Bessarabska Square is one of the main challenges in the development of quality public space in the center of Kyiv. Three highways converge on the square turning it into a non-stop traffic junction. There are no dedicated lanes for public transport, bike lanes or convenient pedestrian paths. Most of the pedestrian crossings from the square lead underground to a shopping center, it took several years of fighting the red tape to get two surface crossings arranged. To make Bessarabska Square a comfortable and attractive space, students of an urban design course developed a project for its reconstruction.
Photo from the drone
For centuries, the site of the modern Bessarabska Square was a forest tract between two unconnected parts of Kyiv which entered the city limits only in the 1830s. Thanks to the construction of the university, Kruglouniversytetska Street (University Descent) was built connecting the Pechersk neighborhood with the neighborhood called the New Construction. Later on, the Boulevard Highway (now T. Shevchenko Boulevard) was built which led to the creating of the junction of two roads: one going to the town called Vasylkiv and the other going to the town called Zhytomyr. The two streams—Khreshchatyk and Klov-- which had a confluence at the square, were channeled underground.
In 1874-1875, simultaneously with the construction of the Oleksandrivskyi Hospital on the site of a mulberry garden nearby, market trade moves into the square. In 1912, the Bessarabsky market was built, designed by architect Henryk Gay. The development of the trade square ended in the late 1950s after the construction of a major thoroughfare called Lesia Ukrainka Bouleverd. Ever since, the square has been declining as a public space while becoming more of a transit junction.
Bessarabska Square is located in the middle of a lively area in the central part of Kyiv. It is dominated by historic buildings with a large office space capacity. The adjacent streets are full of active ground floors with restaurants, cafes and shops. The most active is the odd side of Baseina Street. Although both residents and visitors flock to this area in large numbers, there is almost no comfortable public space here. There are hardly any benches or trees to be found around the Bessarabsky Market, which makes the streets converging on it quite uncomfortable.
Several of Kyiv's main transport arteries run through Bessarabska Square. However, due to the narrow streets around the market and the significant number of conflicts between road users, there are almost always traffic jams here. Construction of the nearby 7-lane Skoropadsky Street in the 1990s didn't improve the traffic situation much.
1)Existing traffic. 2) Project traffic in the tunnel. 3) Design movement on the surface. 4) Project movement of public transport.
To solve the traffic problems around Bessarabska Square, we used the space of a shopping center, located under the adjacent Velyka Vasylkivska Street. Through it, we channeled the traffic in the direction of Lev Tolstoy Street, while Khreshchatyk-bound traffic we left on the street surface. This solution reduces the number of conflicts with oncoming traffic, which is now moving underground. To reduce the number of conflicts at intersections, we removed all the traffic from the streets on both sides of the market and channeled it via the nearby Skoropadsky Street.
1) Existing traffic. 2) Project traffic in the tunnel. 3) Design movement on the surface. 4) Project movement of public transport.
To finally solve the traffic problem at Bessarabska Square, it is necessary to change the approach to the development of mobility in the city and provide city residents and visitors with a convenient public transport system — a comfortable and fast alternative to a private car. The city administration plans to extend the Borschagivka express tram line to Shota Rustaveli Street, just a bloc away from the market. In the future, we propose to continue the tram line from Shota Rustaveli Street to Bessarabsky Passage and further along Khreshchatyk and Shevchenko Boulevard. This will let city residents and visitors to make convenient connections between tramlines. We also added bike lanes, which are a sustainable way to move around the city.
1) Khreshchatyk. 2) Velyka Vasylkivska. 3) Bulvar Shevchenka.
Pedestrian streams from five streets cross at Bessarabska Square bringing together walking routes from Khreshchatyk, Shevchenko Boulevard and the Steep Descent from Lypky neighborhood located uphill. However, car-centered, parked over space, alongside confusing underpasses and incomprehensible navigation create a lot of conflicts and make it difficult to move around or stay on the square. Pedestrians are forced to use non-inclusive underpasses through the shopping center, which are also sometimes closed.
1) Available pedestrian routes 2) Design routes for pedestrians.
Freeing the square from cars, we combined the scattered fragments of space around it and made it pedestrian only. We created a convenient system of street level crossings connecting the square with the nearby streets. In this way, Bessarabka area becomes an inclusive and safe space allowing for comfortable walks and leisure.
1) Bessarabska ploshcha. 2 & 3) Bessarabian passages
Each year, Bessarabska Square ranks Kyiv's first in pollution, while businesses and traffic regularly suffer from downpours and floods. These problems are caused by significant traffic around the market and lack of trees. As the square is located lower than the adjacent streets, it collects the rainwater from everywhere. The engineering drainage system, part of which is an old rainwater collector running underneath Khreshchatyk, cannot cope with such a large amount of precipitation. And due to the climate change, there will only be more of it every year.
1) Available green areas and collector. 2) Connection of three boulevards. 3) Project of green areas and the Khreschatyk riverbed on the surface.
We have combined the landscaping of Khreshchatyk, Shevchenko Boulevard and the restored boulevard along Baseina Street into a single green zone. Trees will make the area both shaded and aesthetically attractive, and will solve the problem of air purification while blocking off noise pollution.
We created a system of green areas along the streets to improve drainage. During extreme rains, they will receive a significant amount of precipitation, which will be cleared, gradually seeping into the soil. We also envisioned a canal running down the center of Khreschatyk hosting a small river of the same name, which now flows in an underground collector. We set up a rain garden in front of the market, which will absorb excess precipitation.
1) The river on Khreshchatyk. 2) The river on the Bessarabskiy passage.
Bessarabska Square has an incredible tourist potential, but it cannot be taken advantage of in the current conditions. There are many restaurants around the Bessarabskyi Market, but they are difficult to reach due to the badly planned traffic junction. Sidewalks are too narrow even for pedestrians, let alone restaurant terraces.
We opened up the currently underground space of the Metrograd shopping center and alongside we arranged transparent and active facades for various restaurants, cafes and shops. In the middle of the square we placed a large green area with space for relaxation and communication featuring an amphitheater. Access to this area is equipped with an inclusive ramp for easy access. The area behind the market has also changed. It has become more comfortable providing additional space for summer terraces and leisure.
1) Amphitheater. 2) Ramp. 3) Area behind the market. 4) Baseyna street.
Khreshatyk is Kyiv's main street, and Bessarabka is the main market square on it. The Bessarabskyi Market, a true public magnet located at the intersection of major pedestrian routes provide the square with the potential to become one of the most interesting public spaces in the city. However, this potential has been mostly lost due to inefficient traffic solutions. The new Bessarabska Square project shows what a modern square in the city center should look like and how it should develop. It must become a safe, environmentally friendly, accessible and comfortable public space, which will be the main point of attraction in Kyiv's city center.
The project was made by
Yuriy Hranovskyi, sociological research
Anton Oliynyk, architecture
Anastasiya Stryzhevska, architecture
Dmytro Bespalov, transport modelling
Viktir Petruk, transport design
Semen Polomanyi, lanscape architecture
Maksym Kotsiuba, lanscape architecture
Dmytro Hurin, advocacy campaigns
Hanna Bondar, practice of city competitions
Yevhen Petroshchuk, urban projects
The project was developed
on the course Urban Design
in the spring of 2020 in Projector