Reconstruction of GraphiteEl plant in Moscow

10. Urban design



Open up and preserve

As is the case with many industrial enterprises, the GraphiteEl plant is situated in an isolated territory, separated from the city itself by industrial buildings and fences. One of the key objectives of the project was to achieve a fully-fledged integration of the area into the urban fabric and public life of the city. Pedestrian pathways connecting public transport stops and points of attraction will pass through the plant and its territory, which will encompass a diverse network of spaces and facilities for public, commercial, cultural, and educational purposes, as well as housing offices and sports studios. Not only will this transform the site’s interconnection with the city at large, it will provide a place of interest for residents of the neighboring Moscow districts.

Another principle of vital importance for the project was to thoroughly preserve and repurpose the existing buildings and structures within the territory. This notion carries considerations of economic feasibility, environmental responsibility, as well as the architectural attributes themselves. While maintaining the fundamental structure of the site, a new system of circulation and function will occupy the factory spaces throughout, with the multi-scale factory halls being joined and abounding with new life and content such as The Fun Palace, The Industrial Boulevard, The Rising Square, and a multi-level arcade. Studios and workshops will be placed around multi-level platforms, the soaring Forum, The Entrance Arch and multifunctional platforms for temporary objects.

A variety of scales and space configurations, combined with flexible zoning, will allow a confluence of a range of functions and meanings, all within a single area, staging a truly vibrant, intense and attractive urban life under GraphiteEl’s roof.

A transparent labyrinth or web of public functions

One of the most striking architectural qualities of the existing buildings in the design area was the expressive combination of concrete and metal frames with light translucent infills. Partitions of sheet and block glass are arranged between powerful concrete columns and beams, while openwork metal structures support the delicate glass roof framework. These multidimensional, light-infused, translucent spaces were developed as architectural solutions for newly introduced elements. All technical aspects are grouped into compact cores, between which open public functions emerge in a configuration of maximised visibility spanning various levels and forming a web of public spaces. Furthermore, the varied uses and purposes of these spaces combine to create a single, transparent, multifunctional labyrinth whose intensity and atmosphere can be varied and reconfigured.

Founded in 1933, the GraphiteEl electrode plant’s complex of industrial buildings occupies more than four hectares and is located near the metro and MCC station Shosse Entuziastov. The renewed GraphiteEl will become readily visible, announcing itself from afar. Above the inconspicuous, tree-nestled factories overlooking the highway, a light-flooded, shining architectural volume will rise, commanding a viewer’s gaze even at a great distance. Inside, a unique array of cultural and recreational functions will bring an urban significance: they will comprise a full-blown set of replacements for the places and services which residents delight in at weekends and in the evening. Nearby, several transport-related cycles will alternate throughout the day to support the site’s different purposes from office work, to shopping and entertainment, while passing motorists and pedestrians will be able to peer through the façade’s expansive windows at the varied and lively activity within.

Additionally, since one of the project’s primary elements – The Passage – will pass through many former workshops and connect two of the city’s major transport hubs – the metro and MCC – the plant’s reconstruction will provide an entirely new travel route for residents and transit passengers.

Inside the passage, store windows are located on either side, flanking the path leading to the anchor tenants at the far end. Meanwhile, the building’s structural grid gives form to the trade square modules and the overall interior, while coloured highlights adorn the trusses and columns, creating a vibrant structure that can accommodate a variety of content.

The Fun Palace dominates the central nave of the factory. With an underlying premise of brightness and mixed spatial impressions, this area boasts a network of glass-block walls, similar to city windows, creating an environment that is at once saturated and free from visual debris, while providing manifold ways for visitors to move between the multiple levels and store windows.

Built over the administrative building along the Enthusiasts Highway, The Forum embodies a flexible office and coworking space, whose panoramic windows and a vibrantly coloured are complemented by light installations, making the area visible from both inside and outside the building, showcasing the renewed concept of graphite.

Another nave of the plant is devoted to a separate spatial attraction – a large-scale amphitheater that rises from the lower level to the restaurant cluster above. This is one of the main public spaces for housing art installations and pop-up markets.

In the courtyard between the factory and the modernist buildings along Electrodny Proezd, a public space takes shape, while being divided into upper and lower squares.

The larger, lower square is surrounded by buildings on all sides bringing a type of seclusion that feels intimate and cozy. In winter, this area is turned into a skating rink, and all through the year, the square abounds with different events – store windows open into the courtyard, while modular pavilions for seasonal markets and cultural festivals are dotted around the perimeter.

By contrast, the upper square mainly provides covered parking, simultaneously putting a roof over the car park as well as a hilly children's play area. Communicating with the main building via many entrances and bridges, the square actively interacts with the facade, becoming a seamless part of the public space.