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142,862 Posts
Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Report: Moscow's Architecture in Crisis
14 May 2007

MOSCOW (AP) - Russian and foreign preservationists expressed alarm Monday at the destruction of Moscow's historic and architecturally significant buildings as the Russian capital undergoes massive development fueled by the country's economic boom.

"We have come into the phase of continual and daily changing of the city environment," Marina Khurstaleva of the Moscow Architecture Preservation Society told a news conference. "It's really a very critical situation."

A report released during the news conference, titled "Moscow Heritage at the Crisis Point," detailed buildings destroyed or under threat. The changes come as developers undertake huge projects as Russia's oil-driven economy soars and real-estate prices reach levels rivaling those of Tokyo and New York City.

Some projects, like the Moscow City development which is to include Europe's tallest building -- a 1,115-foot-high structure -- are rising on disused land. But others have taken the place of buildings well-known to both architectural historians and to tourists.

In some cases, the new developments try to mimic features of the old ones.

The most dramatic example is the Hotel Moskva, known worldwide as the building on the label of Stolichnaya vodka. The building was torn down and is being replaced by one that purportedly will replicate the original building's facade.

A similar project razed the Voyentorg military department store, regarded as one of Moscow's best Art Nouveau buildings. It is to be replaced by a commercial complex mimicking the old facade.

Preservationists denounce such projects as creating an artificial city analogous to Disneyland.

"Such an approach to conservation is the worst kind of tokenism and represents a total loss of grip on the concept of authenticity, turning historic Moscow into a stage-set city," the report said.

Phone calls after hours Monday to the city's Committee on Cultural Heritage were not returned. City authorities have defended the approach, however, saying the original buildings had deteriorated beyond repair after decades of Soviet-era neglect and that the reconstructions preserve an element of the city's architectural heritage.

Adam Wilkinson, secretary of the Save Europe's Heritage organization, said during the news conference that such projects are economically unjustified.

"To knock down a building and then rebuild it is a tremendous waste of resources. ... There's always a cheaper way" to rehabilitate an existing building, he said.

The report blames a variety of factors for the destruction of historic buildings, including the offering of 49-year leases on land owned by the city -- which it said induces developers to focus on comparatively short-term profits rather than longer-term investment.

Wilkinson also cited sloppy observance of preservation laws. "The Russian law (on preservation) is quite good -- the problem is that it's not enforced," he said.

The report says buildings under threat include the Detsky Mir children's store, across Lubyanka Square from the former KGB headquarters, and the Tsaritsino Palace complex in southern Moscow.

The report bemoans the loss of some buildings many were glad to see go away. That includes the Rossiya Hotel, a gargantuan and bullying eyesore that lurked just outside Red Square.

But the report says aesthetic value is not the only criterion for preserving a building.

"However critically we view Soviet modernism of this period, it made a real and tangible contribution to 20th century architecture ... The more vividly these buildings express this age, the more valuable they are for history and culture."

Moscow Architecture Preservation Society:

1,887 Posts
Where were you when the same newspaper posted positive article about this exact matter? Huh? But when there is some crap posted about Russia you are immediately here to report it, why is that?
"However critically we view Soviet modernism of this period, it made a real and tangible contribution to 20th century architecture ... The more vividly these buildings express this age, the more valuable they are for history and culture."

142,862 Posts
Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Feel free to post the other side of the story if you have the information. The readers should take action and post more information if they believe it is beneficial to understanding the topic rather than wish someone else would do it for them.

The Malling of Moscow: Imperial in Size and a View of the Kremlin
15 March 2007
The New York Times

In architectural terms, few cities have endured more abuse than Moscow has during the last decade or so, from the ruthless demolition of major historic landmarks to the boom in garish faux-historical reproductions. So I suppose the news that Norman Foster, one of the world's most talented architects, has designed a glorified mall in Moscow shouldn't seem tragic.

The project will replace one of the most notorious buildings of the Soviet period, the gargantuan 1960s-era Rossiya Hotel, on a critical site overlooking St. Basil's Cathedral and the Kremlin. A sleek complex of buildings with classical overtones, it will include 470,000 square feet of retail space, four hotels and a 2,500-seat performance hall, making it the largest single development in the historic core of Moscow since the Soviet empire collapsed 15 years ago.

While Mr. Foster's participation may hearten those who hope to raise the city's architectural standards, this is clearly not one of his better designs. It lacks the structural flamboyance of his most memorable buildings, and its strange blend of classical and modern elements edges dangerously close to parody -- the kind of generic soft-core historicism we see so often in large-scale developments in cities striving to enter the global marketplace. It is a sanitized view of the ferocious architectural clashes that shaped this city for centuries and made such a haunting apparition.

