In November of last year Moscow marked the grand opening of its newest, flashiest park: Zaryad’e. The location of this park was the former Hotel Rossiya, a behemoth, concrete eyesore that obstructed views of the old city from the river.
For decades, it was the largest hotel in the world, with 5,000 rooms. I remember in 1992 when I went there to change money. The rouble was devaluating and there were money-changers on the street everywhere. Out of some misplaced sense of propriety I decided I should change some money officially. So I went to the hotel and asked for the money exchange. The concierge smiled and said, come with me, so I followed him into the elevator. We got off at a dark, low-ceilinged mezzanine, and the concierge reached into his pocket for some roubles. Sighing, I traded dollars for roubles and went about my usual routine after that.
Years later I actually stayed in the Rossiya several times. By then, prices in the hotel had dropped precipitously such that it was affordable. There was nothing special about the hotel except its Soviet-ness, which by that time was fondly remembered as a kitschy, weird period in travel services.
The hotel closed in 2006, and, since then, a large fence had surrounded the giant hole in the ground caused by the hotel’s demolition.
And it just stayed like that. It was always kind of disheartening to walk up to St. Basil’s cathedral and have to see that the big construction wall was STILL THERE. I don’t know what took so long– I’m sure there was wheeling and dealing galore–but the site finally became a park and I went to it.
It’s lovely. It really is. But it has some issues; namely I think the park is too small for Moscow.
I was there on one of the first sunny and warm spring days. Naturally, everyone else in Moscow had the exact same idea. We took a photo in an unusual, shiny sculpture.
Then we made our way through the maze of walkways that traverse the park. There are plenty of benches and lots of trash receptacles. But– all of Moscow wanted to be in the exact same place. The highlight of the walkways is the part that juts out over the Moscow river, where everyone and their mother stopped for a photo.
Can you see all the people on the bridge?
The other part of the park has a good idea in theory, but I’m just not sure the execution is ever going to work out. Each zone of the park is designed with Russia’s different landscapes in mind. So there’s an area of steppe, of evergreen forest, of birch woods…
But I feel like the area is just too small for something like this. What makes the steppe beautiful is its vastness. The little bit of steppe here just looks like a scraggly, unkempt lot. Maybe the rest of the park will be better once the trees have time to really grow, I’m not sure.
The biggest drawback, however, will always remain: the walkways are not large enough to hold Moscow crowds. I feel like the designers should have specifically designed this park for MOSCOW, not just a random Russian city. Maybe the city should have invited Moscow’s metro designers to give some input!