Libmonster ID: VN-967
Author(s) of the publication: NINA FROLOVA

By Nina FROLOVA, senior researcher, A. V. Shchussev State Research Museum of Architecture, Moscow

The world's first museum on the history of architecture was founded in Moscow in 1934 at the initiative of the Soviet Architects' Union. The Presidential Decree of January 24, 1995, granted it an extraordinary status in the cultural heritage of the Russian Federation's peoples.

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The very idea was incubated long ago, as far back as the 19th century. But the first attempt at practical action came only in 1917 with the publication of an appeal urging protection of works of art. A document filed by the Architectural Commission of the Moscow City Soviet (Council) said it in so many words: It was high time to set up a "grandiose museum", or a standing exhibition of materials on architectural monuments in Moscow - "pictures, engravings, photographs, plans, models, copies, molds... to get people to appreciate the sheer beauty of architecture."

An ad hoc commission set up in 1919 included officials from the People's Commissariat (Ministry) for Public Education and the Moscow Soviet. They visualized a future museum as a national seeding-plot of art and culture in what concerned architecture in its historical and contemporary dimensions. The commission mapped out certain practical steps toward the itemizing and restoring of the still "intact artistic fragments of old-time architecture", i.e. cornices, jambs and lintels, lattices, railings, frescos, bas-reliefs, tiles and other essential items. Yet it is with the formation of the Soviet Architects' Union in 1932 that real work got underway. The newly founded museum of architecture became one of the divisions of the All-Union Academy of Architecture - a higher educational, scientific and research center - and was assigned quarters on the grounds of Moscow's Donskoi Monastery.

The museum staff began by delving into relevant materials in the stocks of the State Tretyakov Gallery and the State Museum of History* (both in Moscow), the Leningrad Hermitage Museum and other bodies. The materials supplied by the Moscow Archeological Society and the Central State Restoration Workshops were the first contribution to our architectural collections, now this country's largest. The standing national exhibition of the building industry donated a good many blueprints submitted to homeland competitions in the 1920s and 1930s. Yet another welcome addition came in 1964 when the Museum of Russian Architecture founded in 1945 by Acad. Alexei Shchussev, an eminent architect of the day, merged with our museum. We moved into its quarters on Vozdvizhenka Street in the heart of Moscow. It now houses our cultural and educational center named after Alexei Shchussev, an architect who has done so much for 20th-century Moscow.

Vozdvizhenka is a historic street west of the Kremlin wall. We have traced its history to the 1620s. After a succession of several houselords in 1659 the lot passed into the ownership of the state treasury, that is became state property. Thereupon Apothecary's Yard - which supplied the czars' court with drugs, medicinal herbs, vodka, wine, mead, pickles, salted foods, fruit fudges and other dainties - moved in. But in 1712 the yard was devastated by one of the frequent fires that ravaged Moscow time and again. However, a one-story affair, the refectory ("eating chamber") has survived to our days - with its five-foot stone walls, wooden porch and staircase (1676); it is a unique monument of the civil engineering of that time. The indoor room about 4 meters high (a "two-pillar chamber") has a cylindrical ceiling resting on two solid square supports.

In 1785 the Vozdvizhenka estate (the "eating chamber" including) changed hands again: it was purchased by Lieutenant-General Talyzin, a high-born nobleman whose kin has produced many eminent military commanders. Its lay-out was redesigned after the end-of-the-18th-century fashion; a three-story stone mansion had

See: V. Yegorov, "Treasure-house of Russian History", Science in Russia, No. 5, 2004. - Ed.

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its upright facade overlooking Vozdvizhenka; the edifice was flanked by two wings. Unfortunately we cannot tell anything about the exact time of construction and the name of the architect. But the very style indicates that he belonged to the cohort of Matvei Kazakov, one of the fathers of Russian classicism in architecture (a style striving after the classic heritage of ancient Greece and Rome as an ideal) whose magnificent buildings like those of the Senate in the Kremlin, the Golitzyn Infirmary, Moscow University on Mokhovaya Street* and others changed the look of end-of-the 18th-century Moscow.

