Historical portrait: repair of workers' settlements of the constructivism era in the capital

December 4, 2021
Construction and renovation

Many monuments of constructivism have been preserved in Moscow. And this is not only the world-famous Shukhovskaya Tower, The House of the People's Commissariat of Finance or the works of the avant-garde architect Konstantin Melnikov. There are more than 40 residential blocks in Moscow, built in the late 1920s - early 1930s. They are characterized by rigor, utility, geometricity and laconism of forms — the architects focused on expressive volumes.

Over the past decades, the houses have become dilapidated, some have not had major repairs for many years. We tell you how the Capital Repair Fund of Moscow renews the legacy of constructivism and what is managed to preserve in houses for the construction of which the most unexpected materials were used.

For quality of life and hard work

Residential quarters of the Constructivist era are conventionally called ‘workers' settlements’. The explanation is simple: in the first half of the XX century, industry was developing by leaps and bound and factory workers needed housing. So the idea was born to create settlements for workers next to the production facilities. The architects approximate to a solution of the problem seriously — it was not a typical building, but full-fledged quarters created according to an individual project. Almost each of them had their own infrastructure: a canteen, a kindergarten, a club, a laundry — everything necessary for a comfortable life, and thus — hard work.

However, at the end of the 1920s - early 1930s there was a shortage of building materials and workers. This was the reason that reeds, a mixture of reeds and concrete, were periodically used for the walls. Because of this fragile and short-lived material, many houses of that time are under threat of destruction now.

"Among the most famous quarters of the constructivism era are Dangaurovka, Khavsko-Shabolovsky, Budennovsky, Usachevka and Dubrovsky. In total, these are almost 300 apartment buildings. And the task of the Moscow Capital Repair Fund is not only to get these buildings in order and make them comfortable for life again, but also to bring them as close as possible to the historical portrait," Artur Keskinov, General Director of the Moscow Capital Repair Fund, said.

Over the decades, workers' settlements have noticeably changed their appearance. Some houses have had additions and the number of floors has increased. Unfortunately, some of the houses could not be preserved, and some were included in the list of cultural heritage sites. Today, major repairs are underway in almost all working settlements.

The house from the movie

There are real movie stars among the workers’ settlements. We are talking about the residential neighborhood of Dangauerovka, which was named after the German entrepreneur Heinrich-Karl Dangauer. In 1869, he founded a boiler foundry nearby (today it is the Compressor plant).

In 1928, Dangauerovka was conceived as a working settlement for 45 thousand people. After the October Revolution, it was one of the very first large-scale construction projects. Of the more than 40 houses designed by architects under the leadership of Mikhail Motylev, only 24 were built. Half of them are now recognized as cultural heritage sites. If the plan had been fully implemented then, the settlement would have become the largest in the country.

It is in Dangauerovka on Pond-Klyuchiki Street that the house 3 is located, in which Sergey Zhuravlyov lived — the main character of the movie by Marlene Khutsiev ‘I am 20 years old’ (Ilyich's Outpost).

Major repairs in the residential building — a monument of constructivism — were done only in 1956, that is why the building was in a deplorable condition. And in 2021, the house was completely renovated. Specialists repaired facades, replaced windows, doors, and communication lines. They also repaired the stairs, basements, and got the entrances in order.

By the way, during the work, the builders found in the basement instead of a channel bar (bearing part, spandrel beams. — Ed. note) railway rails. The unusual find is explained by the shortage of metal, which was during the construction of the house in the 1920s and 1930s.

For Red Army officers

This year, the facade of the house in Budyonnovsky town (Bolshaya Pochtovaya Street, house 18/20, building 3) was also transformed. The walls of the four-storey apartment building, built in 1926 according to an individual project, had cracks and chips, and the brickwork dilapidated.

The facades of the house are decorated with window sills and cornices, the entrance groups are highlighted with risalites. These decorative elements extend beyond the main part of the building and run along its entire length.

The settlement in Budyonnovsky quarter was intended for officers of the Workers' and Peasants' Red Army. The author's team of project developers was headed by one and the same Mikhail Motylyov. The original feature of the layout was a curved inner passage crossing courtyards of different shapes. This gave better insolation of houses, and passers-by were able to perceive the architecture inside the residential quarter in dynamics. Depending on the angle of view, the same house is perceived differently.

With pilasters and arched lining

This year, In the Vostochny settlement, the major repair was completed at two sites. In the 1930s, housing was built here for workers of the water supply station, which was launched in 1937 and provided the capital with water from the Volga. The house at the address settlement Vostochny village, Glavnaya Street, house 5 was built at the same time, in 1937. There are 28 apartments in the three-storey building. You can get into them through four entrances decorated with columns. But the main attention is attracted by the terraces — there are nine of them in the house, they are decorated with an arched lining and pilasters. And the outer walls of the ground floor are highlighted with rough-finished stones.

For almost 85 years of operation, the physical wear of the facade amounted to 60 percent, the basement plaster cracked, the brickwork fell into disrepair. Specialists thoroughly cleaned and renewed all surfaces, got in order structural, engineering and decorative elements.

Three-storey house at: Glavnaya Street, house 3 was also built in 1937. It has an unusual polygonal shape. The building has three entrances, the side entrance groups are decorated with a number of columns. Here, the facade was repaired as well, and all communication lines were replaced.

In the Avant Garde style

By the end of 2021, the major repair of the house 31, building 1 on Bolshaya Serpukhovskaya Street will be completed. The six-storey building, built in 1926, is part of the Zamoskvoretsky Rabochy ensemble. Some of the houses have not been preserved to this day, and it is recommended to issue a protected status for the rest.

Architect Valentin Bibikov designed the ensemble in an avant-garde style. The building forms are distinguished by the strictness and laconism, on some of them you can distinguish small triangular risalites with miniature windows. They also are available at building 1 of house 31. On the main facade, bay windows are also located. The ground floor from the street side is decorated with rustication, there is a crowning cornice and interstory ledgements around the perimeter. The windows are decorated with casings. The brick facades are painted white and yellow.

According to the overhaul program, heating, water supply and sanitation systems have already been replaced in the house, as well as a new power supply network has been installed. Specialists cleaned the facades of old plaster, treated them with antiseptics and painted. Work is being completed in the entrance halls of the house.

The neighboring second and third buildings of the house 31 are waiting for their turn, project documentation is in the process of development now. And work in the fifth building will begin in 2022.

The program of the Capital Repair Fund of apartment buildings in Moscow includes 383 sites of cultural heritage. The task of the specialists is to preserve the original beauty and architectural features of such buildings as much as possible. Currently, work is underway in 114 residential buildings-monuments, 14 of them are undergoing restoration. 

Source: mos.ru

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