The demolition of the Rossiya was also part of a cleansing process. I'll admit that its hulking concrete-and-glass shell was hardly a shining example of 1960s architecture. Having stayed there as a student in the '70s, I vaguely recall its labyrinthine corridors, the cockroaches, the threadbare rooms legendarily littered with bugging devices. But from the perspective of 2007, it had a refreshing, unadorned directness. And its destruction must be understood as part of a broader effort to erase the memory of seven decades of Soviet rule.

The Moscow Hotel, a major landmark from the Stalinist era, is gone. Buildings from the late 1920s, like Moisei Ginzburg's Narkomfin Housing and Konstantin Melnikov's workers' clubs, among the most influential works of the 20th century, are in ruins. More often than not, this history is being replaced with a theme-park version of pre-Revolutionary Russia that glosses over Moscow's real history.

Although Mr. Foster's design never quite descends to this level, its bland slickness is disturbing in its own way. The biggest strength of this project is as an urban plan. Mr. Foster begins by restoring portions of the historic street grid removed when the Rossiya Hotel was built, which is a reasonable enough approach.

Two major pedestrian streets are then cut diagonally through the site. The main one runs from the edge of the Moscow River toward St. Basil's Cathedral, with its brightly colored onion domes, and Red Square. A second is set on an axis with the distant dome of the Cathedral of Christ the Savior and the local metro station, another Stalinist landmark.

The crisscrossing streets divide the site into irregular parcels with a triangular plaza at the center that is the heart of the new complex. By using the street grid to frame views of nearby monuments, Mr. Foster forges a powerful visual relationship with the surrounding city, orienting you within a historical narrative that stretches from medieval Russia through the Soviet era to the present.

The view of the Cathedral of Christ the Savior, a gaudy fake that sums up the new Moscow, is the culmination of that history. Stalin blew up the original church in the 1930s to make way for the Palace of the Soviets, but it was never completed, and Khrushchev had one of the world's largest outdoor swimming pools built there. After the fall of the Soviet Union, the pool was torn up too, and the church was rebuilt as an ersatz version of the original, rising atop a multistory garage.

The site's context demands a powerful statement about the present. But the individual buildings Mr. Foster has designed fail us. Although still nothing more than sketches, they are adorned with a bizarre blend of historical references. Their forms are essentially traditional courtyard blocks with street-level shops connected by a series of covered porticoes. The exterior of the performance hall is lined with arcades. And the complex sits atop a vast underground mall whose internal corridors reflect the street grid above.

The ceremonial axis is straight out of Haussmann's Paris. The porticoes evoke the Rue de Rivoli. The arcaded facades vaguely conjure the stripped-down classicism of the E.U.R. quarter in Rome, a pinnacle of Fascist architecture. (There are no onion domes in the scheme, but Mr. Foster could never have lived that down with his colleagues.)

Mr. Foster is known as an architect who is more than willing to appease big corporate clients. His best buildings have been designed for people longing for something fresh. In this case his client is the Russian developer S.T.T. While he doubtless must placate Muscovites who want to obliterate bad memories, what he ends up with is a vague nostalgia, even if his project is unquestionably superior to the postmodernist nonsense that was rising all over Moscow in the 1990s.

But let's try to be optimistic. In some ways the plan can be seen as a positive turning point. Only a few years ago it seemed that Moscow was in the throes of a building boom that was so violent and corrupt that it appeared certain that swaths of precious history would be erased. Since then, some patrons have emerged to ensure that a handful of threatened Soviet landmarks are being restored.

Mr. Foster's megacomplex could be viewed as a step toward enlightenment, a tentative, somewhat mediocre design that at least tackles the challenge of serious planning in one of the world's most intriguing cities. What we're still waiting for is the architecture.

1,887 Posts
Firstly, Foster's complex was rejected
The view of the Cathedral of Christ the Savior, a gaudy fake that sums up the new Moscow
This is disgusting :eek:hno: , this building means so much to religious people in Russia, it symbolised a reborn of Orthodox Church in Russia as well as freedom for all other religions, hundreds of thousands of people donated money for its construction, all efforts were taken for it to look as much like original as possible, and now some dude cames and calls it a "gaudy fake", just because it was reconstructed and retarded swimming pool was not left in it's place.
I can say nothing but "f*ck off!"

1,887 Posts
In general, there is problems with preservation of historical buildings in Moscow, but these arcithects are always overreacting and unable to accept modern develpments. People from London will know what am i talking about.
Also they hate to the building that are designed to look old and historical is a mystery to me.

