From Zemlyanoy Gorod to new public gardens: Garden Ring transformation

From Zemlyanoy Gorod to new public gardens: Garden Ring transformation
Zubovskaya Square. Design concept
Moscow’s Garden Ring has undergone numerous transformations over the years. First of all, the ramparts and the moat along it were taken down and replaced with front gardens that were later developed into boulevards, though not for long. The road was broadened at the expense of the gardens, which are now being restored under the My Street programme. This article describes the future zone types, skating parks and public gardens around the Garden Ring.

Over 200 years ago, the Moscow authorities approved the Garden Ring development plan. Moscow’s Building Commission that was set up shortly after the Patriotic War of 1812 against Napoleon decided the future of Zemlyanoy Gorod, now the area between the Boulevard Ring and the Garden Ring. The ramparts were pulled down, the moat filled with soil and paved with cobblestone, with part of it assigned for pavements (sidewalks).

The ring road gradually evolved into a Garden Ring: it was bursting with greenery, except for a few streets, and parts of it developed into entire boulevards. House owners used unoccupied plots of land to plant trees and shrubs. As it was up to them to decide on the garden designs, there was no uniformity in the front gardens. In 1879, the City Hall came up with the initiative to develop the street into a broad ring of boulevards, similar to the central boulevards of Paris or Vienna Ringstrasse.

This issue was raised over and over again, some suggested that the front gardens be transformed into pedestrian alleyways. The front gardens were not very well maintained, and only 47 out of over 300 gardens were recognised to be in a satisfactory condition. Several proposals were on the table: some wanted to plant greenery in the middle of the ring rather than on both sides, but this idea was discarded due to insufficiently wide streets.

Bolshaya Sadovaya Street.  By N. Granovsky. 6 August, 1951

“The planned street distribution between the road in the middle and the pavements on the sides will add uniformity to most of Sadovaya [Garden Street],” said a Moscow City Hall report in 1905. “By expanding the pavement (sidewalk) by 10 sazhen [nearly 3 metres], it will be possible to keep most of the current plants where they are as alleys, and the street itself will retain its character, with the only difference being that the previously private plots of land for front gardens will be open for public use.”

Yet, the boulevards did not last long. In the late 19th century, it was decided to put streetcar rails along the Garden Ring that were replaced with electric trams in 1912 and trolley-buses 25 years later. In the 1930s, the Garden Ring was surfaced with asphalt and most of the greenery removed so as to be able to expand the road. Underground tunnels and underpasses were built together with bridges and flyovers. This is how the Garden Ring became one of the most heavily congested roads.

Traffic on the Garden Ring. By A. Trakhman. 1960s

My Street Programme on the Garden Ring

Today, the My Street programme seeks to return the lost gardens to the ring and make it into a comfortable place for people to walk and rest. Last year, the Garden Ring was adorned with lime-trees, maples, rowans, decorative apple trees and others, while this year the street will become greener with elms, oaks, maples, lime-trees, rowans, apple and bird cherry trees.

Presently, the development works cover the 12.1-km section between Dolgorukovskaya Street and Smolenskaya Square. The project seeks to expand the pavements, set up public gardens and improve the courtyards by bringing in street furniture and putting paving stones down. The latter can last for decades - far longer than the asphalt surface with fewer than 7 years of service life.

Sadovaya-Chernogryazskaya Street. Design concept

Garden Ring zone types

The 12-km long section of the Garden Ring will include 14 kinds of zones, ranging from small cosy courtyards to public gardens with modern infrastructure. These will be more than transit zones – they will be comfortable resting areas with pavilions, greenery, and venues for events and exhibitions too.

Flowerbeds next to a flyover and a grove near a metro station

Flowerbeds, oaks, lime, apple and bird cherry trees will appear around the Samotyochnaya flyover. These will be complimented with numerous wooden benches and additional lights. The columns of the flyover will be lit up with coloured lights to make the space lighter and brighter.

Round flowerbeds and semi-circular benches made of granite blocks with wooden seats will decorate Bolshaya Sukharevskaya Square. The paving pattern will echo their shape.

