Russia’s Architecture: In Jeopardy

A new report finds that many of Moscow’s most prized structures are being threatened by development.

Earlier this week, a crowd of passionate architects and city planners gathered at the Schusev State Architecture Museum, in Moscow, for the release of a new report on the state of architectural preservation in that city, written collaboratively by two advocacy groups, the Moscow Architectural Preservation Society (MAPS) and SAVE Europe’s Heritage. The findings were disturbing, to say the least. Many of the city’s most prized structures, from the neoclassical Bolshoi Theater to the Mayakovskaya Metro station (left), a landmark of the avant-garde, are in dire jeopardy, as are countless less famous places that together give Moscow its essential character.

Of course, Moscow residents doesn’t need a report to tell them that their city’s architectural patrimony is in danger any more than they need a weather advisory to tell them there’s snow on the ground in February. They need only look out their windows. The city’s brutal climate takes a toll on anything that stands outdoors. But the larger threat might just be rapacious developers, lately deterred by the economic downturn but typically contemptuous of anything that might stand in their way, including Russia’s poorly enforced preservation laws.

“We want Moscow to know that the international community cares about how it treats its architecture, that these are internationally significant buildings,” says Clementine Cecil, one of the founders of MAPS and a coauthor of the report. “Moscow is being destroyed more quickly by the bulldozer than any other European city and our motivation in writing the report was to present the case for another approach.”

The study also includes a chapter on St. Petersburg, where more than one hundred buildings have been destroyed over the last six years, even as many were on official state “protected” lists.

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