Btw, the above mentioned article:,,2066804,00.html
The architect's ego is reconstructed as Moscow's mayor asserts the lay view

London has a lot to learn from a city that has not sold out to money and vulgarity and remains recognisably Russian

Simon Jenkins
Friday April 27, 2007
The Guardian

The funeral of Boris Yeltsin was remarkable not just for when it occurred, defying all medical forecasts, but for where. The magnificent white towers and onion domes of the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour stand high on the banks of the Moscow river upstream of the Kremlin, originally built to commemorate Napoleon's retreat from Moscow. Yeltsin was the first Russian leader to be celebrated here since Tsar Alexander III in 1894, one reason being that the cathedral ceased to exist after being blown up by Stalin in 1933 and replaced by a swimming pool. Rebuilt by Yeltsin in 1997 it is, in the minds of Russians, the same cathedral. It would not be so in Britain, and thereby hangs a tale.

Yeltsin and now Vladimir Putin presided from their adjacent Kremlin palace over a remarkable transformation. The entry to Red Square is now guarded by the twin towers of the 16th century Resurrection Gate, with its shrine to the Iberian virgin, kissed by ancient visitors to the city. They were razed by Stalin to get his tanks and missiles into the square. Rebuilt they restore a sense of medieval enclosure and drama to the square's approach, as if the Holbein Gate had been re-erected across Whitehall. Next door is the strawberry-coloured Kazan Cathedral, replaced by Stalin with a public lavatory. It was rebuilt in 1993 to plans made secretly by the architect charged with its destruction.

Across Moscow dozens of churches and monasteries wiped out by Stalin have been rebuilt facsimile. Brutalist boxes and towers such as the Rossiya and Intourist hotels have been demolished, the latter replaced by a facsimile of an old tsarist palace. The mayor of Moscow for the last 15 years, Yuri Luzhkov, wants Moscow architecture of all periods to grace his city. The Stalinist/art deco Moskva Hotel next to the Kremlin is being rebuilt as a copy, at least outside. The neo-Gothic ministries, the decrepit facades of the old Chinese quarter next to Red Square and the once grim facade of the Lubyanka have been restored and carefully lit.

Lord Foster was curiously commissioned to rebuild the Rossiya site on the former grid of low-rise streets and courtyards, hardly his forte. When he presented his usual glass boxes 10 storeys high, Luzhkov retorted that "this is not Moscow" and told him to try again, something his lordship is not in the habit of hearing. Foster's new plan comprises a crisscross of streets and blocks, still bland and uniform, but doubtless this too will change. The evolution of this exciting site under the walls of the Kremlin will be a true test of whether Foster is an architect of cities, rather than of monuments.

This frenetic activity - Luzhkov has only until he retires next year to create his new Moscow - comes at a price. His wife is a developer, and ominously owner of Moscow's cement monopoly. The outskirts of Moscow are an architectural disaster area, while even restorations do not respect normal standards of conservation. Backhanders talk. Some 400 of the city's registered historic buildings have been destroyed since the fall of communism, its poverty a great conservationist.

The Luzhkov style of romantic historicism is derided by western critics. To the Times's Marcus Binney it wavers from "ersatz replica to bloated postmodernism". To the New York Times it is pastiche "theme park Russia". The guidebooks refer to kitsch and Disneyland. Yet they do not deride the reproduction Palladian mansions of the tsarist suburb of Arbatz, let alone the Gothic cathedrals of Europe, almost all of them in whole or part 19th century. Are the post-Reformation north and west fronts of Westminster Abbey "pastiches"?

Some of this criticism is valid. Luzhkov's activities are about to be damned in a devastating report by the valiant Moscow Architectural Preservation Society, cataloguing the loss not just of major monuments under his regime but of hundreds of courtyards, terraces and quaysides. The mayor is said to have staged nothing less than "an assault on the dense and delicate fabric" of Moscow, a far more interesting city architecturally than St Petersburg.

Less worthy of criticism is the Moscow that Luzhkov has struggled to create. He at least cares, and thank goodness he is a man in a hurry, given what may follow him. The pressure to mimic Ken Livingstone in London and seek a pastiche Manhattan to enrich the oligarchs must have been strong. The result would have been the "edifice egotism" that is now pepper-potting the London skyline, and turned post-reunification Berlin into a joyless architectural gallery.

Luzhkov's architecture council meetings, conducted in public, reflect a stylistic self-confidence not seen in European cities since Victorian Britain, a culling of the language of the past to enhance and glorify the present. This past is to Russians not the foreign country so feared by British planners. It is a vivid component of the present, from which war, ideology, religion, wealth and poverty cannot be eliminated. It seeks a Moscow that is recognisably Russian, tsarist, Stalinist as well as modern, in appearance as well as in spirit. Those who want modernity can find it aplenty in Moscow's rampant commercialism, in its garish neon billboards, its bombastic street furniture and its helpless traffic, created by too much parking. But I prefer even this to the obliteration of all that is old in Beijing to pander to the pretensions of the International Olympic Committee.

