Complete is the reconstruction of the “Belgrade” Hotel on the Smolenskaya Square – now it is part of the Azimut Hotels chain. In this issue, we are sharing about the details of the reconstruction project, what surprises came up along the way, and what the ultimate outcome looks like.
Written by: Lilya Aronova Translated by: Anton Mizonov
It seems that only recently we witnessed the “grand closing ceremony” of the Belgrade Hotel that hailed the start of its refurbishment and reconstruction, and – behold – the Azimuth Hotel Smolenskaya is receiving its first wave of guests. The authors of the reconstruction project, Т+Т Architects, are generally satisfied with both the work tempo and the end result.
To start with, we will remind you that Belgrade, or, rather, Belgrade-1 is in fact part of the architectural ensemble of the Smolenskaya Square and is one of the twin towers built in the 1970’s by the architects Vladimir Gelfreich, Vitaly Sokolov, and Alexander Kuzmin. Vladimir Gelfreich was also one of the authors of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs building, which is essentially a centerpiece and a conceptual dominant of the whole square; he was also the chief architect of the entire architectural ensemble. After a few decades of Belgrade flourishing as one of the most prestigious soviet hotels – and, of course, the haunt of the Moscow black marketeers and under-the-counter traders – the power in this country changed, and, paradoxically though this may sound, the towers went their separate ways. First, the younger one got lucky – Belgrade-2 was reconstructed to become the “Golden Ring” hotel. Over the last twenty years, there were two attempts of renovating Belgrade, and the second one was left incomplete: by the time the building was bought out by the Azimut Hotels chain, only half of its floors were functioning (“half” being a pretty optimistic estimate), the others stood under-remodeled, but, curiously enough, its top floor was fully occupied by the owner’s family.
Out of the four versions of the reconstruction project submitted by Т+Т Architects, the client chose the one that brought the appearance of the building as close as possible to the original, the way it was designed by Gelfreich and his coauthors. Still, there was one exception to be made, though – in order to revive the feeling of the architectural ensemble, and, to a large degree, for business reasons (it would be a waste to lose such a unique vantage point upon the roof!), it was decided that the roof (just as in the case of “Golden Ring”) will get a buildup of a restaurant. That was the only tribute that the architects paid to the building across the road – neither the architectural details of questionable value, such as the “crown” displaying the hotel name at the top edge, nor the counterintuitive color design solution were considered to be worth paying any special respect to. The elevation marks of both hotels are practically on a level but Azimuth’s buildup has two floors in it, and at the expense of the floor-to-ceiling stained glass windows and the “skirts” of the cupolas it looks much more slender and elegant. The restaurant got some extra height thanks to the decorative screen that conceals the engineering equipment routed out on the roof.
Initially, by the way, they wanted to give the buildup a rectangular shape – this form would better correspond to the tectonics of the building, and from the interior design standpoint the rectangular volume would be a lot easier to work with, too. Ultimately, however – again, out of the ensemble-factor reasons – the architects settled for an ellipse. But then again, a combination of such different shapes is quite in the spirit of the modernism of the 1970’s. Construction-wise, however, this created an extra task for the designers and builders: because of the vastly different floor plans, they had to make relieving platforms that cover the entire perimeter and transmit the load to the subjacent structures. But then again, the builders had to strengthen the building’s framework from top to bottom anyway, for the exception of the outside columns – even the foundation was slightly reinforced.
Originally it was planned that the buildup would be totally executed from curvilinear glass – no metal profiles whatsoever, just pure form, a play of reflections dissolving in the sky. However, due to the fact that the glass making technology has not yet advanced to the point of making such a sophisticated structure as a single piece, ultimately the glass surface had to be divided into sections. A few more months were taken up by the search for the manufacturer that would be able to make 6-meter sliding stained glass windows – this was the requirement of the future tenant. Ultimately, the manufacturer was found in one of the European countries but the thermal performance of his product fell miles short of the Russian requirements for energy efficiency. Thus, instead of one broad passage, sliding along the radius, they ultimately got several narrow passages distributed by segments – also a compromise but quite an acceptable one.
Oh, and, by the way, about the tenant – during the reconstruction, his name was already known: this was the famous restaurant owner Boris Zarkov. Until the moment the restaurant on the Belgrade roof was built, his project named “White Rabbit” could arguably boast the best panoramic view in this area of the nation’s capital, and the “preemptive occupation” of the rivaling vantage point was a coup de maître strategic decision.
The restaurant is designed in such a way that both of its floors overlook the Kutuzovsky Avenue. The waterfront of the Moskva River, the Moscow City, and the Ukraine Hotel – the views are truly unique and magnificent here. And as far as the building of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is concerned, it looks at its absolute best if viewed from the terrace – the architects provided for a one-and-a-half-meter tall triplex screen running along the perimeter – in addition to the obvious safety function, it will provide extra protection from the wind.
