One of the first parks to be modernised since Soviet rule, the Vezelka River embankment has been upgraded as part of a new initiative looking to create social value in Russian public spaces.
The city of Belgorod in Eastern Russia was fully rebuilt after World War II and now is home to over 350,000 people. Its public spaces however have not been upgraded since the Soviet era, including Vezelka River embankment.
This underutilised space was selected as the first public space to be developed as part of a government initiative, Future Cities, transforming public spaces in Russian regions. Launched in 2017, Future Cities aims to renovate 223 public spaces, spread over an area of 1200ha across 40 Russian towns by reimagining public space use to meet global standards and create new attitudes to community development that brings added social value to cities.
In addition to using the guidelines of the Future Cities program, The Vezelka River embankment project features design concepts crowdsourced from polls, which asked locals what they were looking for in their public spaces.
The embankment has now been redesigned as a viable public space that offers easy flow of pedestrian traffic between functional zones, while also connecting the embankment with the city’s centre and increasing pedestrian flow. The riverbank’s ‘natural’ appearance has been maintained through landscaping to ensure a pleasant experience for visitors that helps them to connect with nature.
Connected by promenades and cycle paths, the new public space is divided into four zones. The Local zone features playgrounds, sports fields, a dog park and footbridges for fishermen, as well as a recreation zone and picnic area suitable for everyday pursuits.
The Memorial zone preserves historical monuments, while the Industrial zone serves as buffer, connecting the city centre with areas near the railway.
The Central zone, at the main pedestrian intersection, is a multifunctional square with a landscaped amphitheatre that overlooks the river and serves as a both a meeting place and an event platform. Connected by a bridge, the opposite riverbank serves as the Children's Embankment, andboasts a playground featuring slides and sculptural elements.
In the middle of the river, an island stands as a water bird reservation with extensive aquatic plantings that plays an ecological role in the development.
Taking only ten months to complete, the park officially opened in 2018. This fully developed public space now offers visitors plenty of areas in which to take a leisurely walk or play sports. Children can safely play and nearby residents can walk their pets. In summer the park becomes a concert venue or festival ground, while in winter skating rinks will be set up and heated pavilions added to ensure the park can be used year round.
Images © Maria Gonzalez