Friendship of the People: Overhauling VDNKh fountains

Friendship of the People: Overhauling VDNKh fountains
10 female sculptures of the Friendship of the People fountain already done up and gilded.

The repair work on VDNKh’s largest fountains, Friendship of the People and Stone Flower, is at full swing. Workers began the job last October and plan to complete the restoration of the sculptures, decorative parts and engineering systems by the spring, before the fountain season starts, Head of the Cultural Heritage Department Alexei Yemelyanov said during his visit to the studio where the gilded fountain sculptures were being done up.

“Since the very opening the Friendship of the People fountain, which of course is the main emblem of VDNKh, has not been disassembled for repairs: for more than 50 years it was functioning every spring for visitors to enjoy. Last autumn, after the season was over, the sculptures were carefully uprooted and brought here, to the studio. Most of them have already been overhauled. We will not change the tradition: the fountain will start working again this spring, only it will have been repaired,” Mr Yemelyanov said.

The renovators have already completed and gilded 10 out of the 16 female sculptures symbolising the republics that made up part of the Soviet Union in 1954. The gilding is being done with gold leaf. The granite bases have also been patched up.

In addition to restoring the sculptures, the experts will have to restore the granite veneer of the bowl and waterfall pools and the golden wheat sheaf on top of the fountain as well as recreate the missing copper figurines of the fish and dolphins that once upon a time decorated the pool.

“The main job of the comprehensive work being carried out at VDNKh is to preserve the unique architectural image of its monuments as carefully as possible and  to discover and restore what was forgotten or went missing,” Alexei Yemelyanov added.

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The engineering systems of the Friendship of the People fountain will also be overhauled: workers will install stainless steel equipment, repair metallic parts of the frame, the concrete bottom of the bowl, the damp course, the underground pumping station and the fountain illumination system. 

The comprehensive scientific restoration work of the Friendship of the People and Stone Flower fountains is being carried out for the first time. For 64 years only minor and emergency repairs were carried out

Both fountains on the Main Alley are federal cultural sites. They first started working on 1 August, 1954, on the same day the National Agricultural Exhibition opened. VDNKh took five years to construct. The fountains were designed by architect Konstantin Topuridze.

Large scale restoration

The uninterrupted renovation work of VDNKh, Russia’s largest exhibition complex, started in 2013. Since 2016, 11 cultural sites have been done up there: the archways over the northern and main entrances, Pavilion No 18 Belarus, No 34 Cosmos, No 58 Agriculture, No 62 Nature Protection, No 13 Healthcare, the VDNKh Cultural Centre (Pavilion No 84), 14 fountains along the Central Alley and the Golden Spike fountain. Many flowerbeds have also been replanted.

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Other historical sites have been overhauled and opened for visitors too, such as Pavilion No 27 Fitness and Sports, the marriage registration office in building 421 and the Books Pavilion in building 516. People can now also enjoy new projects: the Museum of Cinema in Pavilion No 36, the Russia is My History historical park, the Urban Farm and the Crafts Park. There is also a pavilion with an interactive model of Moscow and a summer cinema plus a lecture hall.

40 historical buildings at VDNKh are being worked on and the job is expected to be completed next year.