Cinema, river terminal and constructivism masterpiece: Landmarks renovated in 2020

January 6

Two unique Soviet-era landmarks, the Northern River Terminal and the Narkomfin Building in Moscow, got a new lease of life in 2020. Renovation of Moscow’s oldest cinema, Khudozhestvenny, was also finished by the end of the year.

“Despite the restrictions due to the difficult epidemiological situation, Moscow restoration experts continued working. Over the past year, conservation works at more than 100 landmarks were finished. In the past week alone, projects were completed and accepted at such sites as the Church of the Sign on Ryazansky Prospekt, the Trinity Church at Ostankino and the Church of the Intercession at the Shcherbatov Estate. Some of the most significant renovation projects include the Northern River Terminal, the Narkomfin Building and the Khudozhestvenny Cinema. Overall, more than 1,500 landmarks have been renovated in the past decade including both comprehensive restoration projects and occasional maintenance,” commented Alexei Yemelyanov, Head of Moscow’s Department of Cultural Heritage.

Northern River Terminal

Restoration of the unique 1930s architectural landmark, the Northern River Terminal, is considered the biggest project of the year. In addition to the renovation of the building itself, the surrounding grounds also underwent improvement. Now there is a park, a café, a promenade and a museum but most importantly, the river terminal is once again an essential public transit facility for Moscow and a popular recreation spot just like in Soviet times.

Khimki River Terminal. Photo by Mikhail Ozersky. 1959. Courtesy Moscow Main Archive Directorate

Major renovation was carried out at all 17 piers. Four ships can arrive or depart from the Northern River Terminal at any given time, the total daily capacity being 24 vessels. Over 1.5 million passengers will go through the terminal over a navigation season, which is the same number as in 1960 when this transit hub was most popular.

Restoration designers preserved the majority of the original elements and details of the interior and restored those that had been lost. Four hundred architects and restoration experts from all over Russia participated in the project.

Photo by Yevgeny Samarin,

Once the preliminary accident prevention work had been finished, the experts went on to recreate the terminal’s historical appearance and layout, making sure to preserve as many original elements as possible. They built supporting structures and partitions, restored the roof with the historical pattern and the granite floor in the galleries (based on photographs). They also restored and recreated lighting equipment, four anchors on the tower and the spire as well as the Southern Woman, Red Army Soldier, Northern Man and Red Fleet Sailor sculptures.


The ceiling and walls of the terminal were repaired and cleaned, and the décor renovated, including grisailles, glass paintings, ventilation screens and a canvas panel. The lost mechanism of the landmark tower clock was replaced with a modern automatic device.

The 27-metre metal spire will be extended at the beginning of the navigation season and retracted when the season closes, like the terminal architects designed it in the 1930s. Restoration artists also renovated the signature element of the terminal’s exterior, the star that had topped the spire for 80 years. Another important and complicated stage of the project was restoration of the historical north and south fountains in the inner courtyards.

The comprehensive landscaping of the embankment, the square and the park near the Northern River Terminal was based on a river theme. The artists used natural materials and neutral colours like white, grey and beige. A 400-metre rivulet was created in front of the building as a small copy of the Moskva Canal, with flood gates and lights.

Mezzanine house and Hotel Peking tower: 2020 Moscow renovationsReservoir best views: Northern River Station Park new look

Narkomfin Building

Another important project was completed in 2020: restoration experts carried out maintenance and renovation at the Narkomfin Building, a world-famous example of constructivist architecture. In the 1930s, architects Moisei Ginzburg and Ignaty Milinis designed a communal residential building for workers of the USSR People’s Commissariat for Finance. It was one of the first residential buildings in the country with a supporting structure made of reinforced concrete. The layout was also innovative, with residential units instead of flats and an open space supported by columns throughout the entire ground floor. The rooftop was used by residents for sunbathing.

Each residential unit was equipped with a stove and a sink. The garage, laundry and the dryer, the cafeteria and the library in the communal block were shared by all residents. The project designers expected that the layout would help Soviet people adopt a new Communist lifestyle. However, residents were not fond of the idea and the communal block was closed in the mid-1930s. After the war, the communal block was used as a printing office and the unique residential units were converted into ordinary flats

Renovation of this landmark began in April 2017.Structures and partitions were removed; the ground floor was reopened; the historical layouts in the residential and communal blocks were restored. The original reinforced concrete frame was repaired; the façade décor and the original colour of the walls were restored. Original concrete window frames were one of the distinctive features of the building at the time so the restoration experts removed all later window structures and installed replica frames based on 1930s drawings. Valuable stained glass was restored in the communal block. The restoration designers decorated stairs and renovated landing fences.

The building will now serve its original function. The residential units and the dormitory are now used as permanent residences and temporary accommodation. The flats have their original two-level floorplans, the ceilings being three to five metres high. There is a plan to open new facilities in the communal block, including a café, a bookstore and a venue for public events. The building is surrounded by a walking area with observation points and the original landscaping design

Khudozhestvenny Cinema

The history of the Khudozhestvenny “electric theatre” dates back to 11 November 1909 and the premiere of French film Georgette. The theatre impressed Muscovites with its cutting-edge equipment and luxurious interior, with delicate chandeliers, a fountain and palm trees in the hall. A music band greeted viewers. The place became extremely popular and could not take in all the people who wanted to feel the magic of cinematography. Three years after the cinema opened, its new owner, film director Alexander Khanzhonkov, started a major renovation. One of the most acclaimed personalities of Art Nouveau, Fyodor Shekhtel, was charged with the design changes.

