Moscow, city, art

the future

A manifesto for Art Nouveau, the Hotel Metropol, opened in 1905, is adorned with magnificent stained glass.

Moscow, city, art

A huge ramp provides spatial continuity in the Centrosoyuz, which was designed in 1928.

Moscow, city, art

The recently renovated Communal House of the Textile Institute, with its central stairway, has retained its avant-garde character.

Moscow, city, art

Real estate developer logo inspired by the graphic design of the last century.

Moscow, city, art
The RZD building opposite Krasnye Vorota metro station.
Moscow, city, art
After many years’ teaching at the Moscow Institute of Architecture, Evgeny Ass founded his own school, March, in 2012.
Moscow, city, art

Built in 1953, the skyscraper of Lomonosov Moscow State University, one of “Stalin’s Seven Sisters,” rises to a height of 240 meters.

Moscow, city, art

A Constructivist influence is visible in the architecture of the Dominion, built by Zaha Hadid in 2015.

Moscow, city, art

Moscow City, the new financial district currently being built in the western area of central Moscow.

Moscow, city, art

A former pupil of Evgeny Ass, Fedor Dubinnikov (left), with associate Pavel Chaunin, was Best Young Architect of Russia in 2009.

Moscow, city, art

The Zuev Workers’ Club, a cultural center built in 1927.

Moscow, city, art

Dasha Zhukova’s Garage, designed by Rem Koolhaas in 2015.

Moscow, city, art
Hotel Baltschug Kempinski
Moscow, city, art
Hotel Baltschug Kempinski
Moscow, city, art
The Metropol Hotel
Moscow, city, art

The Narkomzem between 1927 and 1933. During the restoration work it is covered by a trompe l’oeil tarp.

Between 1920 and 1930, a handful of avant-garde Russians revolutionized architecture. Their radical vision renewed the aesthetics of everyday life and continues to influence architects today. Their works reflect the history of Russia.

The impetus

In 1913, Kazimir Malevich invented Suprematism; that same year, Vladimir Tatlin exhibited his abstract reliefs in wood, iron, cardboard and plaster. Forerunners of the Constructivists, they were laying the groundwork for the future architects of the new Soviet Union.

A wonderful creative laboratory sprang up on Rozhdestvenka Street, in central Moscow. Its nameVkhutemas, an acronym for Higher Art and Technical Studiosis still legible on the building now housing the Institute of Architecture. Like the Bauhaus, it advocated a synthesis of all the arts. With their models and bold blueprints, a handful of architects began designing the city of the future. They included Konstantin Melnikov. For the 1925 International Exhibition of Decorative Arts in Paris, he designed a pavilion with vast areas of glass supported by an exposed wooden structure. Two years later, in the Arbat district, the architect built an experimental house that was intended to be reproduced. It never was, but for lack of any other home, Melnikov lived there with his family for the rest of his life, a rarity in this collectivist-minded society. The building consists of two intersecting cylindrical towers with a glazed facade giving onto the street that is reminiscent of the Paris exhibition pavilion. The rear features an array of hexagonal windows, giving it the appearance of a hive and flooding the architect’s upstairs studio with light.

The imagination

Soon after, Melnikov designed a number of bus garages. Art buffs are familiar with one of them, a red and white brick structure, which from 2008 to 2012 housed Dasha Zhukova’s Garage, a contemporary art center where Rothko was exhibited for the first time in Russia. Today, the Bakhmetevsky Bus Garage houses the Tolerance Museum. An upper window gives a glimpse of the building’s amazing structure. To maximize the number of buses it could hold, Melnikov arranged the parking spaces at an angle, creating a kind of sawtooth design. Melnikov also designed workers’ clubs, since the new state’s aim was to make music and theater accessible to one and all. The Rusakov Workers’ Club, with its three cantilevered concrete seating areas, is a perfect illustration of this. Located at the corner of Lesnaya Street, the Zuev Workers’ Club was designed by another Vkhutemas architect, Ilya Golosov. It dates from 1927, its modern designa glass cylinder bisected by a concrete parallelepipedbelying its 91 years of age.

The Likhachev Palace of Culture rises south of the city near the ZiL automotive factories, a major car manufacturer at the time. It was designed by the three Vesnin brothersLeonid, Victor and Alexanderwho gave it a rounded facade, and it housed sports facilities, cinemas and even an observatory.


