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Advocacy planning in the project for the improvement of the central park "ZA SAIMOY" in Surgut

Park "Za Saimoi"


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Acting persons:

- Designers of the company "APPARAT" (We)

- Administration of the city of Surgut

- Federal University SSUGU and Department of Ecology

- Botanical Garden, owned by the university

- ONF Surgut

- Residents of Surgut

- Lawyers

The state tender for the development of the preliminary design of the Za Saima Park was held on August 25, 2017.

This is a city park in the very center of Surgut, covers an area of 55 hectares and, together with the river Saimaa, divides the territory of the city center into districts that are interconnected by several pedestrian bridges across the Saimaa. Thus, the park is transit, and many paths from one area of the city to another lead through the landscaped area. In some way "Central Park" for Surgut. 

Park "ZA SAIMOY" in some way "Central Park" for Surgut

The improvement of the park has been discussed with residents for ten years, there were many proposals, but the ideas were implemented fragmentarily, without an integrated approach to project development.

In 2016, the city administration first initiated the development of the "Concept of Spatial Development", which assessed the role of each public space of the city, its function and content.

In this strategy, the park "Beyond the Saimaa" had zoning, in which part of the territory was preserved as a "forest park" for walking and quiet rest, and partly assumed to be saturated with entertainment infrastructure, such as the "Amusement Park" with a Ferris wheel, beach and heated pool in autumn and springtime, etc.

In the same year, a tender was announced for the development of a detailed concept of the "Park Za Saima", which was won by our company "APPARAT".

Urbanika GP.JPG

Surprisingly, the design period for such an important urban area, discussed for about 10 years, was critically short - less than 2 and a half months.

We immediately got to work: we studied the source materials, requested the missing materials, agreed with a sociologist to conduct a qualitative and quantitative analysis in a short time, found local activists who could help us organize on-site meetings with representatives of local communities and residents for a sociological survey.

It so happened that something similar to a vegetable garden, surrounded by a metal fence, settled in the park. Even the site under it is formed. It turned out that the previous mayor, together with the Federal University of Surgut, wanted to develop the "Botanical Garden" here. The project has already been partially implemented - a network of paths, drainage was laid, a relief was organized, and behind the metal fence there was an "introduction zone" - an experimental site for growing various rare plants, as well as a platform where students conducted practical classes in botany.

General plan of Botsada.JPG

This event did not develop so optimistically under the new mayor. Or rather, it stopped developing altogether and turned into a conflict. That is, into a political battle between the city and the federal university for a plot in the park. The city authorities categorically wanted to evict the "Botanical Garden" from the city park, and their reasons were clear:

1. The site allocated for the "Botanical Garden" did not develop further, as planned in the project, because funding stopped. The university did not allocate money, and therefore the "Botanical Garden" was a half-abandoned "garden" behind a fence, where access was closed to all residents, except for students during classes. In general, not all residents knew that there was a "Botanical Garden" behind the fence.

2. A city park is a public space that always requires large expenditures from the city budget for maintenance. Therefore, the park must have a management company or a state structure for managing the park area (like "Gorky Park" in Moscow), which, in addition to maintaining the state territory, should earn money with the help of such tools as leasing plots for entertainment and recreational infrastructure to private businesses, holding paid events in the park (concerts). In this sense, the existing "garden" or "Introduction Zone" (the territory of the Boat Garden) was the most convenient place, according to the administration, to accommodate infrastructure facilities, because there were no old tall trees that covered almost the rest of the territory parka. And the experimental plants that grew there, also in the opinion of the administration, could be transplanted, and officials offered another site for this.

3. Official recognition of the territory as  "Botanical Garden" entails a certain status of the territory - PA (Specially Protected Natural Territories). And this means that the territory in the park will be closed by a fence and will fall out of the active life of the park. 

There were also rumors that there was already demand for this territory from the developer, who had already tried on the construction of a high-class chain hotel on the site. Hence such intractable perseverance to get this particular site for an existing investor. And in this case, there is no conflict with the townspeople due to cutting down trees in the park, and at the same time the city receives profit from the sale of the site.

The surprise for us was that the administration chose the designers as a tool to evict the Botanical Garden from the site. 

That is, by the decree of the administration, we had to draw an entertainment infrastructure in the form of an Amusement Park and a Ferris Wheel on the site of the Botanical Garden. This desire is clearly formulated in an official letter to the designers, although the best use should (according to the technical assignment) be defined as once the designers themselves.

And, without waiting for an answer, they began to lay electric lighting communications through the territory of the Botanical Garden. At night. 

As one would expect, information noise has risen. The residents wanted to know what was going on and on what basis the work was being done to lay the cable right through the rare, recently planted plants. The administration retorted that these solutions were proposed by the architects who are just now designing the park. 

