Arched towers, bay windows and seashells: Residential building on Smolenskaya Embankment added to the list of cultural heritage sites

Arched towers, bay windows and seashells: Residential building on Smolenskaya Embankment added to the list of cultural heritage sites
This monumental block of flats is a true example of what was being built in the 1950s. Initially intended for Soviet Army generals, it housed not only military commanders but also cultural figures and scientists too.

The Generals’ Building on Smolenskaya Embankment has been added to the list of cultural heritage sites of regional importance. The 12-storey monumental Stalinist Empire block of flats was erected in the 1950s.The plans for the building were drawn up  by architects Boris Barkhin, Nikolai Gaigarov and Moisei Lerman and was initially intended for Soviet generals to reside in. Later at various other times, Aviation Colonel-General Sergei Ushakov, General Ivan Fedyuninsky, Artillery Marshal Nikolai Yakovlev and his son, prominent historian and Americanist Nikolai Yakovlev, actor Andrei Popov and ballerina Yekaterina Maksimova lived there. To this day it’s still a residential building.

“The Generals’ Building was designed in 1943 but its construction was postponed until the 1950s due to the Great Patriotic War. Together with number 2A next door, the Generals’ Building was intended to stand out from other places on Smolenskaya Embankment. This is a typical example of mid-20th century Stalinist blocks of flats. It still looks the same as it once did all those years ago,” commented Head of the Moscow Department of Cultural Heritage Alexei Yemelyanov.

The building’s main façade looking onto Smolenskaya Embankment is asymmetrical. Its northern side is decorated with a small arched tower. The central part has bay windows adorned with moulded decorations while a classical cornice crowns the top of the façade. Above the cornice there are decorative attics some of which resemble seashells in shape. The grand windows on the ground floor deserve a special mention as they are graced with aprons depicting bouquets of flowers with ribbons.

The outside on the courtyard side has a more modest look. It is lined with wide cornices and the original carved balcony railings are still in place. The entrance halls also have their original décor and interior layout, with floral decorated arches and rosette mouldings on the ceilings and cornices. The staircases have winding metal banisters also with floral designs. The floor is covered with granite.

Alexei Yemelyanov added that now that the residential building on Smolenskaya Embankment has been granted the status of a cultural heritage site of regional importance, it is under government protection. The original look of the building must not be tampered with and any restoration work must be approved by the Department of Cultural Heritage who will then strictly supervise the job.

Boris Barkhin (1913–1999) was a Soviet architect and professor, Merited Architect of the RSFSR, laureate of the RSFSR National Prize in Architecture (1968), honorary member of the Russian Academy of Architecture and Construction, doctor of architecture, who until 1943 was involved in the design of military facilities at the Voyenproyekt Institute. During the Great Patriotic War, he designed camouflage security for military and strategic facilities. After the war, he was one of the architects who designed the general layout for the restoration of central Sevastopol.

Moisei Lerman (1905–1993) was a Soviet architect who also worked at the Voyenproyekt Institute. Together with Boris Barkhin and Nikolai Gaigarov, he designed the ensemble of residential buildings on Smolenskaya Embankment.

Nikolai Gaigarov (1909–1996) was a Soviet and Russian architect. The buildings he designed in Moscow include the Central Museum of the USSR Armed Forces (now the Central Museum of the Russian Federation Armed Forces) at 2  Sovetskoi Armii Street, building 1, Molodyozhnaya Hotel at 27  Dmitrovskoye Motorway, building 1, and the CSKA swimming pool at 39 Leningradsky Prospekt, building 9.  

The maintenance work and restoration of architectural landmarks is an ongoing process in Moscow. The list of cultural heritage sites is constantly becoming longer. Over a period of the past seven years alone, around 700 monuments have been listed. They include more than 370 newly discovered cultural heritage sites and around 330 cultural heritage sites of federal and regional importance.

Another building recognised as an architectural landmark this year is an Art Nouveau building on Vyatskaya Street, one of the few historical buildings in the street that have been preserved until today. It is the former estate of factory owner and merchant Gustav Keller. The Art Nouveau mosaic-decorated hall in the former residential building that once belonged to Count Orlov-Davydov has been listed as an architectural landmark as well. The room has unique 1907 décor. Dutch-born French architect Edouard Niermans, who was also an interior decorator, created floral mosaics for the ceiling in the Keler chocolate shop that was located in a Nikolskaya Street building in the early 20th century. The mosaics are made of smalt, pieces of irregularly-shaped opaque coloured glass and the seal of French glass artist Pizzagalli, who helped with the job, is still visible on one of the panels.

Also in 2018, the list of architectural landmarks was extended with the residential building of the Obrabstroi working association. The residential building that used to belong to Moscow merchant Alexei Durilin was also recognised as an architectural landmark. The structure was designed in the Russian Gothic (or pseudo-gothic) style that combines elements of authentic European Gothic, Byzantine architecture and the Moscow (Naryshkin) Baroque style.