По-русски

​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.

Natalia Koriakovskaia

Written by:
Natalia Koriakovskaia
Translated by:
Anton Mizonov

17 April 2020
Object
mainImg
The laundry is the closest to the Garden Ring component of the Narkomfin complex, authored by Moisey Ginzburg and Ignatiy Milinis. It is situated behind the Chaliapin’s house, on the frontline of the Novinsky Boulevard; earlier it had an open space in front of it. Currently, however, this place is occupied by the Fyodor Chaliapin monument. In the 1920’s, the laundry unit marked the border of the experimental avant-garde architectural ensemble: behind it, a green public territory began, leading up to the famous “Ship House” standing in the depth of the land site.

Project of restoring and readjusting the architectural heritage site “Narkomfin Laundry”
Copyright: © Ginzburg Architects


Before the Second World War, this unit hosted what was then called “Moscow’s First Mechanized Laundry”, which functioned quite successfully – the first floor had in it a hall of washing and drying machines, the second – the staff’s dormitory. In the “maintenance yard” complex, designed by Ginzburg and Milinis, with its social and day-to-day infrastructure projects moved beyond the apartment walls, the laundry was the only structure to be ever completed. There was also supposed to be a garage for the residents’ cars, and a boiler room. After the war, the building passed into departmental subordination and, acquiring alien functions, was overbuilt with later additions.

Facade of the Laundry Block. 1995.
Copyright: Provided © Ginzburg Architects


Facade of the Laundry Block. 1995.
Copyright: Photograph © Ginzburg Architects


Quite symbolic is the fact that it is this utility unit that took on such “welcoming” role in the Narkomfin Building. It was accentuated by the composition of the whole ensemble: the construction that included placing some of the first floors on supports functioned as some kind of a “checkpoint”, at the same time being a paraphrase of the main building, demonstrating similar techniques.

Recreating the volumetric and spatial structure of the 1932 laundry unit, “Ginzburg Architects” returned to the building the “supports” or “legs”, as they were called, which were overbuilt back in the day in order to get more square footage. Freely flowing underneath the supports, the space of the park, organized in two diagonal promenades, flowed further on and ended in a sightseeing platform. The green islet – the remnant of the Chaliapin Estate, is still to be clearly seen on the map of the city. In the Soviet times, during the reconstruction of the Garden Ring, some of the trees from destroyed boulevards were replanted here. Still in the 1920’s, Moisey Ginzburg tried to save as much as possible of the existing greenery, the vegetation being an important part of the complex; in his “Dwelling” book he writes about the Narkomfin Building: “situated in a park”.

  • zooming
    1 / 4
    The masterplan of the original Narkomfin Building. 1929-1930.
    Copyright: The Central Archive of Scientific and Technical Documentation of Moscow / Provided by Ginzburh Architects
  • zooming
    2 / 4
    Floor plans of the laundry block. 1929-1930.
    Copyright: The Central Archive of Scientific and Technical Documentation of Moscow / Provided by Ginzburh Architects
  • zooming
    3 / 4
    Masterplan of the Narkomfin Complex
    Copyright: The Central Archive of Scientific and Technical Documentation of Moscow / Provided by Ginzburh Architects
  • zooming
    4 / 4
    “The maintenance block of the Narkomfin Building”
    Copyright: The Central Archive of Scientific and Technical Documentation of Moscow / Provided by Ginzburh Architects


Before the restoration, the laundry was in a ruined state. In addition to clearing off the later layers, “Ginzburg Architects” had to recreate a lot of things from scratch. “The building was left to rot for almost twenty years – water was freely coursing through it, all the utility lines were cut off, and bums lived in there. It was completely abandoned, no one took interest in it, and it frequently changed hands. This is why the task of conservation was a very challenging one – there was very little original material left, which was kept intact and was fit for conservation. And, curiously, one of our tasks during this project was to make sure that the laundry does not become a totally newly-constructed building” – Aleksey Ginzburg shares.

