Free the block Urban Masterplan

Competition for a new city block in the city of Belgorod
Belgorod, Russia

Honorable Mention

There is no doubt that the development of this new urban block is of mayor importance for the Belgorod city center. Until now the city has been constructed with big homogeneous types of building. The project instead will stimulate diversity and intimacy and proposes an urban strategy instead of an urban design. This will make the site developable over time and to be constructed bottom up, step by step. The strategy could be applied to the surrounding city blocks as well.


Two notions are key in this project: freedom and responsibility. Freedom for initiators to design, develop and build what they would like; to give shape to the environment. Responsibility needs to be taken for the biodiversity in the city, insolation of neighboring buildings and for the realization of the public space. By promoting small and mid-size developments on manageable plot sizes, the block will accommodate an informal neighborhood full of life and diversity. A unique place to live and work.


Imagine a development in which position, shape and size for the plot are free to choose. Architectural expression is unlimited and public space is different on each plot. The outcome of this strategy is unsure. The result will be a surprise for sure! The quality and feasibility of the design will be guaranteed by a few specific urban rules.


The plots size and the FAR have a maximum value in order to humanize the scale of the urban fabric while keeping every development feasible. Buildings on the plot are set back from their boundary and respect local insolation rules and maximum height to create a light and fully accessible public space. Every investor will construct his own architecture and green space!


This strategy asks for a new kind of role for urban planners and governance. Clear principles and guidelines express the ambition of the development while more freedom and responsibility are awarded to the actual initiators, developers, designers and users of the block. This urban strategy anticipates a greater engagement. This can result in an extraordinary differentiation, reflecting the diverse characters the city encompasses.

Type/Program: Urban Strategy and Masterplan – Mixed Functions
Client: PROJECT MEDIA – Belgorod City Administration
Year: 2013
Location: Belgorod, Russia
Data: Site area 75.700 mq
Status: International competition – Honorable Mention
Project Team: QTA + Mick Van Gemert
Collaborators: Milica Alempic, Sophie Vrenken, Anna Spadacini, Federica Donati
Model: Ettore Contro