Designing for the rapidly evolving needs of clients in Russia

Since 2007, Chapman Taylor has been established as a leading design practice in Russia, known for both our creativity and commercially successful projects. Our multi-award-winning Moscow design studio has considerable experience working on a wide range of projects across the country, including mixed-use, residential, hospitality, office, retail and leisure schemes. We talk here to Moscow Director Elena Karikova about our recent and current Russian developments and find out what it is that draws Russian clients to Chapman Taylor.

Dream Island, Moscow

Tell us about the role that context plays in your designs for projects across Russia.

Projects are all designed for their specific contexts – Russia is a vast, trans-continental nation with many different landscapes, climates, cultural characteristics and local market requirements, and we always take those into detailed account, alongside the client, when creating a design or deciding on what functions and amenities should be included.

This is not a particularly difficult challenge for us – the process of examining a project’s context in depth and designing for it appropriately would remain the same whether all our projects were in central Moscow or were instead scattered widely from the Caucasus to Vladivostok.

Having said that, we find that clients looking to create new developments or enhance existing ones in smaller cities and towns across the region have tended over the years to look to what’s happening in St Petersburg, Moscow and Ekaterinburg as a template – our role in those cases has been to ensure that the project is relevant to its context rather than being a carbon copy of a development somewhere else with no connection to its place.

For example, Europolis shopping centre in St Petersburg, which opened in 2014, is a very successful multi-level retail and leisure development which takes its design inspiration from the European-influenced name and branding; the malls and food court are strongly themed to represent distinct cities from across the continent – Paris, London, Rome and Barcelona. That kind of design concept, or the asset enhancement design for South Pole shopping centre in the same city, works well in a major metropolitan centre near the border with Finland but wouldn't necessarily replicate well in central Asian Russia.

Yet we are also seeing the rise of locally based developers who are not relying on taking ideas directly from the big cities and who have the confidence to create their own ideas, firmly rooted in the context.

Europolis shopping centre in St Petersburg

Why do our clients come to Chapman Taylor for their projects in the region?

Our international experience and resources, combined with the fact that we have a base in Moscow and an expert knowledge of Russia’s market and regulatory requirements, make us very attractive to clients looking to develop schemes in Russia. It is not common to find designers who can offer that combination of global and local experience and ability, so we are sought out specifically for these attributes as well as for our strong track record of creating well-known, innovative and successful developments.

Clients often come to us knowing that they need to create something different to compete effectively in a rapidly evolving market but need our help to flesh out their ideas in a way which is not prohibitively expensive for them. Our knowledge of the latest international design thinking, and our experience in creating well-considered and credible projects across the world, makes it natural for clients to come to us for guidance and to help them create future-proofed, attractive schemes which are also value for money and are tailored to their particular contexts.

Functional efficiency, which includes energy efficiency as well as a well-considered layout and mix of amenities, is an important factor for clients. They also seek built environments in which the architecture and the functions offered are well integrated with the surrounding environments.

Grozny Mall landscape and Food Court, Grozny

What projects are in progress across Russia at the moment?

Our refurbishment of the City Mall shopping centre in St Petersburg is approaching completion. This major asset enhancement project for Fort Group, which has involved optimising the layout and refreshing the interior design, has required careful management because it has been taking place while the shopping centre has continued to operate. The design creates a new visual identity for the centre and will help attract an improved mix of tenants as well as making the centre more popular.

Our design for the much-anticipated Grozny Mall is being realised on site in Chechnya at a rapid pace, with opening due to take place in autumn this year. The scheme will be the largest shopping and entertainment centre in the north Caucasus region of Russia, and the first of its kind in Chechnya, bringing together national and international retail and leisure brands within a 132,000m² development. It is anticipated that Grozny Mall will create 2,000 new jobs upon completion.

The adjacent, 20-hectare Kausar Park, which is also being transformed, will include a riverside promenade, an amphitheatre, pavilions, a Ferris wheel and children's entertainment features.

Dream Island, for which we created the masterplan concept, is currently closed due to the COVID-19 epidemic, and the client is using this time to refine the architectural finishing and to complete unfinished elements, including the landscaping. The 100-hectare project is the first large-scale leisure destination in Russia, expected to be visited by up to six million people annually. In addition to a 300,000m2 indoor amusement park (the world's largest indoor theme park), the river-fronted scheme provides a 44-hectare landscape park with outdoor leisure facilities, a 400-key, 4-Star hotel, a concert hall, a children's yacht school and numerous F&B options.

