Maly Theatre, legendary reading room and cast-iron tram stop get Moscow Restoration award

Maly Theatre, legendary reading room and cast-iron tram stop get Moscow Restoration award
Forty-six landmarks will receive the 2018 Moscow Restoration award.

The city has announced the results of the annual Moscow Restoration competition that identifies the best projects that preserve and popularise cultural-heritage landmarks. The competition involves architects, restorers, design agencies, restoration companies and others.

A total of 105 entries were submitted throughout 2018, with members of the jury selecting 46 winners who managed 23 cultural-heritage projects. discusses the most interesting projects on the day of the official awards ceremony.

Russian State Library reading room and cast-iron tram stop pavilion

Reading Room No. 3 in the Russian State Library (formerly the Lenin State Library), is popular in this country and all over the world. It was highlighted in the famous Soviet feature film Moscow Does Not Believe in Tears directed by Vladimir Menshov that received a 1981 Academy Award. One of the film’s protagonists, Lyudmila (Irina Muravyova), thinks the library is the best place to find a husband. “Just think of all those academicians, DSc-s and philosophers wandering around the library,” she said.

This reading room, the largest in Europe, has a floor-space of 1,208 square metres with ten-metre ceilings and is located inside the Russian State Library’s main building on Vozdvizhenka Street. It had been neglected since the early 1980s and had to be overhauled. During the five-year restoration project, specialists restored the facility’s original appearance, smoothed out and painted the walls, restored stucco moulding on the ceiling, installed new furniture, improved the wood gallery, the custom-made oak parquet and other interior design elements.

In 1914, Konstantin Paustovsky, a famous Russian writer whose books are also stored at the Russian State Library, worked as a tram conductor on a route between Butyrskaya Zastava Square and Petrovskaya Agricultural Academy, now Timiryazev Russian State Agrarian University/Moscow Agricultural Academy. One of the route’s stops, called Krasnostudenchesky Proyezd, features a cast-iron pavilion dating to the first quarter of the 20th century. This unique industrial-architecture landmark’s restoration project also received an award in the competition.

Inauthentic elements that were added later and that obscured the pavilion’s original design were removed. It was important to recreate column capitals. A surviving column resembling a sheaf with grain ears was removed and used as a pattern to make three others that replaced the missing ones that originally decorated the central gable.

Old English Court, Kekusheva Estate and steam locomotive maintenance facility

The Kekusheva Estate on Ostozhenka Street is considered an outstanding example of the classic Moscow Moderne architectural style. It was designed in the early 20th century by architect Lev Kekushev for his family. Kekushev’s wife, Anna Kekusheva, owned the mansion, hence the name.

Experts on Russian Soviet writer Mikhail Bulgakov and his works believe that Bulgakov imagined Margarita, from his famous novel The Master and Margarita, lived here. The large house also featured in an incident similar to the novel’s plot. After the revolution, a lion’s sculpture disappeared mysteriously from the building’s roof. A replica was installed 100 years later, and the original sculpture is still missing.

The sculpture was restored using only a photo from archive records. Specialists also restored the mansion’s original façades, worked painstakingly on every room including the basement, and they reinstated the building’s original layout.

The Old English Court, one of the city’s oldest buildings, is located in Zaryadye Park. Built in the late 16th century, it can be seen on Moscow’s first plan, compiled in 1597. It received historical landmark status in 1857, with Emperor Alexander II establishing the House of the Romanov Boyars Museum here. After the revolution, the Museum was converted into the Old Russian Lifestyle Museum.  In 1932, the Old English Court was transferred to the State History Museum’s branch. It recreates the unique atmosphere of the 16th and 17th centuries when Moscow’s Boyars ruled, featuring various household interiors, utility rooms, old furniture of that period, household items, clothing and kitchenware.

