Preservation of the 20th Century Architecture and the World Heritage

Heritage at Risk
Moscow. September 2005
It is a well known fact that Russian Avant-garde and Constructivism of the 1920s-early 1930s are one of the most important contributions to the early years of the International Modern Movement in architecture. But the deadline for rescuing parts of the 20th Century potential World Heritage properties located in Russia is to be passed within the next 5 years.Since several decades the problem of collapsing of some icons from this period in Russia, such as Konstantin Melnikov`s workers clubs or some communal housing as Ivan Nikolaev`s communal student dormitory, all located in Moscow, is evident. Most of the structures will reach their 75th anniversary in these years with an absolute minimum of maintenance or even without any. The most famous example for this is Moisei Ginzburg`s “Narkomfin” apartment building from 1928, which had been included into the list of the 100 most endangered sites since 2002 by the World Monuments Fund.

Unfortunately nearly all of them are listed in the Russia`s state heritage register as monuments of only “local” or “regional” significance, which means in fact that they can be privatised, kept only with their external walls or be refurbished in the so called “euroremont” (european repair) – manner. This means a very cheap cover-up refurbishment with the loss of historical authenticity and as a result – the loss of the chance to include them into the World Heritage List.

For decades, Russian specialists and foreign architects have been pointing to this problem being aware of this unique treasure of the Russian Avant-garde of the 1920s, spreading out into the whole world and until today effecting contemporary vision of modern architecture. Unfortunately this architecture is not appreciated much inside Russia itself. The small community of professionals tried hard, but without any satisfying results, because the prophet is without honour in its own country.

During the last years some authentic historical witnesses have already been lost forever in Moscow such as the “Voentorg” Department store of the early 20th Century, the Hotel “Moscow” of the 30s, the burned down Manezh building from the early 19th Century next to the Kremlin. This happened due to increasing building activity and the city`s practice of knocking down historical structures in order to create space for new projects and increase underground parking areas in the centre of Moscow.

Judging the importance of Russian architectural Avant-garde and Constructivism within the international context, having in mind the historical existence of creative interrelations between the countries it is evident that this is not only Russia`s heritage, but at least a part of it belongs to the world community. Such important buildings as Le Corbusier`s “Centrosojus”, the first realised public building and Europe`s biggest administrative building at that time, as well as the “Narkomfin” house or Alvar Aalto`s Library in Vyborg are considered to be in the group of the most important witnesses of the 20th Century Modern Movement located in Russia. Global fame is also connected with the monuments of the so called Stalinist architecture of the mid 1930s-1950s including famous Moscow metro stations and high-rise structures. It is a proved fact that the 20th century World Heritage is absolutely underrepresented in this part of the world.

The Russian Academy of Architecture and Construction Sciences, the Moscow Committee for Architecture (Moskomarchitektura), the Shusev State Museum of Architecture and many other Russian national organisations with support of the ICOMOSInternational and DOCOMOMO-International are in the process of organizing an International Scientific Conference devoted to this problem as well as to contemporary preservation methods for the 20th Century architecture in general.

The conference is planned to take place in Moscow in the second half of September 2005.

We would like to get your active support in this. If you are interested in taking part and coming to Moscow in September, please send us your preliminary registration to the following e-mail address: (with copies for (Moscow) and (Berlin).

Yours sincerely,

Professor Alexander Kudryavtsev,

President of the Russian Academy of Architecture and Construction Sciencies,

President of the Moscow Architectural Instutute

107031 Moscow
Rozhdestvenka street, n. 11
Moscow Architectural Institute
Fax: 7 095 921 12 40

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