“Heart of the City” is a long-term town planning project aiming to provide a system-based solution to the problem of the historic centre of Kaliningrad.
How shall the heart of the city with its seven centuries of history look like? What shall be undertaken in order for the area, which has degenerated from the centre of attraction into the place of transit, to be refilled in terms of functions and contents? The demand for the transformation of the historic centre has matured in the urban community and professional environment since a long time ago, therefore, today, the first task of the urban planning bureau “Heart of the City” is to summarize all existing project ideas and concepts, to raise the discussion to a substantive level and meanwhile to try to avoid past mistakes.
Lately, the local authorities and the expert community have come close to a conceptual decision for the transformation of the historic centre. A working group has been established. The Project Roadmap spelling out further steps has been drawn up. Within the framework of the “Heart of the City” Project the historic and cultural study of the city centre areas has been carried out to provide a basic material for public discussions and subsequent political and urban planning decision-making.
Building on historical and cultural research, the extensive package of documentary studies and the European urban planning experience the experts answered the following questions: what are the boundaries of “the historic centre”, what cultural and historic values exist on its areas and, finally, what are the potential forms of recovery of these values. In point of fact, the document contains the ideology of the Project.
The study consists of two parts. The first part is a narrative compiling the historic grounds for why this or that site or a complex is valuable. The second one is a design part that compiles, structures and reinterprets those design ideas, which could be used when regenerating the areas of the Heart of the City. Herewith, the second part is based on the design proposals of many authors – from the “royal architect” of the 19th century Friedrich August Stüler to participants of the key international architectural events that took place in Kaliningrad in 2005 and 2007.
The Project covers twelve areas of the historic centre but decisions about the work methods with each of them will be taken within the framework of architectural competitions with regard to all aspects of design, including the transport layouts.
In 2014, the central part of the “Heart of the City” – Korolevskaya gora and its adjacent areas – became a subject of the unprecedented international urban planning competition. The winners’ design ideas were used as a basis for the Consolidated Planning Concept for the development of the historic centre, which provided the framework for the urban planning documentation: the Site planning and a parcel plan as its part. The package of proposals to be included in the Land Use and Development Code as well as the General Plan of Kaliningrad for the period 2015-2035 was prepared.
In September 2015, the results of the open international design competition “Post-castle” for an architectural design of the Historic and cultural complex on the grounds of the former order castle Königsberg were announced. The winning entry was considered to be the best in combining respect for history, the location and contemporary requirements to the functions and the image of the largest public building of the region. The complex will accommodate museums and a multifunctional concert hall for official meetings, sessions, regional and city events for 1000-1500 participants. It should become the key site in the future "Capital's nucleus" of Kaliningrad, including the new Main square and the fan-zone for 50 000 persons for the forthcoming 2018 World Cup.
At present, the project has entered the next active phase of implementation. In view of the competition results and the preparatory activities for the forthcoming Football World Cup 2018, the priority areas for the development of the historic center have been determined. (Please see more here) The priorities include inter alia the creation of the new Main square of the city, the reconstruction of the House of Soviets to be included in the system of public spaces on Korolevskaya gora, the creation of a Philosophical park on the Kant Island, the development of the Waterfront areas, the elaboration of the transport plan for the competition area and the archeological excavations plan.
A special priority for us is our work with citizens and public discussion of Project materials. It is crucial for us to ensure that project decisions are taken by all process stakeholders: the professional architectural community, the potential “investment club” and general public of the city.
Our final goal is to return the historical areas of the former Koenigsberg into the evolution of the city, to create a comfortable urban environment in the historical center, to establish new standards of living space, its quality and style as well as to shape the unique architectural image of the “place” – its cultural identification, which will become a “hallmark” of modern Kaliningrad and at the same time a part of the global world, the Baltic Sea Region and Russia.
The non-profit partnership Urban Planning Bureau “Heart of the City” was founded by the Kaliningrad Region Government on 24 April 2013 to implement a long-term project of the regeneration of the historic centre of Kaliningrad. The main objectives of the partnership are to develop a conceptual, sketch and design documents; to prepare and to hold urban planning, architectural and expert competitions within the borders of the Project area; to assist local authorities and design organizations with any issues related to the “Heart of the City” Project implementation; and to provide information about the progress in the Project implementation to general public and professional organizations. However, up until now, we have already walked a long way: our project has grown from the persistent interest in the subject of the city centre’s transformation and rests upon serious historic and documentary research.
The project was officially launched in June 2012 at the presidium meeting of the Kaliningrad Region Governor’s Council for Culture. At that time, a decision was taken to establish a working group and to prepare a “Roadmap” providing an algorithm for the project implementation. Two months later, the historic centre regeneration programme was formulated and made public for the first time in the presence of press and experts. The programme covering the King’s Mountain and the adjacent embankment of the Pregolya River and the Lower Lake (Nizhneye ozero) was approved by regional and city authorities and was entitled “Heart of the City”. For implementation of the large scale Project, an organizational committee headed by the Governor Nikolay Tsukanov as the Chairman and by the Head of the city Alexander Yaroshuk as the Deputy Chairman was established.
After special historical and cultural studies and town planning research led by the architect Oleg Vasyutin the programme entered a design phase. Twelve main historic areas requiring an individual design effort were identified as well as the principles and the ideology for the follow-up revitalization of town planning elements and sites in the central part of Kaliningrad were defined.