One of the Seven Sisters: what makes the high-rise on Smolenskaya-Sennaya Square unique

November 7

Specialists of the Moscow Department of Cultural Heritage studied the building of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation and made a list of characteristics of its historical appearance, as well as elements, representing the architectural and cultural value. All of them must be preserved and protected. Based on these studies, the Department compiled and approved a special document — the subject of protection. From now on, any restoration work may be done only in accordance with it and with the project agreed by the Moscow Department of Cultural Heritage.

The Ministry building is located at 32-34/57/23, Smolenskaya-Sennaya Square, buildings 1, 2, 3. This is one of the seven famous high-rises of the middle of the last century, including hotels Leningradskaya and Ukraina, the building of the Lomonosov Moscow State University on the Vorobyovy Hills, Buildings on Kudrinskaya Square, Kotelnicheskaya Embankment and an administrative and residential building on Krasniye Vorota Square. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation high-rise has the status of a cultural heritage site of regional significance.

Moscow citizens call these high-rises Stalin-era buildings or the seven sisters. Their construction began simultaneously in 1947 at the suggestion of Joseph Stalin. The beginning of the work coincided with the 800th anniversary of Moscow. Authors of the projects of Moscow high-rises managed to find original architectural solutions, which formed the basis of a new style, later called the Stalinist Empire (or Soviet monumental classicism). These buildings have long been firmly ingrained in the architectural appearance of the capital and became its showplaces.

Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation

"The building of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is an outstanding landmark building, one of Moscow's claim to fame. It took much time and effort for specialists to describe all its valuable historical elements. Many fine ornamental details decorate the facades and interiors of buildings: columns, capitals, grand staircases, coffered ceilings, parquet and marble portals. All these and other important details are included in the subject of protection," Alexei Yemelyanov, the head of the Moscow Department of Cultural Heritage commented.

The entire architectural composition, the color and decor of the facades, the interior plan including location of the elevator shafts and escalator descents are the subject of protection.

The experts particularly noted the gate and the front entrance to Building 1 with stairs, ramps and lamps, the two-story semi-rotunda of the central building, and the design of the entrance arches. The list also includes architectural and artistic features of the buildings' facades: stained glass windows and doors, granite-tiled basement, niches, pilasters, arched and rectangular portals, rosettes, fielded panels, friezes, faceted pinnacles (pointed towers), scallops and other decorative details.

In addition, they emphasized the special value of the decoration of the tower at the base of the steeple, the bas-reliefs with heraldic compositions (cartouche framed with cornucopia and inscription “1951”), sculptural reliefs, including inserts shaped as stylized ears, the inter-story relief frieze, the gate from the south facade and portals to entrances, lined with gray and red granite.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation high-rise was designed by Soviet architects Mikhail Minkus and Vladimir Gelfreich. They envisioned a structure that "should stand freely among the surrounding buildings, bathed on all sides by light and air..."

Initially, three versions of the future building were designed, which differed in height, compositional techniques and architectural details.

January 20, 1949, the technical project of the high-rise was approved, and in April the architects were awarded the Stalin State Prize of the first degree.

The facade of the new building was 160 meters wide. The central part had 27 floors; the wings on both sides had 16 floors each. In addition, two buildings of different stories were constructed.

The architects believed that such a tiered structure corresponds to the traditions of Russian architecture. The basement and the lower parts of the walls were faced with red Karlahti granite, entrance portals from the Smolenskaya-Sennaya Square were made of gray Korostyshev granite and Korobacheev limestone, most of the facades were faced with ceramic blocks.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation building was put into operation in the summer of 1953, and later the far right side of the building was completed and became a nine-story building.

Total area of the premises related to the subject of protection is 86.9 thousand square meters. There are 30 elevators in the building, eight of them are high-speed elevators.

The original plan did not intend to install a steeple. Instead, the architects designed a series of complex scallops with obelisks in the corners. In the end, however, the steeple did appear. It was made of metal, painted to match the color of the building.

Since 1972, the steeple was regularly surveyed and noted its deteriorating condition. The metal is heavily corroded. Nowadays it was decided to completely reconstruct this element. The work was carried out in 2016-2017.


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