When I read a recent NY Times article about Zaryadye Park, the new, ambitious public park in Moscow not far from Red Square and the Kremlin, I had to pinch myself. This 35-acre site is the first large-scale park to be built in Moscow in the last 50 years. And, believe it or not – it was designed by Diller Scofidio + Renfro, one of the top American architecture firms, famous for transforming an abandoned elevated railroad into the hugely successful High Line park in New York City.
Zaryadye Park, Moscow. Diller Scofidio + Renfro in collaboration with Hargreaves Associates and Citymakers. Courtesy of Diller Scofidio + Refro.
In 2013, Diller Scofidio + Renfro with collaborators Hargreaves Associates and Citymakers were chosen as the winners of 90 proposals from 27 countries to build this new park in Moscow. And all that, despite heavy pressure to choose a Russian architect.
Top: Zaryadye Park, Moscow. Diller Scofidio + Renfro in collaboration with Hargreaves Associates and Citymakers. Photography by Iwan Baan, Courtesy of Diller Scofidio + Refro. Bottom: Zaryadye Park, Moscow. Diller Scofidio + Renfro in collaboration with Hargreaves Associates and Citymakers. Photography by Philippe Rouault. Images Courtesy of Diller Scofidio + Refro.
Moscow’s Mayor’s office was overwhelmed with letters criticizing the decision to give this project to an American firm. But, it’s important to remember that 60 percent of Moscow was built by foreign architects. One of the most striking and slightly surreal architectural elements of Zaryadye Park is a 76-yard-long boomerang-shaped cantilever over Moscow River.
Zaryadye Park, Moscow. Diller Scofidio + Renfro in collaboration with Hargreaves Associates and Citymakers. Photography by Iwan Baan, Courtesy of Diller Scofidio + Refro.
Traditionally, major parks in Russia have a main entrance and are surrounded by walls. But, not this one, designed with an American attitude and approach: there are no walls, so one can enter the park and meander freely to enjoy the landscape, river overlook, a restaurant, market, two amphitheaters and a philharmonic concert hall. The cost of all the above is just over a quarter of a billion dollars.
Top: ‘Portrait of Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov’ (1898), by Valentin Serov PHOTO: VALENTIN SEROV/WIKIMEDIA COMMONS. Bottom: 29th Annual Bard Music Festival, Rimsky-Korsakov and His World. Image courtesy Fisher Center for the Performing Arts at Bard College.
Last week the NY Times also published an article about The Bard Music Festival in New York at Bard College, celebrating the 19 th century Russian composer Rimsky- Korsakov (1844-1908), who is less well-known in the United States than he deserves. Rimsky-Korsakov, a former Russian naval officer, wrote 15 operas. And last, but not least, he was mentor to young Igor Stravinsky.
Mayakovsky and Stalin, The Lounge Theatre. Los Angeles. Image courtesy Theatre Planners.
This past weekend, I tried to see a small Los Angeles theatre production of Mayakovsky and Stalin, but it was completely sold out. This new play by Murray Mednick is a dramatic character study of the major Soviet poet Mayakovsky and his relationship with Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin.
Isadora at Segerstrom Center for the Arts. Natalia Osipova as Isadora and Vladimir Dorokhin as Yesenin. Photo by Doug Gifford. Image courtesy Segerstrom.
And, you might remember I recently talked about the world dance premiere of Isadoraat Segerstrom Center for the Arts in Costa Mesa, telling the story of the famous American dancer Isadora Duncan, who traveled to the Soviet Union in the 1920s and married the Russian poet Sergei Yesenin.
Still from Andrei Rublev. Dir: Andrei Tarkovsky. Image courtesy American Cinematheque.
America’s deep interest in Russian culture has a long history, and vice versa. 1956 was the year of the hit Hollywood adaptation of Tolstoy’s War and Peace, directed by King Vidor and starring Audrey Hepburn and Henry Fonda. Believe it or not, the Russian film version of Tolstoy’s novel appeared 10 years later in 1966 – and it was not a big success.
And talking about movies – check out the mini festival of films by the outstanding Soviet Director Andrei Tarkovsky this week at Aero American Cinematheque in Santa Monica. If you haven’t seen his 1969 film Andrei Rublev with its stunning cinematography, you must. It’s the fascinating story of the medieval Russian painter and monk whose Icons are treasures of major Russian museums.
So, the cultural dialogue and connection between America and Russia continues to be strong, thanks to cinema, architecture, music, and theatre – when all else seemingly fails.