  • zooming
    1 / 11
    Project of restoring and readjusting the architectural heritage site “Narkomfin Laundry”
    Copyright: Photograph © Ginzburg Architects
  • zooming
    2 / 11
    Project of restoring and readjusting the architectural heritage site “Narkomfin Laundry”
    Copyright: © Ginzburg Architects
  • zooming
    3 / 11
    Project of restoring and readjusting the architectural heritage site “Narkomfin Laundry”
    Copyright: © Ginzburg Architects
  • zooming
    4 / 11
    Project of restoring and readjusting the architectural heritage site “Narkomfin Laundry”
    Copyright: © Ginzburg Architects
  • zooming
    5 / 11
    Project of restoring and readjusting the architectural heritage site “Narkomfin Laundry”
    Copyright: Photograph © Ginzburg Architects
  • zooming
    6 / 11
    The laubdry building, September 2005. Project of restoring and readjusting the architectural heritage site “Narkomfin Laundry”
    Copyright: Photograph © Ginzburg Architects
  • zooming
    7 / 11
    Project of restoring and readjusting the architectural heritage site “Narkomfin Laundry”
    Copyright: Photograph © Ginzburg Architects
  • zooming
    8 / 11
    Project of restoring and readjusting the architectural heritage site “Narkomfin Laundry”
    Copyright: Photograph © Ginzburg Architects
  • zooming
    9 / 11
    Project of restoring and readjusting the architectural heritage site “Narkomfin Laundry”
    Copyright: © Ginzburg Architects
  • zooming
    10 / 11
    Project of restoring and readjusting the architectural heritage site “Narkomfin Laundry”
    Copyright: © Ginzburg Architects
  • zooming
    11 / 11
    Project of restoring and readjusting the architectural heritage site “Narkomfin Laundry”
    Copyright: © Ginzburg Architects


A very important step on the path of getting the building back to its original condition became the “clearing off” the outside staircase of the later-added glazing, where the restoration experts were able to preserve some of the stair finish. Originally, the stairway led to the second floor with the staff’s dormitory. The restoration team also carefully preserved a fragment of the historical stucco of the west facade, which gave the idea of the its coloristic solution. It was uniform for the whole Narkomfin architectural ensemble: the buildings had textured white stuccoed walls, combined with round black columns and smooth gray ribbon windows.

  • zooming
    1 / 7
    Project of restoring and readjusting the architectural heritage site “Narkomfin Laundry”
    Copyright © Ginzburg Architects
  • zooming
    2 / 7
    Project of restoring and readjusting the architectural heritage site “Narkomfin Laundry”
    Copyright: © Ginzburg Architects
  • zooming
    3 / 7
    Project of restoring and readjusting the architectural heritage site “Narkomfin Laundry”
    Copyright: Photograph © Ginzburg Architects
  • zooming
    4 / 7
    Project of restoring and readjusting the architectural heritage site “Narkomfin Laundry”
    Copyright: © Ginzburg Architects
  • zooming
    5 / 7
    Project of restoring and readjusting the architectural heritage site “Narkomfin Laundry”
    Copyright: Photograph © Ginzburg Architects
  • zooming
    6 / 7
    Project of restoring and readjusting the architectural heritage site “Narkomfin Laundry”
    Copyright: Photograph © Ginzburg Architects
  • zooming
    7 / 7
    Project of restoring and readjusting the architectural heritage site “Narkomfin Laundry”
    Copyright: Photograph © Ginzburg Architects


The fragments of the authentic texture inside were turned into “bodies of evidence”: the best preserved fragment of the thatch-board, for example, was integrated into the interior as an exhibit placed under glass. Some of the historical brickwork was also left intact as the historical material. The architects also saved fragments of the air shafts that they found in the course of excavation.

