From Monotonous Space to Vital Place: The Transformation of Azatlyk Square in Russia by the DROM studio

Azatlyk Square DROM ©Evgeny Evgrafov
From Monotonous Space to Vital Place: The Transformation of Azatlyk Square in Russia by the DROM studio it has been modified: 2023-09-17 di Benedetto Fiori

Transformation of Azatlyk Square in Naberezhnye Chelny, Russia, from a monotonous public space to a vibrant and contemporary one thanks to the work of the DROM architectural team in collaboration with Strelka KB. The project moved the main axis, divided the square into three unique spaces and introduced multifunctional elements, creating a new heart for the city.

The neighborhood of Naberezhnye Chelny, in the Republic of Tatarstan, Russia, has witnessed an extraordinary transformation, thanks to the talent and vision of the Rotterdam-based architectural team, DROM, in collaboration with Strelka KB. Their renovation project has brought new life to the main Azatlyk Square, a place that once languished in the oblivion of a long-gone Soviet past.

This square was originally conceived as a formal central axis connecting the town hall building to the never-built Lenin Museum. However, over the years, it had lost its importance as a place of social connection, becoming a symbol of a bygone and neglected era, surviving thanks only to sporadic maintenance. It was a dull square, distant from city life.

The DROM team, composed of Timur Karimullin, Sofia Koutsenko and Timur Shabaev, set the goal of transforming this public space into a dynamic place, ready to welcome a variety of activities and promote interaction between residents.

The key element of this transformation was moving the main axis of Azatlyk Square towards the edge of the site. This move allowed the surrounding neighborhoods to be directly connected to the new Promenade, a structure featuring pavilions that include play areas, a cafe, a food kiosk and a spiral viewing platform. The former central area has been divided into three different squares, each with its own unique personality.

To the east, there is the Events Square, a pink concrete paved area, ideal for hosting weekly outdoor markets. Next to it, is the Green Square, a relaxing place with a wooden amphitheater and a large lawn, perfect for enjoying the seasons looked after by the city's gardening department. Finally, the Cultural Square, with a fountain and a new shallow circular pool, is a great place to play with water on hot days.

Each square was designed to serve a specific function: the amphitheater becomes a café, the viewing platform adds a vertical dimension to the site and the circular swimming pool transforms into an ice skating rink during the winter.

DROM also developed unique paving patterns for each plaza and created wind- and sun-protected spaces using strategically placed “hills” and local tree species, such as lime trees, red maples and blue firs.

In addition to the pavilions, Azatlyk Square features custom-made street furniture and lighting elements, the development and production of which actively involves local companies. This project created a new local economy and helped strengthen the economic fabric of the city.

A unique feature of the spiral viewing platform is its load-bearing structure, made with the same technology used for the production of gas pipes. The benches, however, were made by a local concrete factory, while the lamps were created using standard steel profiles. This approach not only made the project more sustainable but also financially advantageous.

By maintaining much of the pre-existing vegetation and adding new trees, the architects preserved the existing ecosystem and improved the surrounding landscape. This natural integration made the transformation in the city center a success both visually and sustainably.

Residents of Naberezhnye Chelny have enthusiastically welcomed this new oasis of public space and lush green areas. This project not only transformed a dull industrial past into a contemporary and vibrant dimension, but also injected new energy into the roots of this community. Azatlyk Square is now a place of meeting, joy and vitality that serves as an example of how architecture and urban design can positively influence the life of a city.

project info

PROJECT NAME: Azatlyk Square
LOCATION: Prospekt Khasana Tufana 18, Naberezhnye Chelny (Republic of Tatarstan, Russia)
ARCHITECT: DROM (Timur Karimullin, Sofia Koutsenko, Timur Shabaev)
PROJECT TEAM: Asaf Barnea, Aga Batkiewicz, Valentina Ciccotosto, Elif Gözde Öztoprak, Roos Pulskens, Pratyusha Suryakant
COMMISSION: January 2017
DESIGN PHASE: January 2017 – April 2017
CONSTRUCTION PHASE 1: Summer 2017 – Fall 2018
CONSTRUCTION PHASE 2: Spring - Summer 2019
GFA: 7.8 Ha
COSTS: Approx. €4.500.000
Granite paving
Tainted concrete paving

PHOTOGRAPHER: ©Dmitry Chebanenko, ©Evgeny Evgrafov

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