Misfits’ Guide to MOSCOW
Moscow is a big and mighty city made up of a few big roads and many little corners. The Moskva River winds its way across.
Moscow is not trying to look beautiful or even attractive to tourists. I saw no Я♥Москву t-shirts or St. Basil’s fridge magnets. It’s a place people go to to live and work and get on with what they have to do. It’s always a good thing for a city to be full of people with a good reason to be there. It’s why the on-foot experience of Moscow is so variegated and intimate.
Tretyakovskaya Gallery of 20th Century Russian Art
An unassuming building alongside the river and, if you go in August, a pleasant park full of summery crowds eating ice creams and splashing in fountains. There’s an amazing collection of 20th century art inside and an equally amazing sculpture garden outside.
The Novodevichy Cemetery
This is Moscow’s premier cemetery next to the Novodevichy Convent which is Moscow’s third most popular tourist site. If you’ve heard of them, they’re buried here – Chekov, Prokofiev, Bulgakov, Chekhov, Gogol … The tower was scaffolded in August, hence the Streetview.
MOGES Central Thermal Power Station
On 7 November 1923, avant-garde composer Arseny Asraamov conducted the second performance of his Symphony of Factory Sirens from its rooftop.
2019: Correction: On a map picture, the location of the MOGES power station is highlighted wrongly. Its original designation in a circle in a picture below is Dom na Naberezhnoy – a Stalinist compound for officials that was the dominant of late 1930s gloomiy glorious Moscow’s skyline. It was the largest ever compound for state officials and the affine elites. The block has many courtyards and it is rumored to harbor passages for surveillance agents inbetween its apartments. A rumored British theatre play revolved around an agent stuck therein and a boy from an apartment gradually befreinding and feeding him. It apparently concludes with everyone being arrested, but I can’t trace it back now to the Livejournal entries that described it. The MOGES station lies where a square is on the below map. It is close to Zaryadye park that did not exist at the time of writing the original. Near the “circle” on the south bank of an island was GES-2 power station, where the first Russian MHD generator was built in tested about 1962. It is now being refitted into an arts parlor. V.
Krasny Oktyabr (Red October) Chocolate Factory & Museum
The chocolate factory is next to the power station, at the fork of the river. You can’t miss it.
1928 RZSKT Commune Building
The RZSKT Commune building was the first application of the principles and apartments developed in The Types Study. The building was immediately home to many artists and architects including Ginzburg himself but the current plaque outside only commemorates Ivan Leonidov. Two additional storeys have been added in the manner of the original. Rather than being seen as “ruining the original intent of the architect”, I prefer to think this proves the continuing viability of its social intent. The earlier post, Architecture Misfit #17: Moisei Ginzburg contains some photographs of the apartments and their current interiors.
The large building to the south-east on the map is where the Palace of the Soviets was to have been built. The Cathedral of Christ the Saviour that was demolished to make way for the Palace of the Soviets has since been rebuilt.
Moisei Ginzburg’s 1926 apartments were introduced in The Constructivists. They’re still there, with the original rooftop converted into apartments.
Nearby is the only remaining pond of Patriarshiye Ponds (Patriarch’s Ponds) where the beginning of Mikhail Bulgakov’s The Master and Margarita is set. You couldn’t find a more pleasant spot to read it. The novel itself is wicked and no way seems like it was written between 1928 and 1940.
Central Tracking Substation T-3
Moscow Metro station platform halls are famous but couldn’t exist without substations, some of which were seen as significant buildings in their own right. This one’s by D.F. Friedmann, from 1935.
The building is extraordinary not only for its detail, but for the inventiveness of that detail. The window framing is oddly contemporary, the ornamental classicism stripped down to Art Deco. Columns were back in 1935 but acanthus leaves and entasis superfluous to requirements.
This building on Bolshaya Tulskaya is informally known as Atomic House as many of its original residents were employed in the nuclear industry. Legend has it the building is constructed from reactor-grade concrete and was fitted with 6mm glass. A beast of a building at first sight, it’s nine 16-storey buildings joined together with individual entrances at the rear. It’s a big brush making little strokes.
Ground level is retail, the next two floors commercial, and residential above. The nine entrances lead to elevator lobbies accessing corridors with single-aspect apartments along their length and larger, double-aspect apartments at their ends. Some apartments are advertised as short-term lets on booking.com. Rooms are a decent size. Kitchens have windows, as is the Russian way.
If you were to give Superstudio’s Megaton City a similar internal organisation, the problem of human habitation on this planet would be largely solved.
An old favourite. A landmark when it was built in 1922 as a communications tower, it’s still a landmark and still a communications tower currently supporting a cluster of cellular network antennas.
Krymsky Bridge was designed by engineer V. P. Konstantinov and architect A. V. Vlasov. It’s from 1938 and the only suspension bridge in Moscow. It’s slightly wasteful in terms of the amount of steel used to the square metreage of deck provided but this only goes to prove that even together, Konstantinov and Vlasov were not Shukov. The bridge nevertheless has a satisfying purposefulness about it, possibly due to it being the colour of metal – not a dull grey like the 1930 Sydney Harbour Bridge or orange like the 1933 Golden Gate Bridge.
Kremlin Petrol Station
Not to be confused with Midway Station, 14413 N Highway 81, Kremlin, Oklahoma, USA. This petrol station is only for the use of cars from The Kremlin and is rumored to have been designed by the great Moscow Metro architect Alexey Dushkin.
The Narkomfin Building
It’s currently in a bad way, as misfits’ has mentioned before and countless others seem to enjoy photodocumenting. Sure, the building is an important part of Constructivist history and it was an attempt to come up with an architectural solution for housing in the new post-Revolution society. Ironically, it’s buildings of this type that cities like London currently need right now – single- or double-occupancy 30 sq.m apartments with minimal kitchens. Street level dining rooms open to the public. Misfits has previously commented [c.f. Fun!tionalism] on how apartments with communal facilities have become a standard upmarket urban typology.
I’m not going to argue for Narkomfin’s restoration and preservation. Its social aspirations are still relevant, if not more so but if they’re not going to be heeded then it doesn’t really matter if it’s demolished and forgotten, or restored and neutered as a shrine to a right idea at the right time that turned out to be the wrong time.
In Moscow, the preservation and restoration of buildings of historical interest is, as in many other cities, the domain where conflicting interests play themselves out. In the UK, Brutalist buildings get demolished to make it difficult for people to remember that things such as government housing and social agendas once existed. The other way to destroy the memory of an ‘inconvenient’ social agenda is to preserve the building to death. If Narkomfin were fully restored it would definitely not be as the low-cost housing solution it was intended to be. For a building to be judged “of historical interest” is another way to kill it. Like a Coliseum without gladiators, the building remains but only to make us feel smug about having moved on. The objectification of history by controlled forgetting just as destructive as demolition.
Narkomfin is a building that was ahead of its time. It’s still waiting for us to make up our minds if the potential for that time to come has gone forever, or if we’re still waiting for that time to come.
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- Research. The Discover Moscow (architecture) website is good. http://um.mos.ru/en
There’s an app. APPLE ANDROID WINDOWS
- Sensible shoes.
- Learn the alphabet. Metro signage and guidance are in Russian only.
It’s not as difficult as you think. Here’s two to get you started.
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