As for the façades (whose geometry was not altered in any way in the course of reconstruction), the architects’ main task was to give the building its original appearance but with the use of today’s hi-tech materials. The aluminum, out of which the cross-beams were made, turned yellow over the forty years of the building’s lifetime but originally, of course, it was a gray metallic – and the architects tried to reproduce this shade of color. And, after that color had been nailed down, the architects tried to find the matching shade of the tinted glass covering the hanging concrete slabs: at first, they picked a few samples out of two dozens, and then they finally zeroed in on the right tone that was the perfect match with the insulated glass units. The latter wasn’t a walkover either: there were two competing manufacturers in the competition that went neck and neck down to the very finish line. Ultimately, both of them brought to the construction site two samples of glass units each, these were test-installed in combination with a few kinds of decorative tinted glass, and the result was evaluated in real-life conditions, from the north and the south side of the building. Ultimately, the architects settled for Asahi Glass: their glass is tinted from inside out, and the resulting shade is the closest of all to the old façades – a greenish tone that perfectly matches the beige tinted glass.
The only thing that is left of the original façades is the massive marble pylons which cover the second and third floors. What got replaced were only the corner parts where the stonework seemed to be falling apart. Here the architects were also in for a surprise, though: after the stonework was cleaned it changed its color from gray to sugar-white, and the color of the already assembled corners was obviously mismatched. The problem was ultimately solved by double water-repellent treatment. After it turns round the corner, the beige belt between the first and second floor runs to the annex of the management office (not really viewable from the avenue) coated with the same stone.
The first floor was left fully glazed, its glass, unlike the glass of the main volume where a high level of sunlight protection is necessary, having the maximum transparency coefficient. The stained glass windows can now be pulled out – this is important for establishing a connection with the street outside because the whole first floor is occupied by bars and restaurants. At the client’s request, the reception area was raised up to the fourth floor, as well as the restaurant and the lobby bar.
Higher, up to the 19th floor, there are hotel rooms; the 20th floor is occupied by a fitness zone, and the basement floor is occupied by a small parking garage. The main staircase, which in the original building was made with a shift for every four floors, is now fitted in a single stairwell, which looks good, and is both convenient and more practical in terms of safety.
As for the interior design of the hotel rooms, Т+Т Architects based themselves on the Azimut Hotels brand book – this global chain has hotels in Germany, Austria, as well as in some regions of Russia; in Moscow, Belgrade has become already a third hotel of this chain, and it is going to be marketed as the “flagship” of the three. The trademark color of the chain also defined the image of the entrance group that is highlighted with a massive black outline with the Azimut logo. The earlier versions of the project also provided for a faceted glass marquee, it even got some of the necessary approvals, but, since its tip crossed the red construction line, it, regretfully, had to be left out in the long run.
Thus, the ensemble of the Smolenskaya Square can be considered as restored. It is still far from perfect – the ex-“twins” are still pretty different but their meaning of the “propylaea” of the Smolenskaya Square is revived, the function of the hotel is also there, the façades of Belgrade-1 are carefully renovated and are sporting the characteristic elements of the architecture of the 1970’s. Just as it was designed by the authors of the original project, the towers accentuate and develop the silhouette of the Stalin high-rise of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. And as for nuances and differences, they seem to be natural and inevitable in an urban environment anyway.
The publication of the drafts of the project is temporarily suspended at the client’s request.
Park of Sentiments
The project of “Romantic Park Tuchkov Buyan”, which was developed by the consortium of Studio 44 and WEST 8, and has won an international competition, combines sculptural landscape design and wooden structures, variety of spatial features and an eventful agenda, designed for diverse audience, with a beautiful and complex passeist idea of a palace park, meant to evoke thoughts and feelings.
Architecture as an Educational Tool
The concept of a charity school “Tochka Budushchego” (“Point of the Future”) in Irkutsk is based on cutting-edge educational programs, and is designed, among other things, for adapting orphaned children for independent life. An important role is played by the architecture of the building: its structure and different types of interconnected spaces.
The Gallery Approach
In this article, we are covering the concept of a Central District Clinic for 240 patients, designed by Ginzburg Architects, which won at a competition organized by the Architects Union and the Healthcare Ministry.
In this issue, we are publishing the concept of a standard clinic designed by UNK Project, which took second place in the competition organized by the Union of Architects of Russia in collaboration with the Healthcare Ministry.