Atypical housing was also springing up. Ivan Nikolaev designed the Communal House for students at the Moscow Textile Institute, Dom Kommuna na Ordzhonikidze, named after the street on which the building, perched on pilotis, is situated. A so-called night zone featured cells accessed via endless corridors. The adjoining wing housed a cafeteria, library and classrooms. Recently restored, the building still retains its Constructivist identity, notably with its rows of windows. The renovated interiors offer ideal student living space. A self-service restaurant, frequented by employees from the neighboring office buildings, has even taken over from the former canteen.

Architect Moisei Ginzburg, who theorized for years about communal living, designed a building for the employees of the Commissariat of Finance (the Narkomfin for short in Russian), on Novinsky Boulevard. The apartments were relatively small and had no kitchen. Meals were prepared in the adjoining wing and served in a communal dining room. The inhabitants also shared a laundry room, a nursery and, on the rooftop terrace, a garden and gymnasium.

While visiting Moscow, Le Corbusier was impressed by the Narkomfin, and he drew on it for inspiration when designing his Unité d’Habitation in Marseille 20 years later.


In 1928, Le Corbusier, in association with Pierre Jeanneret, submitted his plans for the Centrosoyuz, a building that would later house the offices of the Goskomstat, the State Office of Statistics. The design featured pilotis, flat roofs and long strips of windows, all characteristic elements of the International Style in vogue at the time. Yet changes were made to the plans during construction, leaving Le Corbusier dissatisfied with the end result. Employees, however, still use the original ramp linking the building’s eight floors. An elevator has replaced the original paternoster lift, now displayed behind glass. In 2005, a statue of Le Corbusier was erected at the foot of the Centrosoyuza posthumous attempt to console him perhaps?

In the early 1920s, Izvestia, the newspaper of the first Soviets, moved its headquarters to an ultra-Constructivist building. Mosselprom, the food distribution authority, did the same, as did the Ministry of Transport (now the Russian railways), its acronymRZDstanding out from the freshly repainted dark gray facade. The large red volume of Narkomzem, the Ministry of Agriculture, dominates a neighboring avenue. It’s temporarily covered with a tarp that neatly replicates the asymmetry of its facade.The former “food factory” on Novokuznetskaya Street, a huge canteen, has been renovated. The elegant volumes look like something by one of the superstars of contemporary architecture.

The aftermath

In the early 1930s, the creative momentum came to a halt. Instead of working with volumes, architects began to opt for columns, pediments and pilasters, as the classical repertoire and academic style made a comeback.

The seven skyscrapers silhouetted against the Moscow skies (known as “Stalin’s Seven Sisters”) sprang up later. Were they symbols of a hegemonic power? The tallest one, perched on Sparrow Hills, overlooking the city, houses the university. Another one built on the banks of the Moskva and its tributary, the Yauza, is a residential building. There’s also a ministry and a hotel.

Under Khrushchev, architecture became functional and drab, epitomized by the box-like Central House of Artists (1960), currently housingparadoxicallya branch of the New Tretyakov Gallery, where Kandinsky, El Lissitsky and Rodchenko hold court. The graceful Pioneer Palace (1962), built on Sparrow Hills by a group of young architects, is miraculously less gloomy.

The dissolution of the USSR in 1991 marked the transition to a market economy. A great deal of construction took place, but the architectural vocabulary was garbled. The lexicon of architectural styles was revisited in a quest for a new architectural language.

The international press has hailed some local gems, such as Sergey Skuratov’s Copper House residential complex, built in 2004 near the chic Ostozhenka Street. Its facade is clad in copper panels that reflect the surrounding houses.

Foreign architects have entered the picture, like Rem Koolhaas, who has draped a polycarbonate veil around the concrete skeleton of a Soviet-era restaurant from the 1960s in Gorky Park. The reflections of the trees are indescribably poetic. It houses the Garage Museum of Contemporary Art, founded by Dasha Zhukova.

Zaha Hadid designed the Dominion, an office building with vertically stacked offset floors in a former working-class neighborhood. Just off Red Square, the new Zaryadye Park was created by the New York firm Diller Scofido + Renfro.

The future

From his studio perched on the 17th floor of a 1970s building, Evgeny Ass gazes out at the skyscrapers in the new Moscow City financial district. This charismatic architect taught at the MARCHI architectural institute on Rozhdestvenka Street for years. In 2012, the professor decided to launch his own school of architecture, called March, located in a former manometer factory renamed Artplay. At MARCHI, Ass had inspired a great number of studentswitness Studio MEL: run by Fedor Dubinnikov, a former student, this agency adopts a resolutely minimalist style for its granite and glass houses. His latest project is reminiscent of Malevich’s Black Square. A new avant-garde movement is on the march!

A wonderful creative lab sprang up on Rozhdestvenka Street. The name, Vkhutemas, is still legible on the building now housing the Institute of Architecture.

