LDA Design’s landscape-led masterplan for Oktyabrsky Island is inspired by Kaliningrad-born philosopher
Immanuel Kant’s rules for happiness, ‘Something to do, someone to love, something to hope for’. This will be an
enterprising and inclusive place; full of life and neighbourliness, with homes designed for centuries not decades as in the former Soviet era.
The masterplan promotes car-free living within a culture where car ownership is still a status symbol. It creates a distinctive new piece of city with water at its heart, drawing in the beauty of the Pregolya River, which wraps around the Island. Water taxis will replace cars, where possible; cycling and walking will be safe and easy; and life close to nature through a city- scale green infrastructure ring. A legible network of streets stitch together the new and existing urban fabric. Landmark buildings add drama to the city’s skyline and strengthen Oktyabrsky’s appeal as a destination.
Distinct character areas take cues from Kaliningrad’s past. They are designed to build belonging and identity and include what is set to be a world- class cultural quarter on the sunny riverbank for arts and education. A car-free artisan quarter reflects the fine grain of the historic city centre. At its heart is a large park with a landmark water feature: a lido for summer and winter ice rink. A wilder archipelago on the Island’s eastern edges puts people in touch with nature, providing physical and mental health and wellbeing benefits. The stadium itself is re-imagined
within a beautiful parkland setting.
Describe the context and brief
Kaliningrad is Russia’s westernmost region, located within a network of Baltic coastal cities that are now thriving centres for creativity, culture and sustainable living. The world’s gaze turned to Kaliningrad when it was selected as a host city for the 2018 World Cup. A sparkling 35,000- seat stadium followed on reclaimed marshland, just 10 minutes from the city centre.
Home to Kaliningrad Stadium, Oktyabrsky Island has since been designated a pilot site for a new standard of development in Russia offering high-quality housing and a differentiated offer. In 2018, an international design competition to shape Oktyabrsky and improve its connections to the city centre was launched by Moscow-based urban planning consultancy, Strelka KB.
Seventy-five per cent of Russians now live in cities which grew exponentially during Soviet-era industrialisation and are now struggling with built environments unable to respond to climate breakdown and how people live today. Everywhere, major roads dominate and sever communities. The winning Oktyabrsky scheme was to demonstrate a sustainable way forward, confidently guiding the next chapter of growth.
Integrating the Stadium into the fabric of the city was a clear focus, drawing life east and preventing it from falling into the trap of becoming another major sports venue that is rarely filled. The brief called for new homes for 80,000 residents. Quality of life was to come first. As Anton Alikhanov, Governor of Kaliningrad, stated in the brief, “a city is not a house- street-urban block, it is first and foremost about people”. It was this challenge that appealed.
How does your design respond to future changes in demographics, transport and the climate emergency to create a resilient place?
Kaliningrad is a Russian exclave with a population of nearly half a million and a long, somewhat uneven history. Militarisation during the Soviet era drove its economy, so the end of the USSR hit hard, as the military withdrew and its other key industry, agriculture, collapsed. Unemployment soared and poverty was widespread.
Special economic status in the late-1990s provided respite, but the region was badly affected by the 2008 recession. Kaliningrad’s Soviet-era growth has left behind a built environment struggling to keep pace with new technologies and contemporary lifestyles. The Pregolya River carries with it the threat of severe flooding.
The Oktyabrsky Island masterplan is an opportunity to catalyse growth, putting the city on the map as a major cultural destination. It will set new standards in Russia for housing and city planning, building in resilience to climate breakdown through enhanced natural networks and sustainable transport.
The masterplan sets out a new model for more equitable urban living which prioritises healthier lifestyles and community. It draws the Pergolya River into the site to deliver a modal shift from car dependency through a regular water taxi service.
Kaliningrad’s revitalised green infrastructure will boost local biodiversity, improving air quality and mitigating the heat island effect. World- class culture on the doorstep will make this a place of choices. Success here means changing the order of thinking, starting with what people want and need. That the design won an international competition demonstrates an appetite in Russia today for doing things differently.
What the judges said
The judges liked how this project connected into the wider city and had a well thought-through plan. They also appreciated that this masterplan didn’t shy away from the challenges of the site, in particular, the extra-large stadium