Vokzalna Square is the first thing tens of thousands of people arriving in Kyiv see every day. Due to inconvenient transportation solutions at the square, lack of trees and the general state of disarray, many people wish they see it for the first and last time. To make Vokzalnaya Square a more comfortable and attractive place, students at the urban design course have developed the square's reconstruction project.
Kyiv's first freight and passenger station building was built in 1870 in the Old English Gothic style. At the same time, Vokzalna Square appeared next to the Donat's factory, which eventually turned into the Lenin Forge, a famous ship-building plant. In 1913, Kyiv's population increased fivefold, so the station had to be rebuilt. The idea to connect two parallel stations by an overpass floated right away but there was only enough money for a temporary, one-story building.
The station building we see today was built in 1932 by architect Oleksandr Verbytsky. In the 1930s, a power plant was built next to the station providing electricity to both the railway junction and the Lenin Forge. In 1955, suburban train platforms were built followed in 1960 by a metro station. In 2001, the station was renovated: the South Terminal and a still unfinished parking garage were built.
Vokzalna Square is located in the historic district of Pankivshchyna, which stretches from Shevchenko Boulevard along the slope covered by the Botanical Garden to the Lybid River. Initially this area was outside of the city limits but after the construction of the university in the 1840s, it gradually became a student district. At the beginning of the 20th century, Pankivshchyna was an upscale area filled with shops and lavish apartment buildings. Many of those that have survived until now carry the national or local architectural monument status.
Nowadays this neighborhood is far from homogenous. Its western part still has some remnants of the industrial zone, the central part is populated mostly with apartment buildings and educational establishments, the eastern part houses a large number of office buildings. A small river Lybid enters Pankivshchyna from the west. It flows in a concrete encasing through some undeveloped industrial lots and past new high-rises. Facades in the area are mostly dull or inactive, while friendly and active facades can be found on the opposite side of the neighborhood around Leo Tolstoy Square and Velyka Vasylkivska Street. Much of the neighborhood is open and accessible to pedestrians, but most of the blocks near the train station and closer to the city center are closed off with fences or have limited access. The highest concentration of trees is around Shevchenko Park and the Botanical Garden, while there are almost no trees in the train station area and near Starovokzalna Square. Vokzalna Square also lacks public infrastructure.
Vokzalna Square is one of the busiest transportation hubs in the city. It's the departure point of commuter, intercity and international trains as well as long distance buses, Kyiv's public transportation lines and Boryspil airport shuttles. At the same time, the territory of Vokzalna Square and the infrastructure located on the square and around it, do not meet modern comfort and safety requirements.
The tram stops 450 meters away from the entrance to the Station's terminal. Access to the tram stop is via a non-inclusive gallery filled with chaotic retail. The square sees constant conflicts between public transportation, individual cars and pedestrians, and there is no cycling infrastructure here at all. Meanwhile, almost the entire area of the square has been turned into a chaotic parking lot.
First of all, we created conflict-free routes for pedestrians from the train station to the metro station and the adjacent suburban train station, to the Northern commuter train platforms as well as to the nearby Petliura Street and Leo Tolstoy Street. This way, pedestrians get a safe and comfortable passage to the main points of public transportation connections.
Along Vokzalna Street, we have added bike lanes that end with a bicycle parking lot. This bicycle route can become a branch of the Solomyanka-Center bike route, which is planned for construction by the municipal authorities.
Currently, drivers often use Vokzalna Square as a short cut in case of traffic jams on Leo Tolstoy Street and Zhylyanska Street. As a result, the number of conflicts between public transportation and private cars in the square is increasing. We closed off the entrance from Simon Petliura Street for private cars and allowed entry only for public transportation. We also returned the tram to the square, as it had run there until 1996.
Individual transport enters the square via Vokzalnaya Street from Leo Tolstoy Street by a dedicated lane without any conflicts with other road users. Next to Vokzalna Street, currently sits an unfinished two-story parking garage, which we used for short- and long-term parking.
Currently, there is not a single tree on Vokzalna Square, there are just a few small chunks of lawn with bushes cut off from people by the roadway. The lack of trees results in overheating of the square during the summer months, strong winds blowing through it in the cold season and overall poor aesthetics of the square. During the rain, puddles and streams get in the way of both people and vehicles, its waters flowing without any purification into the city sewage, and from there, onwards into big waterways, such as the Dnipro River. Every year, the rains become stronger, the incessant climate change makes such downpours more frequent.
Existing green areas
The direction of water movement and puddles during showers
One way to solve these problems is to sustainably manage rainwater flows. Green areas successfully absorb, purify and divert rainwater during extreme rains. In addition, this water is used to water existing greenery and create new green areas for recreation.