British critics may insult the outcome, though I sense that if the British people were asked, they would embrace Luzhkov's vision rather than Livingstone's. The campaign to rebuild the prime monument to the railway age, Euston Arch, in the new Euston has been ridiculed by the authorities. Any suggestion to recreate the facades of Nash's Regent Street or Adam's Portland Place would be laughed out of court. News International's Wapping printworks, replacing the finest set of 18th-century warehouses not just in Britain but in Europe, are shortly to be vacated. Luzhkov would rebuild the old London Docks - and highly profitable they would be. Tower Hamlets, or any London council, would not have the guts.

It is London, not Moscow, that has sold out architecturally to money and vulgarity. We can save the old and declare it "authentic", as we did Piccadilly Circus, St Pancras and Covent Garden. But when we destroy the old, as at Spitalfields or along the Thames, we do not insist on replacements evocative of their history or location. Modern architects recognise no obligation to the city and its history. They want only to make personal "statements". Like lawyers and doctors, they regard it as their professional right to dictate the framework in which they operate. Political interference is insufferable. If that means brain-dead glass boxes from some American computer programme, too bad.

For all his corruption and disregard for conservation, Luzhkov has asserted the dominance of a lay view in determining how a modern city might look, and done so with bravura, style and a sense of place. One day London will treat its banal glass boxes as their creators have treated the banal concrete slabs they are mostly replacing. I suspect that Luzhkov's Moscow will be regarded with greater affection and respect by its citizens.

In the bog.
7,923 Posts
'The result would have been the "edifice egotism" that is now pepper-potting the London skyline, and turned post-reunification Berlin into a joyless architectural gallery.' - WTF!!!?!?!?

Hello!!, did you not see what London was like thirty years ago! oh, sure,a REAL 'Paradise'

Cities exist because of their modern viability, thus they should represent modernity with respect to the old.
And all this talk of modern buildings just being edifices to their architects and owners, well perhaps that can be true in some cases, but what do you think motivated architecture of the past, they had EXACTLY the same motives.

'The Moscow Hotel, a major landmark from the Stalinist era, is gone. Buildings from the late 1920s, like Moisei Ginzburg's Narkomfin Housing and Konstantin Melnikov's workers' clubs, among the most influential works of the 20th century, are in ruins. More often than not, this history is being replaced with a theme-park version of pre-Revolutionary Russia that glosses over Moscow's real history.' - this is so true!

Conservation in Moscow seems to mean just knocking down the original and building a replica in its place!! This is only because each new building needs to have a percentage of it given to the city, making any new construction very profitable for the authorities! Far more so than restoration.
O.K, O.k i don't live there but I've been several times, sure there is the bad side of modernism, congestion, advertising, but that doesn't mean you should dismiss the good progressive aspects of it.
And you can tell pastiches from a mile of, their ersatz copies have been made with computers and machines and new materials as much as any 'modern building' and they just don't look the same as the original.

Fair enough, the Rossiya hotel is no great loss, let's be honest, and I'm sure there are similar cases, and great damage has been done to Moscow's architecture in the past century, but some things people just have to let go of, you can't get them back.

142,862 Posts
Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Sergey Gordeev: The man who may save Soviet architecture
By Nicolai Ouroussoff
Wednesday, October 10, 2007

NEW YORK: On most nights, the Russian Samovar, a dimly lighted restaurant at the edge of the theater district in Midtown Manhattan, is a gloomy blend of new Russian money and faded émigré glamour.

But recently its upstairs dining room was haunted by ghosts from the 1920s and '30s, the golden age of the Soviet avant-garde. The grandson of the Constructivist architect Moisei Ginzburg stood in a corner chatting with the daughter of Alexei Dushkin, who once designed subway stations for Stalin. A few steps away, the daughter of the Soviet planner Nikolai Miliutin sipped cranberry vodka with Barry Bergdoll, the Museum of Modern Art's top architecture curator.

They were all there for a symposium dinner related to "Lost Vanguard: Soviet Modernist Architecture, 1922-32," a show of recent photographs by Richard Pare at the Modern that conveys the fragile state of so many architectural monuments built in that heady era.

Yet the buzz in the room had less to do with Russia's architectural heritage than with a celebrity who had not yet walked through the door: Sergey Gordeev, a 34-year-old billionaire developer and Russian senator who helped finance the show at the Modern.

