Titanium Yuri, ‘golden brains’ and the circus: walking around the Gagarinsky district

May 1

Gagarinsky district began to be actively built up in the 1950s. It was considered one of the most prestigious district in Moscow: professors, teachers and scientists settled here. The building of the Presidium of the Russian Academy of Sciences, the Russian State University of Oil and Gas and more than 40 research institutes are located in this district, and very close to it, the main university of the country is spread out - on Vorobyovy Gory (Sparrow Hills). We go for an outing around the district and find out what sights are worth seeing.

Monument to Gagarin

Address: Gagarin Square

Year of opening: 1980

Photo by Maxim Denisov, Mos.ru

One of the main symbols of the district, of course, is the monument to Yuri Gagarin.

"The place on Leninsky Prospekt was not chosen by chance: it was here that Yuri Gagarin passed along after his legendary flight. The monument is made of titanium - the material from which spaceships were built. The astronaut’ silhouette looks like a rocket aiming upwards. All the lines are also aiming upwards," the guide, researcher at the Museum of Moscow Daria Bulgakova tells.

The place for the monument installation was chosen with an accuracy of half a meter: the monument should have been visible even at the entrance to Moscow from the MKAD (Moscow Ring Road). Next to the cosmonaut’s figure there is a copy of the lander of the Vostok spacecraft, on which Yuri Gagarin returned home from space.

A group of architects, designers and sculptor Pavel Bondarenko worked on the creation of the first titanium monument. Despite the most difficult task (the hero's face alone weighs 300 kilograms), the monument was unveiled as planned, before the Moscow Olympics in 1980.

The monument has been given the status of an identified cultural heritage site, and a restoration project will be developed this year. It is planned that the work will begin in 2022. Specialists will remove dirt, eliminate chips, and restore the polishing of the labradorite stylobate facing plates and the tightness of the seams between the titanium sheets.

Russian Academy of Sciences (RAS) Presidium

Address: Leninsky Prospekt, 32a

Years of construction: 1974–1990

The building of the Presidium of the Russian Academy of Sciences is popularly called ‘golden brains’ because of the huge metal structure on the roof. The project appeared in the late 1960s and represented the scientific and technological progress of the USSR that had reached a new level. Unfortunately, the building was constructing for a very long time - from 1974 to 1990, and the second stage was completed only in 1997.

"This is late Soviet modernism, there is a lot of geometry in the building, and the dominant feature, of course, is the unusual construction made of copper plates at the top. Nearby, there is one of the most non-trivial observation deck in Moscow. Experienced fans of Moscow know that it is from here that you need to watch the fireworks because there are much fewer people here than on the observation deck of the Vorobyovy Gory. It offers a beautiful view of Moscow, the river and the Neskuchny Garden," Daria Bulgakova says.

The house of Moscow State University Teaching Staff

Address: Lomonosovsky Prospekt, house 14

Years of construction: 1952–1955

In the 1950s, the building on Lomonosovsky Prospekt was building for teachers of Moscow State University. At the same time, the MSU main building was building close to it, on Vorobyovy Gory. The residential building is much lower than the university building - 14 floors against 32, but the style of the house resembles Stalin's skyscrapers.

The project was developed by architects Evgeny Stamo, Yakov Belopolsky and Maria Rusanova. They were faced with the task, on the one hand, to create an expressive and large-scale architecture that emphasizes the post-war triumph, and on the other - to move gradually to industrial methods of housing construction and design buildings with standard elements. It was assumed that this house would become a serial and the similar ones would appear all over the capital. It never came to be serial construction but two twins of the teacher's house appeared at the addresses: Frunzenskaya Embankment, house 50 and Universitetsky Prospekt, house 5.

At various times, such big heads of Soviet science as zoologist Vladimir Flint, geophysicist Vladimir Magnitsky, oceanologist Lev Zenkevich, psychologist Peter Galperin and many others lived in this house.

Red Houses

Address: Stroiteley Street, houses 4 and 6

Years of construction: 1952–1954

The houses on Stroiteley Street got their name from the bright red ceramic cladding. It was expected they would become standard and the entire Gagarinsky district would look about the same as these buildings. The project authors took into account the needs of car users, because at that time the idea of the people's car was actively developed, which unfortunately was never implemented. The houses have an underground garage, which is also the architectural dominant of the quarter: the part facing Stroiteley Street resembles an ancient aquaeductus.