Baltschug Kempinski

Opened in 1992, it stands by the Moskva like a ship. Its riverbank location is part of the reason for its popularity: from across the water, the Baltschug Kempinski has the finest view imaginable of the Kremlin and Red Square with the colorful onion domes of St. Basil’s Cathedral. And since this autumn, it has also overlooked the undulating new landscape of Zaryadye Park. Suite 405 in the hotel boasts an even wider panorama, embracing the futuristic towers of the Moscow City financial district. At breakfast, guests can all enjoy the view of Red Square through the tall windows encircling the dining room. And in the Café Kranzler, in the hotel’s lobby, the spectacle is no less impressive.

Baltschug Kempinski

Baltschug, 1. Tél. +7 (495) 287 20 00.

Metropol Hotel

The hotel stands proud, a stone’s throw from the Bolshoi. The ceramic frieze running across its facades is a manifesto for Art Nouveau, in its Russian form. On its opening in 1905, the Metropol was a showcase for the country’s decorative arts. The suites were furnished with precious wooden Karelian pieces, while magnificent stained glass adorned the corridors. Some rooms have recently been renovated. While they’ve lost none of their charm, they are more comfortable and each now has a huge bathroom.

Metropol hotel

Teatralniy Proezd, 2. Tél. +7 (495) 266 01 68.

© FLC, ADAGP, Paris 2018 - Pierre Jeanneret, ADAGP, Paris 2018

© Ivan Nikolaiev

© Zaha Hadid

© Ilia Golossov - Rem Koolhaas, ADAGP Paris 2018

lieux a part, neige


Midwinter night’s dream

Carnet d’adresses

Baltschug Kempinski

Baltschug, 1. Tél. +7 (495) 287 20 00.

Metropol hotel

Teatralniy Proezd, 2. Tél. +7 (495) 266 01 68.


Imperatorski Farfor

The Imperial Porcelain Manufactory was founded in 1744. Renamed the Lomonosov Porcelain Factory during the Soviet era, it now uses its original name. In the early 1920s, it commissioned artists including Malevich, Kandinsky and Suetin to create new decorative designs. To mark the centenary of the Russian Revolution, it has reissued several “avant-garde” designs, notably a Constructivist teapot by Malevich with two matching cups. Piatnitskaïa, 6. Tél. +7 (495) 951 50 35


Several generations of Russian children grew up with Red October candy. The wrappers are still decorated with colorful images, including a striking one featuring the Moscow State University tower. The center-filled chocolate inside is as irresistible as ever.Vtoroi Novokuznetskiy pereoulok 13/15, 1.

Cafés, bars & restaurants


This tiny café can be found at the foot of the imposing Central Telegraph building on Tverskaya Street, built in 1927. Its facade is a mix of Constructivist and Modernist styles. At lunchtime, they serve some very tasty pizzas. Nikitski pereoulok, 7. Tél. +7 (967) 164 19 91.

Garage Café

A cozy café in the building redesigned by Rem Koolhaas to house Dasha Zhukova’s Garage. Ceramics still line the walls, a vestige of the Soviet-era restaurant here. The sensibly short menu offers soups, salads and a few daily specials. Krimski Val, 9. Tél. +7 (495) 645 05 20.

Strelka Bar

At the tip of the island opposite the Kremlin nestles a bar with a vintage decor. It’s a popular spot among architecture and design buffs attending classes at the neighboring Strelka Institute. Bersenevskaïa naberezhnaïa, 14. Tél. +7 (495) 771 74 16.

À faire

The young company Moscow Through the Eyes of an Engineer offers guided tours in English of the interior of the Narkomfin. Tél. +7 (499) 322 23 25.
Address Book

Going There

Flight frequency

Air France has 4 daily flights to Moscow from Paris-CDG and 5 flights on a code-share basis with SkyTeam member Aeroflot.

KLM has 2 daily flights to Moscow from Amsterdam and 3 flights on a code-share basis with Aeroflot.

Arrival airport

Aéroport de Moscou- Cheremetievo.
À 29 km.
Tél. +7 (495) 578 65 65.


A l'aéroport


— Depuis la France : tél. 3654.
— Depuis l’étranger :
Tél. +33 (0)892 70 26 54.

Car rental

Hertz, a l'aéroport :
Tél. +7 (495) 775 83 33.

Further reading

Gallimard, coll. Cartoville.
Moscou City
Guide Louis Vuitton.
Lonely Planet.
Le Goût de Moscou
Mercure de France, coll. Le petit mercure.

© Antoine Corbineau / Talkie Walkie. Map for illustration purposes only