Two years ago, Gordeev bought a share of the Melnikov House (1927) in Moscow, setting off a panic in the city's small but tightly knit preservation community. With its cylindrical interlocking forms, a hypnotic blend of Modernist purity and Russian mysticism, the house is considered a landmark of Soviet architecture. Yet it stands on valuable land in the city center.

Preservationists feared that Gordeev, who made his money in the rough-and-tumble Russian real estate market, might bulldoze the house to make way for the kind of gaudy new development that has become emblematic of the new Russia.

Today, the Melnikov House not only survives but also seems destined to become a museum. And that is mostly, if not all, due to Gordeev, who has emerged as a white-knight protector of Soviet architecture.

Last year he also bought the Burevestnik Factory Workers Club, another revered building by Melnikov, in suburban Moscow. Gordeev founded the Russian Avant-Garde Foundation, whose mandate includes fostering innovative new architecture and publishing books on Russian architecture as well as protecting and restoring Soviet-era landmarks.

He recently bought the archives of the architects Ivan Leonidov and Alexei Shchusev, and he plans to make the material available to scholars. He has introduced legislation in the Russian parliament that would require the removal of advertising billboards from the city's architectural landmarks. (The bill was recently approved by the upper chamber and is now in the lower chamber.)

"He's polished up his image," said Pare, who is negotiating to sell an archive of about 10,000 negatives to Gordeev. "He's evolved from this shadowy figure to saint overnight."

With his fingers in so many pies, it can seem as though Gordeev's hands hold the fate of one of the greatest legacies of 20th-century Modernism. And while the preservationists who once feared him now fervently praise him, they privately admit to some disquiet.

Meanwhile, Gordeev seems to have set his sights on a wider playing field: New York's cultural institutions. He donated heavily to the Guggenheim Museum last year. And when the Modern was short of financing for the Vanguard show, it was Gordeev who wrote the check.

(That Thomas Krens, director of the Guggenheim Foundation, showed up at a Modern dinner only reinforced a perception that New York institutions are in thrall to Gordeev, or at least his easy way with donations.)

When Gordeev finally arrived at the Samovar, he slipped into the crowd as quietly as a cat. A slim, well-built man with windswept hair and piercing blue eyes, he was the picture of casual wealth in his tailored gray suit and open-collared shirt. Although 34, he looks younger, like a skateboarder who had to dress up for a dinner with the grown-ups.

Leaning against a wall near a Russian-style buffet, he chatted enthusiastically about the symposium, where he had spoken that day about his foundation's mission. He said that the centerpiece of the foundation's efforts would be the Melnikov House, which he plans to transform into a museum, "like Le Corbusier's Villa Savoye or Sir John Soane's house in London."

"I've already spent $4 million on the Melnikov House," he added. "I really think to do preservation in the proper way - government doesn't have the money for that. I like the situation in America, where preservation has the support of private institutions. This is the right model for Russia, where there are a lot of rich people."

Yet the next day, over a drink at a Midtown hotel, he seemed warier.

Asked how he had become interested in architecture, Gordeev was somewhat vague. After the borders with the West opened up in the early 1990s, he said, he spent two years drifting around Europe, where he said he fell in love with Gothic churches.

"It is when I first discovered architecture," he said. He did not elaborate further.

Gordeev added that he was slightly uncomfortable with the amount of attention he had drawn for his preservationist activity. "The real start in preservation in Moscow was organizations like MAPS" - the Moscow Architecture Preservation Society, founded in 2004 - "foreign preservationists who came to Moscow, and people like Dushkina, who sounded the alarm," he said. (He was referring to Dushkin's daughter Irina.) "They are volunteers, activists, who are not getting any money."

While he is quick to share credit with them, many of Gordeev's preservationist colleagues fret over whether he will stay the course or is simply using their cause to raise his international reputation.

His growing cultural profile serves him well in the Russian political establishment, given that President Vladimir Putin's Kremlin is intent on polishing its own image in the West.

Gordeev's critics note that the man he appointed to run his Russian Avant-Garde Foundation, Mikhail Vilkovskiy, is not an architectural historian but a former public relations agent for business tycoons including Mikhail Khodorkovsky, the Russian oil magnate who was jailed for fraud and tax evasion.

And the Burevestnik workers' club that Gordeev has promised to preserve is just across the street from a Soviet-era factory that his company plans to tear down to make way for a new business and convention center, stirring speculation that his cultural and business interests are somehow entwined. (Gordeev said that as a senator, he is no longer involved in his company's daily operations and was unaware of the deal.)

Gordeev is seeking to transform himself from brash capitalist to cultural philanthropist in little more than a decade. What is more, the pell-mell nature of development in Russia makes its architectural legacy particularly vulnerable. For this reason alone, his journey is worth watching.