  • zooming
    1 / 6
    Project of restoring and readjusting the architectural heritage site “Narkomfin Laundry”
    Copyright: Photograph © Ginzburg Architects
  • zooming
    2 / 6
    Project of restoring and readjusting the architectural heritage site “Narkomfin Laundry”
    Copyright: Photograph © Ginzburg Architects
  • zooming
    3 / 6
    Project of restoring and readjusting the architectural heritage site “Narkomfin Laundry”
    Copyright: Photograph © Ginzburg Architects
  • zooming
    4 / 6
    Project of restoring and readjusting the architectural heritage site “Narkomfin Laundry”
    Copyright: Photograph © Ginzburg Architects
  • zooming
    5 / 6
    Project of restoring and readjusting the architectural heritage site “Narkomfin Laundry”
    Copyright: Photograph © Ginzburg Architects
  • zooming
    6 / 6
    Project of restoring and readjusting the architectural heritage site “Narkomfin Laundry”
    Copyright: Photograph © Ginzburg Architects


“Sadly, the original decoration of the interiors did not survive. We only found the remains of xylolite (sawdust cement) as the floor coverage on the second floor, and the multilayered paint in the walls. Currently, we have recreated the wall finish with paint over stucco. The western wall has a bluish tone because this is the only original color that we could find in the course of our technological survey” – comments the chief architect of the project, Maria Kuzina.

The west and the north facades. Project of restoring and readjusting the architectural heritage site “Narkomfin Laundry”
Copyright: Photograph © Ginzburg Architects


Engineering and construction-wise, the laundry, just as the entire house, was an experimental project. Characteristic features of the construction were standardization and pre-manufacturing of some of the elements. The basis of the building is constituted by a reinforced concrete framework filled by brickwork of two types. For the outside walls, which also functioned as the heat insulators, they used hollow-bodies slag-concrete blocks of the “peasant” type, filled in between with fine slag. For the internal bearing walls, masonry of hollow stones with one row of voids, the so-called hard stones of the engineer Prokhorov system, was used. The system of utility lines was positioned vertically and horizontally in the hollows of the brickwork of the bearing walls and intermediate floors.

“As far as the restoration work on the laundry goes, we performed it in accordance with the original technology – Aleksey Ginzburg says – We researched the possibilities provided by today’s construction materials, which at the same time match the original materials in terms of their performance. For example, we found the concrete blocks very similar to “peasant” blocks, and when we were laying them, we used the laying method very similar to the original one. We also used the original project to recreate the slabs cast over precast joists, and the system of sliding windows. All of this was important for us because we wanted to make sure that we have the right to say that the new parts of this building have been recreated in full accordance with the original technologies and the original design ideas.”

Project of restoring and readjusting the architectural heritage site “Narkomfin Laundry”
Copyright © Ginzburg Architects


For example, during the restoration of the brickwork fills in the outside walls the architects found lightweight expanded clay aggregate blocks of similar sizes; for restoring the floor slab, they used slabs cast over precast joists, similar to those that were developed for the construction of the Narkomfin Building.

Among other things, the architects restored the lost fills of the door and window apertures with the metalwork. The original ribbon windows were one of the Narkomfin inventions – they consisted of reinforced concrete frames and moving parts of oak, sliding on a roller.
“We restored the window blocks completely true to their historical drafts – the size, the system of moving frames, and the color design solution, for the sole exception that the concrete frames were replaced with wooden ones, and there were insulated glass units installed on the inner thread” – Maria Kuzina says.

Project of restoring and readjusting the architectural heritage site “Narkomfin Laundry”
Copyright: Photograph © Ginzburg Architects


What also changed was the “roofing pie”: the architects restored the historical folding roof covering with a 7-degree tilt. With a view of using the roof in the summertime, the project provides for a quick-mount boardwalk on adjustable legs, along with an outer staircase that also functions as an emergency staircase for the second floor.

