When future generations will hear the name of Moscow Mayor Luzhkov, they will ask: "Is he the man who built a copy of a 19th century temple and destroyed a real masterpiece of the 20th century?"
The Moscow mayor has issued an order to destroy the Moskva Hotel, a monument to the Soviet dream of the 1930 standing in the center of the Russian capital.
The Moskva Hotel begins as soon as you leave the metro. Prominent Architect Alexey Shchusev built the Mausoleum and the hotel, which is a rather intriguing fact for people who understand the architecture of the 20th century. The Moscow authorities have waved aside all the arguments of art experts and protectors of the Soviet architectural heritage and passed a verdict according to which the hotel was not considered an architectural monument.
Meanwhile, all textbooks for institutions training architects cite the Moskva Hotel as a wonderful example of art-deco. It was not accidental that the construction of the hotel's first stage (the left and the frontal part) lasted for five years, 1935-1940. The architects Alexey Shchusev, Oswald Stapran and Leonid Savelyev started making the hotel as "a new wonder of the world" of the Soviet period. However, the times have changed if the previously obvious fact can be easily denied by people bossing about the capital. These people have created several myths saying that the hotel must be destroyed.
The first myth says that the building is of no architectural value. Indeed, there is no plate on the front of the hotel saying the building is an architectural monument. It is a well-known fact that plates of this kind are fastened to building only after the direction of the city authorities. But absence of a plate doesn't mean the building cannot be an architectural monument. As soon as you go inside of the hotel, you will immediately see much evidence of its architectural value. You don't even need an arts guide to understand what is actually valuable and what is not inside of the building. Our journalist group was accompanied with Alexey, a man who until recently worked in the hotel's fire prevention team. "Do you want to see what is to be destroyed? You are slightly late - the demolishing has already started, you won't be able to see everything that used to be the beautiful hotel."
Indeed, we saw square breaches broken in the ceiling of every floor especially for a duct made of boards to throw down the wreckage from the upper floors. Alexey took us directly to the Moskva Restaurant situated in the heart of the building; the windows of the restaurant are behind the colonnade of the hotel's front. What we saw there shocked us.
The columns of the restaurant meant for 1,172 seats are from the bottom to the top decorated with bright green malachite and dark blue lapis lazuli (ancient icon painters used the material to make special azure paint for icons). Smooth strong parquet of the restaurant is still intact; its peculiar oak smell was perfectly smelt in an empty space.
There are huge chandeliers framed with dark blue glass on the ceiling of the restaurant; they are so gorgeous that may even outshine any pre-revolutionary palace. The room looks more like a dancing hall, not a restaurant.
In the center of the hall we discovered an unusual fresco on the ceiling: the sky over the Soviet country lit with wonderful fireworks, decorated with the inscription "USSR", the reaping-hook and the hammer (famous Soviet symbols) and the name of the hotel. The fresco has become very pale; all attempts to restore it were in vain. The ceiling over the gorgeous chandeliers is painted in a neo-classical style.
Alexey next took us to the marble hall situated to the right of the restaurant. "We had a special commission that came to inspect the place, but they all the same have started destroying the building. The commission said that construction workers would try to dismantle the ceiling of the marble hall. But I say it is impossible to dismantle it as it was made of a whole marble plate. It is a very strong construction to be destroyed in a moment."
Although the marble hall is smaller than the restaurant, it is not less valuable. The walls are all made of pink pale and cream-colored marble; the parquet is made of oak, like everywhere in the building. Every room and the corridor have a particular pattern of the parquet laying and sometimes different shades. Let's have a look at the ceiling. There are symbols of the architectural achievements of the 1930s depicted in frames on the ceiling: the building of the Council of People's Commissars (the Duma), the USSR pavilion at the 1937 exhibition in Paris, the Gorky Street with the Soviet Constitution monument, the lock of the Moskva Channel and the Volga River, the Red Army Theatre, the metro stations Kropotkinskaya and Arbatskaya, the Krymsky Most (Crimean Bridge) and the Moskva Hotel itself.
