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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

The Capital's Skyline of the Future

Historian Lev Skepner stands above a scale model of an architect's vision of Moscow in ten years. On a bend of the river just west of Kutuzovsky Prospekt stand 125-story smoked glass skyscrapers, streamlined outdoor metro stations and multilevel indoor shopping malls. Footbridges span the river. Some urban planners say we will see all of this within 10 years, but Skepner is not so sure.

"A hundred and twenty-five stories is too big for Moscow", he says. "It might happen, but not in my lifetime".

The model, made of cardboard and plexiglass, is one of the attractions at the Moscow City Planning Museum, where Skepner works as the resident historian. From the detailed scale models - crafted by architects - of Kitai Gorod, the Kremlin and Novy Arbat, to the photos of Moscow neighborhoods at the turn of the century, the museum offers a compelling view of the evolution of the capital in this century, and a glimpse of what it might look like in the next one.

For Skepner, whose true love is history, every building has a tale to tell. Standing above the model of Kitai Gorod, he points out noteworthy structures and recounts anecdotes about Anglisky Dvor, a small 16th century brick house flanked by the Hotel Rossiya, and Moscow's first stock exchange. Skepner's favorite building is 18th century Pashkov House on Mokhovaya Ulitsa.

"Normally we just see it from the street", he says, pointing to the building with the tip of an umbrella. "But the most beautiful view is from the courtyard".

One wall in the museum is dedicated entirely to photos of Moscow's stone churches, many of which have been destroyed in the last 80 years. These and the reproductions of 17th and 18th century maps give a good view of the city that most people have never seen.

If you book in advance, you can go up to the third floor of the museum and see an intricate 12 by 12-meter model of the city's center, or everything within the Ring Road. The Building Council is protective of this replica because it is not so much a display as a drawing board for urban planners. Structures can be easily removed and replaced, so architects use it to test out new ideas.

Skepner has been at the museum since it opened in 1966. In 1986, it moved from an old building near Kievsky Vokzal to its present site in a modern structure behind the Peking Hotel. In spite of its spacious new location, the museum is having its share of problems. The budget for new models has dried up. Before, the City Building Council provided architects with the funds and supplies they needed to make the intricate replicas, but now they have to fend for themselves. The model of the future Moscow was a gift from the architect who designed it.

To make matters worse, someone stole St. Basil's from the Kremlin and Red Square model, and Skepner says that the number of visitors has declined a great deal in the last couple of years.

"Even though admission is only five rubles", he says, "it used to be free. I think people are more interested in survival, in bread".

The Moscow City Planning Museum is located at 6 Vtoraya Brestskaya Ulitsa. It is open weekdays from 10A. M. to 6: 30 P. M. You can find Lev Skepner, who gives tours in Russian for 500 rubles, in room 14. To view the larger model on the third floor, it costs an additional 500 rubles. Tel. 209-3442. Metro: Mayakovskaya.