Volkhonka, one of Moscow's oldest streets that dates from 14th century, has long been the street of museum and galleries. It includes the Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts, where each building is a monument of architectural heritage. The opposite mansion houses the Ilya Glazunov Art Gallery, and the Christ the Saviour Cathedral with its own gallery and museum is just a little bit further down.
Art will soon literally take to the streets, with Volkhonka to become a part of a real museum quarter. The My Street programme will be used to implement an unprecedented museum project.
Bushes from Monet's paintings and a brass map
The Museum Quarter will extend from Kropotkinskaya Metro Station to Borovitskaya Square. The sidewalks will be widened and paved with granite with bronze and cast iron parts. Maly Znamensky Pereulok and Kolymazhny Pereulok will turn into granite-paved pavements (sidewalks) as well.
The new quarter will feature pine and ash trees whose roots will be protected by railings, and bushes. The plant selection will depend on the theme and style of the painting collection at the closest museum. Bushes that look similar to those depicted at paintings by Claude Monet and Paul Signac will be planted outside the 19th and 20th Century European and American Art Gallery, which exhibits worls by impressionist painters.
An information pavilion will also be located in the public garden located near 1930s' petrol station that was designed by architect Alexei Dushkin in the Art Deco style. A brass map of the Museum Quarter will be paved into the granite at the site.
Grass will be planted opposite the gallery. There are plans for two parking lots for tourist buses. The Museum Quarter will feature nine bicycle racks, a bike-share station, info columns, and modern energy-saving lamps. Street furniture, navigation and streetlamps will be harmonious with the paving pattern, and will have the same design.
Traffic lanes on Volkhonka Street will be cut to four or five. On the even side, the street will be adorned with sculptures, which will be on long-term lease from private collections and world museums so that they can be replaced every five to seven years. A parade square will be set up in front of Christ the Saviour Cathedral.
Rhizosphere of urban culture
The idea of a museum quarter on Volkhonka Street is an old one. It was Ivan Tsvetayev, founder and the first director of the Museum of Fine Arts, who proposed the idea in his day. Work started in late 2000s in the run-up to the centenary of the Pushkin Museum. The first concept was developed by prominent British architect Norman Foster, who is famous for his re-design of the Great Court of the British Museum. However, the project fell through.
2014 saw a new architectural competition, which was won by architect Yury Grigoryan and the Meganom Project bureau with the Rhizosphere project. Preservation of cultural heritage and the creation of a new public space were at the heart of the concept.
Rhizosphere is a biological term denoting a narrow region of soil around the roots, which has more microorganisms and which is the centre of the nutritional cycle. For project architects, it means a landscape design, a fertile layer that feeds urban culture and art.
"A rhizosphere is, figuratively speaking, a concept area where all these buildings, and the parks that surround them, all the landscape and the future museum quarter stand on. It is the quarter that will go from Kropotkinskaya Station to Borovitskaya Square," Marina Loshak, Director of the Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts, said.
Squares, boulevards and driveways in the Museum Quarter
The quarter will have strict planning. Its nine main squares paved with granite with cast iron and bronze details will be linked by passages, streets and boulevards. Volkhonka Street, renovated under the My Street programme, will be the quarter's main boulevard and its parade façade. The squares will feature sculptures and will provide venues for educational events.
A new centre for art storage, restoration and display will be built. A 12-metre high hall and several galleries will hold exhibitions. The auxiliary building will house storage and conservation facilities. The architects plan to use hinged decorations of various shapes that will look differently depending on light intensity and on the overall atmosphere of the surrounding area. The decorations will be made of ceramics, an aluminium alloy, concrete, and natural grey-coloured stone. The overall colour scheme of the quarter will be light silver and basalt grey against the dark-coloured granite paving. Two renovated historical buildings will form an addition to the ensemble. The new centre will be connected to the main building by an underground gallery. A large street exhibit will connect the space between the two buildings.
This will unify the buildings that were originally built at different times, while exhibition halls will become part of the city space. The elimination of boundaries separating streets from museum space is a step to integrate the entire area to make a truly unique museum district.
Three million visitors a year
The museum quarter is being built in two stages. The first will involve the renovation of the Old Masters Gallery, the 19th and 20th Century European and American Art Gallery, and the House of Text scientific and information centre, and the construction of the art depository, restoration and display centre which started in 2016. Plans for 2021-2023 include works inside the 19th and 20th Century European and American Art Gallery, the major repairs of the House of Drawings, and the renovation of the main building.
"When the project is completed by 2023, including the renovation of the main building, you will see an absolutely new public space in Moscow," Marina Loshak said. By this time, the museum will have nine buildings, each housing exhibition halls for permanent and temporary displays and lectures, storage facilities, shops, public areas and cafes. The floor space of the Pushkin Museum will more than double to 105,000 square metres.
The number of visitors to the Museum Quarter will surpass 3 million every year. The new quarter will be readily accessible from the nearby Kropotkinskaya Metro Station and the Volkhonka Station on the Kalininsko-Solntsevskaya Line that will soon open in the vicinity. That new station will feature copies of sculptures and paintings on display at the museum.
Museum Park in Lubyanka
Volkhonka Museum Quarter is not the only museum project to be implemented under the My Street programme. Novaya Square will also be remodelled under the programme among other city places on the list. The work is already underway. The construction of Museum Park, a new leisure area with a walking route from the Polytechnic Museum to Zaryadye Park, has begun.
The pedestrian area will be located at the museum's basement level. The street gallery will be situated four metres below street level to be accessed by a wide staircase from Lubyanskaya Square. The highlight of the Museum Park will be the Green Amphitheatre that will provide a venue for lectures and concerts.
Island, swimming pool and aquarium: the look of museum districts abroad
Berlin can boast a real Museum Island that was established on the River Spree between 1824-1930. The space that resembles a Roman forum features five museums including the Altes Museum (Old Museum), the Neues Museum (New Museum) and the Pergamon Museum. They are connected by a walkway. In addition to exhibitions, there are cafes and shops.
Vienna also has a museum district. Its ensemble is made of 18th to 19th century buildings with matching modern ones. The Museum of Modern Art Ludwig Foundation, Leopold Museum, the Vienna Secession and others hold works by Pablo Picasso, Andy Warhol and Gustav Klimt. The district features a youth theatre, a modern dance and performance centre, and the Zoom museum for children. The numerous inner courtyards have stores and cafes, and recreation areas.
The Amsterdam Museum Quarter includes the Amsterdam State Museum (Rijksmuseum), the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam, the Van Gogh Museum and the Royal Concertgebouw concert hall. A popular shopping street - Hooftstraat - pierces the district.
An art and science district in Valencia includes a pedestrian area with a swimming pool, greenscape, and sculptures. The Principe Felipe Science Museum, the Queen Sofia Palace of the Arts, a large aquarium and a cinema are located there.
Museum district is the term sometimes applied to London’s South Kensington, which is home to the Victoria and Albert Museum, the Natural History Museum, the Science Museum and the famous Royal Albert Hall.