"These are good changes happening in Russia," he said. "I am just a part of it. We all want this heritage to survive, to be accessible to everybody. We need to be part of the world to do this right."

89 Posts
too much attitude

This is disgusting ...
Why all the attitude (and vulgarity)? Whether or not to build replicas of lost architectural works is a topic for serious discussion on which reasonable people may disagree. I am for the most part opposed to the building of replicas, although I would make exceptions for such things as the rebuilding of much Europe after WWII, when many destroyed structures were replaced with copies of the originals.

I have heard that the practice is common in Russia, but it certainly exists elsewhere, as well. A well-known example in the USA is the so-called "Palace of Fine Arts" in San Francisco, which was built as a temporary structure for an exposition, then rebuilt in concrete when the original began to decay. I don't have much use for this kind of nostalgia.

I've seen the Moscow Hotel. The story of its unusual facade is interesting history, but the building had no intrinsic architectural merit, as far as I am concerned. I think reconstructing the facade is absurd, but its a question for Russians, not for me.

3,434 Posts
The view of the Cathedral of Christ the Savior, a gaudy fake that sums up the new Moscow, is the culmination of that history. Stalin blew up the original church in the 1930s to make way for the Palace of the Soviets, but it was never completed, and Khrushchev had one of the world's largest outdoor swimming pools built there. After the fall of the Soviet Union, the pool was torn up too, and the church was rebuilt as an ersatz version of the original, rising atop a multistory garage.
Little NYTimes reporter knows about the actual history of the cathedral. To the reporter its history begins with the demolition to pave the way for the Palace of the Soviets, while its significance goes far beoynd it. We owe to the ancestors fallen in 1812 War and to ancestors who enacted the original to have a cathedral in this place that serves the original purpose of memorial to 1812 War. I personally would have prefferred to see there not the replica but an improved and amended version of the cathedral, but given circumstances of 1990s a replica is good enough.

The view of the Cathedral of Christ the Savior, a gaudy fake that sums up the new Moscow

no, this gaudy fake hurts my eyes so much, give me back the swimming pool please!
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142,862 Posts
Discussion Starter · #12 ·
Soviet-style building rash killing old Moscow-group
22 July 2009

MOSCOW, July 22 (Reuters) - Moscow city officials are employing the brutal methods of their Soviet predecessors to develop a rash of buildings that are destroying the Russian capital's historic heritage, a pressure group said in its latest report published on Wednesday.

Moscow landmarks under threat include The Bolshoi Theatre, Mayakovskaya metro station and monuments of the avante-garde, a survey by the Moscow Architecture Preservation Society (MAPS) said.

MAPS, set up in 2004 following the demolition of two major Moscow landmarks -- the Moskva Hotel and Voyentorg department store -- said that due to public awareness none of the buildings listed in its 2007 report had been condemned to be demolished.

"But this turned out to be only a temporary reprieve for the city's heritage. Since the beginning of 2008 numerous other buildings have been destroyed outright or suffered major losses to their original fabric," said Edmund Harris, chief editor of the report.

"The scale of destruction is almost comparable to that of the 1930s-1960s, the difference being that today what is under attack is those few structures that were lucky enough to survive Stalin and Khrushchev's purges."

Demolishing old Moscow, Soviet dictator Josef Stalin would not hesitate to splurge state funds on giant and pompous high-rise buildings to accommodate ministries or house the Soviet elite.

Stalin's extravagance, intended to immortalise "the capital of workers and peasants", was followed by the dreary style of Nikita Khrushchev who built the cavernous, steel-and-iron Palace of Congresses amidst the centuries-old Byzantine environment of the Kremlin's onion-shaped church domes and crenellated walls.


"Today, there is no other capital city in peace-time Europe that is being subjected to such devastation for the sake of earning a fast megabuck," the report concluded.

Despite the hypocrisy and tough state control of communist rule, many buildings constructed under Stalin, Khrushchev and then during the "stagnation period" of Leonid Brezhnev are still kindly remembered by nostalgic Muscovites.

"The outcry caused by the demolition of the Hotel Moskva and the reconstruction of Children's World (department store) is a testament to the affection and esteem in which Stalin-period buildings are held by Muscovites," wrote Calder Loth of SAVE Europe's Heritage.

Art historian Anna Bronovitskaya, who is associate professor of the Moscow Architectural Institute, said that without buildings erected under Khrushchev and Brezhnev "Moscow would be all the poorer".