We are also currently taking part in a number of design competitions for new developments in the region, across the retail, leisure, mixed-use and residential sectors.

I-Land masterplan, Moscow

How has the market been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic?

Many Russian developments have been paused as a result of lockdown measures taken to combat the spread of COVID-19, but we have been approached by several developers looking for advice on design changes which may be necessary for the short-to-medium term as a result of the crisis. We do not believe that there will be many long-term design implications, with the measures required to achieve social distancing being more a question of management than design.

However, we do think that the emergency has accelerated trends which were already in progress long beforehand, particularly in terms of moving away from retail-only schemes and towards mixed-use developments with a high proportion of leisure and F&B offers as well as office, hospitality, civic and residential components.

City Mall, St Petersburg

What do you see as the future direction of Chapman Taylor in the Russian market?

The market here is changing rapidly – what worked in the past will not necessarily work now or in future. For example, enclosed, single-use shopping centres were once commercial gold but are now becoming a thing of the past in favour of open, mixed-use environments. There is also more and more competition in the market, so developers have to be much more creative and innovative to succeed.

We are now involved with an increasing number of high-specification residential projects in the region, including masterplans for whole districts, as well as large-scale mixed-use projects where residential developments are complemented by retail, leisure and workspace functions to provide a dynamic neighbourhood.

For example, our I-Land masterplan, which creates a 570,000m² residential-led, mixed-use development, is designed to be one of the most attractive places to live and work in Moscow. Residential buildings of various sizes, heights and categories are arranged carefully around a diagonal main pedestrian route, a commercial street and riverside promenade. The masterplan includes all necessary amenities, such as a medical centre, schools, shops, and workplaces.

We are also seeing a growth in demand for the co-living format – managed and curated residential developments with shared amenities – particularly among professionals and young families. Hospitality is a growing sector too, and we expect to be involved in a growing number of hotel and resort designs in the coming years.

Physical retail is not disappearing in Russia, but it is changing – people are now looking for a day-out experience and a host of other activities as part of their shopping trip. The key is to provide an exciting and attractive place in which people want to spend several hours for shopping, eating, leisure, entertainment and socialising, as at the Europa Kursk mixed-use development, for example. Online retail offers quick and convenient transactions but cannot replace the innate human need to meet up with others and enjoy time together – that is why we think retail will always be an important element of the mixed-use environments we create.

We will need to collaborate intensely with our client developers to define what they, and the markets in which they are operating, require. Chapman Taylor can provide a comprehensive range of design services which encompasses all aspects of the client's requirements when looking to optimise their offer - at the award-winning Fort Tower mixed-use development, for example, we provided architectural, interior, wayfinding, branding and website design services.

The global economic, political and social scene is in a state of flux and it is difficult to know for sure what will come next, including in Russia. This is why we spend a lot of time researching and innovating, so that we are well positioned to react quickly to change and to ensure that the environments we create are flexible.

Our Moscow design studio has considerable experience working on large-scale and challenging projects across Russia and the wider region, in all sectors from mixed-use, residential and hospitality to office, retail and leisure. As a highly skilled and creative design team, Chapman Taylor’s Moscow team is committed to providing successful, sustainable and popular developments to create maximum value for our clients and maximum enjoyment for the whole community.

Elena Karikova

Director, Moscow

Trained as an Engineer, Elena also has a diploma in the financial sector and significant building industry experience.

Elena joined Chapman Taylor in 2005 as the representative of Chapman Taylor in Russia.

Her extensive knowledge of the Russian market was instrumental in the successful opening of our Moscow studio in 2007.

Areas of expertise:

Finance

В 2005 году Елена начала свою деятельность в качестве официального представителя компании Chapman Taylor в России.

Её глубокое понимание и отличное знание российского рынка внесли значительный вклад в успешное открытие московского офиса в 2007 году.

Елена является инженером по образованию, а также имеет диплом специалиста в области финансов. За плечами Елены находится значительный опыт работы в строительной индустрии.

Области специализации:

Финансы

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