That was a gorgeous mansion with a wide stairway leading to the main entrance, a suite of drawing rooms and chambers, and a dancing hall. A semicircular wall separated the household structures from the inner courtyard and matched nicely with the refectory, though built in a different style. The classic style still remained a dominant one.

The fire of 1812, when the Napoleonic army seized Moscow for a time, destroyed the inner city. The Vozdvizhenka town mansion was rebuilt thereafter, its interiors fashioned after the style of the Moscow mansions of the early 19th century. Its chambers were decorated with artificial marble of different hues, which was a good imitation of the native one. Stucco moldings, high reliefs and sculptural medallions were conspicuous elements of the interior decor enhanced by perfect plafond paintings.

In 1845 the Vozdvizhenka mansion changed hands again. It became the headquarters of the Moscow Treasury which had been occupying it up until the Bolshevik Revolution of October 1917. Thereupon it housed a number of Communist Party and Government organizations. In 1945 the mansion passed into the ownership of the Museum of Russian Architecture and, three years later, in 1948, it was taken understate protection as a significant monument of Russian classicism.

A collection of architectural drawings holds pride of place in our repository. It includes authentic plans drawn by Russian architects of the 18th century for the old Russian capital-those of the Neskuchnoye estate (it has not survived), vestries of the Kremlin cathedrals, the Armory chamber rebuilt to the design of Dmitry Ukhtomsky, a baroque** architect, the Grand Kremlin Palace (never put up to that design, though ground was broken for it in 1773); there are outlines made by Vassily Bazhenov, a genius of Russian classicism. Of particular interest is his panoramic drawing (as much as 3.5 meters, or about 10 feet long) of the Tsaritsino palatial and park estate (laid out in 1775 - 1785). We have quite a few drawings made by 19th-century architects who worked in the Empire style (emulating monumental archaic forms of Hellas, Rome of the Emperors, ancient Egypt), such as Afanasy Grigoriev (variants of the Moscow University building on Mokhovaya Street), and Andrei Voronikhin (interior decoration sketches). Jaccomo Guarenghi, the Italian-born classicist, has left us the drawings of the Arcades and Maltese Chapel in St. Petersburg.

A large part of our collections is related to the age of eclecticism (combining diverse elements of style) and modernism (involving new constructivist elements and flexible, curvilinear touches) proper to the turn of the 20th century. Now the eclectic style was characteristic of Konstantin Ton, the creator of the Russo-Byzantine style materialized in Christ the Savior Cathedral (erect-

See: Ye. Sysoyeva, "The Torch of Learning", Science in Russia, No. 3, 2007. - Ed.

** Baroque - characteristic of or resembling a very ornate style of art and architecture that is marked by the use of curved rather than straight lines, and high dimensionality. - Ed.

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ed in Moscow between 1837 and 1883) pulled down in the early 1930s and built anew to materials in our museum's custody. No less interesting is a large collection of drawings and sketches made by Feodor Schechtel who left a significant trace in Moscow of the early 20th century (mansions of merchants Z. Morozova, S. Ryabushinsky, among others).

We are very proud of 16 albums left by Matvei Kazakov, our premier classicist architect, containing pictures of different buildings and their elements. Many edifices and mansions were erected to his designs in and around Moscow in the latter half of the 18th century. Another master classicist, Nikolai Lvov (also a poet and artist), likewise made an important contribution (Voronovo estate near Moscow, and Znamenskoye-Rayek at Tver). Stanislaw Noakowski, a Polish artist, made masterly sketches of different architectural monuments in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. These sketches are our pride indeed. And so are the sights of old Moscow pictured by the painted Feodor Alexeyev and his pupils, the panoramic views created by Pietro Gonzago, an Italian who worked in Russia at the end of the 19th and in the beginning of the 19th cent., those of Alexander Vesnin (1883 - 1959); add to this over 600 sketches of theater costumes fashioned by the artist Yevgeni Lancere early in the 20th century.

