Worker, Collective Farm Woman, bas-reliefs and Kokoshnik headgear: Overhauling Tsentrosoyuz Pavilion at VDNKh

Worker, Collective Farm Woman, bas-reliefs and Kokoshnik headgear: Overhauling Tsentrosoyuz Pavilion at VDNKh
Built in the 1950s, the pavilion will return back to the way it looked once upon a time. Restorers will recreate the mouldings, including a cartouche, flower garlands and rosettes, as well as bas-reliefs depicting workers and farm women, which were once used to symbolise trade ties between the city and the countryside.

There are plans to restore Pavilion No 61 Tsentrosoyuz at VDNKh. Designed in 1954 by architects Rudolf Kliks and Boris Vilensky, it is located on Lipovaya (Linden) Alley to the right of the Stone Flower Fountain.

The pavilion’s exhibition was meant to reflect the role of consumer cooperatives in the Soviet economy and efforts to establish and expand commodity trade between the city and the countryside. From 1959 to 1963, the pavilion was called Atomic Energy for Peaceful Purposes and later renamed Mechanisation of Soviet Agriculture. From 1964 to1992, it was called Consumer Goods Industry. The building now accommodates the exhibition’s administrative offices.

Built in the Stalin Empire style, the pavilion also has various elements of ancient Russian architecture. A tent-shaped tower on top of the building has numerous architectural features resembling Kokoshnik headgear that were highly popular with Russian women in olden days. A gilded spire with a hammer and sickle on top decorates the tower and its base is surrounded by a metal wreath consisting of a sheaf of grain ears with stars and ribbons.

The main entrance is decorated with transparent stained-glass windows, rimmed with an open-work metal décor with elements of ancient Russian architecture and also two attached columns with carved and moulded ornaments.

Two sculptures, including the collective farm woman with a sheaf and the worker with a spanner, tower above on the massive protruding pylons rimming the main entrance. The collective farm woman is standing to the right of the large wheat sheaf, holding a few ears of grain in her left hand. The worker with a spanner on his right shoulder is leaning on an anvil behind him. A cogwheel can be seen near the anvil’s base. These sculptures were typical for the Stalin Empire style.

“In the 1950s, the outside of the pavilion was decorated much more lavishly. In the 1960s, the Stalin Empire style was replaced with Modernism, and the authorities started removing the so-called excessive architectural features from local buildings. Garlands, a cartouche and bas-reliefs disappeared from the façades of Pavilion No 61. The walls and all surviving decorative parts were repainted using light hues. In the 1970s, a dark-glass arch was added to the courtyard façade. Restorers will now have to rebuild the pavilion in its entire splendour, and people will soon be able to see the original facility as it was conceived by the architects,” Head of the City Department of Cultural Heritage Alexei Yemelyanov proudly noted.  

In the past, a decorative cartouche resembling a rolled paper scroll and bearing the letters Ц (TS) and С (S), the Tsentrosoyuz emblem was located above the main entrance. Two bas-reliefs with the figures of collective farm women and workers surrounded by ears of wheat, milk urns, fruit and vegetables decorated the central outside walls. The sculptured images continued to narrate the subject of trade ties between the city and the countryside.

The façades were decorated with moulded fruit-and-vegetable garlands, as well as flower garlands and rosettes. Two fountains resembling open-work ceramic balls with fruit-and-vegetable images adjoined the building’s corners.

The original pavilion featured cream-coloured walls. The building was famous for its terracotta moulding, including Kokoshnik elements, and fountains. It also had white sculptures and a white bas-relief.   

The restoration project was coordinated by specialists from the Moscow Department of Cultural Heritage because the pavilion is a federal level cultural landmark. Moreover, they will supervise the job. In an effort to create the 1954 pavilion’s historical image, restorers meticulously studied archive records, blueprints and photos.

According to Mr Yemelyanov, specialists will first have to dismantle the glass extension, restoring the building’s initial layout. They will later reinforce its foundations and brickwork, patching up cracks in the walls, replacing the roof and the water drainage system. Restorers will recreate missing moulded elements and cement together bas-reliefs at workshops.

The main façade will be covered with coloured plaster, a mixture of cement, hydrated lime, quartz sand and decorative fillings with special tinted pigments. This plasterwork makes it possible to create a heterogeneous imitation natural-stone rough relief on the façade’s surface. The rundown concrete base of the sculptures will be replaced with a new one, and the sculptures will also be overhauled.

The spire, the hammer-and-sickle emblem and metal decorations of the stained-glass windows will be re-gilded. The surviving bowl of the ball-shaped fountain will be restored, and the missing one will be built using the surviving sample. At the end of the project, the façades will be painted in their original colours. The restoration work will begin this year.  

The city started actively restoring VDNKh in 2014, and 11 cultural landmarks have been done up since then. Apart from fountains, this list includes eight historical pavilions that are already receiving visitors. Forty historical buildings and structures are being restored, including the Friendship Fountain, which is to be overhauled by spring when all local fountains will start spouting water.

The exhibition is expected to be completely overhauled by 2020.