Mirror White Gardens

The results for the White Gardens Arcade competition in Moscow have been released and we’re happy to announce that we have been named second place prize winners of the international competition. Although we just missed out on the 1st place prize, it was an honour to take part as the only UK practice amongst a group of 19 short listed international design teams.

We began work on the arcade project towards the end of last year and have enjoyed seeing ideas evolve and change in the months leading up to the February deadline. Months of sketching, iterations, debate and a large amount of in-office dinners materialized in the form of Mirror White Gardens – a project which sought to revitalise a vacant office centre arcade in Moscow’s commercial district.

Reshaping Vacant Space

One of the key problems identified within the brief was the arcade’s emptiness and lack of function. As a transient space, the primary users of the arcade are those who work in and live around the White Gardens Office Centre. In addition, the site sits within close proximity of major transport (metro link, rail and cycle) links which increases its potential to be a point of attraction – drawing in new visitors from other neighbourhoods in Moscow.  In order to develop a strategy, our starting point became its users. Rather than imposing a single architectural element within the arcade, we started by mapping how users currently use the space throughout the day. Our observations developed into a program and zoning system which created several scenarios for functional stopping points whilst maintaining the free flow of users from one end of the arcade to the other.

Adaptable Space

This will come as no surprise to anyone reading this that public space tends to work better when it is flexible. The Mirror White Gardens proposal is based on one anchored and one kinetic structure; the dialogue created between these two elements creates a system that gives the user the possibility of personalising public space at different scales – this ranges from an intimate reading space to a public lecture and concert space.

We set out on creating a light weight steel structure paired with softwood timber cladding. Working out the mechanics of the moving structure took a bit of work, we came to a conclusion that the most efficient way to do this within budget and the time frame specified was by using a rack and pinion system. Attaching four motor gears to the steel structure provided the stability we needed to move the structure along a toothed bar built into the floor.

Interactive Space

This proposal takes advantage of the height of the arcade, an attribute which had previously contributed to creating a vacant and cold atmosphere in the arcade. By creating different levels and an under croft space, the proposal creates different viewpoints which increases interaction across the entire space as opposed to maintaining interaction at linear levels. The mirror cloud feature of this scheme acts as an attraction feature. The prefabricated steel structure is hung from tension steel trusses. The intention behind this feature is that the reflections from the stainless steel cladding increases dialogue between different user groups and exposes the White Gardens business centre to a wider audience.

So what’s next? We’d like to say thank you to the competition hosts, the judges and the other participants. We see this project as a nudge in the right direction, and look forward to making future contributions to the conversation on the use of vacant spaces in our cities.

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