According to the definition of Efremov’s explanatory dictionary, a quarter is a part of a city that is bounded by several, most often four, streets. In fact, it is from such, sometimes quite large, sometimes consisting of three or four or even two high-rise buildings “pieces”, separated from the rest of the areas by highways, that the overall urban landscape is formed.
If you compose a chain – apartment – house – courtyard – quarter – city, then often it is convenience, architecture of such an integral, unified part of a residential area, as a quarter turns out to be the main indicator of how thoughtful and comfortable the urban environment is for living.
How city quarters arise
Unfortunately, more often than not, building in our cities is chaotic, that is, houses are erected where there is free space, without reference to the surrounding landscape and architecture of neighboring houses. That is why it is not uncommon to find neighborhoods where buildings of old buildings and new high-rises that have arisen on the site of a former children’s or sports ground are located nearby..
The old quarter of the city familiar to us is usually several residential buildings, the logic of the location of which is often not caught at all, a small playground, a couple of flower beds at the entrances and, in fact, everything.
The tendency to build not individual residential complexes, but entire blocks with a developed infrastructure in our country is only just beginning to appear. And most often these are just elite residential complexes, on the territory of which there really is everything you need, however, the entrance to the fenced, closed, 24-hour security territory is ordered by strangers. And an apartment in such a paradise as, for example, the Italian Quarter residential complex in Moscow is affordable only for a certain, very small category of real estate buyers.
Economy-class residential complexes, ordinary monolithic high-rise buildings with inexpressive facades, usually cannot boast of a refined adjoining territory and developed infrastructure – such expenses of the developer simply will not pay off.
Meanwhile, as experts note, an integrated approach to the development of urban areas allows solving two main problems at once:
- creates a complete, comfortable living environment;
- increases the efficiency of investor investments.
So, theoretically, complex development, that is, the construction of not a separate multi-storey building, but an entire block at once, is beneficial for apartment buyers, ordinary citizens and developers, however, despite such obvious advantages, for some reason new, cozy quarters created according to a single, well-thought-out architectural project are still a rarity.
Usually, the city quarter has its own small “convenience store” – a grocery minimarket, ideally there should also be a kindergarten, a green area for walking, a playground for walking dogs, playing sports and a small complex for the youngest residents – a swing, a sandpit, a slide and so on, and, most importantly, a place for parking cars, which have become an indispensable attribute of any courtyard of an apartment building.
However, such ideal neighborhoods are extremely rare. It is far from always possible to provide a place for all the above-mentioned infrastructure facilities, because land in the city is very expensive. Or maybe it’s not about the size of the site allocated for the construction of a new quarter or rebuilding an old one, but about the thoughtfulness of the project, the very approach to creating an urban environment?
If you conduct a survey among residents of a particular quarter, then most of the residents will complain about the lack of a parking space, and there are more and more cars..
How to solve this problem? Arrange paid parking lots nearby? Not a solution, because, firstly, you need to find a place for them, and secondly, almost half of car owners will simply ignore this opportunity – the “iron horse” is already too expensive, given the cost of gasoline, tires and spare parts, why pay also for nightly parking?
In new residential complexes, this problem is most often solved by the construction of underground parking. And yet, if you visit one of the courtyards of a recently built building with a parking lot located on the basement or underground floor, you can see all the same rows of cars. The explanation is quite simple – buying an apartment in a new building often does not guarantee the availability and space for a car. Often for a place in a comfortable, warm underground parking lot, a new occupant of the house has to pay separately 10, 15, 20 and even more thousand dollars. It would seem that for a person who has already paid much more money for new housing, such an amount should seem quite acceptable, however, as practice shows, most of the buyers of square meters decide to save money, arguing – “Why won’t I park my car, I still have repairs in a new building to do, to buy furniture, and then such expenses. ” And they park, “for the joy” of neighbors, driving onto sidewalks, curbs, sports grounds, placing cars close to the entrance …
New building yard in St. Petersburg, source skyscrapercity.com
Apparently, the point is not only in the presence and absence of parking spaces, but also in the attitude of the residents themselves to the comfort of the rest of the inhabitants of the house..
It is interesting that the so-called greening norms still exist and are officially in effect, calculated separately for one resident of a small, medium, large, resort town, for the first stage of construction, for city-wide and residential quarters. So, for one person living in an ordinary residential area of a large metropolis, there should be at least 7 square meters of green space. Agree, not a little.
And the authorities cheerfully report that, in comparison with pre-revolutionary Moscow, the greening indicators have grown significantly, and have not decreased at all, as it might seem: in 1913, there were only 12.7 square meters per Muscovite (at that time about 1.6 million people lived in the capital). meters of green space, and now – about 14 square meters.
