Paints made of glass, blowing chandeliers and a ceramic fountain: secrets of Moscow restorers

October 7

Going down the steps into metro every day, passengers do not even think that they turn out to be in a kind of museum or gallery. But many stations of the Moscow Metro are real architectural landmarks. There are a lot of interesting details at historical stations, for example, a picturesque panel of 1953 in the Kievskaya Metro Station of the Arbatsko-Pokrovskaya Line, and unusual glass chandeliers on the Kievskaya Metro Station of the Filyovskaya Line. They were restored to their original appearance by talented specialists of the Kitezh restoration workshop. This article is about the workshop secret technologies, and about specialists who recreated the unique fountain at VDNKh — the only ceramic fountain in this country.

Innovative liquid glass paints: panels in the Kievskaya recreated

The Kitezh workshop specialists consider the pearl of their restoration portfolio to be the most difficult restoration of one of the Moscow Metro most famous panels — Folk Festivals in Kiev in the Kievskaya Metro Station of the Arbatsko-Pokrovskaya Line. This picturesque panel made in 1953 and adorning the station end wall was nearly lost in 2010. However, the restoration workshop masters managed to do the impossible. They found the optimal materials for restoration to return the panel to its original appearance. Working in a special brushwork of the 1950s and using the 1954 photograph found, the Kitezh artists managed to preserve the spirit of that era.

The fresco was damaged because the metal shield where it was based on, bent under pressure of groundwater and rock. For this reason, the panel began to fall off with nearly the entire colorful layer crumbled. Specialists needed to reinforce one meter-thick concrete base, make a new metal shield and restore the painting. When choosing materials, the groundwater proximity was taken into account.


High concentration of people in metro makes the restoration work more difficult too. The people flow and noise would complicate craftsmen work. However, experts found a way out of the situation.

"Restoring the panels in the Kievskaya station itself is not comfortable since you’’ll have to work with your face very close to the wall, therefore we decided to do the job elsewhere. First, we duplicated the painting on plywood sheets in a separate room. There, we recreated the lighting, similar to that of metro. This was necessary to ensure that finally the colors on the panel were the same as we see them in the station. We cut the copy on the plywood sheets into fragments and transferred the fresco from them to the panel. The result was as like as two peas," Alexander Ivanov added.

At the neighboring Kievskaya Station (the Filevskaya Line), also a cultural heritage site, the Kitezh workshop carried out a complete restoration of the platform part. The main task was to return the station to its original appearance. One of the platform's design striking details was mosaic floors. According to the experts themselves, when they got to work, they decided not to repeat mistakes of the 1930s masters. Then marble of different shades was used to cover the floor. But this is too soft material, and with high passenger flow in place the marble mosaic floor surface would erase very quickly. Taking into account modern conditions, the Kitezh specialists decided to make a granite mosaic, carefully selecting the shades of stone imitating marble. Granite will keep the floors for many years to come.

Blowing out one meter-diameter glass bowl shades: restoration of chandeliers

The Kitezh masters have extensive experience in restoring glass chandeliers. To do this kind of work, a special unit in the workshop is manned with glass and metal specialists. The largest chandelier restoration was carried out in the Kievskaya Metro Station of the Filevskaya Line. There it was necessary to recreate chandeliers with huge glass bowl shades, having a diameter of about a meter. None of the Russian factories undertook to blow out a huge glass ball for the chandelier. Colleagues from the Czech Republic and China were invited to cooperate, but foreign experts could not make a ball of such size either. This challenge was accepted in Kitezh. Masters of the old Soviet glassblowers school rendered a hand and the bowl shade of the required size was jointly made.

"The bowl shade is complex in structure, having double glass. Initially, it was necessary to blow out the first ball and place it in a large plate-shaped form. The upper part of the ball was cut off and the second ball was blown into this hemisphere and cut off again. Finally we received a double layer of the glass bowl. We needed to make one layer milky, and the second one glossy. Diamond faceting was done on the milk layer, like that on crystalware, where a piece itself is matte with its faces glossy, and shining. This is the old Soviet technology that our team managed to recreate," the restorer explained.

Another difficult project concerning chandeliers is connected with VDNKh. The original appearance of the chandelier was under recreation in one of the halls of pavilion No. 30 Microbiological Industry.

"To recreate original chandeliers, the archival photographs were used and analogues of Soviet lamps of the 1950s were selected. After a long search, our architects managed to find an exact copy of the chandelier, which we bought. Thanks to this original sample, we repeated the original look of the chandelier, including openwork two-color metal parts and glass bowl shades with beautiful engraving," the master explained.

VDNKh: restoration of original painting

According to the Kitezh workshop restorers, a lot of discoveries were made in the VDNKh pavilion No.30. The research work in one of the halls revealed the original historical paintings on the ceiling covered by a layer of paint. The paintings depict flowers forming bizarre ornaments. Besides, paintings covered the ceiling of another hall, which was known from archival materials. The paintings were restored in the course of works.

Ceramic fountain: working with non-standard materials

In the Kitezh workshop, they also have to do with objects made from materials not typical for those objects, for example, a ceramic fountain or galvanized lattice where highly toxic chemicals are used.

In addition to the restoration work inside pavilion No. 30, specialists began to restore the fountain next to it. The fountain is an integral part of one architectural ensemble. Its project was developed by architect V.M. Taushkanov and engineer N.V. Orekhov.  The fountain has gone entirely non-functional, and it needs to be brought into working condition.

"The fountain in front of the pavilion is ceramic. This is the only fountain in the country made of ceramics, no one makes such objects anymore because ceramics are fragile, temperature dependent and moisture sensitive. The method of its creation is also unusual: the fountain was made at the experimental plant where oxygen-free roasting technology (reducing roasting) was used. This is a very complex technology that makes metal to appear on the ceramics surface after roasting. No one meets this challenge in Russia now, this technology is totally lost. Accordingly, no one had the skills to restore such fountains," the restorer emphasizes.

Now the Kitezh masters are experimenting trying to recreate the lost method of oxygen-free roasting. The fountain bowl and pool have already been recreated in the terrazzo technique. Up to date water supply engineering systems are connected to it. Specialists restored tiles with floral decor.

Another original restoration technology is method of preventing the yellowness to appear on stones. For example, some metro stations have decorative stone facade.

"Materials commonly used in restoration of stone did not suit us, because over time they turn yellow due to epoxy resins in their composition. For this occasion we developed our secret technology, a special composition that preserves stones nearly forever and denies them turning yellow. We restored the decorative stones of the Novoslobodskaya Station according to our new technology," said Alexander Ivanov.

Kitezh creative workshops work since 2003. The team of restorers includes people of different ages and various specialties. All of them are united by their love to cultural heritage, caring attitude to their job, as well as high professionalism and responsibility. Specialists restore objects across Russia and abroad, including temples and monasteries, historical buildings, objects of monumental and easel painting.


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