From the taxi, glowing in the Moscow skyline, there is a light in the darkness: the words Door 19 written large in neon on the top of a five-storey brick compound. At a two-building complex still under construction, visitors give their names to the first of two bulky doormen. Ushered into an elevator, they are taken to the top floor where they are confronted by a strange human-like sculpture with the face of a weasel. Eventually, they enter a sprawling industrial-style penthouse with stunning views of the city. The brick walls are covered in graffiti sprayed by one of the city’s best-known street artists, Zhenya Ozzik, and the room showcases an eclectic mix of industrial chandeliers and vintage furniture.
Over the past two months, many of Moscow’s oligarchs, art collectors and curious food lovers have filled this soaring loft to eat at Door 19, a pop-up dinner series. Each week a different pair of international star chefs, from Paco Morales to Sebastian Mazzola, took over the kitchen and served four courses each. Award-winning mixologists, many from London, served speciality cocktails.
“It was like a Williamsburg [Brooklyn, New York City] loft in Moscow,” says Kristian Brask Thomsen, director of a Danish marketing company that represents several Michelin-star restaurants. “And it had the look and atmosphere of both an art gallery and a nightclub. You had a feeling that the experience would not end after dinner and that everyone would end up dancing on the tables.”
Door 19 was not just a successful pop-up restaurant and the man behind the project is not a restaurateur but a real estate developer. Andrey Grinev owns the sprawling top-floor loft in which the temporary restaurant took place, a high-end apartment on the market for $25m. It is one of six apartments still unsold in Grinev’s ArtHouse complex, two rectangular-shaped buildings featuring a striking façade of irregular bricks designed by Sergey Skuratov, one of Russia’s best-known architects.
Today, 26 of the development’s 30 apartments have been sold (at $15,000-$20,000 per sq metre). The prices of these loft-style apartments, with nine-metre-high ceilings, reflect the changing taste of some of Moscow’s wealthy young population: flash and bling is slowly being replaced with Berlin-style cool.
Despite the buzz and the prestigious names involved, ArtHouse is a risky project, mostly because it is the first upmarket apartment complex in the developing area of Moscow called the ArtKvartal, a neighbourhood inspired by the artistic quarters of places like Berlin and Portland, and targeted at the city’s new creative class. ArtKvartal is supported by the city’s mayor, Sergey Sobyanin, and Moscow’s chief architect, Sergey Kuznetsov.
“ArtKvartal is a model project for us,” says Kuznetsov. “We need to invest in city infrastructure and public spaces. Smart professionals don’t just have their choice of cities in Russia. They can live in Berlin or New York. We can learn from other big cities like Singapore or Tokyo.”
The 510-hectare area is defined on one side by the Yauza tributary of the Moscow river and crosses into four existing districts (Basmanny, Tagansky, Krasnoselsky and Lefortovo) and is still mostly made up of crumbling historic buildings and industrial factories. Although in the past decade some of the most innovative and thriving art spaces – such as ArtPlay and Winzavod – have popped up here, Moscovites that can afford multimillion-pound apartments typically want to be in upscale areas such as the “Golden Mile”.
Alena Brigadnova, founder and chief executive of the Moscow-based agency Finch, says that high-end apartments in this area can cost from $9.1m for a 260 sq metre apartment with 24-hour security and club meeting rooms in a renovated historic building on Prechistenka to $21.5m for a 430 sq metre, four-bedroom penthouse on Butikovskiy Lane.
To accelerate the development of the ArtKvartal, Grinev, who more than a decade ago helped to develop the Golden Mile, has joined forces with some of Moscow’s strongest players in the art scene to create the official association of ArtKvartal as well as an open community called the Union of Creative Territories.
“Collaboration can initiate more change than just one group on its own,” says Winzavod’s director Sofia Trotsenko, who is married to wealthy entrepreneur Roman Trotsenko. Members of the team, including Peter Kudryavtsev and Grinev, created Citymakers, a fledgling urban planning company that recently won a competition to work with Hargreaves Associates and Diller Scofidio + Renfro on the master plan for Zaryadye Park, a new green space in the shadow of the Kremlin due to be completed in 2017.