  • zooming
    1 / 12
    Project of restoring and readjusting the architectural heritage site “Narkomfin Laundry”
    Copyright: Photograph © Ginzburg Architects
  • zooming
    2 / 12
    Project of restoring and readjusting the architectural heritage site “Narkomfin Laundry”
    Copyright: Photograph © Ginzburg Architects
  • zooming
    3 / 12
    Project of restoring and readjusting the architectural heritage site “Narkomfin Laundry”
    Copyright: Photograph © Ginzburg Architects
  • zooming
    4 / 12
    Project of restoring and readjusting the architectural heritage site “Narkomfin Laundry”
    Copyright: Photograph © Ginzburg Architects
  • zooming
    5 / 12
    Project of restoring and readjusting the architectural heritage site “Narkomfin Laundry”
    Copyright: © Ginzburg Architects
  • zooming
    6 / 12
    Fragment of the archive drafts. Project of restoring and readjusting the architectural heritage site “Narkomfin Laundry”
    Copyright: © Ginzburg Architects
  • zooming
    7 / 12
    Project of restoring and readjusting the architectural heritage site “Narkomfin Laundry”
    Copyright: © Ginzburg Architects
  • zooming
    8 / 12
    Project of restoring and readjusting the architectural heritage site “Narkomfin Laundry”
    Copyright: © Ginzburg Architects
  • zooming
    9 / 12
    Project of restoring and readjusting the architectural heritage site “Narkomfin Laundry”
    Copyright: Photograph © Ginzburg Architects
  • zooming
    10 / 12
    Project of restoring and readjusting the architectural heritage site “Narkomfin Laundry”
    Copyright: Photograph © Ginzburg Architects
  • zooming
    11 / 12
    Project of restoring and readjusting the architectural heritage site “Narkomfin Laundry”
    Copyright: Photograph © Ginzburg Architects
  • zooming
    12 / 12
    Project of restoring and readjusting the architectural heritage site “Narkomfin Laundry”
    Copyright: © Ginzburg Architects


“As such, the laundry is a fine specimen of constructivist architecture, and at least because of that it had to be restored – Alexey Ginzburg emphasizes – We, however, also attached a compositional meaning to restoring this building because it is an important part of the environment that we wanted to capture and show in a conservation mode as the idea of our avant-garde architects of the 1920’s together with the public space.”



Currently, the laundry unit and the main buildings have different owners. According to Aleksey Ginzburg, the perfect solution would be to indeed turn the restored unit into a laundromat as a social infrastructure project for the residents of the nearby houses. The owner, however, did not warm up to this idea. A more likely scenario is turning the building into a city cafe.

In a word, the “laundry” or the “maintenance unit”, seemingly purely functional and insignificant, turns out to be a very important element of the complex, even the key one in some sense. The main idea of the experiment, which was conducted back in the day by the Stroikom section in the Narkomfin Building, just as in a few other houses, built in other cities, was changing public life, making it not so much “commune” as “communal” – this term is different from “commune” because it is more about comfort, and because it essentially became the predecessor of the experiments of the XX century, facilitating people’s lives and capable of channeling the energy that we spend every day on doing routine tasks into creative activities. In the Soviet model, the experiment, not being substantiated by anything, in spite of a series of attempts, probably failed – yet it rather was successful on a global scale, and let us not forget that the Soviet avant-garde architects took an active part in it. In addition to its town planning significance of “propylaea of the Narkomfin Park”, an entrance building of sorts, the laundry building was part of the life-changing project, done by the architects of the group headed by Moisey Ginzburg – and, unlike the cafeteria, which is known to everyone, the most forgotten part of it. The completed restoration project returned to the construction front of the Garden Ring an element which was hitherto overlooked by public attention, while the architectural ensemble became more complete and got another little share of historical justice. It is a quite a pleasant surprise how this complex, which stood ready to collapse and dissolve in the ground, many times bewailed, could completely restore itself in some four or five years. Even though, as we remember, it took 30 years of frantic efforts to make this ultimately happen.

The project of restoring the Narkomfin maintenance building brought Ginzburg Architects the “Moscow Restoration Award 2019”.