The Moscow Restoration 2018 competition jury included 18 leading authorities on preserving historical-cultural heritage, representatives of the professional community, scientists and winners of previous competitions

A restored steam locomotive maintenance facility at Podmoskovnaya Station, another competition winner, also houses a museum in the single-storey administrative building that resembles a log cabin with a tower. The surviving interior design elements and original layout were restored and newer items were removed.

The facility is located in the Northern Administrative Area, not far from Sokol metro station. In the early 20th century, prior to the completion of Vindavsky (Rizhsky) Railway Station, Podmoskovnaya station handled most freight and passenger trains shuttling between Moscow and Vindava, now Ventspils in Latvia, and on to Riga. Unfortunately, the railway station building did not survive. Apart from the administrative building that now houses a museum, the facility has a water tower, the station master’s house, several utility buildings and a roundhouse with a turnaround. This structure, which has also been restored, is a wonderful example of early 20th century industrial architecture.

Chief’s Building and Maly Theatre

The three-storey Chief’s Building on Komsomolsky Prospekt, part of the Khamovniki Barracks, was completed in the late 18th century to a design by architect Matvei Kazakov. It embodies the early Moscow Classicism style. As far as this building is concerned, this architectural style has some distinct features, including a white-stone portico, pilasters (wall posts) and door panels with stucco moulding and a white-stone cornice decorating the façade. The city later bought this residential building, which once housed a merchant’s family, and built barracks around in the early 19th century. The barracks accommodated the chief (commander) of a regiment and his officers. This explains its name, the Chief’s House.

It took about 12 months to restore the building, with specialists removing old paint from the façade, patching wall cracks, smoothing and coating surfaces with primers and sealants. Later, they painted the façades and restored the white-stone brickwork of the columns, the pedestal and the cornice. The building’s interiors were also restored.

The jury also selected the Maly Theatre on Teatralnaya Square, another building in the Classicism style. It played an important role in forming Russia’s cultural heritage and the city’s architectural ensemble. Redesigned by architect Osip Bove in 1824, the Merchant Vargin House that housed the Maly Theatre was not maintained very carefully.

The building’s original appearance was restored in 1949, and the first large restoration project didn’t begin until 2011. The theatre continued to be used for three years and then was shut down in 2014. Its auditorium was restored and the basement and lobby were expanded. Specialists also restored stairways, recreated the second and fourth floor

Golden Spike fountain and other VDNKh landmarks

Built in 1939, the Mechanisation Pavilion at the National Exhibition of Economic Achievements (VDNKh) featured farm machinery, machine-tools, aircraft and metallurgical equipment. At that time, the building lacked end walls and was only open in the summer. The exhibition hall was gradually expanded, and the pavilion was converted into a permanent facility. Rockets, satellites and other space equipment was displayed starting in 1967. Thus, the facility was renamed the Cosmos Pavilion.

The pavilion’s unique dome and other structural elements were restored; the glass roof and foundation were reinforced, and the bas-reliefs on the tower façades, the stucco moulding, sculptures, stained-glass windows, marble mosaic floors and white marble wall and door-portal details were also restored. Those in charge of restoring the Tractor Driver and Harvester Operator sculptures on the façade’s towers received a separate prize from the jury. Both sculptures now look just as imposing as they used to be, and their smalt facing was restored completely. In addition, the Cosmos Pavilion won the People’s Prize on the Active Citizens’ website. 

Built in 1954, the 16-metre Golden Spike fountain stopped operating in the late 1980s. For many years, the fountain was a mockery of its own name, with its gold paint either peeling or oxidising. This reinforced-concrete structure is faced with multi-hued gold-and-red smalt mosaic, and its grey-granite foundation features cornucopias covered with multi-coloured smalt.


While restoring the Agriculture (formerly Ukraine) Pavilion, specialists recreated the interiors and façades, roof, entrances, stained-glass windows, lamp, gilded spire and other elements. Similar to the Cosmos Pavilion award, the project to restore four sculptures of young women with laurel wreaths adorning the façade corners, as well as compositions located on both sides of the main entrance (Industrial Stakhanovites and Agricultural Stakhanovites) received a separate prize.