Fish sculptures returned to VDNKh’s Biology pavilion after 50 years

Fish sculptures returned to VDNKh’s Biology pavilion after 50 years
Alongside the two 1.5 metre fish sculptures, lost back in the 1970s, the restorers have recreated the overhead decoration adorning the pavilion’s smaller entrance – a 2.5 metre sheaf, plus a brightly-coloured ceramic tile panel located next to the building’s main entrance.

The restoration of VDNKh’s Pavilion No. 4 “Biology” (now Kyrgyzstan) was completed with the installation of the last decorative element – two 1.5 metre fish sculptures. These sculptures adorned the pavilion from when it first opened, in 1954, until the 1970s when they were lost. After about 50 years, they have been recreated from modern composite materials with the help of archive photographs. To age the material, experts covered the sculptures with patina, and installed them on the semi-columns located next to the pavilion entrance.

“The large-scale renovation of VDNKh continues: today, about 40 historical buildings and structures are being renovated,” said Alexei Yemelyanov, Head of the Moscow Department of Cultural Heritage. “These include Pavilion No. 4 “Biology”, which was designed by architects K. Arman, K. Garvas and A. Volberg. This pavilion was recognised as a federal cultural heritage site. Once the renovation of the façade is complete, experts will start restoring the interior. In 2019, the pavilion will be open to visitors again.”

The Pavilion No.4 can be found on the first line of VDNK’s Main Alley, left of the People's Friendship fountain. The building features traditional Estonian motifs: its entrance is decorated with an original majolica mural and a sculptural portico, while the walls feature moulded décor and a series of agriculture-themed bas-reliefs. The windows of the pavilion are decorated with wrought iron bars and bronze elements.

“Within the framework of this project, experts fully restored the stucco mouldings decorating the columns and majolica bas-reliefs depicting workers, peasants and livestock,” Yemelyanov added. “They also recreated the 2.5-metre-tall hay sheaf sculpture that is now adorning the main façade’s smaller entrance, and recreated the lost ceramic tile panel decorating the main entrance. Moreover, workers reinforced the marble entrance columns, cleaned and sealed the foundation joints, restored the building's plinth, filled the cracks, and replaced the architectural roofing plus fixed the drain pipes and window sills.”

Old paint and cement grout were removed from the entire surface of the façade before the restorers began layering the Terrasite plaster, Yemelyanov noted.

VNDKh’s Pavilion No.4 used to be called The Estonian SSR Pavilion. Built in the post-war years to showcase the republic’s achievements, the pavilion used to exhibit items dedicated to Estonian industry, agriculture and culture, These included products manufactured by plants specialising in production of escalators, mineral wool, mercury arc rectifiers, semiconductors, oscillographs, road graders, trade equipment, silicate construction materials and reinforced concrete products, as well as the products of the Baltica sewing combine and the Uus Kalev chocolate factory. Here, visitors could also see furniture and musical instruments manufactured by the leading Estonian enterprises.

In 1964, due to VDNKh’s switching to the sectoral principle of showcasing the country’s achievements, the pavilion was reorganised to host the Biology exhibition. It had nine sections, including The Country’s Natural Biological Resources, Their Study, Protection and Development; General Microbiology; Cytology; General Biochemistry; Molecular Biology; Chemistry of Natural Biological Active Compounds; Genetics and Genetic Selection; Physiology and Plant Biochemistry; plus Human and Animal Physiology. In the early 1990s, the exhibition was closed.

The large-scale renovation of VDNKh began back in 2014. Since then, the city has restored 10 cultural heritage sites: in addition to the fountains, they include eight historical pavilions that have already reopened to visitors.

VDNKh’s Cosmos pavilion has recently won a Moscow Restoration award by popular vote. Over 18 percent of voters decided that this restoration work deserved the Active Citizen project’s special award. The Agriculture pavilion was also among the top seven restoration projects as chosen by Moscow voters.