Reconstruction of a segment of Central Boulevard at Karl Marx Street in Chistopol, Tatarstan, Russia. Public Spaces Development presidential program in the Republic of Tatarstan, Russia.

  • client: Urban Development Institute of the Republic of Tatarstan foundation
  • partners: MLA+ Saint Petersburg, Project Group 8, LSK, knappt

2017 concept, design development, supervision, construction

Boulevard at Karl Marx Street (Yekaterininskiy Boulevard) has always been the central axis of the city’s historical center — with sprucest houses, churches, main city services, and parks to be found there. Its reconstructed part serves as modern face of the historic city and builds perspectives of its development. The project focuses on highlighting cultural values of the past and indicating their significance and place in the future.

Canopies and pavilions on three squares, inviting thematic outdoor spaces, design of hardscape elements — all refers to important semantic blocks of life and history of the city: Vostok Watch Makers, agriculture, cycling culture, and components of a “smart city”.

Modern public space in a city is not merely something beautiful and sound. It must serve as social life infrastructure: prod development and versatility of functions, support citizens’ formation of personal identity and self-actualization. Design of this project not only meets all functional requirements, but promotes formation and development of its new functions.

Hardscape elements of a boulevard are made of a modern wear-resistant material — weathering (COR-TEN) steel. Although it might look like ordinary rusty steel at first sight, is has completely different qualities to it. Weathering steel never gets dirty, does not require upkeep, proves to endure scratches and other harm — tags, stickers, or burns disappear from its surface with time without any special effort. Most objects are build of 8-mm steel, which is enough to assure resistance to negative impact like snow clearing, lawn mowing, hits by trolleys and bicycles. This project marked the first time weathering steel was used for urban improvement in Tatarstan.

Looking at the reconstructed part as a whole, chosen forms and materials might seem too pragmatic and minimalistic, which they are, largely due to modern day trends, but on the level of direct contact of a person with the sight and their experience of the sight, it is compensated by thorough work on details and consideration given to tactile quality of surfaces. The latter are seen as semantic vessels, sensed and perceived as part of visitors’ experience.

Thus, design reflects and processes the principle of hereditary transmission of cultural values.

All surfaces available to visitors, including benches, are coated with a modern material — light polyurethane. It is close to wood in terms of thermal conductivity and thermal storage properties, neutral in terms of chemical qualities (does not get oxidized, form acid or alkaline compounds), does not get burnt in the sun, and proves to be highly resistant to exhaustion.

Such combination of materials allows a citizen to feel comfortable inside an urban open space. Visitors find themselves surrounded by raw, light, and warm wear-resistant surface, which is protected by a thick coat of oxidized metal.

On their own, despite their pragmatic value, such materials as oxidized steel and light polyurethane might not seem as a reasonable addition to the environment of a historic city. However, design of the project offers significant “smoothening” of this impression: all surfaces, edges, and facets of shapes have similar roughness, which is reached by means of a special “’pebbled’ leather” diffusion technique for polyurethane and shot blasting method for steel. As a result, all surfaces and facets become visually and kinesthetically friendly.

In order to render cultural values of the past and transmit them into the future, we developed patterns that embody semantics to be inherited by future from the past. Contents and design of these cultural values’ implementation were publically discussed with citizens at open consultation sessions.

In each key space of the boulevard’s new part there are navigation towers that are meant to initiate and root this experience. Their illuminated glasses contain textual and graphic information which offers explanation of key semantics of the project’s design code and cultural ID of a topic the part of the boulevard is dedicated to.