Miusskoye Depot, Grotto in Kuskovo and Friendship of Peoples fountain: Moscow Restoration 2019 highlights

January 7
Construction and renovation

This year, 96 applicants have been shortlisted for the final of the Moscow Restoration. The awards have been granted to restoration project authors and organisers of 20 cultural heritage sites. mos.ru has chosen some monuments dating back to different times that served different purposes and belong to different artistic areas to tell about the skills of restorers and the amazing architecture of Moscow.

Constructivism: Narkomfin House's Laundry

25-27 Bldg.12 Novinsky Boulevard

The experimental intermediate type house built in 1930 was conceived by architects Ginzburg and Milinis as a dwelling facility combining the benefits of a commune house and a traditional apartment building. Families of employees of the People's Commissariat of Finance of the USSR resided in individual isolated apartments that looked like typical cells. The communal building had public spaces — a kitchen, dining rooms, a gym, a library and a kindergarten. A garage was planned to be built in the auxiliary courtyard of the complex, in addition to the mechanical laundry, but this project, as well as a separate kindergarten building, was never implemented.

The complex was erected on a reinforced concrete frame, an innovative technology of the time. Before, only administrative buildings had been erected that way.

The experimental building was intended for 50 families. The layout of the apartments had been developed according to one of the key constructivism ideas: a room had to be of the most rational shape to meet its purpose. Living space was to be used as efficiently as possible. So, in the simplest apartments, two-storey type F cells, the area of only 37 sq m is divided into two parts, with 3.6 m high ceiling in the living room and 2.3 m high ceilings in the bedroom niche and bathroom.

There had been gardens on the grounds were the building was constructed. The area was previously occupied by the estates called Shalyapinsky Park. To keep the integrity of the green area, the architects came up with the idea to build a house on supports, to make a through first floor. This solution was applied to the laundry, too, with its rectangular two-storey building partially raised above the ground in its southern part. Nevertheless, the building has a basement. On the eastern facade, the second floor overhangs the first floor, forming a console over the entrance space.

Building residents had used the laundry services before WWII, later the building was transferred into local management. The premises remained unheated for a long time, exposed to weather, and dilapidated. As a result, some of the elements were completely lost, with some parts ruined. The complex of the Narkomfin House has been thrice included in the list of top 100 buildings of the world on the verge of destruction by the World Monuments Fund.

The complex’s restoration launched in 2017. The restoration plan had been developed by the grandson of the project's author, Alexei Ginzburg. The laundry was completed early in October 2019.

Restorers have recreated the original 3D structure of the building, dismantling the late additions and restoring the original entrances. The original facades' colour scheme has been recreated. They have been plastered and painted white. Besides, the materials and character of the exterior staircase surface treatment, seem roofing and the outdoor terrace have been recreated, too.

Also, specialists have restored the interiors, including the internal staircase, wooden gliding windows, doors and floor on the first floor. Anytime soon, the former laundry room is to open as an art cafe and a public space.

Neo-gothic style: Miusskoye tram depot

20 Lesnaya Street, buildings 1, 3, 4, 5, 6

Miusskoye tram depot is one of the oldest ones in Moscow. Founded in 1874, it housed a depot of the first Moscow horse-drawn railway, before the first Moscow’s electric tram was launched in 1899. Five years later, a tram line opened in Miusskoye depot.

The complex of depot buildings was under construction from 1874 to 1910. The design in industrial Neo-Gothic style, or Russian industrial eclecticism, was developed by architect Mikhail Gleining and engineer Nikolai Sytenko. The steel structure of the floors of the large carriage shed was supposedly designed by engineer Vladimir Shukhov.

The depot combines Russian architecture traditions and Romanesque and Gothic features. The composition and layout of the red brick buildings reminds of basilicas, rectangular three-nave cathedrals. Buildings have stained glass windows. The facades are decorated with panels (decorative recesses), friezes (serrated horizontal stripes), stepped turrets, round and diamond-shaped details.

In 1957, Miusskoye depot was converted into a trolleybus fleet. It served Moscow routes for the next 57 years. In 2014, the fleet was closed. In 2017, the development of documents for preservation of buildings of the Miussky depot ensemble started.

Over the century, the appearance of the buildings has not changed much. However, facades and decorative elements were painted in red and white. The restorers have peeled off the paint, reinforced the brickwork, filled the cracks and seams, restored decorative elements lost and mended the roof. The interiors have also been restored. In building 4, which previously housed car repair shops, specialists have restored the fenced stairs and the tiled floor.

The restoration had lasted for almost two years before it was completed in January 2019. The utilities have been upgraded, with modern double-glazed windows mounted, while preserving the historical layout of the stained glass windows. Today, the largest food hall in Moscow occupies the depot buildings.

Art Nouveau: Ivan Mindovsky's Mansion

44/2 Povarskaya Street, buildings 1 and 2

Textile manufacturer Ivan Mindovsky bought the mansion in Povarskaya Street  in 1909 and owned it until the end of his life. The house on the site of Danila Volchkov's city estate was built turnkey in 1903-1904. The project designer was Lev Kekushev, the  most renowned master of Moscow Art Nouveau. Moscow Yakov Rekk Trade and Construction Joint-Stock Company, the site's owner, gave full rein to the architect, so the project turned out to be fabulously expensive. It took almost five years to find a buyer.

The asymmetric composition of the building, typical of Art Nouveau architecture, is a combination of different prisms, so each room of the mansion has windows of different heights and widths. The facade is centred around a large three-part window with a balcony, decorated with forged flowers and poppy leaves. The walls are richly decorated with rosettes, mascarons and relief panels.

