2014 was the year of fighting for the Shukhov Tower, Narkomfin Building, and Melnikov House – heritage at risk, with still uncertain futures.
After a tumultuous spring, by summer it appeared that it was agreed that the Shukhov Tower shall remain in place to be restored without dismantling. By winter of 2014, talk of lack of funds and the same ideas of dismantling and relocation again surfaced.
Various construction works began in Narkomfin and the Department of Cultural Heritage made an announcement that they had stopped these illegal renovation works, which as it turned out the works in fact continued. The man behind the renovation works, Alexander Senatorov, even boldly admitted that he will be making all decisions concerning Narkomfin. By fall the tune changed and a workshop was organized with the participation of Senatorov, specialists, and young architects to formulate ways of including Narkomfin back into the cultural life of Moscow. However, preserving the authenticity of the building shall remain a challenge considering the manner and amount of works that were already illegally and without accountability carried out in the spring.
The Melnikovs Museum was created as a branch of the Museum of Architecture on March 4, 2014 and the Melnikov House received federal status on March 13. On August 13 the house was suddenly seized by the Museum of Architecture, and on December 3 the Melnikov House was officially opened to the public after 3 1/2 months of scandal.
Here’s what else happened in 2014:
Academy of Art University published:
Preserving Russia’s architectural heritage: Natalia Melikova’s photographic vision
Plans were announced for the dismantling and relocation of the Shukhov Tower. See a collection of news articles here.
First signs of changes at Narkomfin: See news article here & blog post here.
February 28: SOS press conference: Narkomfin, Shukhov Tower, VDNKh
March 5: “Stop the dismantling of Shukhov Tower on Shabolovka!” petition started on change.org
March 15-16: Shukhov Tower: SOS. Tours were organized in the Shabolovka area to educate the public about the tower and neighborhood’s history, and inform of the threat of losing an iconic Moscow sight.
Poster design by Heather Hermit
March 18: motherboard.vice.com, Architects to Putin: Save Shukhov Tower, Moscow’s Futuristic Soviet ‘Eiffel’!
“‘We are trying to get as much attention on this situation as possible,’ the photographer Natalia Melikova, who runs an architectural heritage website called The Constructivist Project, wrote by email. Ahead of a press conference on Wednesday in Moscow, Melikova said she had hoped to gather more statements of support from architects, preservationists and design-lovers overseas. The potential weight that foreign opinion carries, she said, could help convince the authorities ‘that the tower should stay in its historical place and be restored without dismantling. Take the tower apart and they won’t put it back together.’”
April 8: BBC, Shukhov Tower: The Eiffel of the East
“A landmark that has long helped Muscovites navigate their city, the imminent threat to the tower has struck a public nerve, says Moscow-based photographer Natalia Melikova. ‘Once, the public attitude would have been indifference. But the events of the past two months have proven that if people didn’t spend much time thinking about the tower before, then most likely they have some opinion about it now.’
Melikova’s Constructivist Project website is dedicated to Russia’s avant-garde architecture and she is involved in the efforts to protect the Shukhov Tower. She is hopeful that another solution will emerge – to develop the Shabolovka area into a cultural quarter.
Melikova’s photographs document recent activities by campaigners to raise awareness about the tower. They have been conducting historical tours and collecting public signatures in support of their cause. ‘It’s hard to think of another building that would cause so many people to actively protest against its destruction,’ says Melikova.
‘Shukhov Tower is their tower.’”
April 11: Renovation works in Narkomfin’s penthouse: photos
April 13: The Moscow Times, Constructivist Utopia Narkomfin Endangered by Renovation Project
April 14: The Observers – France 24, Moscow residents rally to save Soviet-era ‘Eiffel Tower’
April 15: The Calvert Journal, High risk: Moscow’s iconic Shukhov Tower is under threat
April 15: The Calvert Journal, Full exposure: The Constructivist Project is keeping the avant-garde alive one photo at a time
April 23: The Moscow Times, Police Halt ‘Illegal’ Renovations in Narkomfin
May 15: Architectones, Melnikov House by Xavier Veilhan
The Moscow Times, French Artist Sets Moscow Landmark on Fire
May 17: Presentation of the Avant-Garde Around the Tower Guidebook on Museum Night.
A portion of the guide was published online.
May 29: Shukhov Tower rally: photos
June 5: construction of the multi-functional complex on Arbat continued, despite concerns of negative effects on the nearby Melnikov House
The Modernist, House-studio of Konstantin Melnikov
July 8: translation of an interview with Alexander Senatorov re Narkomfin, “Guys, relax, you will not control us”: Narkomfin’s new life
August 13: The Melnikov House was suddenly, forcefully seized by the Museum of Architecture, only a partial “owner” of the property, with legal proceedings surrounding inheritance issues still unsettled, while Ekaterina was not at the house. Ekaterina is Konstantin Melnikov’s granddaughter living at the house since 2006 when her father Viktor Melnikov passed away. Ekaterina is also the executor of her father’s will. The locks were broken and changed, and private security guards were stationed at the house. Read an account of August 13 here.
Timeline of events since then: MELNIKOV HOUSE RECENT NEWS
Collection of news articles: MELNIKOV HOUSE NEWS ARCHIVE
August 15: Museum of Architecture held a press conference explaining their first steps in setting up the Melnikovs Museum which began with the events of August 13. Press conference VIDEO.
See the entry under August 15 in RECENT NEWS for an account of the press conference.
The Constructivst Project 100% agrees with this statement. Unfortunately, the Museum of Architecture continued to use force and vilify Ekaterina.
Docomomo Journal 50, “HERITAGE IN DANGER: Shukhov Tower”
September 9: #домнаш – Museum of Architecture staff posted selfies inside the Melnikov House with the hashtag “our house” (#домнаш was previously used in reference to the Crimea situation), in addition with comments of how “to get rid of the old woman” (Ekaterina). In bad taste, completely unprofessional, it caused quite a stir on Facebook (512 shares & 141 comments). This proved a further reason The Constructivist Project has found the Museum of Architecture’s handling of the Melnikov House situation unacceptable.
September 11: Archnadzor rally
September 15: An open letter regarding the Melnikov House conflict was published, signed by over 180 signatories, expressing concerns of “legally dubious actions, direct force, as well as haste”, and requesting a conciliation commission and expert council to moderate the conflict. The Museum of Architecture in turn published their own open letter on September 19, with 14 signatories, in which they justified their actions and placed blame on Ekaterina for the house’s deterioration.
October 17: Museum of Architecture got Ekaterina’s registration to legally live in the house revoked, and she was evicted from the Melnikov House. Like August 13, there were numerous security forces present.
Ekaterina’s last moments at her family’s home.
More photos of October 17.
On the same day, at the Moscow Culture Forum, there was a discussion about the future of the Narkomfin building.
December 2: Museum of Architecture held a press conference regarding the opening of the Melnikov House to the public, followed by a press tour of the house.
Since December 3 the house has been open for excursions. All excursions have been booked through March – news about the Melnikov Museum is posted on its Facebook page. So, priority has been on showing off the house to the public, instead of first performing restoration works. Typical of Moscow: shortsighted for a quick gain, the opening of the house to the public is a false and misleading “victory”.
2014 – what a year! Here’s what happened in 2013.
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