DROM converts the monotone Soviet Azatlyk Square into a lively contemporary public space

Rotterdam-based firm DROM in collaboration with Strelka KB, presents its recent renovation project for the main Azatlyk Square in the city of Naberezhnye Chelny (Republic of Tatarstan, Russia) that has been transformed into a dynamic and vibrant multi-use public space.

©Evgeny Evgrafov

©Evgeny Evgrafov

The original square was designed around a formal central axis that was intended to connect the municipality building to the unbuilt Lenin museum. By losing its starring role as a social connector, the public space became a relic of the Soviet past, underused, kept alive by a few maintenance interventions and disconnected from city life.

©Evgeny Evgrafov

©Evgeny Evgrafov

©Evgeny Evgrafov

©Evgeny Evgrafov

“We wanted to convert the lifeless public space of a typical Russian monotown built in the Seventies and dominated by a single industry – the famous Kamaz truck factory – into a multipurpose area with a fresh take on inhabitants’ interaction” say Timur Karimullin, Sofia Koutsenko and Timur Shabaev, founders of DROM.

©Evgeny Evgrafov

©Evgeny Evgrafov

©Evgeny Evgrafov

Highlighted by a dense row of planted trees, the main axis of Azatlyk Square has been relocated towards the edge of the plot to directly connect the nearby neighbourhoods with the new Promenade and its pavilions that include diverse playgrounds, a café, a food stall and a spiral viewing platform. The former central area has been divided into three different squares, each with its own unique character.

©Evgeny Evgrafov

©Evgeny Evgrafov

To the East, the Event Square is a pink concrete paved urban space that is also used for weekly outdoor markets. Next to it, is the Green Square, a relaxing spot with a wooden amphitheatre and a broad lawn from which to enjoy the seasonal landscaping conducted by the city’s planting department and lastly, the Cultural Square, with a fountain and a new circular shallow pool for playing in the water on hot days.

©Dmitry Chebanenko

©Dmitry Chebanenko

In dialogue with the Promenade, each square is energized by an anchor programme: the amphitheatre doubles as a cafè; the spiral viewing platform, which is painted in the emblematic orange Kamaz color, adds a vertical dimension; and the circular pool transforms into an ice-skating rink in winter.

©Dmitry Chebanenko

©Dmitry Chebanenko

©Dmitry Chebanenko

DROM designed peculiar paving patterns for each of the squares and integrated spaces that are protected from the strong crosswinds and sun by strategically placed “hills” and local species of linden, red maple and blue spruce trees.

In addition to the pavilions, Azatlyk Square features bespoke urban furniture and lighting elements, which were developed and produced by local manufacturers closely involved in the creation of a new niche in the city’s economy.

©Dmitry Chebanenko

©Dmitry Chebanenko

The main supporting structure for the spiral viewing platform is made with the same technology that is utilized in the production of gas pipes. The benches were shaped by a local concrete factory and the lamps were fabricated using standard steel profiles. By maintaining most of the pre-existing greenery and adding new trees, the architects intend to preserve the existing ecosystem and peculiar landscape. All these aspects helped the natural integration and the visual impact of the enormous transformation in the city centre, making the project more sustainable, resilient, and financially viable.

The city and its inhabitants embrace the new public space and the flourishing green areas as a stimulus to transform a monotone industrial past into a lively contemporary dimension of living that injects new energy into their roots.

DROM (Timur Karimullin, Sofia Koutsenko, Timur Shabaev) ©studiogeis


Project name: Azatlyk Square

Location: Prospekt Khasana Tufana 18, Naberezhnye Chelny (Republic of Tatarstan, Russia)

Architect: DROM (Timur Karimullin, Sofia Koutsenko, Timur Shabaev)

Project team: Asaf Barnea, Aga Batkiewicz, Valentina Ciccotosto, Elif Gözde Öztoprak, Roos Pulskens, Pratyusha Suryakant

Collaborator: Strelka KB

Local architect and engineering: KMT-PRO

Client: Strelka KB, DOM.RF

Commission: January 2017

Design phase: January 2017 – April 2017

Construction phase 1: Summer 2017 – Fall 2018

Construction phase 2: Spring – Summer 2019

Construction phase 3: 2020

GFA: 7.8 Ha

Building costs: approx. 4.500.000 €

Planting Consultant: NOVASCAPE


Granite paving

Tainted concrete paving


 Between public and private; standardization and craft; insider and outsider; urban development plan and lamppost; DROM is a balancing act between many things. Avoiding blanket manifestos as well as box-ticking, DROM forms playful, subtly mutated containers for new hybrid cultures.