The stained glass window of the grand staircase overlooks the rear courtyard facade. The gates leading to the courtyard are shaped as butterfly wings. They are illuminated by firefly-shaped lamps, the stable pediment is decorated with a horse head. Indoor staircase has lion masks, Leo Kekushev's emblem. Since the architect could not know the tastes of a would-be buyer, he made interiors in different styles.

After the Great October Revolution, the mansion was confiscated. Since 1924, the house was occupied by the Swedish mission, and later by the Embassy of Sweden in the USSR. Since 1972, it housed the Embassy of New Zealand.

In 2017, a comprehensive restoration of the mansion launched. Experts restored the original layout of the early 20th century, ceiling moulding, monumental paintings and unique stained glass panels, recreated lost elements of interiors and facades. In addition to the facades and interiors, the restorers upgraded wrought iron fence, gates, roof and balconies.

In two and a half years, original lamps, chimneys, ceramic wall cladding and stained glass ceiling in the conservatory, floors, stairs, a 1903 register heating radiator, a grand staircase bridgeboard with eagles and much more have been restored.

Besides, experts recreated the lost balcony of the northern facade and restored the marble arch of the central entrance under the balcony. On the southern facade, they restored a sculptural group lost in the 1920s, figures of the Artistic Muse with two putti. The restoration was completed in 2019. The building will house the Embassy of New Zealand once again.

Rococo: Grotto Pavilion in Kuskovo estate

2/11 Yunosti Street

In November 2019, the restoration of another unique architectural monument was completed. For the first time, restoration work was carried out in the building of the Grotto Pavilion in Kuskovo. This is the only building of the 18th century in Russia, which boasts extant decorative finish of sea shells and real mother of pearl.

The pavilion was built in 1756–1761 according to the design of Fyodor Argunov, a serf architect of the Sheremetevs. Johann Focht, a German grotto master, was creating the interior decor for 14 years, from 1761 to 1775.  He used tuff, glass, mirror pieces, plaster moulding and 24 species of mollusc shells from the Mediterranean and Black seas, Indian, Atlantic and Pacific oceans in Pavilion’s design.

Grotto rooms (central hall, northern and southern offices) were also decorated with shell sculpture, wooden and clay statues half a man's height, lined with sea and river shells. The inventory of the 18th century collection highlights the names of some sculptures: 'A peasant looks at the shells and ponders', 'A peasant holds a jug', 'A French peasant woman holds a basket of fruit', 'A woman holds a trihedron with rings'.

Specialists have been conducting restoration work in the pavilion for three years. During this time, they restored the shell decoration of the interiors, using about 90,000 shells purchased around the world, facing of sculptures and fragments of subject panels inlaid with mollusc shells. Extant shells were cleaned of dirt, with damaged and lost ones replaced.

The white-stone elements of the grotto, brickwork, moulding and metal elements have also been restored, with walls and foundation reinforced. Besides, experts restored paintings that imitate marble on the vaults, walls and pavilion columns, and fixed the plaster layer of the walls to eliminate air space.

Neoclassicism: the fountains in the Central Alley of VDNKh

Friendship of Peoples and Stone Flower fountains were installed at VDNKh in 1954 on the occasion of the exhibition's opening after the post-war reconstruction. At the design stage, the Friendship of Peoples was called the main fountain, and later the Golden Sheaf. It was supposed to be built next to the Ukraine Pavilion, on the site now occupied by the Stone Flower fountain.

Friendship of Peoples fountain, one of VDNKh’s symbols, is an oval bowl with a golden wheat sheaf surrounded by sculptures of women symbolising the Soviet republics. At the time, there were 16 of them, the Karelian-Finnish SSR was incorporated into the RSFSR as the Karelian ASSR only two years later, in 1956. But the composition has a woman symbolising this republic.

During the restoration, the fountain sculptures were dismantled and transported to a workshop for four months of restoration, for the first time in 65 years. The old gilding has been removed, the surface has been cleared to reach the bronze layer, each figure has been covered with several preparatory layers of minium and varnish to be further gilded. Each sculpture had been gilded for about a week.

Specialists restored 16 cast-iron shells on the fountain's cascade, recreated lost copper sculptures — 15 fish and 7 dolphins, restored the granite lining and comprehensively upgraded the hydraulic systems. The old pumps have been replaced with powerful hydraulic machines, with the fountain jets now reaching 20 m. 465 LED lights changing colour have been installed in the bowl.

The Stone Flower design was inspired by the works of Ural masters and the same-name film of 1946 based on Pavel Bazhov's books. The composition has a flower-shaped bowl in the centre, lined with colourful mosaics. The fountain has 998 jets, apart from small cast-iron sturgeon and bronze geese fountains installed in a large rectangular bowl.

Restorers have recreated mosaic decor and lost sculptural elements, cleaned existing ones of dirt, restored bronze compositions, still lifes on granite pedestals. Experts specially focused on the recreation of the original fountain's colour scheme, as for 65 years the smalt has darkened very much, with a part of it lost. By the beginning of works, about 30 per cent of original smalt were preserved, the rest was made according to extant samples.

For the 80th anniversary of VDNKh, the unique fountain complex decorated the exhibition once again. For the first time, comprehensive restoration covered all of the historical fountains located here. In 2017, 14 fountains of the Central Alley were restored. In 2018, the Golden Spike was renovated. In April 2019, the long-awaited restoration of the Friendship of Peoples and the Stone Flower was completed.

Source: mos.ru

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