Facing a barrage of criticism from experts and ordinary Muscovites alike, officials say they knock down old buildings and erect new ones to improve safety and modernise the city. Moscow's powerful mayor Yuri Luzhkov, nicknamed "The Lord of the Rings" for pumping billions of dollars to build gigantic transport ring roads, has overseen the construction of office sky-scrapers overshadowing the city's elegant palaces, churches and old single-storey houses.

"An all-round lowering of standards, the triumph of vandalism and the obstruction of every last vacant space on the skyline is the legacy that the last decade has bequeathed to Moscow," art historian Nataliya Bronovitskaya said.

142,862 Posts
Discussion Starter · #13 ·
Medvedev fires Moscow mayor; in 18 years, Luzhkov rebuilt the capital as wife grew very rich
29 September 2010

MOSCOW (AP) - President Dmitry Medvedev fired Moscow's boisterous mayor on Tuesday, ousting the man who gave the capital a modern facelift but destroyed some of its most precious historic landmarks amid a construction boom that turned his wife into Russia's wealthiest woman.

Medvedev signed a decree relieving the 74-year-old Yuri Luzhkov of his duties due to a "loss of confidence" in him after Luzhkov openly defied the Kremlin and rejected a facesaving offer to resign after 18 years on the job.

Luzhkov's dismissal ended an increasingly hostile battle of wills, squashing a regional leader's mutiny unseen in a decade of tightening Kremlin controls. Medvedev and his predecessor and mentor, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, appeared to be sending a powerful signal that no regional leader was indispensable and no one should openly criticize Medvedev like Luzhkov had done.

The firing also clears the way for a redistribution of the capital's wealth, a sizable chunk of which has for years been controlled by Luzhkov's billionaire wife, construction mogul Yelena Baturina.

Some of Putin's top lieutenants were named by observers as possible successors to Luzhkov, and business groups close to Putin and Medvedev were expected to win more of Moscow's lucrative building contracts.

Some foreign businessmen were optimistic, saying that Luzhkov's departure could help eradicate some of the corruption and cronyism that poisoned the city's investment climate.

Andrew Sommers, president of American Chamber of Commerce in Moscow, told The Associated Press that Luzhkov's ouster should not affect foreign investment in Moscow -- and could even encourage more free competition.

"How contacts are rewarded could benefit from a more transparent system," he said.

Hawk Sunshine, head of investment banking at Moscow-based Metropol bank, also voiced hope that a broader circle of investors could gain access to construction contracts.

"Luzhkov has been in power for so long, he's institutionalized preferences," he said. "So any non-market-based relations could be reversed now."

Most of Moscow's roads have not seen significant improvement for the past 20 years although the number of cars has increased six-fold. Luzhkov has been criticized for the lack of new road construction and poor planning that made busy city streets even more congested.

"Infrastructure for the city needs to be fixed because the amount of the traffic here is diabolical," said Sunshine.

Tuesday's firing ended months of rumors that Luzhkov was on the way out.

"It's hard to imagine a situation in which (Luzhkov) and the president of Russia ... continue to work together when the president has lost confidence in the regional leader," Medvedev said in Shanghai, where he was on an official visit.

Luzhkov made no public comment Tuesday, but in a resignation letter to United Russia, the ruling party headed by Putin, he suggested there had been an orchestrated campaign to oust him.

"I have been fiercely attacked by state mass media, and the attacks were related to attempts to push Moscow's mayor off the political scene," Luzhkov said in the letter, which was released to the media.

Luzhkov said he decided to leave the party because it "did not provide any support, did not want to sort things out and stop the flow of lies and slander."

Putin said Tuesday that Luzhkov had done a lot for the capital but his defiance went too far.

"It's quite obvious that there was a strain in the Moscow mayor's relations with the president, but the mayor is subordinate to the president, not the other way round," Putin said in televised remarks. "(He) should have taken steps to normalize the situation."

Luzhkov had remained in power due to his ability to deliver the Moscow vote for United Russia, which he helped create. Firing him now gives the Kremlin time to appoint a successor who can get out the vote for the 2011 parliamentary election and the 2012 presidential ballot.

Luzhkov's deputy, Vladimir Resin, was named acting mayor pending the appointment of a permanent successor, but he was not thought to be a possible candidate.

Luzhkov leaves a considerable legacy.

The stocky former chemical engineering plant manager ran the city of 10 million with the aggressive vigor of a tough foreman. His efforts to exert absolute control went as far as announcing plans to seed snow clouds outside Moscow to stop them from dumping snow on the city.

Under Luzhkov's long tenure, Moscow underwent an astonishing makeover from a shabby and demoralized city into a swaggering and stylish metropolis. As the prices for Russia's oil and gas soared and foreign investment poured into the vastly underdeveloped country, Russia's capital sprouted gigantic construction projects -- malls, offices and soaring apartment towers.

