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Former Vancouver city planner to develop Moscow’s federal district

A man passes by the Sberbank headquarters in Moscow in this 2011 file photo.


Former Vancouver city planner Larry Beasley, in the latest example of his (and Vancouver's) growing influence on the global stage, has been asked to build a new federal district in Moscow. The city of some 12 million people is known for its iconic buildings, including St. Basil's Cathedral and the Kremlin, but the artery-clogged city and its sprawling suburbs are also home to a raft of Khrushchev-era structures that are crumbling into the ground.

Enter Mr. Beasley, the man who made downtown Vancouver what it is today: a glittering mass of monochromatic glass. The Godfather of Yaletown is in high demand these days. In addition to being similarly contracted to develop a capitol plan for Abu Dhabi in the UAE, he serves as chief adviser on urban design for the City of Dallas and chairs the National Advisory Committee on Planning, Design and Realty for Ottawa's National Capital Commission.

In an interview on Tuesday with CBC Radio's Rick Cluff, Mr. Beasley outlined four things that Moscow could learn from Vancouver: how to manage traffic better; how to "insinuate" mixed use; how to make density more attractive to more people; and how to add landscape into the equation. "The principles of Vancouver seem to apply to many places I'm working in the world," Mr. Beasley noted, "although we transform the principles for the personality of each city."

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So how might that work in the case of Moscow? Urban Inquirer considered the matter (for about 20 minutes, anyway) and here's what we came up with.

Better managing traffic:

  • From Vancouver: Build “traffic-calming” bike lanes, reduce the amount (and increase the price) of public parking, create dedicated car-share spots.
  • To Moscow: Biking anywhere in October, never mind January, will be a challenge. And parking is still, despite recent attempts to introduce meters, free in central Moscow. Share – what’s that?

Insinuating mixed use:

  • From Vancouver: Uniform “light” glass condo buildings (with view corridors to protect homeowners’ mountain vistas), paired with street-level pita joints and blowout salons.
  • To Moscow: Between the smog and the cold, translucent, single-pane-glass condos probably won’t fly. But $35 blowdries? That’s something a kleptocrat’s wife could seriously get addicted to.

Making density more attractive:

  • From Vancouver: Five-hundred-square-foot shoeboxes piled on top of each other as far as the eye can see; add a “party room” with a pool table and bar fridge, to be shared by 300 residents, and call it “community.”
  • To Moscow: Getting Moscovites to party at home isn’t a bad idea, especially with recent attempts by Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev and Russian lawmakers to stiffen penalties on drunk drivers.

Adding landscape into the equation:

  • From Vancouver: Parks for overindulged toddlers to tear apart, and for overindulged Weimaraners to defecate in.
  • To Moscow: Moscow has seen a spate of dog poisonings in local parks in recent months as parents wage a pitched battle with pet owners over precious green space. Adding landscape might prove a lifesaver.
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