Story of Povolzhye: Pavilion No. 15’s stucco moulding restoration

June 5

The second building of Pavilion No.15 at the VDNKh exhibition centre (former Povolzhye or Volga Region pavilion), which opened in 1954, was adorned with sculptures and moulding, most of them having something to do with the history of Volga cities. However, it was barely possible to get a glimpse of this due to the false façade and because of the damage the pavilion sustained during the reconstruction work which was carried out in the late 1950s. The objective of the ongoing restoration job is to once again make it as beautiful as it was once upon a time.

The high and low relief (alto-relievo and basso-relievo) mouldings that decorated the pavilion’s façade more than 60 years ago now will be fully restored, Deputy Mayor Natalya Sergunina explained.

The pavilion was built in 1954 and was named Povolzhye (Volga Region) because it depicted the history of the cities situated near to the Volga River. However, in the late 1950s the pavilion was done up and renamed Radioelectronics and Communications. Part of the lush exterior was hidden behind laconic false façades and the rest was dismantled. The high and low relief plus the sculptures were damaged or completely ruined.

“During the ongoing restoration work, experts found parts of battle scenes in high relief which adorned the pavilion in 1954 under the false façade that was erected in the late 1950s. Since the remnants they uncovered were sufficient for the restoration of the initial adornments, we have decided to do it,” Natalya Sergunina pointed out.

The comprehensive science-based renovation project resumed on 12 May, as soon as the anti-coronavirus restrictions on construction works were lifted.

Experts will restore high relief parts and the sculptures of the solider, seaman plus the worker and kolkhoz woman holding the emblem of the Russian Federation, as well as the moulding .The famous stained glass windows, a crucial part of the façade will also be done up. The four columns at the entrance and the high relief elements will be reconstructed, which depict drivers revving up their tractors, kolkhoz women studying the crops, fishermen admiring a huge sturgeon, farm labourers putting grain into a seeding machine, farmers giving fodder to their sheep, and agronomists checking ears of wheat. The columns were dismantled in the late 1950s.

Low relief is moulding in which the design stands out a little from the surface, while in high relief the forms project at least half or more of their natural circumference from the background. They include ornaments, the figures of people and animals, natural forms and various objects.

According to the Moscow City Department of Cultural Heritage, experts examined what adornments could still be rescued and then determined the composition of the materials from which they had been made.

“Many adornments are no longer to be found and 50 percent of the pavilion’s surface has been damaged, with some fittings even sticking out in some places. The exterior plasterwork is stained, where it is not chipped or cracked. However, we have enough architectural documents to be able to restore the building to its former beauty,” Department Head Alexei Yemelyanov noted.

The adornments of the 1954 building were made by Vladimir Derunov, Appolinary Stempkovsky and Yury Pommer, who worked directly at the exhibition where machinery and carpentry workshops were established together with a design bureau plus paint, stucco, moulding and paper workshops.

“To date, we have already completed the composition of high relief features. We have created full-size 3D models of high and low relief features and have submitted them for approval, following which we will launch their reconstruction. We are also cleaning the paintings and restoring the lost moulding and sculptures. When we finish this job visitors will get a chance to admire the pavilion as it was when it was designed in 1954. It will house a museum of the Russian Olympic Committee,” said Tatyana Polyakova, deputy director of the major repairs agency at the Moscow City Department for Major Housing Repairs.

The reconstruction of the Povolzhye Pavilion’s exterior will take most of the rest of 2020.

Provided by the VDNKh Press Service

The pavilion stands left of the Stone Flower Fountain in Central Alley. It is a federal landmark, which is why this renovation project was prepared and coordinated together with Moscow City Department of Cultural Heritage experts.

The first pavilion with a 7-metre high equestrian statue of Vasily Chapayev on the roof was built in 1939. It was dismantled 10 years later for technical reasons. The statue was moved to Cheboksary, the home town of the celebrated Red Army commander during the Civil War. The new pavilion that replaced the initial version was built in 1954 by the architects Yakovlev and Shoshensky in the Stalin-era Empire style. The architects were inspired by the heroism of the Battle of Stalingrad and the defenders of Volga cities in other centuries, as well as the development of the Volga River and the post-war economic revival of the region. The building’s façade was adorned with war scenes in low relief, with the sculptures of a solider and a seaman on the building’s corners holding shields with the dates of the battles.

Standing majestically on the roof was a sculpture of the Worker and Kolkhoz Woman holding the emblem of the Russian Federation. The stained glass windows above the entrance showed a map of the Volga Region and the images of the Volga-Don Canal and the Saratov-Moscow gas pipeline. Fountains cascaded from below the stained glass windows depicting the Stalingrad and Kuibyshev hydroelectric power stations on both sides of the entrance. Water flowed down the mosaic steps into small pools covered with blue glass, symbolising the work of the power stations. The stained glass windows and fountains were especially impressive at night when floodlights were switched on. The pavilion’s façade and interior had a common theme, the Volga River.

The renovation of VDNKh began in the spring of 2014. It started with the restoration of the exhibition centre’s historical name and landscaping work and went on to the renovation of pavilions and other facilities. Ultimately, VDNKh will become a huge cultural and educational centre. There are 49 cultural landmarks, including pavilions and fountains, standing on an area of 325 hectares. Over 33 million people visited VDNKh last year, when it celebrated its 80th anniversary.


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