Alexey tells that when Hugo Boss organized a fashion show last spring in the building, representatives of the company admired the beauty of the construction and said it was made in a grand style. They were shocked to learn that the wonderful halls would be soon destroyed.
It is true that foreigners treat the Moskva Hotel as a paradise after the cold and soulless interiors of Marriott, Hilton and Holiday Inn. The government of Luzhkov gave an investment project related to the hotel to America's Decorum Corporation; the company certainly gave no guarantees concerning preservation of the hotel's gorgeous interior and the decoration. It is not ruled out that some people will profit from selling the elements of the hotel interior.
To get upstairs we used a broad cream-colored staircase. The whole of the staircase is made of marble up to the forth floor: it is astonishing that the staircase was brought to the hotel right from the old building of the Temple of Christ the Savior before it was demolished.
The ceiling on every floor of the hotel is decorated with semicircular plafonds which are typical of art-deco and each floor has its individual ceiling color. A concierge, a woman who is astonishingly beautiful even for her declining years leads us to a semi-luxe room on the eights floor. The woman says that each room of this kind had a grand piano and original paintings; original paintings were also hung in the lobby of every floor.
The interior of the Moskva Hotel hasn't been changed since the 1930s; no placement of funds into the hotel has been ever made. However, its old interior makes the hotel look grand: oak doors, heavy door handles made of copper, marble decoration of the room interior, double entries to bath-rooms in luxe and semi-luxe rooms (from the hall and the bedroom). It is astonishing that an original plate with the inscription "Ladies' room" is still intact on a door on one of the hotel floors.
When we were downstairs at the reception we saw wonderful painting of the ceiling imitating a multi-step relief.
Let's leave the hotel aside; go to the Okhotny Ryad big food store in the same building with the hotel. Have a look at the chandeliers there (it seems they are made of crystal beads) and at walls subtly painted with gold. Can such beauty be destroyed in a civilized society? In Europe, architectural pearls of this sort are restored for further commercial demonstration to tourists. But the situation is quite different in this country. Moscow Mayor Luzhkov let Americans build a new hotel instead of the Moskva Hotel to increase the income to the city budget.
Vice-premier of the Moscow Government Joseph Ordzhonikidze insisted that the hotel had been made of slag concrete; now it is falling to pieces and it makes no sense to keep it in the center of the city. However, construction workers had a chance to see that it wasn't actually so in fact. Following the comments of the vice-premier of the Moscow Government concerning the state of the building, Yury Luzhkov ordered workers to complete demolishing of every hotel floor within two days. Guest workers from Tajikistan have been struggling with the 15th floor and the open restaurant for two weeks already. Workers have to use a chisel hammer to break the oak parquet laid under Stalin. Half of the working team had left the work as they say payment for this actually hard work is very low. And people from Mayor's team hurry the workers up as they need less noise and dust connected with the destruction.
When we got upstairs to the 15th floor we saw the material of which the hotel had been made: it was not slag concrete, it was actually reinforced concrete. It takes much effort to break the partitions inside of the hotel rooms. The bath-rooms proved to be even much stronger.
The Moskva Hotel is standing on the territory where land is particularly expensive: it is close to the Kremlin; it opens a view over the Red Square and even the Kremlin. Yury Luzhkov has made a decision to bring down the Moskva Hotel, let American investors build a new hotel instead, set up a joint enterprise with the American company and obtain money from the project. Officials don't care that they have authorized destruction of a great architectural monument. One of the classical authors said that if promised a 200 per cent profit, a capitalist is ready to commit any crime.
A new hotel complex will cover the territory of 143,500 square meters instead of the previous territory of 97,246 square meters. Do you see the difference? While the living space of the hotel now makes 51,586 square meters, it will be less and more elite after the "reconstruction" - 40,763 square meters. A presidential room will be 575 square meters.
The situation about the Moskva Hotel is a public execution to the Russian culture in the center of Moscow. An entire epoch of the country is being destroyed for the sake of the western standards of comfort.
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