On Monday, municipal district council deputies Alexandra Parushina and Andrei Voronkov were beaten in Moscow’s Khamovniki District while trying to prevent the demolition of several buildings in the Pogodinskaya Quarter, a recognized constructivist landmark. Radio Svoboda got the news from Parushina herself. She was forced to seek medical attention after the assault: her leg had been injured.
Parushina said the demolition of the buildings in the Pogodinskaya Quarter had begun on Monday without warning. According to here, when the deputies arrived at the scene and demanded that the company carrying out the works show them permits for the demolitions, they were assaulted by security guards.
At the same time, the demolition continued “literally right over the heads” of the deputies, Parushina added.
The authorization for demolition of the Pogodinskaya Quarter, built in the 1920s in the constructivist style by architects V.I. Bibikov and Ya.E. Ostrovsky, and engineer A.N. Volkov, was issued in late 2015. Donstroi plans to build luxury housing on the site. In January, architectural preservationists from Archnadzor demanded the authorization be rescinded.
There has been a strange media buzz around the constructivist Pogodinskaya Quarter (Pogodinskaya Street 2/3, blgs. 1–4). It is obvious Moscow public opinion is being prepared for the quarter’s demolition.
Articles about a shelter for homeless people and asocial elements having suddenly arisen in Pogodinskaya have been published one after another in the media and blogosphere, and the articles have all followed the same pattern. According to their authors, there is only one means of solving the problem: a speedy demolition and a foundation pit in place of the constructivist buildings. For some reason there is no talk about how it would make more sense to fix up the buildings and at least provide for their normal conservation, just as there as is no talk about a “flophouse” somehow emerging on premises strictly guarded by the developer, premises that journalists could not even infiltrate. If a landmark is turned into a trash heap, it is not the landmark’s fault.
The widespread practice of conversion, successful examples of which exist in Moscow as well (in particular, the recent and current restoration projects of the constructivist complexes on Suvorovskaya Street, Matrosskaya Tishina, and Preobrazhensky Val) show that constructivist residential developments can and should be saved. Where there’s a will there’s a way.
In January 2016, despite the decision by the Moscow Municipal Commission on Urban Development in Conservation Areas (the so-called Demolition Commission), recognizing Pogodinskaya’s historical and architectural value and disallowing its demolition, the developer was suddenly issued authorization to prepare for the quarter’s demolition. Due to public outcry, a quick demolition did not come off. The Moscow Department of Cultural Heritage confirmed that the commission’s decision remained in force.
The issue of Pogodinskaya’s conservation status has not resolved yet. We hope the decision will take into account the opinion of the members of Department of Cultural Heritage’s Research and Methodology Council, and the negative verdict on the Taganskaya Automatic Telephone Exchange building will not be repeated, a verdict publicly contested by the presidium of this esteemed advisory body.
As long as the houses at Pogodinskaya 2/3 are not declared landmarks, they could be demolished in the near future, demolished despite the decision of the Commission on Urban Development in Conservation Areas, which can no longer reaffirm its verdict, as it was itself abolished by city authorities in early 2016, demolished due to the lack of venue for discussion in Moscow where the issue of historical architectural preservation could examined openly and with invited experts. In the legal vacuum formed in the wake of the Demolition Commission’s disbanding, destruction of Soviet avant-garde buildings, of which demolition of the Taganskaya Automatic Telephone Exchange was a flagrant instance, will proceed apace.
The Taganskaya Automatic Telephone Exchange was destroyed despite the protests of residents and experts. There was no dialogue among the authorities, the developer, and residents. This scenario must not be repeated in the case of Pogodinskaya. It is not possible to continue deciding the continue of whether to preserve or destroy historic buildings at the closed sessions of the Urban Planning and Land Commission. We need an open dialogue in which all stakeholders would be able to voice their arguments. The example of Saint Petersburg, which managed to resolve the issue of preserving the so-called Siege Substation, shows that such dialogue is possible as part of the Heritage Council.
Archnadzor calls on the Moscow authorities to execute the president’s instructions and establish a Moscow Mayoral Council for the Preservation of Cultural Heritage, thus ensuring an open dialogue and discussion of the most important urban development issues, including the problem of preserving Moscow constructivism, with the broad involvement of experts on historical preservation. A similar appeal was made by leading experts and architects, outraged by the demolition of the Taganskaya Automatic Telephone Exchange. We fully share their position.
Translated by the Russian Reader. Photographs by Maria Korobova and Natalya Melikova. Courtesy of Archnadzor. For more on this latest bit of bad news, see Ola Cichowlas, “Deconstructing Moscow’s Constructivist Legacy,” Moscow Times, June 9, 2016. You can also read my numerous posts on what I have termed “catastrophic urban development” in Russia’s major cities.