In places of rainwater accumulation, we arranged green strips with plants suitable for flooding during downpours. The plants' roots and the soil purify the water which then, via the green areas on both sides of the square, reaches the river Lybid. Alongside purifying green areas and the main walking routes, we added alleys with trees. Along Petliura Street, we created a boulevard that connects Vokzalna Square with the Botanical Garden. We also created open ground patches with greenery inside public transport lanes to provide shade and a comfortable microclimate.
We interviewed users of the square to identify their biggest problems and needs in the area. We learned that, despite the relatively large size of the square and the large number of people who come here every day, there is nothing to do at the square: a limited choice of places to eat, no places for leisure or recreation, no comfortable and accessible basic services. Users often complained about the lack of a safe waiting space, poor public transport service, the inability to find anything they need at the station and around it, as well as frequent conflicts with strangers.
To reduce conflicts between square users, we zoned the square and mapped out specific function areas. A large walkable square will become a comfortable and safe public space where people will spend time in pleasant conditions. Canopies and greenery protect public transportation stops and waiting areas from the elements.
Arrangement of public space
Vokzalna Square sits in the midst of railway tracks, an unfinished parking lot, a market, an industrial zone, a chaotic bus station and cluttered premises of the Lenin Forge. All these areas are either inaccessible or inhospitable to pedestrians and form a wide barrier separating Vokzalna Square from the rest of the Pankivshchyna neighborhood.
Existing zoning of the territory
To bring back life to the area around the square, first of all, we propose to increase the number of connections through this area. We extend Starovokzalna Street and the tram line along the railway tracks and combine them with the connector path to Leo Tolstoy Street.
Two large blocks of 350 m × 380 m are divided by new connections into smaller blocks, about 150 m × 150 m in size. This will improve the accessibility of the territory adjacent to Vokzalna Square. The smaller size of the blocks makes it possible to increase the number of active ground floor facades and makes the blocks more convenient for walking.
Continuation of Starovokzalna vulytsia, new connections and buildings
We have populated the new blocks around Vokzalna Square with multifunctional buildings, which should help meet today's needs of Kyiv's residents and visitors as well as support the city's development in the future. Active facades and ground floors, mixed commercial and residential buildings, the creation of public places and new inter-block connections will fill the dilapidated and unfriendly areas with life.
The return of the tram, the opening of the second exit from Vokzalna metro station, as well as the relocation of the bus station closer to the railway station will turn Vokzalna Square into the city's main transportation hub.
The presence of a household items market and a large Eco-market store indicates the urgent need for retail space in this area. We suggest following the example of many Western European capitals, where the main transportation hub is often combined with shopping and entertainment centers.
The Lybid River flows in a concrete encasement next to Vokzalna Square. It is contaminated with waste along its entire length and access to it is closed in many places. Due to collector locked rivers and uncontrolled drainage, every year Kyiv is flooded with rainwater. Returning the river to its natural state is one way to prevent these problems in the future. This mitigates climatic conditions, reduces the amount of asphalt-covered area, releases the soil potential for drainage, absorption, treatment and further channeling of the water to the river which, in the end, improves the environment, and, in case of a heavy rainfall, protects city neighborhoods from flooding.
Current condition of Lybid
We restored the natural shape of the riverbed to slow down the river's flow and make the surrounding area more attractive. We created a buffer zone along the new river channeling for new pedestrian and bicycle routes. Inside city blocks along the new channeling we created several recreational parks.
Natural riverbed of Lybid and newly created recreational parks
The population of Kyiv has almost doubled in the last fifty years. Kyiv has appeared on the map of international tourists, and, every year, about 2 million of them visit the city in addition to 3 million tourists coming here from other regions of Ukraine. Although the number of users of Vokzalna Square has increased significantly, since the 1960s the square has not changed quality wise and is now obsolete both morally and technically.
Vokzalna Square reconstruction project maps out directions in which the square housing the capital's main transportation hub should develop. First of all, it's geared towards sustainable types of mobility, where pedestrians are the main users of space, and public transportation is the city's premier type of transport. It envisages the use of sustainable types of landscaping and care for the environment with the restoration of the natural course of the river Lybid and the development of recreational parks alongside. It also foresees the creation of a comfortable public space where users will be able to satisfy their basic needs for food, security and recreation. Then Vokzalna Square will not only become a convenient transportation hub, but will also meet the development challenges facing the modern city.
The project was made by:
Oleksandr Shcheglov, spatial research
Yuriy Hranovskyi, sociological research
Antin Oliynyk, architecture
Viktor Petruk, transport design
Dmytro Bespalov, transport modeling
Dimitra Teochari, landscape architecture
Semen Polomanyi, landscape architecture
Maksym Kotsiuba, landscape architecture
Oleksandra Sladkova, projects implementation
Dmytro Hurin, advocacy campaigns
Yevhen Petroshchuk, urban projects
The project was developed
on the course Urban Design
in the fall of 2019 in Projector