Moscow’s “hipster” culture minister talks public space and community building

Moscow's "hipster" culture minister talks public space and community building

11 December 2014
Text Meng-Hao Lee

Sergei Kapkov, the Minister of Culture in Moscow’s city government, spoke about the role of public spaces for the development of social capital at the Moscow Urban Forum this afternoon. The minister stressed how important it was for citizens to have a sense of ownership over the city’s public spaces.

“Moscow is the city that lives, works and creates. People are looking for entertainment but also for a public space in which to express themselves,” Kapkov said. “Apart from their apartments, which are mostly small, public spaces are the only places which people believe belongs to them.”

Kapkov spoke of the need to “create communities” in public spaces, centred on activities such as chess, jogging and eastern philosophy.

“I believe that public spaces will become an emblem of these times, just as multi-storey buildings are synonymous with the Khrushchev era,” he said. “If you have the right infrastructure then the social network will develop by itself. Installing skate parks and places where people can work out doesn’t cost much but it has a huge effect on social capital.”

Dubbed “Moscow’s hipster culture minister” by The Moscow Times, Kapkov is well known to Muscovites for his successful transformation of Gorky Park and a number of other projects launched to improve Moscow’s public spaces. In July 2013, Kapkov opened Moscow’s first creative space for street art, including a legal graffiti wall, which is available free of charge to photographers, musicians and artists.

City officials have also given the green light for a monument to victims of political repression to be erected on Sakharov Avenue in Moscow. Kapkov told Russian news agency Interfax that the design of the monument will be decided by an open competition among sculptors. He added that the announcement of the competition and installation of the monument will take place “in the very near future”.