17 April 2020

Natalia Koriakovskaia

Written by:

Natalia Koriakovskaia
Translated by:
Anton Mizonov
Headlines now
A Flyover in Watercolor
For the 100th anniversary of Vladimir Vasilkovsky, the architectural office of Evgeny Gerasimov is reflecting on the Ushakov Flyover, which was designed with input from this artist and architect. In this article, we are showing its watercolors and sketches, including the preliminary ones that were not included in the final project, as well as speaking about the importance of architectural drawing.
​Walking on Clouds
A restaurant in the Khibiny skiing complex: 820 meters above the sea level, sweeping views, a levitation effect, and ingenious engineering solutions.
​Inside of a Drawn Grid
Designing the apartment complex PLAY in Danilovskaya Sloboda, ADM architects placed their bet on the imagery of construction. The area where it manifested itself the most vividly was the sophisticated grid of the facades.
​The Yard Aesthetics
Organizing the yard of a premium-class housing complex, GAFA architects took care not just about the image that matches the project’s high status, but also about simple human joys, masterfully overcoming the construction regulations.
​MasterMind: a Neural Network for Developers and Architects
Created by Genpro, this software allows you to generate within half an hour dozens of development and construction options in accordance with the set parameters. At the same time, however, being more focused on the technical aspects, the program does not exclude creative work, and can be used by architects for preparing projects with a subsequent data export to AutoCAD, Revit, and ArchiCAD.
This Beetle Has Flown
The story of designing a business center in the Zhukov (“Beetle”) Drive: a number of attempts to preserve a hundred-year-old cold storage facility, at the same time introducing modern buildings interpreting the industrial theme. The project remained on paper, but the story behind it seems to be worth our attention.
​The Childhood Territory
The project of the educational complex within the second stage of “Spanish Quarters” was developed by ASADOV Architects. The project is all about creating a friendly and transparent environment that in itself educates and forms the personality of a child.
Man and the City
Designing this large-scale housing complex, GAFA architects accentuated two types of public spaces: bustling streets with shops and cafes – and a totally natural yard, visually separated as much as possible from the city. Making the most out of the contrast, both work together to make the life of the residents of EVER housing complex eventful and diverse.
​Andy Snow: “I aim for an architecture which is rational and poetic”
The British architect Andy Snow has recently become the chief architect at GENPRO Architects & Engineers. Projects, which Andy Snow did in the UK in collaboration with world-famous architectural firms, scored numerous international awards. In Russia, the architect took part in designing Moscow’s Stanislavsky Factory business center, iLove housing complex, and AFI2B business center on the 2nd Brestskaya Street. In our interview, Andy Snow compared the construction realities in Russia and the UK, and also shared his vision of architectural prospects in Russia.
​The Living Growth
The grand-scale housing complex AFI PARK Vorontsovsky in Moscow’s southwest consists of four towers, a “slab” house, and a kindergarten building. Interestingly, the plastique of the residential buildings is quite active – they seem to be growing before your eyes, responding to the natural context, and first of all opening the views of the nearby park. As for the kindergarten building, it is cute and lyrical, like a little sugar house.
Sergey Skuratov: “A skyscraper is a balance of technology, economic performance, and aesthetic...
In March, two buildings of the Capital Towers complex were built up to a 300-meter elevation mark. In this issue, we are speaking to the creator of Moscow’s cutting-edge skyscrapers: about heights and proportions, technologies and economics, laconicism and beauty of superslim houses, and about the boldest architectural proposal of recent years – the Le Corbusier Tower above the Tsentrosoyuz building.
​The Red Building
The area of Novoslobodskaya has received Maison Rouge – an apartment complex designed by ADM, which continues the wave of renovation, started by the Atmosphere business center, from the side of the Palikha Street.
​The Uplifting Effect
The project of Ostankino Business Park was developed for the land site lying between two metro stations (one operating and the other in construction), and because of that its public space is designed to equally cater for the city people and the office workers. The complex stands every chance of becoming the catalyst for development of the Butyrsky area.