From Foundation to Teaspoon
Based on the taste of their friendly clients, the architects Olga Budennaya and Roman Leonidov designed and built a house in the Moscow metropolitan area playing Art Nouveau. At the same time, they enriched the typology of a private house with modern functions of a garage loft and a children’s art studio.
Continuation and Development
The second “office” stage of Comcity, the most popular business park of the “New Moscow” area, continues the underground street of the already existing part of the complex, responding to its architectural identity.
A Comfortable City in Itself
The project that we are about to cover is seemingly impossible amidst human anthills, chaotically interspersed with old semi-neglected dachas. Meanwhile, the housing complex built on the Comcity business part does offer a comfortable environment of decent city: not excessively high-rise and moderately private as a version of the perfect modern urbanist solution.
Moving on the Edge
The housing complex “Litsa” (“Faces”) on Moscow’s Khodynka Field is one of the new grand-scale buildings that complement the construction around it. This particular building skillfully tackles the scale, subjugating it to the silhouette and the pattern; it also makes the most of the combination of a challenging land site and formidable square footage requirements, packing a whole number of features within one volume, so the house becomes an analogue of a city. And, to cap it all, it looks like a family that securely protects the children playing in the yard from... well, from everything, really.
Visual Stability Agent
A comparatively small house standing on the border of the Bolshevik Factory combines two diametrically opposite features: expensive materials and decorative character of Art Deco, and a wide-spaced, even somewhat brutal, facade grid that highlights a laminated attic.
The Faraday Cage
The project of the boutique apartment complex in the 1st Truzhenikov Lane is the architects’ attempt to squeeze a considerable volume into a tiny spot of land, at the same time making it look graceful and respectable. What came to their rescue was metal, stone, and curvilinear glass.
The Union of Art and Technology
His interest for architecture of the 1930’s is pretty much the guiding star for Stepan Liphart. In his project of the “Amo” house on St. Petersburg’s Vasilyevsky Island, the architect based himself on Moscow Art Deco - aesthetically intricate and decorated in scratch-work technique. As a bonus, he developed the city block typology as an organic structure.
The project that Evgeniy Gerasimov and Partners developed for Moscow’s Leningrad Avenue: the tallest building in the company’s portfolio, continuing the tradition of Moscow’s Stalin architecture.
In the project that they developed for a southern region of Russia, OSA Architects use multilayered facades that create an image of seaside resort architecture, and, in the vein of the latest trends of today, mix up different social groups that the residents belong to.
Just a Mirror for the Sun
The house that Sergey Skuratov designed in Nikolovorobinsky Alley is thought out down to the last detail. It adapts three historical facades, interprets a feeling of a complex city, is composed of many layers, and catches plenty of sunlight, from sunrises to sunsets. The architect himself believes that the main role of this house is creating a background for another nearby project of his, Art House in the Tessinsky Alley.
Part of the Whole
On June 5, the winners of Moscow Architectural Award were announced. The winners list includes the project of a school in Troitsk for 2,100 students, with its own astronomy dome, IT testing ground, museum, and a greenhouse on the roof.
Yet another project of a private school, in which Archimatika realizes the concept of aesthetic education and introduces a new tradition: combining Scandinavian and Soviet experience, turning to works of art, and implementing sustainable technologies.
In the “Parallel House” residence that he designed in the Moscow metropolitan area, the architect Roman Leonidov created a dramatic sculptural composition from totally basic shapes – parallelepipeds, whose collision turned into an exciting show.
In the Istra district of Moscow metropolitan area, the tandem of 4izmerenie and ARS-ST designed a sports complex – a monovolume that has the shape of a chamfered parallelepiped with a pointed “nose” like a ship’s bow.
Stairway to Heaven
The project of a hotel in the settlement of Yantarny is an example of a new recreational complex typology, and a new format that unites the hotel, the business, and the cultural functions. All of this is complemented by 100% integration with nature.
Cape of Good Hope
In this issue, we are showing all the seven projects that participated in a closed-door competition to create a concept for the headquarters of Gazprom Neft, as well as provide expert opinions on those projects.
The Outer Space
Honoring the 300th anniversary of the Kuznetsk coal fields in 2021, a new passenger terminal of the Aleksey Leonov Airport in the city of Kemerovo will be built, designed by GK Spectrum and ASADOV Architectural Bureau.
The Pivot of Narkomfin Building
Ginzburg Architects finished the restoration of the Narkomfin Building’s laundry unit – one of the most important elements of the famous monument of Soviet avant-garde architecture.
The housing complex “Respublika” is so large that it can be arguably called a micro-town, yet, at the same time, it easily overcomes most of the problems that usually arise with mass housing construction. How could Archimatika achieve that? We are examining that on the example of the first stage of the complex.
