White Flowers Boulevard is a park instead of a car park. The new public space, which has become an alternative centre of the district, is located on the site of former paid car parks — trucks were parked here on construction waste mounds. The constant conflict between cars and pedestrians was dangerous, as there was no single and continuous pedestrian route from houses to public transport stop and school. Moreover, parking fields became a kind of alienation space — and shops and business centres began to be built up. The new boulevard is an alternative to parking and unsystematic development for the benefit of residents. The major aim was to bring cummons back to the public and stop the privatisation of abandoned space initially meant to be public.
White Flowers boulevard is a notable case study in participatory, horizontal urbanism for Russia, where participatory approach is extremely new, undeveloped and non-binding. Starting with a survey of the area, the stakeholders of the place were identified. They were residents of the district, students and teachers of the nearest school, entrepreneurs, city administration, landlords, interested communities. Together with the interested parties, an assignment for the design was drawn up and the principles for the development of the place were determined. Also many local experts were involved in the project — landscape architects, transport specialists. The preliminary design was discussed at large open seminars using design game tools and small focus groups with different communities. At various stages, interested communities were involved — sportsmen, cyclists, dog handlers, and many others. All solutions were created together with the Directorate of Parks and Gardens of Kazan, the future operator of public space. Architects accompanied the construction process, and a year after the opening, carried out a post-assessment of the space. In order to create a successful public space, a place that people will love and care for, it was necessary to involve all stakeholders in the project and bring together an interdisciplinary team of professionals.
The residents of the district, which was built up with standard panel houses in the early 2000s, wanted the new public space to transform the district, have its own “face” and identity. The boulevard was named “White Flowers” after a landmark novel by the classic of Tatar literature, Abdurakhman Absalyamov, whose name is given to the street. The project contains many references to the legacy of the writer, Tatar literature and 1960s Kazan. The art object in the form of letters of the Tatar alphabet is inspired by Absalyamov’s real typewriter found in the writer’s museum and invented together with the writer’s granddaughter Albina.
The project’s main challenge was to create a coherent landscape. As part of the synchronisation programmes, before blocking dangerous passages and cleaning car parks, yard passages were repaired throughout the block, convenient alternative exits were made and parking spaces were arranged, so that local residents had many places closer to home and trucks began to park in other places in the city.
Within a project the landscape was shaped, fertile land brought in and more than 1,000 large trees and perennial shrubs were planted, mostly with white flowers (referring to the title of the novel “White Flowers”). The trees were immediately planted in large sizes, and very soon there will be real shady forest in some areas that will survive some elements of improvement, and no one will ever think to take away public space from the citizens to serve short-term commercial interests.
The project consciously departs from the usual idea of the boulevard as a linear space with a pedestrian promenade and sites along it. Since this is a local public space for locals rather than a city park, there are many different scenarios for use, routes and sites. The functional programme has been created in cooperation with local residents at project seminars. The boulevard is designed so that it is possible to hold different events and the public space in the area has really become an attractor of culture and interesting recreation.
The case of the White Flowers boulevard is not a reconstruction of an already existing Soviet park, which is a usual practice for Russia, but a groundbreaking case of creation of a system of local public spaces where they didn’t exist. White Flowers boulevard is an example of that type, which significantly affects the ecology in the area through an increase in percentage of landscaping.
The boulevard has become a place that is visited for educational purposes, educational excursions for government delegations, managers of public spaces, architects, urbanists, landscapers. White Flowers boulevard has become a notable example, referenced place and cited as an example in many federal forums and discussions in Russia.
Other landscape architecture offices involved in the design of landscape: Program for the development of public spaces of the Republic of Tatarstan, Park Service Kazan
Architecture offices involved in the design: PARK
Project location: Russia, Kazan, Absalyamova st.
Design year: 2018 – 2019
Year Built: 2018 – 2020