Vysotsky, Richter and Akhmadulina performed here: Kurchatovsky Culture Centre now architectural landmark

Vysotsky, Richter and Akhmadulina performed here: Kurchatovsky Culture Centre now architectural landmark
The two-storey Soviet Classicism building was constructed in the late 1940s. It is a typical example of what a culture centre looked like at the time.

The culture centre of the Kurchatov Institute National Research Centre has been listed as a regional cultural heritage site.

The two-storey Soviet Classicism building was constructed in 1949 according to a standard design drawn up by Akademproyekt’s studio which built the facilities of the USSR Academy of Sciences such as research institutes, observatories, residential quarters, workshops and housing quarters for scientists. It was headed by the famous architect Alexei Shchusev. As of today, the building still belongs to the Kurchatov Institute, but is now called the Anatoly Alexandrov House of Scientists.

“This building is a typical example of a 1940s–1950s culture centre. It is noteworthy that the facades and interiors have survived in their original form. The main entrance is decorated with a classic four-column portico, with two staircases with banisters on each side. There is also a decorative banister on the side of the Culture Centre as well as columns and chandeliers. In the lobby and the auditorium there’s decorative stucco. The public garden around the building that opened in the middle of the last century almost looks the same as it always did,” said Head of the Moscow Cultural Heritage Department Alexei Yemelyanov.

The construction of the Kurchatov House began in 1946. The design approved by Alexei Shchusev included the reconstruction of the refectory of the National Experimental Medicine Institute located there. Two years before its territory was given to Laboratory 2, a nuclear weapons scientific centre (Kurchatov Institute of Nuclear Energy after 1960 and Kurchatov Institute National Research Centre after 1991).

The construction was completed in 1949 and opened a year later. Scientists and famous cultural figures spoke and performed from the centre’s stage in the 1960s and 1970s. Pianist Sviatoslav Richter, composer Alfred Schnittke, cellist Mstislav Rostropovich and opera singer Galina Vishnevskaya gave concerts there. Andrei Voznesensky, Bella Akhmadulina, Vladimir Vysotsky and Konstantin Simonov recited their poems there. Many actors, such as Innokenty Smoktunovsky, Mikhail Kozakov, Leonid Filatov and Oleg Yankovsky held meetings with the public at the centre.

In 1998, the Culture Centre was renamed the Kurchatov Culture Centre autonomous non-commercial organisation and in 2016, it was named after Anatoly Alexandrov who headed the institute for many years.

According to Alexei Yemelyanov, the Kurchatov Institute Culture Centre is protected by the state after it received the status of a regional cultural heritage site. It is prohibited to change how it looks and all repair and restoration work must be controlled and approved by the Moscow Cultural Heritage Department.

Designer of Kazansky Railway Station and Moskva Hotel

Alexei Shchusev (1873–1949) was a merited architect of the USSR and a member of the USSR Academy of Sciences. He graduated from the Higher Art School under the Imperial Academy of Arts. Before the 1917 revolution, he mostly painted iconostases, renovated and built churches, such as the Church of the Intercession of the Holy Virgin of the Martha and Mary Convent (34 Bolshaya Ordynka Street) in the Neo-Russian style. Shchusev also designed the “eastern gate” of Moscow, as Kazansky Railway Station is sometimes called, in the same style.

During the Soviet era Alexei Shchusev took part in developing the plans for Gorky Park. He also designed the Lenin Mausoleum on Red Square, the NKVD building (the Federal Security Service today) on Lubyanskaya Square (2 Bolshaya Lubyanka Street), the Moskva Hotel (2 Okhotny Ryad Street) and Bolshoi Moskvoretsky Bridge.

In 1946, Shchusev established the Research Architecture Museum that was named after him. He passed away in Moscow on 24 May 1949 and was put to rest in Novodevichye Cemetery.

Other protected sites

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.

This February the Generals’ Building on Smolenskaya Embankment has been recognised as an architectural landmark. The 12-storey monumental Stalinist Empire block of flats was erected in the 1950s and is a typical example of residential buildings of the time. It was initially intended for Soviet generals to live in, but artists and scientists also resided there.

The list of architectural landmarks was extended by adding the former revenue house of the lawyer Fyodor Plevako. The building erected in 1905 is located on Novinsky Boulevard. This is a rare example of northern modern architecture in Moscow, decorated with Maiolica panels and it was given to its subsequent owner by industrialist and philanthropist Savva Mamontov.