This concise essay is focused on the spatial pattern of Moscow. It is meant to convey an impression of this old city, which today is rapidly transformed.
Picture 1: The Kremlin, a huge complex situated at the northern bank of the Moskva in Moscow downtown (photographed in June 2007)
Moscow is the capital city of the Russian Federation. It is, like Saint Petersburg, a federal city [Federal cities are subject to direct jurisdiction of the federation].
Moscow represents Russia's leading economic, financial and manufacturing center. Moreover, Moscow is regarded as being a World City. And, there is a potential to become one of the prime locations amongst those globally relevant metropolises.
Moscow's population has grown rapidly over the last decades. In 1960 slightly over five million people lived in Russia's capital, in 1970 it were nearly seven million, ten years later the figure stood at about eight million inhabitants. Today, the city of Moscow is home to more than 10.4 million people. Including the so called Oblast – the metropolitan area beyond the city limits – the population amounts to approximately 17 million. Thus, Moscow's conurbation represents Europe's biggest metropolitan area in terms of population. Though recent projections indicate that Russia's population will decline significantly during the years to come, Moscow will continually grow.
As measured by European standards, Moscow features an extremely high population density of 9,500 inhabitants per square kilometer - More than twice the number of London (4,700) or Munich (4,300).
Picture 2: Saint Basil's Cathedral at Kremlin, Red Square, and the Upper Trade Rows (GUM) in downtown Moscow (photographed in January 2006)
About 8.5 million Muskovites are in working age, the (official) unemployment rate is negligibly low. According to official statistics, the average wage is 820 EUR per month (2007); due to shadow economy the real amount is to be deemed 30 – 100 % higher.
Approximately four-fifth of the nation's financial potential are concentrated in Moscow, two thirds of foreign investments focus on the city, a quarter of national budget is contributed by the capital. 1,200 banks are established in the city, more than 60 insurances, dozens of (stock) exchanges. Important industrial branches are chemical / petrochemical, metallurgy, machinery, military technology, food and textile.
Noteworthy, Moscow has become the most expensive city for expats worldwide (Merger's surveys, 2006 and 2007). According to the more recent survey living in Moscow is about 34 % more expensive than in New York.
Picture 3: New residential high-rise complex, completed in 2007 (photographed in March 2007)
Moscow's road pattern is based on major radial routes which intersect with several primary ring roads. The system is centered roughly around the city core and the Kremlin, respectively. Contrary to its name, the innermost ring, Boulevard Ring (Bulvarnoye Koltso), is not a complete ring. The second ring is called Garden Ring (Sadovoye Koltso). Completed in 2003, the Third Transport Ring was laid out as a high-speed freeway. A new Fourth Transport Ring is under construction. The impressive Moscow Automobile Ring Road (MKAD) represents the outermost circular road. It is about 110 km long.
Local public transport is based on an excellent subway system (Moscow Metro) which has been steadily extended since 1935. Today, it is more than 278 km long; there are 172 stations. Moscow Metro is one of the busiest worldwide, serving more than 8.2 million passengers per weekday.
Five primary commercial airports are serving the city: Sheremetjevo 1 + 2 (Russia's No 1 international airport), Domodedovo (international + No 1 domestic hub), Nvukovo (predominantly domestic flights), Bykovo (domestic flights only) and Ostafjevo (no scheduled flights yet).
Moscow is situated on the banks of the Moskva River which are linked by about 50 bridges. The capital was thoroughly planned and systematically developed. Moscow is characterized by a very compact cityscape. Morphologically Moscow represents an example of the saucer type city. This descriptive term stems from the fact that the elevations become progressively higher towards the outskirts [Sometimes referred to as hollowed city, this type is quite typical for many countries of the former Eastern bloc].
Picture 4: Newly constructed residential towers. This ensemble represents "modern-style" and upmarket residential developments, respectively (photographed in March, 2007)
Moscow was affected by planning ideals which tended to neglect the city's historic evolution. The basic planning entity was the microrayon (microdistrict). These spatial units represented essentially self-sufficient neighborhoods which contained workplaces, retail facilities, and a variety of other amenities. Thus, there was no need for a large central business district. Instead, central Moscow is dominated by the monumental Kremlin and the Red Square. The rudimentary downtown is surrounded by residential estates and some areas interspersed with commercial and office clusters, respectively.
Many city districts represent huge high-rise residential quarters which are made up of prefabricated slab buildings. In consequence, Russia's capital looks more uniform than many western European cities. The residential districts are linked to the center with an efficient subway systems.
The city's internal hierarchy of centers and functional nodes, respectively, is not yet as comprehensive as in other European metropolitan areas. There, for instance, are no historically evolved district centers like in Berlin, London or Paris. And, related to retail functions, Moscow's inner city is of minor importance as compared to their counterparts in the cities mentioned above. Still there are less discernible differentiations regarding the land use pattern. However, the former Soviet appearance is rapidly enriched by a wide variety of urban infrastructural as well as architectural elements, via infill developments or master planned projects from scratch. Not only commercial properties are featuring high architectonic standards, but many residential communities as well.
Picture 5: Residential building under construction, located within a vibrant commercial district near downtown (photographed in February, 2007)
Stemming from Moscow's role as the nation's main manufacturing center, the urban fabric is interspersed with vast industrial estates. Many of those, like the area along Volgogradsky, are situated comparatively close to downtown. The relocation of existing manufacturing plants and logistics facilities to Moscow's outskirts is planned, however, it'll take a long time to implement this planning objective. In general, approval procedures take quite a time, planning permissions are not easily obtained. This fact is stabilizing the market to some extent.