Curved colonnade designed by Shchyuko and Spasov: how the renovated entrance to Gorky Park looks now

Curved colonnade designed by Shchyuko and Spasov: how the renovated entrance to Gorky Park looks now
The curved colonnades are pavilions located on both sides of the main Gorky Park entrance gate. Until 2011, they served as ticket offices. The grand entrance gate was renovated in 2015, which means that the city has now renovated all of the entrance gate structures.

The city has finished restoring the curved colonnades in Gorky Park – the two curved wings at the park’s main entrance. Since 1950, these curved colonnades served as ticket office pavilions. In the course of the restoration, which lasted for two years, the facades and the interior of these curved pavillions were restored. Six of the 42 ticket office windows remain open; they are now identified by “Ticket Office” (“Kassa”) signs.

“This year, Gorky Park turns 90,” said park director Marina Lyulchyuk. “Ahead of the anniversary, we restored the original look of a large number of the historical buildings. Experts recreated the historical look of the curved pavilions located on both sides of the park’s main entrance, both inside and outside. Since the original designs of these buildings’ interiors had been lost almost completely, the restoration was based on a design developed by architects Yuri Shchyuko and Assen Spasov. The architects had to adapt these rooms for modern use. Very soon, park visitors will be able to see the renovated rooms for themselves. Gorky Park is living history; we aim at not only restoring its architectural monuments, but also at breathing new life into them.”

The main entrance ensemble of Gorky Park, which includes the main gate, the two curved colonnades and a cast iron fence with decorative elements, was built in 1955 based on designs by architects Yuri Shchyuko and Assen Spasov. Before that the main entrance was made from wood. The main entrance ensemble was built in the Stalinist Empire style.  

From the Krymsky Val Street side, the façades and columns of the pavilions are faced with natural white limestone decorated with a frieze – a rail with stucco decorations in the form of flower garlands or flat medallions; while the roof parapet is decorated with elements in the form of pine cones. From the side of the park, the walls of the buildings are covered with plaster imitating natural stone.

Initially, the curved colonnades were used to meet the park employees’ needs. They held management offices, a photo laboratory, a workshop for making posters, bills and props for park events, as well as 42 ticket offices, with 21 windows in each pavilion. Until 2011, tickets were required to enter the park. In the 1990s, the ticket offices remained functional, but most of the space in the pavilions was taken up by cafes and shops.  

Gorky Park’s main entrance ensemble was recognised as a cultural heritage site in 2009. The restoration of the curved colonnades was the first restoration work carried out on these buildings. The experts were to restore the historical look of the pavilions plus recreate the original interior design and adapt the rooms for modern use. The restoration was carried out under a project coordinated with Moscow’s Department of Cultural Heritage.

“Before beginning the restoration, the experts carried out extensive research,” said Alexei Yemelyanov, head of the Department of Cultural Heritage. “They studied archive documents and photographs of the buildings’ facades and interiors. Experts restored the ticket pavilions’ stucco decorations, entrance doors, metal chandeliers and wall lamps, window frames and the central hall parquet floor with the same materials used originally.”

During the restoration, workers revealed the supporting framework of the coffered ceilings, or ceilings decorated with sunken panels. The architects believe that this decorative element was part of the original design (which is supported by the archived plans for the building). For some reason, however, the construction of the ceiling was never completed, and the framework had been covered over. This is why the restoration experts decided to follow through with the designs of Yuri Shchuko and Assen Spasov, and build the coffered ceilings with lanterns located in the niches.  

“Each pavilion used to have a total of 21 ticket office windows,” Yemelyanov added. “Now that the entrance to the park is free and there is no need for ticket offices, we have decided to seal most of the windows while leaving the niches to avoid disrupting the architectural design of the buildings. However, for the sake of keeping the memory of the ticket offices that used to be here, we left six operating ticket offices with signs “Ticket Office” (“Kassa”) in the left pavilion.”

On ticket office windows, niches and over the entrances, the city installed decorative steel bars based on the original designs.

The restorers reinforced the pavilions’ foundations, scraped the dirt and dust off the facades, repaired the cracks, restored lost decorative elements, covered the walls with plaster and painted them over. Then they covered the walls with a special solution that will prevent them from decaying.

Workers dismantled the decorative elements of the pine cones on the roof parapet, as they were starting to deteriorate. They have been recreated according to the original designs. The oak doors and window frames have also been restored. Workers also upgraded the buildings’ utility systems: in the course of three years, they have modernised the drainage, hot and cold water supply and ventilation systems.

Inside the pavilions, the experts fully restored the original layout of the buildings. Using the remaining designs, they recreated the interior of the ticket office pavilions – the stucco cornices and chandelier sockets, plus the bronze chandeliers themselves. In the main halls of the pavilions, workers recreated the mosaic parquet made from oak panels of two different colours. In the rest of the halls, workers laid the terrazzo – the seamless tiled flooring made from cement and natural stone chips.

Gorky Park’s main entrance gate was closed for restoration from the winter of 2014 to the summer of 2015. During this time, workers restored the building’s historical look, reinforced the structures and updated the utility systems. After the restoration, an observation deck opened on the roof of the gate. Visitors can use elevators to access this observation deck. The inside now houses a museum dedicated to the history of this legendary park. In 2016, the city started restoring the park’s ticket office pavilions.

Gorky Park was established in 1928, with avant-garde artist Konstantin Melnikov designing the grounds between the main entrance and Neskuchny Garden. In 1932, architects Alexander Vlasov and Alexei Shchusev launched the project on laying out the park. After the Great Patriotic War, large improvement projects were carried out in the park. In 1955, the construction of Gorky Park’s main entrance ensemble was completed. Architects Yuri Shchyuko (whose designs were used for the construction of VDNKh’s Central Pavilion) and Assen Spasov were to create a triumphal gate, a symbol of the USSR’s victory in the Great Patriotic War. The two architects were following the examples of similar designs found in Europe, including the Brandenburg Gate (1788-1791) in Berlin.

More than 1,000 architectural and cultural landmarks have been restored in Moscow over the past seven years. These include Levinson’s Printing House, the Communal House designed by architect Ivan Nikolayev, monuments to Alexander Pushkin and Maxim Gorky and Kiyevsky Railway Station. The facades of another example of Constructivist architecture, the Locomotive House, or “house with smokestack,” on Novaya Basmannaya Street were restored this year. Its nine-storey corner tower, which was constructed in the 1930s as an extension of an 18th century building, really does resemble a locomotive chimney. Complex restoration of another well-known building, where outstanding Soviet sculptor Vera Mukhina lived and worked, has also been completed. The façade combines the classic architecture and elements of Constructivism. Alexander Shilov’s Art Gallery, too, has undergone a facade renovation: the brick mansion built in 1829 is an interesting example of Moscow eclecticism.