In the contemporary city, the museum long since ceased to be simply a place for storing exhibits, school trips and the “cultural leisure” of adults on their days off. It should be a full-fledged participant in urban life, able to compete on equal terms with parks, cinemas and restaurants. Museum Park (‘Muzeiny Park’) is a pedestrian zone and public space that will help draw city dwellers into the Polytechnic Museum.
As part of the concept by the Japanese architect Junya Ishigami, the territory around the Polytechnic Museum is to be transformed into Museum Park – a well thought out public space, whose structure answers the needs of the Museum and its visitors, as well as intensive transport and pedestrian flows, and the requirements of the city authorities with regard to streets and town squares.
A park-amphitheatre will appear in front of the Museum, an open-air foyer that will become an extension of the spaces inside the building, to which it will form a prologue. It will be able to host events while uniting the new pedestrian zone in the building’s basement level with the outdoor area alongside Lubyanka Square, attracting pedestrians and providing them with a convenient and pleasant route into the Museum complex.
In 2011, the Polytechnic Museum Development Fund held an international competition for the concept for the reconstruction of the historical premises on Novaya Square. The Jury select the effective and bold proposal of the Japanese architect and artist Junya Ishigami. His fundamental idea was to activate the semi-subterranean basement level of the Museum by inclining the ground level around the building, planting the slopes produced and internal courtyard spaces with trees. As a result, a park would be formed both within and around the Museum, increasing the total area to 12 000 m². However, this proposal would have had to be reconciled with the urban planning and transport situation around the building, making it compatible with the underground communications plan as well as the general programme for the reconstruction of public spaces in the city centre.
A comprehensive investigation was carried out on behalf of the Polytechnic Museum of the territory around the building, its transport situation and main directions of pedestrian flow. The suggested development of Ishigami’s concept linked the Metro exits, Museum building entrances, routes followed by both Polytechnic Museum visitors and regular pedestrians, transport flows, and the logistical requirements of the Museum. A public space and communications node then emerged with access to the Museum, through-access to neighbouring garden squares, and from which pedestrians could visit adjoining cafés and galleries. The key element of the scheme came to be the square and garden area beside the exits from the Metro, which unites the Museum’s basement level with the city.
The layout of adjacent streets and the organisation of road traffic on them then had to be reviewed jointly with specialists from the Moscow City Department of Transport. Painstaking calculations on the various possible scenarios indicated that Lubyansky Proyezd could be reconstructed, closing Polytekhnichesky Proyezd to traffic and considerably narrowing the roadway alongside Novaya Square.
This made possible the organisation of the square in front of the Museum, on the level of its basement. This square would be accessed from the below-ground subway through the garden square currently separated from the Museum by the roadway of Polytekhnichesky Proyezd. The project foresees the square and the garden square areas becoming a single space.
The differences in level play out in the form of a gigantic amphitheatre, descending in steps from the garden square to the square beside the Museum. The Museum can be accessed from this level and over a pedestrian bridge or from the direction of Lubyanka Square, where a new entrance has been organised from the below-ground level into the Polytechnic’s new educational and cultural centre, set up around the Grand Lecture hall that achieved renown in the 1960s with its poetic recitals. The hall and rooms around it are being set aside as a separate complex in the Museum, to specialise in varied public events, including lectures, discussions and concerts. This part of the Museum can be accessed from both below and from street level by means of a pedestrian bridge.
Thanks to the reduced number of lanes along Novaya Square, two pedestrian routes are being set out along the facade of the Polytechnic Museum: one on the level of the below-ground “Museum Square”, and one forming a 6 metre wide pavement at street level, separated from the first by trees and planting.
The below-ground street will not be left without greenery either: a ‘vertical’ garden of specially selected plants is to be arranged on its slopes. The width of this street is 5 metres. It goes in parallel with the Museum facade and has arcades opening onto it from its basement level. Here will be located shops, cafés and galleries. From this area, visitors will be able to make their way onto Museum Square or into the Metro.
The entire subterranean level is roofed over and provided with heating and a reinforced storm drain to enable the comfortable use of this space even in winter.