Novosibirsk, the heart of Siberia, is one of Russia’s largest cities, home to more than 1 million on the banks of the Ob River. In any river city, the riverbank plays a key role in urban life, and the Mikhailovskaya Embankment is no exception. The embankment is a two-part terrace park, divided by transit bridges and surrounded by a river cargo port and a major highway. In 2018 expert team of Strelka KB, a leading Russian urban consultancy, together with Strelka Architects and Novosibirsk architectural bureau Adaptik-A, supported by the Novosibirsk City Council, reimagined the embankment as a center of attraction for one of Siberia’s largest cities.
The key to this redesign lay in functionally dividing the embankment into quiet and active zones, with the former providing opportunities for calm relaxation while the latter would serve as a venue for major events, from Novosibirsk’s 125th anniversary celebration to the 2018 World Cup. The main promenade along the water now features a pedestrian zone, leisure area, and bicycle parking, and apple and linden trees were added to the existing greenery. The promenade was made accessible and inclusive, with a bike path providing an eco-friendly thoroughfare and pedestrian crossings and road markings for the visually impaired.
The active zone now features a stage for stadium-style events, such as the 2018 World Cup’s fan zone, where thousands of locals and tourists alike gathered to watch matches and enjoy each other’s company. In addition, a unique sports and recreation zone near the reservoir continues to bring the city’s athletes together to this day. The lower promenade connects to the others using mid-level footpaths. One of them, a “path of impressions,” features a children’s discovery area, bike path, and even a “green theater” — a dance floor with a river view.
The quiet zone consists of five “rooms”, each stimulating one of the five senses: sight, sound, taste, smell and touch, all evoked through a pattern on each room’s surface. New greenery with different textures was planted, including lungworts, with soft and fluffy leaves, and mahonias, with platelike leaves. The middle promenade now features an inclusive playground and sports zone, so that children of different levels of ability can play together. A ramp connects the upper and lower levels, and varied lighting provides variety and visibility for all while decorating the nearly 100 new trees along the embankment.
Strelka KB’s Center for Urban Anthropology conducted studies to see how locals and visitors now see Novosibirsk through social media photographs, and the results were tremendous. The number of photos taken outdoors grew by 20%, and in terms of the embankment’s suitability for events, locals benefited even more than tourists: though 21% of photos were taken during World Cup matches, the majority of activity came from City Day celebrations, where 73% of photos were posted by local Siberians. The Mikhailovskaya Embankment in Novosibirsk was developed as part of the Future Cities program, organized by Strelka KB in cooperation with DOM.RF and the Ministry of Construction, Housing, and Utilities of the Russian Federation.