From Friendship among Nations Fountain to Ostafyevo Estate: Ten Moscow Restoration masterpieces

June 16
Construction and renovation

The city has started accepting applications for the 10th Annual Moscow Restoration 2020 Competition. This year the competition will be a jubilee one and the award ceremony will take place for the tenth time.

Winners in the following categories: Best Restoration Project and/or Best Project for Adapting to Modern Usage, Best High-Quality Repair and Restoration Work, Best Organisation of Repair and Restoration, Scientific Research and/or Science and Methodological Supervision, will be selected in October and awarded before the year is out.

The website reviews the ten most interesting restored landmarks, rated the best of the best over the years.

Pavilion No. 58 Agriculture at VDNKh

Address: 119 Prospekt Mira, Bldg. 58 (VDNKh)

Completed: 1950-1954

Winner of the 2018 competition.

Until 1964, Pavilion No. 58 Agriculture was called the Ukrainian SSR Pavilion. A wooden structure, built in 1937 was torn down ten years later. In January 1949, Ukraine hosted a limited-attendance tender for the best building design. A design by architect Alexei Tatsy was selected.

While retaining the earlier pavilion’s rectangular perimeter, the architects increased the number of halls. A round hall with a dome was built in the central section, and a tower with a spire, topped by a star, dwarfed the dome. The façade featured ceramics, majolica, smalt, stained glass windows and bas-reliefs. Statues of young women with laurel wreaths stand at the cornice’s four corners. And sculptural groups, Stakhanovites of Industry and Stakhanovites of Agriculture, created for the older building, as well as commemorative steles-flag posts, stand near the main entrance.

The pavilion was rundown prior to the initial restoration, launched in 2017.

The Agriculture pavilion before restoration

“A damaged interior drainage system was located near the rooftop. The building was inundated with water, the façades absorbed too much water, and the structure rotted away in some places. The pavilion also had a heating system, although the initial design did not stipulate this. Plasterwork fell off as a result, and corner pilasters also became saturated,” Vladimir Pokachalov, the director of the restoration project, noted.

The original pavilion was rebuilt and the façades, plinth, staircases, rooftop, tower with a spire, the loft above the main entrance and the steles were restored. The restoration team also restored the sculptural complex, reinforced internal structures, removed dirt, restored initial configurations and small layers, and painted and tinted various surfaces.

New utility systems were installed during restoration. The pavilion is home to the Slovo (Word) Centre of Slavic Scripture that opened over a year ago.

Friendship of Nations Fountain at VDNKh

Address: 119 Prospekt Mira (VDNKh)

Completed: 1954

Winner of the 2019 competition.

Photo: Press Service of Moscow Mayor and the Moscow Government. Evgeny Samarin

The Friendship of Nations Fountain that ranks among VDNKh and city symbols is an intricate system of 784 streams reaching 20 metres into the air. An oval fountain bowl decorated with a huge sheaf of wheat, hemp and sunflower ears is the main element in the composition. The bowl is rimmed with gilded statues of young women symbolising the Soviet republics. The women are holding a crop that typifies their native republic, including cotton, grapes and wheat. Each gilded sculpture weighs 2.5 tonnes and stands four metres tall.

During restoration, the statues were taken to a workshop where 25 specialists spent four months upgrading and repairing them. They used about five kilogrammes of gold leaf to cover the sculptures.

Specialists restored 16 cast iron bowls on the fountain’s cascade and recreated missing copper sculptures, including 15 fish and seven dolphins. They also restored two surviving sculptures, as well as the fountain’s lining, which is polished and chopped red granite tiles.

The Khamovniki fire station/police station watchtower

Address: 16/2 Komsomolsky Prospekt, Bldg.1

Completed: Early 19th century

Winner of the 2014 competition.

In 1807-1809, the Khamovniki barracks with a church were built here. A firehouse/police station and a watchtower were built in the 1830s. At that time, people lived in low-rise buildings and billowing smoke far away could identify fires from the tower. In the early 19th century, large cities undertook ambitious programmes to build special watchtowers to spot smoke columns as fast as possible. This Empire-style watchtower was decorated with a copper dome and an eight-metre spire. In 1878, the building’s central façade received a higher arch.

