Among wheat and laurel: Frescoes restored at VDNKh Pavilion No 5

November 18
Culture

Experts of the Moscow Major Repairs Department continue to upgrade and restore VDNKh Pavilion No 5, Physics (former Pavilion of the Latvian SSR). Not only the historical appearance and the 1950s design of interiors, but also the original purpose – as an exhibition – is being returned to the pavilion. It is expected that after the renovation it will host the museum of the Moscow administrative complex.

Frescoes in the Entrance and Central halls of the pavilion have now been restored. Rooms and archways between them were painted in 1954 for the opening of the Latvian SSR’s exhibition. The frescoes survived until the 1960s, when the pavilion was repurposed for the Physics exhibition. Back then part of its unique decorations was painted over while another one covered up with plywood sheets.

“Before we began renovating and restoring the frescoes, we developed detailed schemes of what was destroyed and lost. The work began early this year and involved two teams of renovators. It is worth noting that authentic Latvian patterns could clearly be seen in all the details adorning the interiors and served to connect all the hall’s decorations. Surviving fresco fragments and archive photos were used as base for renovation and restoration works,” said Moscow Deputy Mayor in the Moscow Government Pyotr Biryukov.

The design of the columns in the Entrance Hall has survived almost perfectly. Picturesque decorations were discovered when plywood false walls were dismantled. The column trunks were crossed by several copper bands and between them they found frescoes resembling natural stone.

Experts only had to restore sections where false walls had been attached with nails. In this hall the experts also found a painting situated on a plafond and frieze, which frames it. Previously, it was hidden under layers of paint. When these layers were washed away, it turned out the plafond was painted to resemble mat, and the frieze was painted with ornamental oak and laurel leaves, spikes and ribbons in a soft wave.

According to the head of the city administrative complex, the frescoes in the archways between the Central and Entrance halls were also covered by numerous layers of paint, which were then removed. Now the walls and ceilings of the archways are painted in such a way as to create a single large geometric pattern of diamonds that can be seen from far away. The ceiling has stars, spikes and flowers in a single geometric pattern painted to look like gilding. Intricate geometric figures are painted on the walls, with a thin net painted over with a roller. This is how these decorations looked originally.

In the Central Hall, two out of four original paintings were found. Sections of the walls were decorated with paintings using the grisaille technique and entirely covered with stencils. It was discovered that they served as part of exhibition stands in 1954.

“The first painting was found under a plywood sheet. It has survived almost undamaged. It is composed of cereal spikes and clover. The second one was painted over many times; it was cleaned and toned where the original picture was lost. This one is dedicated to sciences (physics and chemistry): a microscope, glass flasks and books are visible in it. The two other paintings were restored from scratch. In order to do this, their life-size sketches were created and then tracing paper was used to transfer the drawing to a prepared foundation, after which colour was added and original technique reproduced. On one of the pictures clover leaves can be seen and on the last, the fourth one, we can see a composition with a national musical instrument, oak leaves and a scroll,” said Pyotr Biryukov.

Due to the fact that renovation works are still underway, all the renovated paintings have been covered with protective materials. It is expected that the works to recreate the pavilion’s historical appearance, as well as its renovation and redesign to accommodate its present-day use, will be completed next year.

The Physics Pavilion, built in 1954, was designed by several architects, namely Eduards Aivars, Zakis and Karlis Pluksne. It is located deep in the garden of Baltic Republics and dominates the square’s composition, with its portico with colourful majolica elements accenting its beautiful appearance.

VDNKh is a unique public space with 80 years of history. The exhibition includes 49 cultural heritage sites, including historical pavilions and fountains. VDNKh covers an area over 325 ha in total.

A large rejuvenation programme was launched in 2014. Muscovites decided that the original name, VDNKh, must be returned (the place was renamed “Russian Exhibition Centre” in 1992), and experts got busy beautifying the area and restoring the pavilions and the complex’s landscape design masterpieces. Today, renovation of 16 facilities has been completed, while the refurbishment of another 10 facilities’ facades and interiors has been completed and works are still underway at another 23.

Source: mos.ru

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