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Old October 19th, 2007, 07:45 AM   #1
hkskyline
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Moscow's Detsky Mir - Renovating an Art Deco Landmark

Muscovites fear for Soviet toy store

MOSCOW, Oct 18, 2007 (AFP) - Russia's grandest toy store, a gift to Soviet children after the dark days of Stalin, is facing a capitalist makeover that critics fear will sap the soul from one of Moscow's most cherished sites.

The Detsky Mir building, an Art Deco landmark in the heart of the booming capital, is set to undergo reconstruction that experts say could deface the last major work of one of the city's most celebrated architects.

Remodeling details are still sketchy but fans fear the worst in a capital where rampant construction often tramples over heritage.

Dozens of historic sites have been lost with little public reaction, but the grand old Detsky Mir has an edge -- incarnating both heritage and nostalgia.

"They're knocking down our childhood," said Natalya Dushkina, granddaughter of the building's architect Alexei Dushkin and an architecture professor herself who heads a campaign to save the site.

She is hoping the nostalgia factor will help mobilize residents to oppose turning her grandfather's legacy into yet another modern "fake."

In the 1950s, Detsky Mir -- which translates to "Children's World" -- rose up as an Aladdin's cave of plenty amid the daily poverty of post-war Soviet life. Consumer goods like toys were scarce as authorities poured investment into drab canals and steel mills.

"When it opened in 1957, it had everything. People came here from all over the Soviet Union," said Valentina Lebedeva, 66. "If they turn it into something else it would be a crime."

Little has changed since those days. The hot-air balloon crewed by two giant mice still hangs above a giant carousel in the centre of the store's vast atrium. Wide-eyed children explore isles stacked high with cuddly animals, model tanks, board games and every imaginable toy.

Natasha Terentyeva, 38, still remembers her first visit as a three-year-old. It "was a burst of fantasy, of emotion," she said, on a visit in from the northern city of Murmansk to show the store to her own six-year-old son.

The owner, leading developer Sistema-Gals, has promised to protect the exterior and "everything that is under cultural custody," but critics say such promises are routinely broken amid Moscow's malleable protection laws.

The fate of the store's signature atrium is of particular concern.

"The draft plans I saw proposed the total transformation of the whole of the interior," including destroying the central atrium, said architect Alexei Klimenko, a member of the city's architectural council. "I warned them that all the Dushkin interiors would die."

The development was approved by City Hall in early October, but the developer has not yet published detailed plans.

Questioned by AFP in an e-mail, developer Sistema-Gals would not say whether the atrium was doomed or how much space would remain devoted to children's goods.

Ironically, the store's champions have an unusual ally in the FSB, successor to the Soviet KGB secret police, which objected to a proposed roof-top patio that would have overlooked its headquarters, Klimenko said.

The grim KGB building is where the Stalin regime planned its mass purges and prison camps that claimed millions of lives. When Stalin died in 1953, the new regime deliberately chose the site across the road for the new toy store, Dushkina said.

"Building it was a political decision after the death of Stalin," she said. "It was a gift to the children of the Soviet Union."

Architecturally, it represented a new simpler style, a harbinger of the 1960s minimalist revolt against the grandiose construction of the Stalin era, she said.

Though Dushkin was chosen as architect, Detsky Mir was to be his final major project. Having made his name building some of Moscow's most ornate metro stations -- Stalin's so-called "people's palaces," Stalin's successors rejected Dushkin as a reminder of the old regime and he retired at 52, in the prime of his career.

Today his building is surrounded by a hotchpotch of stalls selling everything from flowers to pocket computers. Even critics admit that it needs a makeover -- though vehemently reject a wholesale "reconstruction."

But its position, a few hundred meters north-east of the Kremlin and across the road from a string of exclusive shops including a Bentley showroom, puts it in prime retail territory, increasing pressure on its owners to act.

Detsky Mir's closure has been repeatedly announced and postponed, but Sistema-Gals insists the project will finish on schedule in 2010.

The Vedomosti business daily said closure is now planned within six months.

Though several battles to protect Moscow architectural landmarks have been lost, Dushkina is hopeful the emotional ties to Detsky Mir will rally the opposition.

When the doors finally close, the people of Moscow will wake up and protest, said Lyudmila Gribova, 63, who sells soft toys in an underpass beside the store.

"We already have new buildings, they're all becoming the same," said Lyuda Aktyonova, 52, a shopper. "If only something from our childhood would remain."
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Old October 27th, 2010, 08:42 AM   #2
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Reconstruction of Detsky Mir to start in Oct, core business will be maintained – Kostin
20 July 2010

MOSCOW. July 20 (Interfax) - OJSC Sistema-Hals (RTS: HALS), which is owned by VTB (RTS: VTBR) Bank, will start the reconstruction of the Detsky Mir (RTS: DTMR) toy store at Lubyanka in Moscow in October. The reconstruction process is slated for completion in 2012.

"We are starting the reconstruction of Detsky Mir in October," VTB's President and Chairman Andrei Kostin said during a meeting with Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin on Tuesday.

Kostin said that the project would cost around 6 billion rubles.

VTB, which acquired the Detsky Mir building for debt along with control of Sistema-Hals, plans to continue with the store's core business.

"It definitely will be a children's center," Kostin told Putin. "This means we have kept the core operations, which will be a children's center where we plan also to have a movie theater, a children's theater and a general area for not only shopping but also staying and relaxing on the weekends and so forth," he added.

Russia's biggest children's store was closed for reconstruction and restoration on July 1, 2008 but Sistema-Hals' ability to continue with the project was hampered by the onset of the economic crisis.

AFK Sistema (RTS: AFKS) reached an agreement with VTB in March 2009 for transferring the bank 51% in the developer for 60 rubles in order to restructure debt. Sistema then, in May, transferred 100% of the shares in OJSC Lubyanka-Development (formerly OJSC Detsky Mir (RTS: DTMR), which owns the building on Lubyanka, to Sistema Hals.

Sistema retained its rights to the brand Detsky Mir, which was transfer to its subsidiary OJSC Detsky-Mir Center, which develops the same-named chain of stores.

The store's reconstruction foresees total floorspace being expanded from 57,500 square meters to 75,000 square meters including around 19,000 square meters of commercial floorspace being almost doubled. The building's exterior, its size, ground elevation and overall silhouette will be maintained.
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Old October 27th, 2010, 09:38 AM   #3
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Originally Posted by hkskyline View Post
MOSCOW, Oct 18, 2007 (AFP) - Russia's grandest toy store, a gift to Soviet children after the dark days of Stalin, is facing a capitalist makeover that critics fear will sap the soul from one of Moscow's most cherished sites.
F*cking bastards!



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