Gorky Park's Transformation from Gritty to Glam

Moscow's Gorky Park, once the rundown backdrop of a murder novel, has experienced a remarkable turnaround. Today, the mayor imagines its recovery as part of his legacy while Muscovites simply see it as the perfect place to play, dine, and relax.
David Basulto / Flickr

"Long a drab concrete repository of secondhand carnival rides, Gorky Park has been transformed over the past two years into one of the most extravagant, exuberant and excessive urban recreational spaces in a major world capital. Imprinted in many Western minds by the Soviet-era crime novel and film of the same name, Gorky Park celebrates its 85th anniversary this month. It is not only a park in the leafy retreat sense, but also a psychic respite from the increasingly tense political pressures of modern Russia," writes David M. Herszenhorn.

"Beyond the gardens for strolling and the ponds for paddle-boating, the park in its current form is instead an entertainment destination with more than a dozen restaurants, two dance platforms, an outdoor movie theater, and Garage, a buzzy modern arts center housing an exhibition hall and concert space."

"There are basketball and tennis courts, and many Ping-Pong tables, but the park also embraces extreme sports in a way that would thrill personal injury lawyers in the West, with places for skating, bicycle jumping, skateboarding and the obstacle-course bounding of parkour and free-running. There is also beach volleyball (thanks to tons of trucked-in sand) and even pétanque, the French bocce, played nonstop outside a cafe that could have been imported directly from Provence."

"Mayor Sergei S. Sobyanin, who is running for re-election, counts rejuvenating the city’s parks as one of his main achievements, and he has an even bigger, multimillion-dollar renovation planned that will connect Gorky to several other parks for a green belt along much of the Moscow River."

Full Story: Gorky Park, Once Drab, Now Glows

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