After three weeks of organized field trips and official lectures, some of us Strelkans* decide to take a detour off the tourist path. On the last Sunday in October we take the green metro line into northwest Moscow, and get out at the Aeroport stop. After a half-hour walk, across an 18-lane boulevard, through a massive sports complex, across a large open field filled with friendly stray dogs, over a section of crackled tarmac, which has been converted into a makeshift amateur stunt driving course, and through a hole cut into a chain-and-barbed-wire fence, we arrive at a graveyard of Soviet aeronautical ambition.
In a field of tall grass, lie the remains of dream jets. Children play among the ruins of an empire, climbing onto wings and into cockpits with the help of their parents. Single enthusiasts roam with their cameras, taking pictures of the grounded giants. Teenagers dare each other to climb the rickety watchtower, which sways even with light breeze. Carlos and I walk together, taking pictures and video. We are dazzled by these magnifications of childhood toys. We close in on the same details: a flattened landing tire, wire innards spilling out of a plane’s ripped side panel, graffiti honoring a local football team and the defunct CCCP in the same breath, the cigarette wrappers and beer bottles tucked into the planes’ open holds, the oil-slick rainbow discolorations of the cockpit windows.
After a week of discussing public spaces in the city, this is the first truly public space we have found: this hinterland between a newly built financial center, and an endless sea of residential high-rises. Here are children and parents and grandparents, and tourists, and lone weirdos, and neighborhood residents. Here are multiple uses. Here is play. Here is evidence of another life at night, after the children go home. Most importantly, it is free, in all senses, and an absolute joy to discover.
*Strelkan (n., v.): 1. One who participates in Strelka Institute’s 9 month research program. 2. Describing an approach to urban research and design, as yet to be defined.
**all photos by Carlos Medellin