Since its inception in 2015, DROM operates out of Rotterdam with projects around the world. As a collective of diverse thinkers with experience ranging from exhibitions and architecture to masterplans, DROM engages in each new project with critical and analytical research and design tools. DROM believes in the value of good design as a process, striving to achieve optimal solutions with limited resources. DROM is interested in the topics of productive environments, new models for living and working in cities, and the materialization of architecture.


2020 Selected by Domus Magazine as one of world’s “50 most creative, interesting and promising emerging architecture practices.”

2020  Azatlyk Square selected as one of ten best public spaces in Russia in 2019 by Afisha Daily.

2019  Azatlyk Square shortlisted for a joint ArchDaily & Strelka KB award, celebrating emerging architects and new ideas.

2018  Winner of an invited competition to develop a concept for “College of the Future,” cultural center, Veliky Novgorod, Russia.

2017  Winner of Europan 14 Netherlands.

2016  Runner up. Concept competition for the renovation of Tverskaya Street in Moscow, Russia.

2015   Winner of a competition for the commission of “Panorama,” a residential project in Novosibirsk.


2018 – 2019 Foam of Production, Bijlmer, Amsterdam, The Netherlands – Europan 14 winner (urban design).

2017 – 2019 Revitalization of Azatlyk Square, Naberezhnye Chelny, Russia (urban design, landscape design, architecture, industrial design).

2017– ongoing SOBINCO INDUSTRIAL CAMPUS, Zulte, Belgium (urban strategy, architectural design, landscape design, interior design).

2017– ongoing Marmax Tower, Rezan, Russia (masterplanning, programming, architecture, interior design, landscape design).

2016 – ongoing Zilart Lot 17.2 Residential building and public space. Moscow, Russia (architecture, interior design, landscape design).

2015 – 2018 A design system for facades, communal interiors and courtyards for affordable housing developments in Russia (research, urban design, landscape design, interior design, architecture).

2018 “College of the future” cultural center, Veliky Novgorod, Russia (masterplanning, architecture, urban design).

2018 Nikitina masterplan of a residential porous block, Novosibirsk, Russia (urban design, landscape design, architectural design).

2017 Masterplan of VIZ territory, Yekaterinburg, Russia (urban design, landscape design).

2016 Suture social housing complex – Europan 10 winner (urban design, landscape design, architecture).

2013 Campus, a building for designers in residence, Moscow, Russia (architecture).PARTNERS OF DROM

Sofia Koutsenko

Received her Post-Professional Master’s Degree from Harvard University in 2015 and a Bachelor’s in Architecture from the University of Oklahoma in 2007. Prior to establishing DROM, Sofia worked at OMA in Rotterdam on various projects, including research and design for ‘Elements of Architecture Exhibition, part of the 14th Venice Architecture Biennale; 1100 Architect in New York, and as an independent designer, completing projects in San Diego and New York. Sofia was a teaching assistant for Rem Koolhaas, for The Countryside of the Future programme at Wageningen University; served as Adjunct Professor at The New School of Architecture and Design, and advised on theses at Woodbury University San Diego campus. She acted as guest critic at Harvard University, TU Delft and Northeastern University. She was a finalist of Harvard Graduate School of Design’s Julia Appleton Traveling Fellowship in 2015.

Timur Karimullin

Completed his second Master’s Degree at TU Delft in 2012. His final project received the University’s honorable mention and was a finalist at Archiprix 2012. Timur received his first Master’s from Kazan State University of Architecture and Building Construction in Russia, where his graduation project won Archiprix 2007. Prior to joining DROM, Timur worked at the Institute of the Contemporary Urban Project in Mendrisio, OMA in Rotterdam, SVESMI in Rotterdam and led Russia-based projects at Kees Christiaanse Architects and Planners (KCAP). Timur has been a guest critic for different design studios at TU Delft and KSUABC.

Timur Shabaev

Received an Advanced Master’s Degree from The Berlage Institute in Rotterdam in 2010 and graduated in architecture from Ufa State Petroleum Technical University in 2001. Prior to establishing DROM, Timur worked at Meganom in Moscow and at OMA/AMO in Rotterdam. As part of AMO, Timur worked on developing the educational programme for the Strelka Institute for Media, Design and Architecture in Moscow and assisted in teaching the “Public Space” theme. He was a winner of Europan 10 and 11 in The Netherlands. His project, “Campus” in Moscow, was a finalist in Bauwelt’s Das Erste Haus 2015. Together with Maria Krasnova, he earned a Black Square award for contemporary art in 2007. From 2006-2012 Timur collaborated with various printed magazines as an illustrator and a graphic designer, including: Interni, Russia; Esquire, Russia. As a design journalist, he has collaborated with Project Russia magazine and