In the 1920s and 1930s, the Khamovniki barracks changed a lot as shared flats were built.

In 1941 the watchtower’s top section was demolished because it could guide German pilots around the capital. After the war, the buildings were transferred to the Lenin Military-Political Academy, now the Military University of the Russian Defence Ministry. In 2011-2013, specialists recreated the watchtower’s missing section and restored the original appearance. Today the buildings are once again a fire brigade station.

The Muravyov-Apostol Estate: The house of real Decembrists

Address: 23/9 Staraya Basmannaya Street

Completed: 1803-1806

Winner of the 2013 competition.

The estate’s main building appeared on this place in the mid-18th century. In the early 19th century, the building was modified in the Moscow Classicism style. In 1815-1822, Senator Ivan Muravyov-Apostol, the father of three Decembrists, owned the building. By 1844, the estate housed an orphanage. All this changed in 1917, and the building was used for shared flats, a school and a dormitory. The Decembrists Museum opened here in 1986, then became rundown and had to be closed in 1991. In 2000, a large scientific restoration took place at the initiative of a man named Christopher, a descendant of the Muravyov-Apostol family.

“The restoration of the log cabin was the hardest job. The estate has a stone plinth, and the second floor and attic have wooden floors and ceilings. We were only able to replace separate rotten sections,” Larisa Lazareva, the project architect, said.

The mid-19th century layout was restored and the later walls were removed. In 2013, the mansion was designated the Matvei Muravyov-Apostol House-Museum. Most exhibits were donated by the family’s descendants.

“We mostly tried to preserve as many authentic materials and items and to recreate as few of them as possible. Judging by their distinguishing features, the ceilings’ plasterwork décor dates to the mid-19th century. The ballroom with choir stalls is probably the most interesting part of the building. It retains bas-reliefs made by the mansion owner’s serfs,” Larisa Lazareva added.

The Ostafyevo/Russian Parnassus State Museum-Estate

Address: Township of Ostafyevo, Ryazanovskoye Rural District

Completed: 1801-1807

Winner of the 2017 competition.

The Ostafyevo Estate belonged to the Vyazemsky and Sheremetev families and is linked with many outstanding cultural figures. Nikolai Gogol and Alexander Griboyedov, Denis Davydov and Yevgeny Baratynsky all visited the Estate. Historian Nikolai Karamzin lived here from 1804 through 1815.  He was married to Catherine, the daughter of Prince Andrei Vyazemsky, the Estate’s owner. It was here that Karamzin wrote The History of the Russian State. While in Ostafyevo, Alexander Pushkin recited the poems he wrote to Pyotr Vyazemsky during the prolific Boldino Autumn season.

In the early 19th century, a palace in the late Classicism style was built, and the Estate also received a park ensemble. In the late 19th century, Count Sergei Sheremetev purchased Ostafyevo. In 1899 when the country was marking Pushkin’s 100th birthday anniversary, Sheremetev turned the Estate into a public museum. After the revolution, the Soviet government nationalised Ostafyevo but retained the museum. A sanatorium was established here a few years later.

Today’s designers decided to work under the initial project.

“We had to recreate many things from scratch.  We changed everything and finished the construction of the galleries. We generally found surface finishing traces on historical surfaces. The plasterwork and décor were chipped off and little remained. In a large drawing room, we found a plasterwork fragment with traces of a picturesque ornament. This became our reference point,” Yevgeny Zhurin, the restoration project director, noted.

Specialists used old photos, similar images and a design dating to the late 18th century or early 19th century that survived by a sheer miracle in their work. The architect is not known, and it was probably compiled by Ivan Starov, Matvei Kazakov, Nikolai Lvov or aother specialist. Experts restored the layout, the façade’s plasterwork décor, as well as a belvedere that was dismantled in the mid-19th century. They restored interiors used by members of the Vyazemsky family, including the main enfilade of halls, the owners’ private rooms and an oval hall called the Pink Rotunda.

