forum city

S&P Architektura Krajobrazu and LEVS Architecten redefine an urban block

Forum City, Yekaterinburg, Russia

The large residential complex of Forum City marries a dynamic metropolitan lifestyle to an intimate urban experience. Nine connected towers offer panoramic views over the city, while restoring the straight grid of the urban plan, creating an engaging street-level atmosphere. The full integration, on all levels of the design, of an ambitious landscape plan creates healthy and lively living environments for a wide range of residents and commercial users. A design that brings together urban planning, architecture and landscaping, to solve some of the most pressing problems facing Russian inner-city life.

Interestingly, the site of Forum City for many years functioned as one of the city’s main open markets. This function also has been integrated in the plan. The slim and elongated shopping mall that extends along the eastern side of the plot will be directly connected to a semi-public courtyard with plants, benches and a fountain, where residents and visitors can sit down for a drink. The covered food-court that lies in between is simultaneously a hint at the site’s past function as market and an answer to the modern urbanite’s desire for comfortable, safe culinary experiences.

“Architecture is art that we can live in. The architect who knows how to combine beauty with the convenience of life deserves the highest praise. And that’s exactly what LEVS did.”

- Forum Group

Greening the urban landscape

Even for European standards, the green spaces created for this project, are ambitious. For the extensive landscape design, LEVS worked together with S&P Landscape Architecture, with offices in Poland and Russia, and with whom we share the ambition to use integrated landscape plans as a means to deal with concerns over biodiversity, climate change and quality of life in densely urbanized areas.

In Forum City, a total of 150 mature trees will be planted, and thousands of shrubs and flowers will be spread out over the park, terraces and rooftops. These are commonly planted as saplings, that still need quite a few years to mature. Planting mature trees, in this case of up to 25 years old, has two important advantages. First, they immediately start making their contributions to air-quality of the neighbourhood.

And come next summer, the first renters will be able to enjoy the shade of trees and the cooling effects of large amounts of green surface areas around them.

By planting a variety of tree species, the park should eventually have live foliage and a changing colour palette year-round. From evergreen silver pine trees and Canadian hemlock, to deciduous trees such as several species of maple and lime. The inside and outside will make for varied and interesting landscapes to explore. All trees come from nurseries in Holland and Germany, specialized in growing large specimens with well-developed yet compact root-systems, making it possible to transport them over long distances before planting. Importantly, the landscape covers a 3-4 story underground parking. Typically, if not carefully designed, it is only possible to lay some grass and shrub cover on top of such structure. Our specific construction of the decks and use of the up to date green roof technology, creates stable soil conditions for intensive planting. Outside the building, places along the surrounding streets, that would otherwise typically host cars are now turned into boulevards and squares, where pedestrians and bikers share a public space and where trees and plants mark ideal sites for an encounter or a break. Linear avenues planted with linden and ornamental crab apples not only add to an aesthetic appeal of the development, they also help to organize the surrounding public realm into areas created for different user groups, making spaces safer and more comfortable.

Dreams become reality

It is not a coincidence, however, that a Dutch office is getting involved in this type of large plans. One of the great opportunities for us working in Russia, is to contribute to the production of real quality of life, not only inside the home, but in residential urban environments in general.” In the Netherlands, and in Europe more generally, there is a strong tradition in combining the dynamism and activity of a large city with the intimacy of a secluded neighbourhood. Many of the future residents of Forum City too want both. Open spaces between the towers and the layered park with transitions from semi-public areas to private areas are intended to facilitate the mixing of these two complementary lifestyles.

It has made possible for residents to move around, from house to work to leisure activities to day-care centre to doing groceries, all on foot. The private landscapes that connect all these elements in the complex are full of small paths and benches. Outside the building, places that would otherwise typically host cars are now turned into squares, where pedestrians and bikers share a public space and where trees and plants mark ideal sites for an encounter or a break. The plan functions like a small city within a bigger city.

From compact apartment to luxury penthouse, and from sky-bar to a bench in the park. From bicycle stand to parking below the trees, and from medical centre to Sunday market. Our dreams for a new type of metropolitan, sustainable living environment in the Russian inner city are becoming a reality.

LEVS urban concept and integrated design for architecture and public space was a base and an inspiration for landscape development by S&P Architektura Krajobrazu.