Arbatskaya Square, Khudozhestvenny Cinema. Photo by I.Petkov. 1952. Courtesy Museum of Moscow

Moscow’s oldest cinema has survived bomb strikes, shelling, remodelling and demolition attempts. Now, 111 years since it opened, Khudozhestvenny has started a new life thanks to a comprehensive renovation. Project designers had a difficult task: they were to restore the landmark and preserve Shekhtel’s creative ideas while fitting modern theatre equipment into this historical building. Several architecture firms, both from Russia and abroad, were involved in the project.

Shekhtel’s drawings helped in the restoration of the façade. Restoration experts opened up walled-in window openings and restored the historical décor, including the mascarons, bas-reliefs featuring Ancient Greek and Roman gods, the signs saying “Entrance,” “Exit” and “Khudozhestvenny Electric Theatre.” The cast-iron lamps, also recreated based on Fyodor Shekhtel’s sketches, were installed in their original places.

The original ceiling cornice and the frieze were renovated. The staircase was restored based on the two original dolomite steps. The staircase leads from the northern lobby to the balcony in the main hall. Unfortunately, the balcony itself had been destroyed but the restoration experts managed to preserve its railing which is part of the protected property in the theatre.

The renovated theatre has four screens and modern projector equipment. In addition to high-contrast laser projectors, there is a film projector for 35 mm films. Khudozhestvenny plans to show both world premieres and classics.

The Georgy Zhukov statue

The famous statue of Georgy Zhukov was created by sculptor Vyacheslav Klykov in 1995 to mark the 50th anniversary of the Victory in the Great Patriotic War. The statue was installed on Manezhnaya Square on 8 May 1995 and renovated ahead of the 75th anniversary of the Victory.

Experts in monument sculpture and Vyacheslav Klykov’s descendants were involved in the renovation project. The sculpture’s frame was strengthened and the bronze surface was polished while maintaining the original relief of the statue. The restoration artists also cleaned up the surface of the pedestal and applied protective solutions to the patina on the decorative elements. The pedestal was reinforced (some movement in the support blocks had been found). The flower beds around the statue were also spruced up.

Photo by Yevgeny Samarin,

The Mezzanine House on Yelokhovsky Proyezd

The wooden house with a mezzanine on a stone foundation is located at the intersection of Yelokhovsky Proyezd and Nizhnyaya Krasnoselskaya Street. The one-story building with an additional structure in the middle on the top of the building dates to the early 19th century. This typical example of a Moscow house miraculously survived the 1812 fire and is now recognised as an architectural landmark.

The building required extensive restoration, from the wooden siding of the façade and the mezzanine wall to recreating the historical interior. The log shell of the building was reinforced; the ceiling and roof were upgraded while wooden and metal surfaces were processed with protective solutions. The white stone lining of the foundation and the white stone belt serving as a partition between the façades were recreated based on archived descriptions and original fragments. New metal canopies (exact copies of the originals that had been lost) were installed over the entrances.

The later partitions inside were removed. The basement level that had a separate entrance used to be a utility room. The floor above the basement was used for meetings and ceremonies and some of the rooms on the floor were adjacent to each other forming anenfilade. A wooden staircase led to the bedrooms and living rooms in the mezzanine. Restorers renovated every room to recreate early 19th century interiors. The original heating furnaces were repaired. Some of the furnaces were still decorated with Dutch tiles, which were also restored. The plaster décor on the ceilings, the chandelier rosettes and other moldings were also cleaned up. All utility lines in the house were covered so they did not obstruct the view or contrast with the antique interior.


City estate on Goncharnaya Street

The renovation of the main house in the 19th century city estate on Goncharnaya Street was finished last spring after two years. Old layers of paint and plaster were removed from the façade; the brickwork was mended and the broken parts were fixed. Windows, doors and the roof of the house were updated.

Restoration artists focused on preserving the fragile façade moldings, including window aprons, cornices and graphic rustication. Inside, they restored columns, rosettes, wreaths and plafonds. The original appearance of the brick vaults in the basement was restored. Nineteenth century staircases, including the grand staircases that were embellished with a carved metal fence, were restored.

The stone building with a wooden gallery along the backside was built on Goncharnaya Street in 1818. In 1865, the main house was rebuilt: the back wall, the wooden gallery and part of the back wing were removed and the house itself expanded. The layout and the interiors that still exist in the building date to the 1860s.

The Anna Lopatina House

Restoration of the Anna Lopatina House on Bolshaya Nikitskaya Street was finished after three years in October. The building has served as the residence of the Brazilian Ambassador to Russia since 1963 and is a cultural heritage site of federal importance.

The mansion was designed by architect Alexander Kaminsky and built in 1876. It belonged to Anna Lopatina, whose husband descended from a family of honorary Muscovites. In 1914, the building was let out and after the October Revolution, the new authorities planned to house workers of a housing development cooperative there. With this in mind, they added a third floor and an attic. In 1963, the building was handed over to the Embassy of Brazil.

The renovation was divided into four stages, which allowed the building to remain in use as much as possible. During the first stage, the restorers fixed up the basement; then they updated ceilings by removing damaged sections and applying protective solutions to metal and wooden components.

The third stage of the renovation was the most labour intensive as it involved work on the interior and the roof. Also, the enfilade passages walled up in the past were opened and renovated. The original look of the molding, the ceilings and the walls was restored as well as the ceramic siding of the walls, the plaster moldings and the ventilation screens. The glue-laminated parquet in the main halls and the paintings on the ground floor were recreated.

During the final stage of the renovation, the artists worked on the façade and fences as well as on the estate grounds. They were especially thorough with the glazed tiles, some of which had been broken or destroyed. The artists copied the remaining tiles to create replacements.


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