The underground architecture of Zaryadye Park in Moscow

Zaryadye Park, inaugurated on 9 September 2017, near the Red Square in Moscow, on the former Rossiya Hotel site, is the first public park built in Moscow in exactly 70 years, the last being the Soviet Friendship Park, built for the 1957 Festival of Youth and Students. The area of the park is around 78 thousand square meters, of which 25.2 thousand occupied by a multipurpose concert hall. The park territory is divided into four areas representative of Russia’s different climatic zones: forest, steppe, tundra, and floodplains.

The best known architectural feature of Zaryadye Park is the so called “floating bridge”, which is a is a 70-meter horseshoe-shaped cantilever bridge that extends over the Moskva River. To me, though, the most interesting architectural element of the park is the fact that all museums, exposition and entertainment areas and restaurants are underground, taking no space away from the greenery on the surface. This creates the illusion of an hilly landscape in the center of the Russian capital and allow for an uninterrupted green lung right downtown.

This vast green expanse couldn’t be in starker contrast with the gigantic, bulky hotel that previously occupied the same area until 2006.

The Rossiya Hotel in 2004. Image source:

The Rossiya hotel was built from 1964 until 1967 at the order of the Soviet government. Construction used the existing foundations of a cancelled skyscraper project, the Zaryadye Administrative Building, which would have been the eighth of what is now referred to as the “Seven Sisters”. (You can read more about the “Seven sisters” and especially the importance of the first one in this post of mine).

Upon completion, it was registered in the Guinness Book of Records as the largest hotel in the world until it was surpassed by the Excalibur in Las Vegas, USA in 1990. It remained the largest hotel in Europe until its 2006 closure. This 21-storey behemoth had 3,000 rooms, 245 half suites, a post office, a health club, a nightclub, a movie theater,  a barber shop, a police station with jail cells behind unmarked black doors near the barber shop, and the 2500-seat State Central Concert Hall. The building could accommodate over 4,000 guests. On February 25, 1977, a huge fire in the building killed 42 and injured 50. The high death and injury rate was exacerbated because the hotel had very few exits in order to make it difficult for guests to enter or exit unseen by the ever watchful hotel staff.

The architecture of the enclosed spaces in the new park couldn’t be more different! It is modern, airy, luminous, unconventional and almost playful. The internal spaces have almost no columns in the large underground “rooms” and I suspect the load bering job of the (absent) columns is carried out by the shape of the structure, which resembles a large cupola.

Light comes from many skylights (some of which are pictured atop this post) and mixes with colorful led lights that illuminate an “upside-down forest” of thin stalactites, which covers most of the ceilings.

Photo tip! Looking up.
I find that, when walking around with your camera, there are many benefits in stopping every once in a while and looking straight up. This works, of course, outdoors, both amid the skyscrapers of many modern cities and under the tree canopies in parks and forests, but oftentimes also indoors.
You might discover beautiful intricate ceilings both in old and modern buildings alike and more often than not the pictures you end up with have an interesting component in the fact that they are not immediately recognizable as “ceilings” and leave the people who look at them wonder, for a few seconds, about what it might be that they are looking at.
You both get an interesting and rather novel perspective, maybe even an original picture of a place that millions have already photographed before you. And there is an added benefit: 99.99% of the time, no matter how crowded the place may be, there are no people on the ceiling! 😉



Would you like to take part in a photowalk or a photo tour of Moscow or any other Russian destination with an English (and Italian, Spanish and French) speaking photographer (me) showing you the sights, the best time and viewpoint(s) to capture them in your images and helping you improve your photo technique with practical tips? If so, do get in touch and we’ll be happy to create an unforgettable, tailor-made experience for you!



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