The customer believed that architects, as performers, should draw what the customer tells them. There is a contract, and failure to fulfill obligations in the state tender very severely punishes the contractor - blacklisting the company and the inability to work for several years in the state order market. Only there was a problem for the administration: in the terms of reference there was no indication that attractions should be placed on the site of the Botanical Garden. They forgot to write it down, or didn't think about it then. The task involved the placement of infrastructure based on research, including sociological surveys.

ОНФ остановила работу.JPG

Architects just at that time conducted a sociological survey among residents. Residents answered (mostly) that they did not need entertainment infrastructure there and it would be better to leave the park as it is - a quiet place for walking and sports. Someone agreed to a small cafe, bike paths separated from the network of footpaths, an ice rink, a boat station, and the like. The minority were residents who needed entertainment infrastructure, especially in the form of a huge Ferris Wheel. 

Based on the results of a sociological survey, it became clear that no "cumbersome" entertainment infrastructure was needed, and everyone who knew about the Botanical Garden wanted to keep it.

The designers found themselves in a position where, no matter whose interests they served, they still found themselves out of favor with the other two interest groups. If the interests of the Customer, that is, the city, were fulfilled, the designers would be criticized by the University and the inhabitants of the city. & nbsp;

“Saima is like a summer gym.”
Male, 28, musician

“It is dangerous to walk there, I am constantly afraid that I will be hit by cyclists who are running around. In addition, the traffic is completely unorganized, the bike can fly out from anywhere!”

“The main thing is to separate the streams, it is impossible for them to travel along the same paths.”
Women, 30-35 years old, mothers of young children


The "sociological survey" legally helped us to avoid direct execution of instructions from the administration, which became the rationale for all design decisions. This is an 80-page report compiled by sociologists, which provides recommendations for the further development of the park area based on the wishes and opinions of residents. Moreover, this survey was held by common agreement on the Vkontakte page of Mayor V. Shuvalov and collected about 1800 completed questionnaires in 2 days.

Thus, after several consultations with lawyers, we decided not to be led by the administration and commercial interests, but to do what the residents of the city want - that is, as the results of a sociological survey show. 

In addition, it was impossible to agree to the wishes of the administration, because in the event of a public outcry on the actions of & nbsp; designers & nbsp; demolish the Botanical Garden and place unnecessary seasonal attractions there, the designers will again be to blame. And this may serve as a reason for the termination of the contract by the administration. In general, in any situation, the designers will be to blame. 

From that moment, the struggle of lawyers on the part of the designers and administration began. 


Along the way, the public represented by the ONF (All-Russian People's Front) joined in defense of the designers; some non-administration-controlled media from Yekaterinburg and Surgut; University; Botanical Garden;

The topic of the urban conflict reached the governor. The governor sent a specialist who was supposed to find out the details of the conflict and help in the solution. 

Deputies of the City Duma joined the conflict, and by discussing this issue, they drew up the Minutes of the meeting, in which there was a decision to preserve the Botanical Garden.


But this did not stop the city administration. Their goal was to terminate the contract with the designers, and possibly organize another tender, with a more accommodating Contractor. And they were looking for a reason for this. Multi-page nitpicking of the project rained down, with instructions to eliminate them within one or two days. On Friday evening, comments came in, and the corrected album had to be sent on Monday. 

An interview was launched on a local TV channel, in which officials said that the project was under consideration, and there were a lot of errors in it, due to which it would be necessary to terminate the contract with the designers. They prepared the ground for termination and turned the public against us.

There were direct threats about non-acceptance of work by the Customer. There were threats in the media that spoke on our side.

Soon the administration stumbled legally. Without formally accepting our work, they hurriedly put the project up for public discussion in the park. At the same time, we spent money on an alternative project in which our work was used, but adjustments were made at the request of the customer. In place of the Botanical Garden in this forged project was an amusement park. Residents were invited to participate in voting for the version of the project, naturally with live propaganda of their version. Legally, they had no right to exhibit our work without accepting and paying for it, without buying the right to dispose of our work. In addition, budget money was spent on "adjusting the project." 

It also gave the designers an advantage in the legal battle. In addition, on the part of the designers there was an iron justification in the form of a sociological survey, and there were endless attempts on the part of the customer to challenge their results. 

The resonance of the case even reached the Federation Council in Moscow. 


"Garden of Exotic Plants". 

To find a compromise, the designers proposed on the territory Botanical Garden to make  Children's Educational Center. This is a very popular format of park infrastructure, which is actively developing in the cities of Russia and the world. Science and education of children in various spheres of life are in great demand these days.

In Moscow, every park has such an infrastructure, and every children's center focuses on one or another area of science or art, competing with other centers.

