OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAImage courtesy of Varvara Degtiarenko

Something special is underway at the Strelka Institute in Moscow. As evening falls, the courtyard of the Strelka becomes a venue for presentations with titles like “Learning Without Teachers” and “Libraries as a Situation.” The social currency is intangible—ideas, philosophies—all rooted in urban design, however circuitously. But it’s on the roof that the institute’s secret to success resides: an open-air bar that offsets the cost of the programs and workshops while simultaneously acting as a gathering place for the cities’ young creatives.

Artfully composed cocktails facilitate late-night conversation, while subtitled documentaries splash and ripple against the far wall. The atmosphere is youthful, creative and hopeful. From this rooftop, Moscow looks somehow different, even promising—a troubled metropolis undergoing a slow-motion metamorphosis.