Red houses are a perfect example of the Stalinist Empire style, and at the same time you can see Scandinavian motifs on them: strobiles, fir needles, oak twigs, acorns. The courtyards of the red houses are a green space, there are even fountains here, so the quarter resembles a small city-garden.

Moskva Department Store

Address: Leninsky Prospekt, house 54

Years of construction: 1958–1963

Moskva department store was fundamentally different from other Soviet stores of that time. It became an experimental department store, where Western retail technologies were adapted to the Soviet consumer. The department store was equipped with imported cash register machines, light mobile counters. Here, there were a service and home order offices, a tailoring repairs and alterations workshop, a baggage locker, a barber shop and a cafeteria. The grocery store and non-food departments worked on the self-service principle. The internal radio and television information systems became other innovations. Additionally, Moskva became the first department store with its own showroom and catwalk for fashion shows. Many of the developments tested in Moskva were subsequently implemented in other large stores.

The department store building was constructed in the best traditions of constructivism. Its authors were inspired by the ideas of the famous Vesnin brothers, who built the Mostorg on Krasnaya Presnya and the ZIL Cultural Center.

"The so-called continuous wrap-around glazing was used here. We, the sophisticated representatives of the XXI century, will not be surprised by this but that time it was completely new technologies. On the sign you can see a memorable font with a characteristic letter M, written as if in capital letters. The department store was as modern as the entire Gagarinsky district. There lived the great minds of their time, there were many universities and scientific institutes. This is the Skolkovo of its time," Daria Bulgakova says.

Circus on Vernadsky Prospekt

Address: Vernadsky Prospekt, house 7

Years of construction: 1964–1971

In the early 1960s, there were two circuses in Moscow: on Tsvetnoy Boulevard and on Triumfalnaya Square (then Mayakovsky Square). The building on Triumfalnaya was awaiting reconstruction. It was decided to build a new circus in the south-west of Moscow. The project was assigned to the famous architect Yakov Belopolsky and Yefim Vulykh. Their circus was very atypical: with continuous sash windows and a roof of an unusual folded design, referring to the traditional circus tent.

Inside, the circus contained the most advanced technology: four movie sets, xenon illuminators and speakers in the back of the seats. And the main innovation is the system of changing arenas, that made it possible to avoid long intermissions. There are five arenas in total: equestrian, ice, water, illusionary and light. Each replacement takes not more than five minutes.

Natalia Sats Theater

Address: Vernadsky Prospekt, house 5

Years of construction: 1975–1979

Natalia Sats Children's Musical Theater has existed since 1965, but for a long time it did not have its own stage. When Natalia Sats obtained a building permit, she addressed to the young architect Vladilen Krasilnikov. In co-operation with Alexander Velikanov, he designed a very interesting extended building that reflected the newest trend of Soviet architecture at that time - brutalism. The theater building has become one of the most unusual structures in Moscow and a striking example of Soviet architectural modernism.

VTcSPS (All-Union Central Council of Trade Unions) building

Address: Leninsky Prospekt, house 42

Years of construction: 1931–1936

The building of the All-Union Central Council of Trade Unions on Leninsky Prospekt was designed by the famous Soviet architect Alexander Vlasov - one of the authors of the Luzhniki stadium. In the facades decoration, the architect used techniques spied during a trip to Italy. The corners of the huge zigzag are decorated with balconies with thin high columns, unique staircase stained glass windows, architraves with rounded and triangular pediments. The upper windows are framed by panels with a checkerboard painting, the canopies over the loggias have coffered ceilings with stars on a red background and other exquisite details.

"This is a monument of constructivism, hidden behind a series of residential buildings on Leninsky Prospekt. It has a very unusual shape in the form of ticks, or Latin letters V. This is an example of architecture in the transition period from the avant-garde to constructivism. By that time, there was not enough housing in Moscow, and here such a palace is being built for trade unions. Thus, it was emphasized that the workers and everything connected with them is important," Daria Bulgakova says.

Source: mos.ru

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