The square next to the Krasnye Vorota metro station will become a grove of oaks, maples, lime-trees and rowans. The area will have artificial hills covered with perennial flowerbeds, benches and cafés. Special park lamps will add a soft background light to the square, and historical street lamps will appear in front of the famous tower building.

Samotyochnaya Square. Design concept

Granite paths

One of the zones next to the Atrium shopping centre will have footpaths covered with tiles. Here there will be areas to rest with benches and trees. The redevelopment project will also involve the courtyard of School 2095 at 44 Zemlyanoy Val Street where coloured bituminous concrete will have markings for games, and flowerbeds with perennials and shrubs will be placed along the perimeter.

A public garden at the crossing between Nikoloyamskaya Street and the Garden Ring will be a resting area, which will be fenced off from the road with hedges and flowers. It will also have a pavilion with a small café.

Improvement of the courtyard at 44 Zemlyanoy Val Street. Design concept

Theatre terraces and shrub-covered hills

The changing relief near Taganka Theatre will be smoothed by granite ramps and stairs. The upper terrace at the entrance to the Commonwealth of Actors of the Taganka Theatre will be redesigned into a small square with benches and trees. It will be paved with clinkstone that resembles the bricks of the theatre building. The lower terrace will be a car park.

The area next to Dobryninskaya metro station will be developed from a transit site to a meeting and show venue. Its paving pattern will include three different colours of granite blocks, while long and square wooden benches will blend in perfectly with its design. A green zone near the metro station will become part of the linear park on Lyusinovskaya Street in the south.

A public garden on Zhitnaya Street will be a good shelter from the city fuss. Its landscape will include artificial hills with shrubs where regular grass will be replaced with various perennial herbs. The landscape will be similar to natural scenery, which is why the site could host nature learning lessons, biology and environment classes in the future. The building work here has almost been completed.

Redevelopment of a public garden on Zhitnaya Street. Design concept

Skatepark under a bridge and museum exhibits near a metro station

An alley of maples and lime-trees will lead to the entrance to the Muzeon Arts Park, and a granite amphitheater will appear next to Park Kultury metro station. A skatepark will be built under the Krymskaya flyover, and Museum of Moscow exhibits will be put on display near the the entrance of the metro. The area will have new granite benches, and maples and lime-trees along the road.

A landscape park with trees, bushes, flowerbeds and standard street lights will be built in front of the MIA Rossiya Segodnya press centre on Zubovsky Boulevard. Zubovskaya Square will have a garden with benches and various trees, shrubs and perennials. A car park and a quiet zone will be added to the courtyard with a colonnade. The car parking lot next to Zubovskaya Street will be improved with more foliage.

A small courtyard at 17 Smolensky Boulevard behind a little fence will be transformed into a mini public garden with granite benches. This green shady corner will be a good shelter from the noise of the city.

Courtyard improvements at 17 Smolensky Bulvar Street. Design concept

More light and more foliage

Pedestrian street lights have been modernized – about 1,000 new street lamps with energy-saving bulbs will be installed along the streets.

In order to screen the pavements (sidewalks ) from the dusty and noisy road, about 2,000 trees and over 60,000 shrubs that will form hedges will be planted along the area between Dolgorukovskaya Street and Smolenskaya Square. The trees will include elms, oaks, males, lime-trees, rowans, apples and bird cherry trees, while the shrubs will be mock orange, potentilla, Juneberry, spiraea, lilac as well as others. These will be planted between October-November, the best planting time for them.

Krymsky Val Street. Design concept

Clear sky and improved courtyards

Over 57.5 km of utility tunnels and 1,000 wells have been laid down to remove overhead cables that were obstructing the skyscape and building facades. Facades of nearly 300 buildings will be renovated along with adjoining courtyards that will have new asphalt and lawns. Courtyards will also be subject to hardscaping, according to recommendations made by the residents.

Comfort and safety on the Garden Ring

The pedestrian zone along the Garden Ring is becoming wider. The road will retain its five lanes with new asphalt surfacing.

Twenty new pedestrian crossings will be added for safety purposes. Shelters will be built at six areas of the ring to separate public transportation sections from the main road. Over 70 transportation stops will be replaced with more modern versions with Wi-Fi access and device charging points. Over 50 information stands will be available for people so that they can  navigate the city.

Photos from the Moscow Main Archives