"The city is being swept away by the metropolis. This action does not just replace one noun with another, but radically turns one state of affairs into a state of perpetual motion. As a collective action -- a verb more than a noun -- the metropolis destabilizes our concepts of time and place. With the dissolution of the city into the forever- emerging metropolis, our existence slides into permanent mobility." - L. Lerup, in After the City


forty-three. rings, walks, blocks.
only after arriving in St. Petersburg am i able to reflect on Moscow a little better: if Paris, Los Angeles, and Singapore met over a double espresso, Moscow might be their love-child. perhaps it’s unfair to squeeze everything into a comparative framework, but as i think i’ve mentioned before i find cities to be more similar than they are different, in the grand scheme of things. after exploring Russia’s capital near the fringes of the metro and the ring roads, the grandness of scale and the intentionality of boulevards, however sterile, recall Haussmann and Lee’s heavy-handed plannings, while the unlikely juxtapositions of the irreverent and the sacred, the pedestrian and the vehicular, the somber and the absurd recall a blin-filled cantankerous so-Cal. however, once drawing these similarities the real revelations are uncovered in the departures: the earnest skill and sober audience of the Okhotny-Ryad metro station string quartet, the pensive novel-readers found in most pocket parks, the here-today gone-tomorrow chrome-covered blini stalls, the abrupt shifts from consternation to friendliness, the 8am sidewalk beer breakfast, the earnest caricature of propaganda, and always, the guaranteed eye-to-eye glance that never falters (see metro photos previous entry).

8.16 Gray & Orange lines
walked from Galina’s pigeon-filled morning kitchen (she feeds them on the ledge until the sill is a flurry of feathers and crumbs) along the park-lined second ring road, past the open-air art installation, to the Pushkinskaya station where the world’s longest, narrowest, sleekest urban McD’s offered the usual restroom respite. from here it’s a 45-minute ride to the southern terminus of the gray line, along which stations become successively sterile in an unembellished, florescent late-80’s manner. emerging at Bulvar Dimitriya station confronts one with (yet another) McD’s, this time an exact transplant of the U.S.A. suburban typology (single storey, red-rood, parking lot) and an endless avenue of housing blocks to the north and south. from here there is an anomalous (mostly) elevated light-rail, which runs further south into a land of Transit-Oriented-Development, reminiscent of Singapore (including pastel color scheme). there is even a similar swath of flat green around each station, although along this line the swath is better connected and more inhabited than that in Singapore: sun-bathers by a pond, meticulous flower gardens, and playrounds were usually not more than 100 meters from the line. back at Bulvar Dimitriya a hubristic disregard for scale had me walking across another enormous park (surrounded by more housing blocks) and along a high-speed road over a bridge above the outermost 5th ring road. speed beside, speed below (all 10 lanes of it) and yet, there were worn footpaths, usable sidewalks, and other fellow pedestrians. however, walking along the congested 5th ring road wasn’t possible so a bus ride over to the orange line terminus and a subsequent 45 minute ride north back through the city center to the VDNKH station landed me at the surreal All-Russia-Exhibition center – a decommissioned 1950’s Soviet-sized agglomeration of neo-classical pavilions and aeronautical relics celebrating Russia’s heyday of scientific and architectural prowess. this nostalgic complex is flanked on both-sides by amusement parks, providing a raucous of roller-coaster screams and laughs that echo through the trees. the discovery of the Expo was serendipitous, as i disembarked the metro in order to ride the monorail from this station back over to the grey line, due west. however, the monorail’s lugubrious route through this part of the city seems to be an exhibit in and of itself – a modern-day compliment to the Expo, and a means to view the mega-monuments therein and around (space needle, TV tower, hotel).

8.17 Filyovskaya line
an anomaly for the system in that it’s largely above-ground. the Krylatskoye station exit is placed, like Park Pobedy’s, within the wide grassy median of a broad avenue (although unlike Park Pobedy this avenue is lined by residential high-rises). here a man with a beer sat on a bench and talked to a pigeon, and here i lay in the grass for a bit beneath the gleam of the windows and pale paint of the housing blocks above. the grass is an unnatural green, having only a few short months every year to reawaken its chlorophyll cells before the brutal climate of the year’s remainder returns. here on either side of the median run two lane roads of relatively laid-back speeds, until the median dead-ends into the more aggressive Rubylyovskoye Shosse, which reads, from north to south side: 16 storey housing blocks with ground-floor retail, sidewalk, 2-lane bi-directional traffic + bus stop, small grass median, 3-lane high-speed roadway (uni-direction), central grass median + trees, 3-land high-speed roadway (other direction), small grass median, 2-lane bi-directional traffic + bus stop, sidewalk + trees, and 5 storey low-rise housing blocks which run perpendicular to the road. occasionally there is an underpass or a glass-covered overpass for pedestrians to cross this wide river of motorways/grassways/busways/sidewalkways. near the Kuntsevskaya station, to which i walked, the central motorway splits and the southern half dips down, leaving the pleasantly-inhabitable median rising above and overlooking a stream of descending cars. a worn dirt footpath through the grass along this ‘cliff’ edge was evidence of opportunistic pedestrian traffic, and mimics the topography and use of the median which runs along the riverway closer to the city center.
8.19 circular Sunday
a day devoted to sight-seeing inadvertently turned into one of the more revealing routes in which the city’s avenues work like magnets (and safety zones), towers (once again) serve as deceptively ‘close’ landmarks in a city of flat, and yet again, the presence of the walkway along the most unlikely roadways allow pedestrianism while paradoxically, the sheer scale of distance does not.

the Victory Monument at Park Pobedy is over-the-top in both height and iconography. a 150m needle into the sky, it is covered with a cartoonish bas-relief representation of WWII, and further flanked by a semi-circular colonnade of football-field proportions. from here an attempt to navigate to Sparrow Hills found us passing the world’s smallest roller-coaster and other odd metal paraphenelia (including a haunting memorial to gulag victims, upon which little boys skateboarded, oblivious) before meandering through a quiet soviet-era housing complex where a handful of skinheads took an avid interest in following us for awhile. a quick-stepped attempt to get to safer ground landed us on the busy 4th ring road, where we followed the narrow sidewalk over the massive railbed emanating from Kievskaya station to the east. here the relics of industry (smoke stacks, warehouses) flanked the tracks, only a stone’s throw from Kutuzovsky Blvd’s Prada, Dior, and Gucci stores. following the ring road eventually brought us to a verdant section of the snaking Moskva river. here the river is flanked by the enormous tree-covered Sparrow hill, crowned by Moscow State University’s Stalinist wedding-cake skyscraper (one of seven throughout the city). here too roller bladers, walkers and joggers are free of the flow of cars, which are left parked at the gate. one can catch the riverboat up or downriver, or take the metro back into town. Sparrow Hill not providing the city panorama that was the day’s goal, i ventured solo back to Kutuzovsky in search of the 27th floor Red Bar, which i found after much wandering, only to realize i was exactly where i had started the day, near the entrance to Victory Monument. the tower that houses the Red Bar is hideous but forgivable, given its location along the river and across from the World Trade Center complex, currently under construction and visible from anywhere in the city, with its anomalous all-glass facade and arcing silhouette. this collection of buildings promises to try to be the new epicenter of Muscovite economic activity, and the new metro station which will serve it is named Moskva City, as if in contention with the Kremlin’s ideological hold on the city’s identity.

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