Much of that work was done by Inteko, the construction company headed by Luzhkov's wife, who is believed to be Russia's only female dollar billionaire with an estimated fortune of $2.9 billion, according to Forbes magazine.

Suspicions swirled consistently that corruption by Luzhkov fed his wife's wealth.

"Moscow's business landscape is all about Inteko and its affiliates," Alexander Lebedev, a wealthy businessman who ran against Luzhkov in the 2003 mayoral election, the last before Putin made the position by appointment only, told the AP. "The procedures for construction approval have been designed to fit Baturina's companies exclusively."

Lebedev said Baturina had been involved in every construction contract over $100 million.

Inteko spokesman Gennady Terebkov rejected any allegations of corruption, saying in an e-mail that "courts have proved on several occasions that allegations like these are all lies."

Luzhkov's star began falling sharply in July when an ill-conceived repair project on the main highway to Moscow's Sheremetyevo international airport created backups that left drivers taking up to six hours to get there. Anger against the mayor then soared when he stayed on vacation in Austria in August even as Moscow suffered through weeks of heavy, suffocating smog from nearby forest and peat-bog fires.

But the final blow was an open spat with Medvedev over plans to build a highway through a forest just outside of Moscow that environmentalists wanted to protect. Medvedev in August ordered the project suspended, a decision that Luzhkov criticized in a newspaper article.

While many Muscovites have watched their city's feverish changes with pride, Luzhkov was despised by preservationists for bulldozing historic buildings in prime locations. In some cases, including the iconic Moskva Hotel, the buildings were demolished only to be replaced by clumsy replicas.

He also inflicted a tacky aura by promoting the gargantuan works of sculptor Zurab Tsereteli, including a 370-foot (94-meter) statue of Peter the Great on a man-made island in the Moscow River that ranks in some surveys as one of the world's ugliest structures.

Luzhkov appalled human rights activists by his frequent denunciation of gay rights activists -- at one point calling them "satanic" -- and vehemently blocking their attempts to rally. For this year's observance of the end of World War II in Europe, he wanted to allow billboards portraying Soviet dictator Josef Stalin, but the initiative met strong resistance from the Kremlin.

On the streets of Moscow, the mood was mixed Tuesday.

"Of course, he is a rich man, and his wife is even richer, and, of course, they did take something for themselves," businessman Alexei Gorlo said. "But despite all the talk about them stealing, for me personally, for my family living in Moscow, they have done much more. I live in an almost-European city."

Yet others were more critical.

"We've been waiting for this decision for a long time," said Olga Savelieva, an architecture preservationist. "He shouldn't have had such an attitude to the city, to the historical heritage, to Muscovites. He shouldn't have thought only about his own wife and the family pockets that need to be filled."


Associated Press writers Mansur Mirovalev, Nataliya Vasilyeva and Vladimir Isachenkov contributed to this article.

9,653 Posts
The Narkomfin Building looks like it was slated for demolition, seeing that it has fallen into disrepair since the early 80s or so. Several proposals have been made to convert the building into luxury flats or a hotel. There is a law that may hinder its conversion: Russian code on listed memorial buildings prohibits any major re-planning of internal walls and partitions.


266 Posts
The Narkomfin Building looks like it was slated for demolition, seeing that it has fallen into disrepair since the early 80s or so. Several proposals have been made to convert the building into luxury flats or a hotel. There is a law that may hinder its conversion: Russian code on listed memorial buildings prohibits any major re-planning of internal walls and partitions.

Please, destroy it! It will NOT be missed. :lol:

30 Posts
Please, destroy it! It will NOT be missed. :lol:
What one of the most important pieces of Social Housing and Modernism, a building that served the basis for Le Corbusier's Unite D'Habitation? The design and the facilities it included were brilliant and futuristic for its time and decay and simple change in architectural tastes have doomed it to this fate. A lot of people will miss it.

2,601 Posts
I love it. It blends in very well.
I agree, it is an incredibly beautiful structure and I applaud the city for its reconstruction.

What one of the most important pieces of Social Housing and Modernism, a building that served the basis for Le Corbusier's Unite D'Habitation? The design and the facilities it included were brilliant and futuristic for its time and decay and simple change in architectural tastes have doomed it to this fate. A lot of people will miss it.
I disagree. The structure is literally a long concrete rectangle that is even in its best condition, an eyesore. Perhaps it is beautiful to those who find ugliness appealing. In today's world, I assure you that buildings of this fashion will be in plentiful in supply.
Perhaps the richest can afford ugliness as beauty, but for the average person, aesthetic beauty is a necessity and this building does nothing to sooth the human soul.
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