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The head of the architectural bureau Vladimir Pokachalov spoke about how the restoration of the VDNKh pavilions took place and how the approach to the restoration of historical buildings has changed in recent years.

For 10 years in Moscow, more than one and a half thousand buildings have been restored. 120 of them were renovated last year, another 100 facilities are scheduled to be completed in 2021. Title holder Vladimir Pokachalov, Honored Restorer of the City of Moscow, told mos.ru about the difficult and interesting moments of his work, as well as how the methods of restoring historic buildings have changed over the past few years.

By regulations and under control

Vladimir Pokachalov has been working in the field of architecture for over 45 years. He graduated from a civil engineering college and institute, worked at Mosproekt-2. He fell in love with the profession of a restorer, participating in the restoration of GUM in the 1990s. Today Vladimir Mikhailovich is the general director of the design and restoration company Tiamat-project LLC.

From the height of professional experience, the changes in the approach to restoration in Moscow are clearly visible. Previously, according to the honorary restorer, everything was “more chaotic.” Today, restoration work in the capital is carried out strictly according to the regulations, under the supervision of specialists from the Ministry of Culture of the Russian Federation and Department of Cultural Heritage of the City of Moscow.

Each stage of restoration of monuments is individual and unique. Before the start of repair and restoration work at cultural heritage sites, comprehensive scientific research is carried out: historical, archival, bibliographic and engineering research. Experts carry out measurements and study the composition of building materials. Modern geodetic technology allows you to perform 3D scanning of facades and interiors, creating a volumetric point cloud, on the basis of which a BIM model of the restoration project is built. This allows you to avoid unexpected destruction in the course of repair work and further operation of the facility. With the help of a 3D model, all inadmissible intersections of architectural elements and engineering communications are excluded even at the stage of project development.

Some of the fragments are drawn in the old fashioned way, by hand. These sketches are scanned by specialists, after which they are processed and drawn up on computers.

“Development of scientific and project documentation can take from four months to a year. The design time depends both on the scope of work and on the history of the building itself, for example, past reconstructions. And the duration of work on the object is adjusted already during the restoration process. In the course of work, specialists can gradually reveal the original architectural and structural fragments and elements of the monument at a cultural heritage site, which, in turn, leads to an adjustment of the timing, ”says Vladimir Pokachalov.

When clearing monumental houses, they often discover secret passages, hidden architectural elements, mosaics, parquet floors, archaeological artifacts and much more. At all stages, specialists monitor the restoration process and conduct field supervision.

Project and spontaneous finds

Now at the workshop of Vladimir Pokachalov there are about 10 historical objects. Among them are the city manor on Pyatnitskaya (house 30), built in the 18th-19th centuries, as well as the theaters “At Nikitskie Vorota” and the Moscow Theater of Oleg Tabakov, the ZIL House of Culture – the development of project documentation is being completed for them.

Vladimir Pokachalov admits: he regards receiving the title of “Honorary Restorer of the City of Moscow” as a recognition of the merits of the entire team.

“The high professional level of our specialists makes it possible to return the objects of cultural heritage to their original historical appearance, despite the complex and sometimes confusing history of their construction and operation. Therefore, we are pleased that our work was celebrated, ”he said.

The restorer cannot choose the most favorite object among all his works, but from the latter he singles out the Exhibition of Achievements of the National Economy.

“Monuments are like children. If you have undertaken their restoration, then you will not be able to quit. I cannot choose my favorites. The most significant thing that we have done over the years is, of course, the VDNKh pavilions, ”says Vladimir Pokachalov.

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The team led by Vladimir Pokachalov developed a project for the restoration and adaptation of the VDNKh pavilions “Agriculture” and “Atomic Energy”. Without the renovation of these pavilions – objects of cultural heritage of federal significance – the revival of VDNKh would have been unthinkable: both buildings adorn the Central Alley of the exhibition. It is impossible to pass by without paying attention to them.

The Agriculture Pavilion, originally called the Ukrainian SSR, is the largest of the republican pavilions of VDNKh: its area is 1600 square meters. The restorers returned the lost colors and patterns to the building for two years. Among the restored elements are the coat of arms of the Ukrainian SSR, faced with four-color smalt, the Abundance arch, the Pereyaslavskaya Rada stained-glass window, the rotunda with the Sheaf of Wheat sculpture, sculptures of the Stakhanovites at the entrance and girls in wreaths at the corners of the cornice, as well as a multicolored floor laid out in Italian mosaic terrazzo technique. Now the center of Slavic writing “Slovo”, beloved by Muscovites, operates here.

And in the building of the pavilion “Atomic Energy” is the Palace of Public Services. At this site, work began in 2014 and lasted four years. Experts have completely recreated the building’s historical appearance, including modernist stained-glass windows, skylight designs, and a Soviet red-glass ceiling star restored from photographs from the 1950s. At the same time, the restorers restored the bearing capacity of historical structures and completely renewed the engineering systems.

“In the Agriculture pavilion, we have designed engineering systems in such a way that they do not interfere with the interiors of the cultural heritage site. You will enter the exhibition halls and will not notice any heating or ventilation systems there, they are so neatly hidden behind the interior cladding. All pavilions of VDNKh were originally built as summer ones. Then they tried to heat them without closing the heating circuit, and because of this, the buildings began to fall into disrepair, ”says the restorer.

The restoration of the facade of the Agriculture pavilion Vladimir Pokachalov calls one of the most interesting tasks. Buildings were often damaged by unscrupulous repairmen of the past. For example, when decorating the decorative elements of the Agriculture pavilion with smalt, lime mortar was used. And later, during the repair work on the facades, – cement mortar. Due to the fact that these materials react differently to weather conditions, the destruction of the elements of the monument accelerated: the reliefs of the wheat sheaves literally fell off the walls. The restoration of the stucco elements of the interior decor was carried out in organized workshops on site. It was impossible to take them somewhere in an emergency condition.

“Now we are not working with VDNKh, but we would like to return there. There, original architectural solutions have been adopted, which require restoration and restoration. VDNKh inflicted very serious damage in the 1990s, when trade was launched there. Today everything is reviving, ”says Vladimir Pokachalov.

Recover and use

“The main task of the restoration is to preserve the historical appearance of the building or to return it if in the past there were any superstructures or redevelopments. It is important to find a modern application for the monument. The building must continue to live, ”Vladimir Pokachalov is sure.

For example, one of the difficult problems in the restoration of Moscow buildings of the 18th – 19th centuries is ventilation and heating, which was stove. Correctly organizing modern heating and ventilation systems in historical buildings, which allow preserving cultural heritage objects, is an unobvious, but most important task for restorers.

“When working with a cultural heritage site, it is important to understand what the structure of the building was originally. Then we figure out how we can adapt it to modern use and make it comfortable for people to stay, ”says Vladimir.

The restorer notes that the appearance of the historic city center directly affects the condition and mood of its residents and guests.

“All old cities are designed according to the radial system. All roads lead to the center, to historical areas, museums and parks. When people see architectural monuments there in good condition, it cheers them up. People like to walk in the historic districts of cities, among the architectural monuments that have been restored and preserved from destruction. That is why Muscovites are interested in the work of the restorers, they try to suggest something or draw attention to it, ”says Vladimir Pokachalov.

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EDITOR’S NOTE: This article is a translation. Apologies should the grammar and or sentence structure not be perfect.

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