Amber and Mongolian oak: How front doors of VDNKh’s Pavilion 5 are restored

November 27, 2020

The restoration of the front doors of Pavilion 5 (the former pavilion of the Latvian SSR) at VDNKh is almost complete. The doors have already been installed at the front entrance. Made of Mongolian oak, the doors are decorated with large pieces of polished amber and carved Latvian ornaments featuring wheat spikes, exotic flowers and leaves. These doors are a masterpiece of handicraft. They were designed by artist Voldemars Tiltins for the opening of the pavilion in 1954.

«Overall, the doors are preserved well. There were some scratches and fractures of the carved ornaments, and the doors had the marks of latches and locks. The protective plate of one of the doors was lost. Several glazing bars that held the edges of the carving were also missing. The lower part of the doors was partly damaged by water and decay. One of the four unique brass handles was also missing. The saddest thing is that all of the amber pieces had been lost,” the press service of Moscow’s Department of Major Housing Repairs said.

First, the experts marked all the carved details on the doors and then dismantled them. This reduced the weight of the doors and made taking them off their hinges easier. Then the doors and the carving were cleared of several later layers of varnish and stain; cracks were filled and lost elements put in place. The details damaged by water were replaced with similar ones made of Mongolian oak. They were recreated in accordance with the preserved examples and archive materials.

“The wood was picked to match the species, texture and colour of the existing details. Amber elements – large amber pieces and the hammer and sickle emblem – were recreated using archive documents and photos. Three door handles were preserved well and only needed to be washed using special gentle treatments. It was decided to not polish them, thus preserving the traces left by the years of use and emphasising their authenticity,” the press service added.

Experts are currently working to restore and recreate the lost metal panels on the lower part of the doors, and the fourth handle.

After the main part of the restoration work was done, the doors were installed back and placed in a protective case to prevent them rom getting dirty during the renovation of the pavilion.

Pavilion 5 is being restored to its historical and architectural look as well as to its initial purpose: an exhibition site. The building will host a museum of municipal service complex. The restorers will try to preserve and recreate the 1950s design both in the interior and exterior.

Thus, the murals in the lobby and central hall have been recreated and restored. These halls and arched passages between them were painted to mark the opening of the Latvian SSR exhibition in 1954. The mural with ornaments and geometric patterns featuring traditional Latvian motives lasted until the 1960s, when the pavilion was adapted to house the Physics exhibition. Part of the unique mural was painted over, and the rest was covered with plywood.

Photo by Maxim Denisov,

The Physics Pavilion was built 66 years ago to the design of a group of architects, A.Aivars, Voldemars Zakis and Karlis Pluksne. It is located deep in the Baltic Republics Garden and takes the central place in its composition, accentuated by a portico with bright lusterware details.

VDNKh is a unique public space dating back 80 years. The exhibition united 49 cultural landmarks, including historical pavilions and fountains on an area of over 325 hectares.

In 2014, a large-scale renovation project was launched at the exhibition. At the decision of Muscovites, the place was returned its historical name, VDNKh (from 1992, it was called the All-Russian Exhibition Centre), and experts began improving the area, recreating pavilions and landscape masterpieces. As of now, renovation of 16 buildings has been completed, facades and interiors of ten more buildings finished, with 23 still being worked on.


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