It was Kudryavtsev that helped Grinev develop the Door 19 concept. He says it was inspired by a trip to Berlin and a dinner at the travelling pop-up supper series called Pret A Diner. When asked how much he invested in the project, Grinev chuckles and raises his eyebrows. “Let’s say it cost a million dollars and I got it back,” he says, not wishing to reveal the exact sum. “But the amount is not the main thing. When you do something like this you have to do it right and spend what is necessary. In the end for all the press we received, it was well worth it.”
Kudryavtsev adds: “It was great to bring clients and investors and city officials here. The scene completely changed their mood … They opened up and could actually see what kind of place we were trying to build and the people that it appealed to.”
The gritty industrial landscape of the neighbourhood does not put off international buyers. One of the first to move in was Mark Weingard, a former British trader who is the founder of the Iniala resort in Thailand. Based in Malta, he comes to Moscow a few weeks a year and considers his ArtHouse apartment a real estate investment. He also plans to use the space as a showcase and meeting place for his business. “Thirty per cent of my market is here in Moscow. It’s important for me to have a place to meet my clients. And because my business is design related, ArtHouse is the ideal architectural space to be located in,” he says.
Grinev already has two other buildings near ArtHouse in his sights. Although in the past few years Moscovites have seen some uplifting changes to the fabric of their city, including the recent reinvention of Gorky Park, nothing is predictable in Russia today. “When you live in Moscow there is always a crisis,” says Kudryavtsev. “We are living in a frying pan. But we like it this way.”
●In 2014 Moscow’s population was officially measured as 12m
●There are 60,000 people living in ArtKvartal, rising to an estimated 110,000 in the next decade
●The district is 30 per cent industrial, 50 per cent residential and 20 per cent office space
●The redevelopment plan says 2m sq metres of new real estate is set to be added to ArtKvartal, 80 per cent of which will be residential
What you can buy for …
$1m A 80 sq metre, one-bedroom apartment in the Sadoviye Kvartaly (Garden Quarters) complex, across from Gorky Park
$5m A three-bedroom apartment within the Golden Mile
$25m The topfloor penthouse in the ArtHouse
From no-man’s-land to must-see
For the past few years the idea of using pop-up projects to develop liminal neighbourhoods has been catching on around the globe, writes Gisela Williams. Developers, architects and urban planners are learning that such projects can add new life to even the most dismal of districts and help speed along their development.
However, it is often a city’s regulations that hinder the process. “The trick is to get planners to understand that the city can change at a faster pace,” said Douglas Burnham, director of Envelope A+D architects which created Proxy, a pop-up project the size of two city blocks that includes a coffee shop, gallery space and a beer garden in the Hayes Valley Area of San Francisco. “These days we are used to information changing all around us but the city does not work that way. We have something like 54 permits for the project. Every time we do something it’s a new permit. The system isn’t really set up to move at this pace.”
Despite the hassles, Proxy has been a big success, winning both rewards and recognition for Envelope A+D, and attracting people to an area that was once the site of a busy road.
“It has changed the value of the place enormously,” says Burnham. “On the weekends it’s packed. When they eventually put a big building on the site, will it be the same? I think that Proxy has proven that if it is the right thing then people will come.”
A dozen years ago, the district of North Amsterdam, located across the IJ harbour from Amsterdam’s Central Station, was a no-man’s-land. This year the city has had to add new ferry lines in order to keep up with the demand from locals who have embraced the area. The eclectic neighbourhood is formed of a derelict wharf, affordable apartments and dozens of industrial spaces. In order to encourage development in the area, the city offered low rents to restaurateurs and creatives.
In the late 1990s the district authority agreed to give the squatters and artists that had occupied the NDSM wharf temporary use of the old shipbuilding hall. Eva de Klerk was a leader of the project, which included a restaurant, skatepark, art studios and workspaces. “The NDSM Shipyard became a bigger success than we could have envisioned,” she says. “In Amsterdam you can say we had a strong tradition in bottom-up, pop-up and spontaneous city development.” Yet, she warned that temporary should not mean superficial. Often, she says, the pioneers of such projects later get displaced. “I wonder about the authenticity of some of these pop-ups. Do they embrace ordinary people and are they truly sustainable?” she asks.