An 18th-19th century residential building, now the Russian State Historical Public Library

Address: 9 Starosadsky Pereulok, Bldg.1

Completed: Late 18th-early 19th centuries

Winner of the 2017 competition.

In 1672-1739, the family of the Clerk (Podyachy) Yakov A. Baibakov owned this land where the Russian State Historical Public Library now stands. A 1756 plan shows single-story stone residential buildings with basements. And an 1802 plan shows the same buildings with three stories.

Tea merchant Alexander Kumanin, the husband of Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s aunt, bought the property in the 19th century. The building did not accommodating tenants in the 20th century. The Moscow Auxiliary Society of Merchants’ Managers bought the brick building in 1901. After that, some structures dating to the 18th and 19th centuries were merged into a new building that featured an Eclectic façade. A number of structures were rebuilt in 1912.

The Historical Library, including the archives of the Chertkovskaya Library, relocated here in 1938. In 2013, the Library’s technical status was rated as rundown.

Repair and restoration made it possible to recreate the mansion’s original appearance, with specialists restoring the details from later historical façades. They also reinforced the load-bearing structure, restored the brickwork, the main entrance’s portal and rooftop parapets. The main staircase was also restored to its original form. The restoration team discovered magnificent metal griffins, hidden under old wooden panels, while restoring the staircase. The building’s historical layout and the interior design were also restored.

The Maxim Gorky monument

Address: Tverskaya Zastava Square

Unveiled: 1951

Winner of the 2017 competition.

The monument to writer Alexei “Maxim” Gorky on Tverskaya Zastava Square was built under a two-stage project. In 1939, sculptor Ivan Shadr and architect Mikhail Barshch created the monument. The war interrupted the effort, and the project was mothballed in 1941. In 1946, a team of sculptors headed by Vera Mukhina was commissioned to complete the monument. Architect Zinovy Rozenfeld who worked on the square’s public garden designed the monument’s pedestal and stylobate. The monument and the public garden became a single area and opened to the public on 10 June 1951. In 2005, the monument was taken to the Muzeon Park of Arts during reconstruction of the square near Belarussky Railway Station.

“The monument was removed from the pedestal and stored separately. Not all granite blocks were numbered and marked, and some were irretrievably lost. We had to measure all these elements and assemble the pedestal like a jigsaw puzzle using computers. We had to order missing steps and slabs and add the finishing work. It should be noted that one deposit can contain multi-colour stones. As time goes by, granite absorbs various pollutants, tiny cracks form on the surface and the colour of the stone changes,” the project’s chief architect Alexei Zhdanov said.

In 2017, the monument was returned to its original location. A new tram turn-around was built around the monument, and a small public garden has been laid out.

Greater Church of Christ's Ascension

Address: 36/1 Bolshaya Nikitskaya Street

Completed: 1848

Winner of 2018 competition

Photo: Maxim Denisov

The parish of the Church of the Ascension of God near Nikitskiye Vorota (Gates) was established in 1619. In the late 18th century, Prince Grigory Potyomkin decided to build a new church here. Construction lasted from 1798 until 1848. Over the decades, architects Vasily Bazhenov, Matvei Kazakov, Osip Bove and Fyodor Shestakov worked on the building and modified the design. Afanasy Grigoryev completed the church in the Moscow Empire and Classicism styles.   

In 1831, Alexander Pushkin married Natalia Goncharova in one of the unfinished extensions. In 1917, the church “witnessed” intensive fighting between White cadets and Red Guard units, and funeral services for the former were held here. The church was ransacked in 1922, but services continued. The church was closed in the 1930s, and its bell-tower was later demolished. Church services finally resumed in 1990, and the bell-tower was rebuilt in 2002-2004.

In 2017-2018, experts restored the interior paintings, including those on the walls and ceilings of the two extensions near the central altar and those under the dome. They reinforced the stucco layer and removed resin-like soot from the walls and ceilings. They also restored the artificial marble surfaces and plasterwork décor.

