the years, despite the way that happened. In that sense the ideal development would happen in a way of re-enforcing the society, providing the social infrastructure that is missing and resolving the pollution issue from the aerostation.

Ondrej Janku, Prague, architect:

Kommunarka is a place that is now undergoing massive changes. It stands in-between its rural history and urban (or maybe sub-urban) future. Its most interesting period is happening right now. Reminders of former settlements with its vast areas of abandoned green zones are being surrounded by new dense development of residential high-rises. Emerging blocks of flats are replacing former farms and industrial zones. New citizens are merging with older rural generation. A lack of working opportunities and a new spirit of the city lifestyle turns inevitably both groups of inhabitants into daily commuters. However, the place does not become a ghost town during the day. Vast areas of building sites brought temporary settlements of workers as an attribute of ongoing change. Large in number, their presence in a village becomes very significant. They work, live and socialize together and, interestingly enough, bring back lively spirit of a ubiquitous community as a transitory substitution of a former rural lifestyle, before this place will inherit completely new social features of a residential satellite of Moscow.
Regardless our research interests, the quality of life in the place right now might not be seen as ideal. However, the potential lies exactly in its current unstable character that is reviling alternative scenarios for an evolution of similar cases around the fast growing capital. Could we orchestrate the transition of a village into a city fabric in a cultivated manner avoiding the dismal long lasting in-between state? Can we design a change itself? Can we learn from temporary worker’s communities and prevent the emerging satellites from suffering their common symptoms?

Anna Pozniak, Minsk, journalist:

Three «urban villages» selected for research, contain lots of common features as well as various distinctions. Rethinking those cases within the framework of popular “city-village” dichotomy doesn’t generate ideas for sustainable future of Terekhovo, Kurianovo and Kommunarka. We consider important to go beyond the obvious and search new categories for description of processes, happening in these spaces. This might contribute to preservation of diverse spaces and lifestyles within a given city.

Terekhovo is shown in green, Kuryanovo in blue, Kommunarka in pink.

Lindsay Harkema, New York, architect:

We decided to map each case study in terms other than the traditional descriptors of urban and rural (population, density etc), using qualities that we felt were more distinctive (architecture, future/past-orientation, sense of community etc). The result was a graphic comparison of three unique typologies of places that cannot be simply classified as «urban» or «rural». With this we propose a new way of understanding Moscow not as a collection of villages, but as a varied typological landscape that is constantly changing.

Urban is shown in orange, rural is shown in violet.