Moscow's Demolished, Not Restored on Show

Moskva.kotoroi.netThe practice of facading, when most of an old building is gutted except for the facade, is common in Moscow.
The 18th-century mansion on a small lane near Chistiye Prudy metro station is inconspicuous, hidden away from view. The outside may not impress, but inside it has been meticulously restored with mint-green walls, ornate cornices and an elaborate grand staircase.

The house, renovated by the All-Russian Cultural Foundation, is a fitting background for the photo exhibition "The Demolished Cannot Be Restored: New Threats to Moscow's Cultural Heritage," which attempts to draw attention to buildings that are under the threat of demolition and to those that have already been lost to the city.

"One hall has [photos of] buildings that we couldn't save, while the other hall has buildings that still have a chance," said Adrian Krutchavsky, the head of Moskva.kotoroy.net, or Moscow That is No More, a preservation pressure group.

The 16th-century Novodevichy Monastery is one of the sites under threat, said organizers who discovered garages on its premises.

"We asked authorities about these garages, and they told us they were used for vehicles transporting construction materials to renovate the interior," said Yulia Nezentseva, the web editor for Moskva.kotoroy.net. "But then we watched, and we saw cars like jeeps and Mercedes make their way in, and it's unlikely that they belonged to the builders."


moskva.kotoroi.net
Garages built inside Novodevichy Monastery
Other buildings in the "Under Threat" section of the exhibition can be seen dotted around Moscow; many now have green netting draped over them, usually a sign of impending demolition.

There are also black-and-white photographs of some of Moscow's most famous panoramas that have been dramatically altered, usually for the worse, by new construction.

Red Square is shown with the UFO-like head of the Swissotel protruding on its right. Another photograph shows the Old Believers Church at Belorusskaya metro station, now dwarfed by the high-rise buildings being built behind it.

"This exhibition is a warning," said Konstantin Mikhailov, a preservationist and curator of the exhibition. "We're trying to draw attention to the many buildings that are under threat around Moscow. And unfortunately, every year the list gets longer and longer."

Iconic children's store Detsky Mir is shown in a separate room reserved for losses. Its interior is in the process of getting a complete overhaul and will lose many of its original elements. Many of the lost buildings were made of wood and were left to rot before they were demolished.

"They let buildings get into this shocking state, and then they declare them hazardous," said Mikhailov.

The exhibition is a way of drawing attention to the plight and raising awareness among the public and in the media.

"These days, any hope we have of saving buildings is the media," said Krutchavsky. "When there's a video camera filming the building, no one will knock it down, no one will arrest protesters. Once the camera is taken away, it's a different story."

The Moskva.kotoroy.net photo exhibit will run until Nov. 3, noon to 8 p.m. except Fri. and Sat., at the Loris-Melikova Mansion, 19 Milyutinsky Pereulok. M. Chistiye Prudy. www.moskva.kotoroy.net. 8 (926) 376 4602.