The Morozov family’s grave

Address: 31A Staroobryadcheskaya Street (Rogozhskoye Cemetery)

Completed: Late 19th-early 20th centuries

Winner of the 2016 competition.

Rogozhskoye Cemetery was established in 1771 during a bubonic plague epidemic in Moscow. Since then, it has comprised the graves and burial vaults of Old Believers, including those of the wealthiest Russian merchants, such as the famous Morozov family. Their grave is surrounded by an ornamental cast iron fence.

The first members of the Morozov family were interred here in 1861. A white stone carved memorial cross was installed near the grave. Savva V. Morozov, the head of the Morozov merchant family, his wife Ulyana Afanasyevna, their sons Ivan and Timofei, Maria Fyodorovna, Timofei’s wife, grandchildren and other family members are all interred here. The restored complex of artistic headstones looks like it did decades ago.

Entrepreneur and patron of the arts Savva Morozov, the most famous member of the family, managed the Nikolskaya Manufactory, Russia’s most successful and progressive production facility in the late 19th century. Morozov personally monitored the life and health of the company workers. For example, he started paying a maternity leave benefit to female workers. He also paid stipends to students at local and foreign universities, provided substantial assistance to the Moscow Art Theatre and initiated construction of its new building on Kamergersky Pereulok. Morozov supported the Bolsheviks and financed the Iskra (Spark) newspaper, their mouthpiece.

Savva Morozov passed away in May 1905 after sustaining a gunshot wound in the chest in Cannes, France. According to official reports, Morozov committed suicide. However, some historians believe he was murdered.

The Kiev Promenade fresco: Where the paint goes

Address: Kievskaya and Arbatskaya stations in the Moscow Metro on the Arbatsko-Pokrovskaya Line

Completed: 1953

Winner of the 2013 competition.

The interior design in Kievskaya station in the Moscow Metro’s Arbatsko-Pokrovskaya Line shows the history and everyday life of Soviet Ukraine. Artistic panels reflecting the Socialist Realism style are located on the pylons of the station’s central and adjacent halls. The station’s end wall features a huge, 24.5-metre, panel called Kiev Promenade marking the 300th anniversary of Ukrainian-Russian reunification. In 2010, the wall started leaking badly and was damaged; the fresco peeled off almost completely.

Experts who started restoring the fresco in 2011 were guided by the initial design. They found a negative of a historical 1954 photo in the Shchusev Museum of Architecture archive. The photo which served as a basis for restoring the fresco differed from those of the early 2000s because the panel was repeatedly restored and repainted throughout the 1960s and the 1970s. This distorted the hues and composition.

“Our workers increased the end wall’s metal insulation and restored the stucco layer. Artists also restored the full-scale fresco for the first time. Lighting experts restored the fresco’s luminescence. Everyone worked 24 hours a day, and a partition was put up two metres from the panel to separate them from metro passengers. This distance was not enough to see the entire fresco and create a monumental masterpiece. So Fresco No. 1, was completed in the workshop and cut apart and delivered to the station. By accurately copying these fragments, specialists recreated the final Fresco No 2. Sometimes they worked at night in line with work safety regulations regarding the operation of station facilities with heavy passenger traffic,” Mikhail Simagin in charge of the restoration project noted.

Photo: Yuliya Ivanko

As the metro is not the best place to preserve historical paintings, members of the restoration commission decided to restore the panel with silicate paints.

“These materials have a good reputation. They resemble a fresco, as the process continues. During silicatisation, the paint blends completely with the wall, but also allows the wall to ‘breathe,’ and helps create a durable painting,” Mikhail Simagin added.

In 2015-2016, experts restored 49 other panels and their frames and recreated missing fragments of paintings and décor. The compositions were recreated and coloured in line with artists’ initial concepts and tempera fresco techniques using historical materials unearthed at the Main State Archive and the Museum of Architecture photo collection.


If you continue to use our website, you are agreeing to accept the use of cookies on your device. Cookie files ensure the website’s efficiency and help us provide you with the most interesting and relevant information. Read more about cookie files.
Accept ccokies