The Flowing Lines
The five houses of the “Svoboda” block belonging to the “Simvol” residential complex present a vivid example of all-rounded work performed by the architects on an integral fragment of the city, which became the embodiment of the approach to architecture that hitherto was not to be seen anywhere in Moscow: everything is subjected to the flow of lines – something like a stream, enhanced by the powerful pattern of the facades akin to “super-graphics”.
A City by the Water
The concept of a large-scale housing development at the edge of Voronezh, near the city reservoir, or “the sea”, as it is locally called, uses the waterside height difference to create a sophisticated public space, paying a lot of attention to the distribution of masses that determine the look of the future complex if viewed from the opposite bank of the river.
A Journey to the Country of Art Deco
The “Little France” residential complex on the 20th line of the Vasilyevsky Island presents an interesting make-believe dialogue between its architect, Stepan Liphart, the architect of the New Hermitage, masters of the Silver Age, and Soviet Art Deco, about interesting professional topics, such as a house with a courtyard in the historical center of Saint Petersburg, and the balance between the wall and the stained glass in the architectonics of the facade. Here are the results of this make-believe conversation.
A House in a Port
This housing complex on the Dvinskaya Street is the first case of modern architecture on the Gutuevsky Island. The architectural bureau “A-Len” thoroughly explores the context and creates a landmark for further transformations of this area of Saint Petersburg.
Balance of Infill Development
Anatoly Stolyarchuk Architectural Studio is designing a house that inadvertently prevails over the surrounding buildings, yet still tries to peacefully coexist with the surrounding environment, taking it to a next level.
The Precious Space
Evolution Design and T+T Architects reported about the completion of the interior design project of Sberbank headquarters on the Kutuzovsky Avenue. In the center of the atrium, hovers the “Diamant” meeting room; everything looks like a chest full of treasures, including the ones of a hi-tech kind.
Big Little Victory
In a small-sized school located in Domodedovo in Moscow metropolitan area, ASADOV_ architects did a skillful job of tackling the constraints presented by the modest budget and strict spatial limitations – they designed sunlit classrooms, comfortable lounges, and even a multi-height atrium with an amphitheater, which became the center of school life.
The Social Biology of Landscape
The list of new typologies of public spaces and public projects has been expanded yet again — thanks to Wowhaus. This time around, this company came up with a groundbreaking by Russian standards approach to creating a place where people and animals can communicate.
Watched by the Angels from up Above
Held in the General Staff building of the Hermitage Museum, the anniversary exhibition of “Studio 44” is ambitious and diverse. The exhibition was designed to give a comprehensive showcase of the company’s architecture in a whole number of ways: through video, models, drawings, installations, and finally, through a real-life project, the Enfilade, which the exhibition opens up, intensifies, and makes work the way it was originally intended.
A New Version of the Old City
The house at Malaya Ordynka, 19, fits in perfectly with the lineup of the street, looking even as if it straightened the street up a little, setting a new tone for it – a tone of texture, glitter, “sunny” warmth, and, at the same time, reserved balance of everything that makes the architecture of an expensive modern house.
Stepan Liphart: “Standing your ground is the right thing to do”
A descendant of German industrialists, “Jophan’s son”, and an architect, speaks about how studying architectural orders tempers one’s character, and how a team of just a few people can design grand-scale housing projects to be built in the center of Saint Petersburg. Also: Santa Claus appearing in a Stalin high-rise, an arch portal to the outer space, mannerism painting, and the palaces of Paris – all covered in an interview with Stepan Liphart.
Honey and Copper
In the Moscow area, the architect Roman Leonidov designed the “Cool House” residence, very much in the spirit of Frank Lloyd Wright, spreading it parallel to the ground, and accentuating the horizontal lines in it. The color composition is based on juxtaposition of warm wood of a honey hue and cold copper blue.
The Ring on the Saisara Lake
The building of the Philharmonic Hall and the Theater of Yakut Epos, standing on the shore of the sacred lake, is inscribed into an epic circle and contains three volumes, reminiscent of the traditional national housing. The roof is akin to the Alaas – a Yakut village standing around a lake. In spite of its rich conceptual agenda, the project remains volumetrically abstract, and keeps up a light form, making the most of its transparency, multiple layers, and reflections.
Architecture of Evanescence
On the Vernadskogo Avenue, next to the metro station, appeared a high-rise landmark that transformed the entire area: designed by UNK Project, the “Academic” business center uncovered, in the form of its architecture, the meanings of the local place names.
The Theater and Music Circles
The contest-winning ambitious grand-scale project of the main theater and concert complex of the Moscow area includes three auditoriums, a yard – a public area – a higher school of music, and a few hotels. It promises to become a high-profile center for the classical music festivals on a national scale.