Russian constructivism: Renovation of Yagoda’s house in Milyutinsky Pereulok

Russian constructivism: Renovation of Yagoda’s house in Milyutinsky Pereulok
Senior NKVD officers, including NKVD chief Genrikh Yagoda, lived in that house until the 1960s.

The Department of Cultural Heritage has issued a permit for the renovation of a house built for the senior officers of the People’s Commissariat for Internal Affairs (NKVD). The three-floor building at 9/1 Milyutinsky Pereulok is also known as Yagoda’s House, because the infamous NKVD chief, Genrikh Yagoda (1891-1938) once lived there.

The house was built in 1927-1928 on orders from the Moscow City Soviet near Lubyanka Square. In had nine comfortable five- and four-room flats with large halls, dining rooms and bathrooms for the officers and small rooms for their guards, drivers and servants.

Yagoda’s colleagues recall that he often invited them to sumptuous dinners there. Other residents of the building were prominent revolutionaries and Soviet officials such as Artur Artuzov, Terenty Deribas and Meer Trilisser. The building currently houses offices.

Although designed as an apartment building, it looked more like a mansion. It was built in the style of Russian constructivism and hence had a laconic façade with very few decorative elements. The building’s symmetric structure is highlighted by avant-corps and vertically extended window frames. The main entrance is accentuated by circular columns on both sides of the wide staircase and a round window under the entrance canopy above it. An arched gate in the northern part of the building and semi-circular balconies on the façade, which are typical of art nouveau, give the building a slightly bourgeois look.

“The building in Milyutinsky Pereulok is one of the best designs by famous Soviet architect Arkady Langman. It has been declared a regional cultural landmark, and hence its renovation will proceed in accordance with a design approved by the Cultural Heritage Department and the work will be monitored by experts. The project is to be completed by September 2021,” said Alexei Yemelyanov, Head of Moscow’s Cultural Heritage Department.

He added that the experts would recreate the original design and colour of the façade, which was painted yellow ochre nearly 100 years ago. The plastic windows will be replaced with wooden frames, and metal canopies and screens over them will be dismantled. The restorers will also recreate the original look of the main entrance by redoing it in granite.

Arkady Langman (1886-1968) was a Russian/Soviet architect who designed over 50 buildings throughout the country, 21 of them in Moscow. The most famous of them are the Gostorg Building (1925), Dynamo Stadium (1927-1928) and the building of the Labour and Defence Council (1932-1935), where the State Duma currently sits.

Preservation of architectural landmarks

The preservation and renovation of architectural monuments is a major responsibility of Moscow’s Department of Cultural Heritage. Many cultural landmarks have been given a new lease of life and modernised without changing their historical look. Since 2011, the authorities have renovated over 1,400 cultural landmarks, including 203 in 2019.

The city has recently approved the renovation of the storied House of Journalists on Nikitsky Boulevard, where Vladimir Mayakovsky, Sergei Yesenin, Demyan Bedny and Alexander Blok recited their poems at the beginning of the 20th century. It was from that building that Moscow journalists left for the battlefront in 1941.

Another renovation project has begun on the Rodina cinema, a unique example of post-constructivism in eastern Moscow. Plans also include the renovation of the mansion of merchants Markovs on Karetny Ryad Street, where famous theatre director Konstantin Stanislavsky lived in 1903-1920.