This is an ideal format for the city park of Surgut!  Moreover, in Surgut this direction is still developing. Education and ecology is a modern trend. This is also convenient for parents, because you can give the child away and carve out a few hours or a whole day for yourself, depending on the program chosen. Or sit in a coworking space in the same Children's Center or in the Phyto-cafe and work with a laptop while the child gains knowledge in the classroom.

But this still did not suit the Customer, because did not exclude the presence on the territory of the Botanical Garden and the University.


But 2017 was coming to an end, and a decision had to be made on the money budgeted for this project. The customer doubted, hesitated, because. there was not enough reason to terminate the contract. On the Customer's side, there was a condition of the contract that the Contractor must first coordinate the project with several interested committees - architecture and sports. And only then - with the Customer. There was no time allotted for this under the contract, and problems with coordination in the committees were entirely the responsibility of the designers. It does not matter that the committees can formally consider the work for a month, and then write comments. And the total time for the project is only 2 months.


Nevertheless, the administration got out as follows: they decided to accept the project, but with comments and withholding a 10% fine for not fulfilling the wishes. And the money from this fine to justify the design adjustments that they made illegally shortly before. 

This suited us, because. The alternative to this decision was to drag around the courts. And I did not want to do this at all, especially with the special reputation of the courts of Khanty-Mansiysk A.O. So we closed the contract and handed over the project. On the very last day of the accounting department on December 25, at 19 pm, when the accountant specially sat at work for extra time and waited for our final resolution of the conflict.

The continuation was already without our participation: since this urban conflict attracted too much public attention, as a result, the project was decided to be frozen altogether for an indefinite period. The head of the city was given a tough ultimatum that nothing would happen to the park without the involvement of residents in design decisions.

The case was frozen and resurfaced in early 2019, when the election campaign demanded sacrifices from the administration and demonstrative "positive" cases for the benefit of the townspeople.


Therefore, the administration came to the world with the Botanical Garden and the University, and even organized a round table to discuss the project and find a balance of interests. The discussion of common interests and conflicts led to the fact that decisions were put forward to preserve the Botanical Garden, preserve the zoning of the park as a natural oasis in the city, with a bias towards the ecological orientation of the development of the park area, as was reflected in our sociological survey. Now it is called "ECO-Park Za Saima"


What we wanted at the very beginning, and what needs to be done in any design of such important public spaces as the city's central park, has taken place:

- conduct research

- propose several development concepts,

- to expose concepts (development scenarios) for public discussion. And not as usual - with the promotion of their decision and on an inconvenient day for everyone in the early morning of Monday, but with attracting the attention of all interested parties, stakeholders, residents, and businesses. With discussion of development scenarios at the round table.

- then, based on the results of this discussion and the general conclusion, create a real "Terms of Reference", which will form the basis of the project. 

The new terms of reference and the concept of the park, adjusted according to it, reached the finals in the "100 Cities" competition, which was held on March 27 & nbsp; as the next stage of public selection in the crowd accelerator. More than 9000 users took part in voting for 20 city projects!! (

In this case, it is obvious that the conflict benefited the urban development decision, the level of project development and the degree of stakeholder involvement in decision-making. That is, in our opinion, a close to ideal method of designing a public urban space has taken place. Naturally, for this you need to lay a lot more time, and have iron nerves and money for lawyers).

This case is not a classic example of "advocacy planning" because the designers were bound by a contract with the Customer, and if the Terms of Reference had clearly stated that an Amusement Park should be located on the territory of the Botanical Garden, then no advocacy planning would have happened. I would have to do everything as it is written in the ToR. In this case, the Terms of Reference was drawn up correctly, because it did not immediately include the wishes of the administration about the functional content of the park, but assumed work with the population and, based on the results of a sociological survey, a decision on filling park infrastructure. 

Advocacy planning is a very necessary and useful practice for Russia, which can gradually accustom city administrations to the fact that the time of authoritarian design is ending, and the level of public self-awareness and activity has increased significantly. And this is not only in the capital.

But at the same time, this is a rare case of a successful outcome for the residents and designers of the conflict, because. the power of the administration is very strong, and if the case is brought to court, then most likely the side of the inhabitants would lose. 

Park improvement project "For Saimaa", 56 ha
Surgut, 2017
Management of forest park economy and ecol. security of the city of Surgut (ULPHiEB) 
Trenina Victoria
Sabirullov Alexey
Zibrova Alla
Kardanov Amir
Peleneva Anna
Kolesnikova Julia
Nabasova Olga
Gepper Ekaterina
Gabov Konstantin
Kobyshcha Varvara
Eco-trail development consultants:
Kichigina Svetlana
Martirosova Daria
Park identity designer:
Kalashnik Vitaly
Adushkin Vyacheslav
Activists CPU Surgut:
Zverkov Sergey
Thanks to everyone who took part and helped in resolving this urban conflict:
- ONF represented by Inna Biruk
- Gleb Kukurichkin, Associate Professor of the Department of Ecology


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