New life for GES-2

August 24
Construction and renovation

Restoration of the historical GES-2 building is ongoing. The project is being funded by a private investor that plans to complete it in the first half of 2021.

“One of Moscow’s major cultural centres is getting closer to usable features. The communications system is almost completed, and construction is virtually over. New utility lines and the landscaping of the adjacent pedestrian bridge are also moving towards completion, and even a green birch tree grove has appeared,” said Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin during his visit to the site.

The President of the V-A-C foundation of modern art, Leonid Mikhelson reported that the implementation of the project has been delayed by about three months due to the coronavirus pandemic: some import materials were not delivered as scheduled. The main restoration work will be finished before the end of the year.

“This is a full cultural centre. It will have everything: museums, exhibits, workshops, a library, a 450-seat concert hall, training classes and a multifunctional area,” said Mr Mikhelson. “I think it will be a good gift for the city,” he added.

A power station in the neo-Russian style

The central power station for the city tram system (later called GES-2 Mosenergo) was built in 1904–1908. It was designed by architect Vasily Bashkirov at the Maly Kamenny Most on the bank of the Drainage Canal.

Architect Bashkirov often used neo-Russian motifs, including this power station. A glass roof was a unique element of the building. It was made under a project by engineer Nikolai Sushkin with direct participation of Vladimir Shukhov.

The buildings retained the original designs until the end of the 1920s. Later, throughout the 20th the century, it was subjected to many changes: new buildings and technical facilities were added; the details on the facades and the pointed tower with a clock were lost.

In November 2009, the GES-2 building was designated cultural heritage status of regional significance.

The decision to shut down the station was made in 2006 due to the aging equipment and the high costs of generating electricity. In addition, its closure improved the environment in the city.

The electric load of the closed station was redistributed to the Bersenevskaya substation that was built nearby, and thermal energy began to be produced by a thermal power plant, TPP-20.

New cultural space and a new high-quality urban environment

In November 2014, Mosenergo sold the property to an investor to convert it to the House of Culture GES-2. In place of the old electric station the district would get a large cultural space and upgraded urban environment. Apart from the GES-2 building, the project includes an extension of the Patriarchy Pedestrian Bridge, an improvement of a part of the Bolotnaya Embankment and a creation of new access to the river.

The project on the museum and educational complex was commissioned by the foundation for the development of modern culture “Victoria – Art must be modern” (V-A-C), which was established by Leonid Mikhelson.

The concept to restore the GES-2 station was designed by the international architectural firm Renzo Piano Building Workshop under the supervision of Italian architect Renzo Piano, the architect who designed the Pompidou Centre in Paris and many other cultural centres in various countries.

The total area of the centre will total about 40,000 sq m. It will have two surface and ground-based floors. They will accommodate exhibit halls, educational room, a book store, a coffee shop, a restaurant and an events hall for 420 seats.

The restored GAS-2 building with an area of 19,000 sq m will be the centre of the complex. During the restoration, the architects will recreate the initial facades of the old station. They will remove add-ons and newer buildings: and will restore its brand element the icon — a clock tower. Solar panels will be installed on the roof, which will generate 10 percent of the energy for the new facility.

Art studios and halls for theatre and concerts, as well as plays and performances will become part of the new space. Specialists, who designed the acoustics for the Philharmonie de Paris, will do the same for this Russian project.

The basement will have 2,800 sq m of storage and also restoration shops.

Part of the former electric station, a separate building called ‘Arches” will be converted into art studios and become a centre for artistic creation. At one time, this building with 2,000 sq m and two vaulted ceilings (one at the surface level and the other in the basement) accommodated a shop for the Pyotr Smirnov vodka plant. Now, in addition to art studios, it will hold metal and wood working shops, video and audio editing, a photo lab, the rehearsal hall and even a bakery.

The project also envisages a new two-level underground parking garage with a roof on which birch trees will be planted. They will harmoniously blend into the environment.

The House of Culture will welcome both Muscovites and tourists. It will create about 500 new jobs.

As of today, the structural elements have been completed, the roof deck, metal supports, and utility systems have been completed and the equipment installed. At present, specialists are working on the finishing work and landscaping.

The project is scheduled to be finished in the first half of 2021.

Pedestrian bridge and ramp to the river

A new pedestrian area from the Christ the Saviour Cathedral to the Yakimanskaya Embankment will be extended to the museum and educational complex of GES-2.

The project provides for rebuilding the Patriarchy Pedestrian Bridge between the Bersenevskaya and Yakimanskaya embankments with river view seating (an amphitheatre), stairs and lifts for handicapped people.

Small cultural shops with a total area of 5,700 sq m will be built under the bridge.

The section of Bolotnaya Square adjacent to the Patriarchy Bridge will be landscaped and river access will be built for recreation and walking.

The reconstruction of the Patriarchy Bridge and the improvement of the embankment started in the summer of 2019. The project is to be completed in 2020.

The public space around GES-2 will become a point of attraction on the pedestrian route along the Moskva River embankment. This project is one of the main goals of the city’s programme of urban upgrading.

Improving the embankments

During the past few years, the Moscow Government has upgraded the Prechistenskaya, Kremlyovskaya, Moskvoretskaya, Bersenevskaya, Yakimanskaya, Ovchinnikovskaya and Ozerkovskaya embankments in the city’s centre, to name a few. The Bolshoi Moskvoretsky Bridge has been repaired. At present, the Bolshoi Kamenny Bridge is under repairs.

In the next few years, the city plans to conduct comprehensive landscaping in Repinsky Garden Square (Bolotnaya Square), Faleyevsky Pereulok, the Sofiyskaya and other embankments on Bolotny Island and the opposite banks of the Moskva River.


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