Ural Forest. Ice Arena
Ekaterinburg. Russia

ice arena



Design Date

Engineering & transport consultancy

Bridge construction

“Ural Forest” lighting system conceptual design

“Ural Forest” lighting system engineering and technology

"Forest" playground engineering and production

"Water" playground engineering and detail design

Concrete cladding system, design and production

Unblocking city centre

The city block surrounded by Kuibysheva, Rosa Luxemburg, Dekabristov, and 8 Marta streets in the centre of Ekaterinburg has occupied a central place in the city development plans for many years. From north to south, it is crossed by the Iset river, which was the reason for the establishment of the city in the 18th century, when the first built factories were powered by its current. On the East and West, there are potential green links that, if joined together, would establish a new green corridor linking the centre of the city with peripheries. The site always had the potential to connect various parts of the city, unify its different sections and functions, and bond the city centre as one entity.

Within the block, the important cultural institution has been assembled: City Circus — a monument to an impressive brutalist architecture of the late Soviet era, and the recently built museum of Russian History. Here, the main city Synagogue was established. However, a big part of the site has been occupied by an unfinished TV Tower for many years. Planned to reach 360 meters height, its construction was halted in 1991 and never restarted. Finally, in 2018 the decision was made to demolish the tower, creating a place for a modern multifunctional sport/entertainment complex — Ice Arena.

Two Urban Axes & Agora on the River

Construction of the Arena in the city centre created new challenges in itself. Early on, a decision was made that the surrounding 18 hectares of the public realm will be fully integrated with the neighbouring urban areas. The spaces were to be accessible and welcoming to the public not only during major events in the complex, as it is often the case with vicinities of large stadiums, but 12 months of the year, seven days a week. They were to become an integral part of the city’s green infrastructure, offering various recreational activities. The chosen scheme not only fulfilled these requirements and complies with strict safety norms but also created a missing link between functional and physical elements of the surrounding urban tissue.

The design is based on two perpendicular axes.

The North-South linear park, occupying both sites of the river Iset, will form a central part of a larger blue-green corridor planned to transfer the whole city following its main water bodies. With lush water edge planting of native species, complemented by verdant parkland greenery further away from the water, it will provide a space for quiet strolls and places from which a relaxed flow of the river can be observed. In the middle, facing each other, two Water Amphitheatres will be constructed, allowing for cultural city events on the river. The form of Amphitheatres has been inspired by natural rock formations of the Ural Mountains, creating an impression of merging with river embankments. A Water Children Playground was proposed on the left bank, extending a water theme, and making it more accessible for younger generations.

The West-East axis connects major green corridors of the city, filling a gap in the blue-green puzzle of recreational spaces and pedestrian links. Designed as pedestrian boulevards, with parts to be used by cars, it will culminate in the centre in the form of a pedestrian bridge. Cladded in stainless steel, reminiscent of fish scales, its tectonic form will merge on both sides with both amphitheatres.

All three will create a central meeting place — Agora on the River, where people will gather for major events or meet after sports matches, major exhibitions, or concerts held in the Arena. Together with a major plaza between the Arena and the Museum of Russian History, it will also act as a space to accommodate the spectators arriving and leaving the stadium.

Ural forest

Here the main children’s playground design is also around the theme of the Ural Forest and will be built, with a towering structure of artificial trees to be climbed and oversized mushrooms and insects to be used as play equipment. It will allow children to feel like they are entering a Gulliver or Alice in Wonderland fairy tale. In Wintertime, the plaza will be transformed into a Winter Wonderland with an ice labyrinth and ice ring constructed.

The design evoking natural landscapes of Ural Mountain Forests and its elements, in forms suitable for a modern city centre, will be strengthened by a lighting system specially designed for the project. Inspired by forest trees and branches, the «Ural Forest» lighting line has been developed to fit the project’s spirit. The whole set consists of 5 different types of lights that can be grouped to create artificial trees or single stumps, which could be used as a frame for climbers, or support for the various elements of intelligent city infrastructure that have been planned.

Renaturalization of embankments

Developing the project, it was necessary to take into account the steep slopes of the river embankments, with a level difference of 6 meters. The terrain was sculptured where necessary to create a barrier-free environment using terraces and ramparts. At the same time, the project aimed to preserve existing large trees as much as possible, complementing them with new planting of native species of trees, shrubs, and perennials typical for water edge biotope. The aim was to create self-regulating plant communities to ease the maintenance and jumpstart water edge colonization by species that could act as biofiltration for the water itself. Their planting, aided by appropriate use of nature-friendly reinforcement of the water edge, should help avoid «urbanization» of the river embankment that leads to a loss of valuable water edge ecosystems, a process that we see so often in new landscape schemes conducted along with urban watercourses.

Consequent design of all elements of the scheme, from major structures of the bridge and amphitheatres to a single lamp post, will hopefully create the feeling of the Ural Mountain Forest spirit entering the centre of Ekaterinburg without danger of creating a pastiche or a theme park feel. Allowing easier access to the water edge and letting nature take over most of its length, and most importantly marrying functional requirements of a major event arena with the needs, ambitions, and aspirations of citizens of Ekaterinburg, will hopefully create an iconic, cornerstone element of the city’s landscape infrastructure when built.


XI Russian national landscape architecture award 2020 — Bronze Diploma for the best unrealized public space with an area of more than 5 ha - “Ural Forest” - comprehensive improvement of public space near the Ice Arena in Ekaterinburg