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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

New Look for House of Artists Is in the Works

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A plan to completely reconstruct the colossal Central House of Artists is taking form, top city officials said.

City Hall is looking into designs that would turn the 10 Krymsky Val art complex "into the Russian equivalent of the French Pompidou Center in Paris," according to Masut Fatkulin, executive director of the Central House of Artists.

But reconstruction plans are still in their preliminary stages, and the city's top officials have yet to agree on an architectural concept that will satisfy all the requirements put forward, Fatkulin said.

"It will be wrong to say that the designs that have been presented so far satisfy all of us," he said. "But we have all agreed on one thing — that the present complex needs to be refurbished. The occupants need more space, more infrastructure and social amenities."

The vast complex, across the Garden Ring Road from Park Kultury, houses among other things a commercial art gallery, a theater and a part of the Tretyakov Gallery's collection of 20th-century art.

Tretyakov employees said they were aware of the pending reconstruction plans, but referred all questions on the renovation to Anatoly Platovsky, deputy director for the management of the Tretyakov Gallery's real estate properties. Platovsky, however, was not available for comment.

Designed in the early '60s in the era of Nikita Khrushchev, the complex was finally completed under Leonid Brezhnev. Its design embodied the Soviet concept of modernism to the extent that the complex has since become an eyesore to the aesthetic taste of post-communist Muscovites.

Last year, American architect Curtis Jones submitted a design for the future complex — which he called "Catherine the Great's Center" — that envisages the demolition of the present structure and erecting a multiuse high-rise in its place. The new building would house offices, restaurants, a 10-screen multiplex cinema, shopping outlets and residential apartments as well as provide space to the existing occupants.

Fatkulin said he knew of the existence of Jones' design but that he was not clear on its details.

Jones put the estimated cost of his project at about $4 billion. Despite the tremendous sum, a top city official,who spoke on condition of anonymity said the project was receiving serious consideration at the top of City Hall.

The idea to totally overhaul the complex was first floated in 1993, but concrete steps were taken only late last year, when the city architecture committee announced a special tender to choose the design for the new building.

The tender is a multistage process and, therefore, only a few designs have gone on to the next stage, where the final selection will be made, said Dmitry Silavchenko of the city architecture committee's press service.

The process has been unusual because the city administration is conducting the tender, but the complex belongs to the federal government, said Lada Akhimova, press secretary at the Central House of Artists.

However, Fatkulin said the ownership structure is complex. "Sixty percent of the complex belongs to the Tretyakov Gallery, a federal cultural organization, 40 percent belongs the TsDKh [or the Central House of Artists], an international organization, while the land and areas surrounding the complex belong to the city government," he said.

Legally, all educational institutions and cultural organizations, such as museums and galleries that belong to the federal government, have the right to use of the land surrounding their properties, according to Denis Gaba, managing director of Gaba Estates Realty.

Gaba added that problems concerning land ownership for federal properties usually arise only when federal institutions or organizations do not have the necessary legal documents for the properties.

The Property Ministry plans to compile a record of the federal properties in Moscow, as well as in other cities, so the ministry can regulate their usage and reduce corrupt practices associated with land transactions, Gaba said.