The initial period of Soviet-age architecture, in the 1920s and 1930s, was a time of great experiment. Most of those bold imaginative projects were never realized. Yet they were eloquent in many ways. Brimming with enthusiasm, architects and engineers visualized a new urban environment with fantastic community centers, house

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communes, new socialist-type townships and that sort of thing. Their flights of imagination certainly knew no bounds.

And yet... Some of their ideas still hold. The visionaries thought ahead of their day. One of them, Ivan Leonidov, outlined a cluster of several skyscrapers (1934) to be erected next to the Kremlin on the site of the shopping malls put up in 1889 - 1893 to Alexander Pomerantsev's plan. Leonidov made a wide use of curvilinear (hyperbolic, parabolic) elements to make the high-rises wind-resistant and to save on building costs by cutting the buildings' surface area. Such ideas gained recognition in world practice only as late as the 1990s and 2000s.

Soviet architects pioneered in such styles as rationalism (unity of form, construction and functional space) and utilitarian constructivism; we see all that in the blueprints of the 1922 - 1924 competitions for a Labor Palace, a House of Anglo-Soviet Trade Society, an edifice for the newspaper Leningradskaya Pravda...

Some of those plans were realized, like the handicrafts exhibition compound in Neskuchny Gardens (1923), the National Agricultural Exhibition at Ostankino (1939 - 1954), the Moskva-Volga Canal (1937), the Volga-Don Canal (1952), urban reconstruction projects in Moscow in the 1930s, the Moscow subway (or the metro, its first line was put into service in 1935).* The monuments of the 1940s and 1950s include memorial complexes to heroes of the Great Patriotic War of 1941 - 1945, seven high-rises in Moscow (with eight in the blueprints), which changed the city's skyline. Blocks of houses were built in Novorossiysk, Voronezh, Novgorod, Smolensk, Kiev, Minsk, Kalinin (Tver) and other cities destroyed by the Nazis.

The architecture of the closing decades of the 20th century is featured by competition variants of the grandiose memorial complex at Poklonnaya Gora in Moscow**, designs of the edifice of the RF Council of Ministers (1965 - 1979) overlooking the river Moskva, the other house of the Moscow Art Theater in Tverskoi Boulevard (built in 1972, opened in 1973)....

Our photograph library, one of this country's largest, numbers over 400 thousand items, including the rare glass negatives of the latter half of the 19th and early 20th century, some of them belonging to the Moscow Archeological Society. We keep quality negatives made

See: F. Petrov, "I Have the Honor to Be a Prospector...". Science in Russia, No. 4, 2006. - Ed.

** See: O. Bazanova, "Monument to People's Feat", Science in Russia, No. 1, 2005. - Ed.

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by Soviet photographers. What we call fixational photography - making it possible to fix the state of an object at a particular point of time (in the process of construction, reconstruction, restoration, etc.) - figures prominently with us. Take for instance the main edifice of the Federal Security Service at Lubyanka: architect A. G. Ivanov had it built for Russia's Insurance Company (1898 - 1900); the original building was a copy-book example of the eclectic style. In 1945 - 1947 architect Shchussev had it rebuilt, and this is fixed by photographs. Such kind of photography is of great value to natural history students, artists, cinematographs, archeologists, and art historians enabling them to see structures and ensembles no longer there.

We have a good collection of architectural albums. One shows Nizhni Novgorod - what it was like in 1962. It was issued in two copies only - one for the emperor, the other, for the collection. One of the oldest photographs in our archives shows the coronation ceremony of Alexander II in 1856. Our staff worker and professional photographer Boris Tombak, closely involved with Moscow architecture, has donated his personal archives, large enough, to our museum. His colleague Vladimir Konchits, working in the genre of panoramic photography, stuck together pictures of Tverskaya ulitza in Moscow and Nevsky Prospekt in St. Petersburg: these panoramas, 50 meters long and 50 cm high each, show both sides of the two thoroughfares.

