October 24th, 2011
08:20 PM GMT
Moscow (CNN) – You can’t visit Moscow without visiting Gorky Park. It’s one of Europe’s biggest public spaces, and through the Martin Cruz Smith novel and 1983 film, became an international symbol of the paranoia and intrigue of the Soviet Union.
It was built in 1928 as an embodiment of the Soviet ideals of public health and public space, but gradually that ideology was forgotten, and the park fell into disrepair. Now though, that’s all changing.
The Moscow authorities are investing $2 billion to turn the run-down Soviet-era amusement park into a much needed open space, and a haven for Moscow's growing population. The new mayor is backing the changes, and Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich is helping to fund it.
Already wifi has been installed, the entry fee has been scrapped and most of the old fairground rides have been removed. New green areas will be installed, there are plans for an art gallery run by Abramovich’s girlfriend Darya Zhukova, and a huge ice-rink in winter.
A new architectural institute, Strelka, is spearheading the changes, and says this is the first time Moscow has really engaged with what the people want, and put real thought into the experience of living in the capital. For the generations of Muscovites who visit the park as a rite of passage, the changes offer a haven in an overcrowded and overpolluted city.