However, you need to understand that such calculations are something very, very average, since the parks per inhabitant of the capital are taken into account, including the park named after Gorky, Kuzminki, Tsaritsyno, Sokolniki, and so on. But ordinary Muscovites just go for a walk in such really green zones (and even then not every day), but they live in their own separate city quarter, where the entire degree of greening can be in a flower bed at the entrance and two stunted trees trying to grow on a piece of land between asphalt driveways.
In the yards of new residential complexes, where construction has just finished, there is no need to talk about greenery in principle – everything that grew here before was safely cut down, and the new one has not yet been planted, has not grown or is not provided for by the project. A playground in the sun is a common sight for new yards.
Playground in the courtyard of the new building
It is very convenient if you can make purchases and solve other everyday problems without leaving your home quarter. Therefore, the developed infrastructure is highly valued, that is, the presence of shops, branches of banks and children’s institutions. Usually, such establishments are located on the first floors of residential buildings, which is quite common and often found in quarters built back in the Soviet years..
And even if the initial project, for example, in a block built in the 60s, did not imply the presence of shops and other commercial premises, now almost all the first floors of “Khrushchevs”, especially those located on busy streets or in the central districts of small towns, have been removed from housing stock and turned into a variety of boutiques, shops, service centers and so on.
And residents are not always happy with such a new neighborhood. For example, a grocery store that has opened on the ground floor, of course, is very convenient, but at the same time people who are not always attractive in appearance appear in the courtyard, drinking beer on benches, garbage, and a newly punched door in the load-bearing wall of the building can cause cracks in the higher apartments.
By the way, the problem of urban development exists almost everywhere, in Western architecture there is even the term “Brusselsization”, which means a chaotic approach to the reconstruction of cities, with an uncontrolled massive demolition of historical buildings taking place. The term originated in the 60s, when old buildings were massively demolished in Brussels, in the place of which modern concrete boxes arose.
Fortunately, European developers realized in time all the perniciousness of this approach for the appearance of old European cities, and now Russian developers, who want to show how successful and high-quality the new building has turned out, indicate in their advertising brochures – “a real European quarter”.
However, in our country there are quite successful examples of the arrangement of urban areas (although now these are still only projects). For example, the ethnographic and trade and craft center “Rybnaya Derevnya”, which appeared in Kaliningrad in 2007, looks very nice. However, this phenomenon cannot be called a typical city block (although there are also residential buildings here). Firstly, it is still an ethnographic center, and secondly – stylization under the German architecture of pre-war Konigsberg, that is, the usual borrowing.
In addition, the “Fish Village” is surrounded by the same monolithic new buildings and looks attractive against the general background, but somehow too artificial.
Quarter “Rybnaya Derevnya” in Kaliningrad
Another attractive project for the construction of not even one block, but a small town, as a separate part of a large metropolis, is now being implemented in St. Petersburg. Interestingly, the construction of the “Baltic Pearl” on the southwestern coast of the Gulf of Finland is under the control of a subsidiary of the Shanghai Foreign United Investment Company in St. Petersburg.
“Baltic Pearl” is called “a move away from sealing development” and the first such large-scale project in the Northern capital, a new, comprehensive approach to urban construction.
This project is still far from being implemented and raises many questions, which are related, in particular, to the need to create a new transport interchange and, in the opinion of many experts, the inflated cost of square meters. It was originally planned to complete construction by 2013, but due to the 2008 crisis, the petals of the “lotus” – the observation tower, the main decoration of the South Square, which Chinese investors intended to present to the public in 2007, have not yet been completed. However, the project looks very attractive in the diagram..
Baltic Pearl project
Another unique project for the construction of an entire city is the Skolkovo General Plan, which also cannot be called typical. The project is positioned as the first city with a carefully thought out and most comfortable environment for scientists and their families..
Skolkovo city master plan developed by AREP-Ville
A long-term project can also be called the construction of the Garden Quarter in Moscow, which should become an ideal urban quarter (at least, this is how it is positioned by the creators of the project – Sergey Skuratov and his studio Sergey Skuratov Architects). An ecological space for life, with a lake, a school, kindergartens and seven underground parking lots – “Garden Quarters” should become a completely pedestrian, car-free zone in the center of the capital. The cost of apartments for now starts from 15 thousand dollars per square meter (this is far from the limit).
Garden Quarters project in Moscow
It seems to me that the main reason why such large-scale projects for the construction of urban areas are still a rarity for Russia (and for other CIS countries) is the lack of targeted funding. It is much easier for a developer to find funds to build a detached house that can be squeezed between old buildings somewhere in the city center and sell apartments at a higher price only due to a prestigious location than to implement a complex project for the construction of an entire block with commercial buildings and green areas.