Our collection of copies and models features such relics as the original handiworks of Voronikhin (Kazansky Cathedral in St. Petersburg), Bazhenov (Grand Kremlin Palace in Moscow), Ton (metal structure of the dome of Christ the Savior Cathedral in Moscow). There is a series of excellent models of a Palace of Soviets in Moscow (Boris Iofan, early 1930s). It was to be erected on the site of the Cathedral of Christ the Savior razed in the early 1930s. A separate collection is devoted to genuine fragments of the historic houses in Moscow of the end of the 18th - early 19th century: the Vinogradnye (Figurnye) gates of the Tsaritsino ensemble in Moscow (Bazhenov), the palace on the grounds of the Petrovskoye-Alabino estate near Moscow (Kazakov), among many other masterpieces.

Landscape architecture and gardening figures prominently as well. One relic is a white-stone sculptural group wrought in 1820 and 1821 by Ivan Vitali, working in the classicist style, for the gateway to the Board of Guardians House in Moscow (1823 - 1826, architect Domenico Giliardi): standing in the middle is Minerva, the Roman goddess of wisdom, arts and crafts; over to the left is a female figure, an allegory of mercy, and to the right, a composite allegory of education.

Russia's victory in the Patriotic War of 1812 against Napoleon was commemorated by the Triumphal Arch at the town gate at the end of Tverskaya street. Originally a wooden affair, it was replaced by a stone arch inaugurated in a festive ceremony in 1834. Its designer, the architect Bovet, portrayed the heroic image of Moscow that "rose from the ashes and ruins", as one inscription on the arch reads. Its two symmetric pavilions, the corps de gards jointed by a lattice of cast iron, adorned the main entrance to Moscow from St. Petersburg. The arch was built of white stone that was a perfect contrast to cast-iron columns, figures of soldiers and gorgeous decor - all that cast after Vitali's models.

The Triumphant Arch stood opposite the Byelorussian Railway Station. In 1936 the square in front of the station was widened to relieve the heavy vehicular traffic, and the arch was dismantled. Its posh sculptural decor was taken to Donskoi Monastery where it was deposited for more than 30 years. In 1966 the Moscow City Soviet (Council) passed a decision to restore the arch elsewhere - on Kutuzovsky Prospekt, near Poklonnaya Gora; two years after, the monument had its second birth. Unfortunately time did not spare some elements of the cast-iron decor; restored, they were put on display as separate items in our exhibition. In the entrance hall of our edifice two white-stone sphinxes wrought by Bove meet our guests. The sphinxes were brought from Prince Gagarin's mansion in Novinsky Boulevard (built in 1817, it is no longer there). Neoclassic soldiers of gray marble recovered from the bottom of Chistye Prudy (ponds) now stand guard indoors (unknown sculptor of the late 18th - early 19th cent.).

Our museum has a good scientific library of its own (with a collection of rare books) which has taken in theme materials of H. M. Archeological Society, the Academy of Architecture of the USSR, and the Museum of Russian Architecture. Its stock numbers about 20,000 volumes. We are expanding our library with collections of research studies, monographs, proceedings of scientific conferences, and catalogs of homeland and international exhibitions.

We are active in the exhibiting work, too. In recent years we have prepared expositions on Italian masters in Russia in the 15th to 20th centuries, on Russian landed estates, and on the contribution of Soviet architects. Cooperating with our colleagues we were able to acquaint Moscow residents and guests with the contemporary architecture of Finland, Switzerland, Israel, Colombia, USA, and other countries. Photography displays featuring Moscow's changeful past and present always draw crowds taking an interest in the city's eventful and vibrant history.


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