The Moscow Agency of Innovations imagined the potential of what a Soviet-style building within the existing Moscow city center could become if introducing regenerative sustainable urban design practices. The main goal of the ‘Digital Business Hub’ project was to form a quality public space. The need for an adaptive reuse approach was caused by a possible missed opportunity to create vibrant public space in the “Garden Ring” area otherwise characterized by decline. Such approach helped to fully reinvent a building’s purpose and outlook bringing it back into the living fabric of the modern city. Overcoming investment and technical challenges, the hub has become an offline version of the platform for startups, venture capitalists, and corporations looking for technological solutions while its appearance coincides with the overall tech concept from the facade to interiors. It is the first building in Russia, where light-conducting concrete is applied to the design of the outdoor façade.
The Soviet-style 2-floor building of 6635,1 sq m, including an underground area, was originally constructed in 1977 at the crossroad of the Pokrovka street and the Garden Ring (a circled street surrounding the city center) in Moscow. It was used as the movie house, Novorossiysk, until the 1990s, when the area became a platform for business development, business communication, training, and work. In mid-2010s it was clear that the space infrastructure did not meet new business habits and leisure behavior of citizens and guests of Moscow lacking modern facilities. Moreover, the whole building design did not suit the advanced outlook of the Garden Ring, which was significantly renovated under ‘My Street’ program.
With the entire reconstruction cost close to $15 million, in 2017 the building turned into “Digital Business Hub” and became a new place for Moscow's business and technological community to thrive. In order for the building to reflect the site's new ethos its appearance and interiors had to coincide with the overall tech concept. The design team aimed to transform the entire building to represent the technological hub it had become. From the building's facade to the interior, the former movie house was completely updated. The space was divided into different zones (foyers, classrooms, offices, digital workshops) where exhibitions, presentations, and lectures could be held.
Even though it was decided to sustain the architecture of the cinema, the building's appearance faced significant repairs with the use of innovative materials and a new programmable light display at the facade. This helped preserve the architectural ensemble of the building while incorporating new technological flourishes.
Noticeably, the reconstruction made the hub to be the first building in Russia, where light-conducting concrete was applied to the design of the façade (earlier this technology was used only for interior designs). Lumicon, a light-conducting concrete developed and produced in Russia, has the look of a polished natural stone and excellent structural characteristics similar to those of regular concrete. The building is covered with 9,000 Lumicon panels (2,300 sq.m.) together containing 15,000 meters of optical fibers. The light emission in each single panel is controlled via a dedicated software application developed specifically for this project. To improve energy efficiency and ease installation, the panels were bundled into groups of 4-10 units. When the building is lighted at night according to one of the 30 available lighting scenarios, 7 active light zones consisting of 1,100 modules pulsing with iridescent colors invariably produce a „wow“ effect.
The interior of the Digital Business Hub is designed for people striving for innovation. It is inspired with Novorossiysk landscapes which resulted in the use of wood and stone as key materials. The main hall has a unique ceiling that combines simplicity and singularity in its execution. Appearing to look like it's made entirely of wood, in fact it is a rack-and-pinion metal ceiling, which resembles the wood aesthetic. The inviting lobby creates a comfortable atmosphere where guests can enjoy a cup of coffee while they wait for events. The walls are complemented by volumetric triangles matching the patterns on the floor. Glowing tables add an impressive look both during the day as well as at night. To make visitors feel comfortable, soft sofas and padded stools are placed to help maintain the freedom of space.
10 conference rooms for 8 - 640 people were also renovated to meet up-to-date business needs. Brown wood panels decorate the 640-seat conference room. For visitors’ comfort, light is hidden behind triangular acoustic panels on the walls and ceiling while small built-in lamps are placed along the stairs to help guests of the hall easily navigate in the dark. The lights are located as close as possible to the steps not to distract the audience while watching a movie or presentation. A small conference hall was created for presentations and film screenings. The cozy and capacious hall is furnished with comfortable textile numbered chairs. The floor is also resurfaced to allow for increased durability. Additional interior details include silver water pipes that add a unique effect to the room. These backlights emit color-changing lights to add to the interior mood of the room.
More than 170,000 people have visited the Digital Business Hub since its launch in October 2017. The venue has earned the reputation of Moscow's center of gravity for technology entrepreneurs, startup founders, investors, journalists, musicians, directors, actors and designers. To date, it has hosted close to 1,300 events of various formats: conferences, forums, festivals, lectures, workshops, hackathons, quests, film screenings and concerts.
The Moscow Agency of Innovations brings together the efforts of corporations, city and startups to turn Moscow into the global capital of innovations. It help startups fine-tune new products and bring them to market. It helps corporations find teams to address technology challenges. It tests and implements innovative solutions in the city.