​Binary Opposition
In this article, we are examining a rather rare and interesting case – two projects by Evgeny Gerasimov situated on one street and completed with a five years’ difference, presenting the perfect example of example for analyzing the overall trends and approaches practiced by the architectural company.
Raising the Yard
The housing complex Renome consists of two buildings: a modern stone house and a red-brick factory building of the end of the XIX century, reconstructed by measurements and original drafts. The two buildings are connected by an “inclined” yard – a rare, by Moscow standards, version of geoplastics that smoothly ascends to the roof of the stores lined up along a pedestrian street.
​Hearing the Tune of the Past
The Church of the Beheading of John the Baptist in the park near the Novodevichy Convent was conceived in 2012 in honor of the 200th anniversary of the victory over Napoleon. However, instead of declamatory grandeur and “fanfare”, the architect Ilia Utkin presented a concentrated and prayerful mood, combined with a respectful attitude of this tent-shaped church, which also includes some elements of architecture of orders. The basement floor hosts a museum of excavations found on the site of the church.
​Semantic Shift
The high-end residential complex STORY, situated near the Avtozavodskaya metro station and the former ZIL factory, is delicately inscribed in the contrastive context, while its shape, which combines a regular grid and a stunning “shift” of the main facade, seems to respond to the dramatic history of the place, at the same time, however, allowing for multiple interpretations.
​Yards and Towers: the Samara Experiment
The project of “Samara Arena Park”, proposed by Sergey Skuratov, scored second place in the competition. The project is essentially based on experimenting with typology of residential buildings and gallery/corridor-type city blocks combined with towers – as well as on sensitive response to the context and the urge to turn the complex into a full-fledged urban space providing a wide range of functions and experiences.
​The Fili Duo
The second phase of the Filicity housing complex, designed by ADM architects, is based on the contrast between a 57-story skyscraper 200 meters high and an 11-story brick house. The high-rise building sets a futuristic vector in Moscow housing architecture.
​The Wall and the Tower
The OSA architects have been searching for solutions that could be opposed to the low-rise construction in the center of Khabarovsk, as well as an opportunity to say a new word in the discourse about mass housing.
​The Energy Family
The housing complex Symphony 34 will be built in Moscow’s Savelovsky district; it will consist of four towers from 36 to 54 stories high. Each of the towers has an image of its own, but they all are gathered into a single architectural ensemble – a fragment of a new high-rise urban space lying outside the Third Transport Ring.
The Fifth Element
The high-end residential development in the Vsevolozhsky Lane features a combination of expensive stone and metal textures, immersing them into a feast of ornaments. The house looks like a fantasy inspired by the theater of the Art Nouveau and Symbolism era; a kind of oriental fairy tale, which paradoxically allows it to avoid direct stylization and become a reflection of one of the aspects of modern Moscow life.
​Springboards and Patios
The central element of the manor house in the village of Antonovka, designed by Roman Leonidov, is the inner yard with pergolas, meant to remind its owner about his vacations in exotic countries. The exposed wooden structures emphasize the soaring diagonals of single-pitched roofs.
​Adding Up a Growing City
The housing quarter “1147” is located at the border between the old “Stalin” district in the north and the actively developing territories in the south. Its image responds to a difficult task: the compound brick facades of the neighboring sections are different, their height varying from 9 to 22 floors, and, if we are look from the street, it seems as though the front of the city development, consisting from long narrow elements, is forming some sophisticated array at this very moment in front of our eyes.
Agility of the Modular
In the Discovery housing complex that they designed, ADM architects proposed a modern version of structuralism: the form is based on modular cells, which, smoothly protruding and deepening, make the volumes display a kind of restrained flexibility, differentiated element by element. The lamellar and ledged facades are “stitched” with golden threads – they unite the volumes, emphasizing the textured character of the architectural solution.
Polyphony of a Strict Style
The “ID Moskovskiy” housing project on St. Petersburg’s Moscow Avenue was designed by the team of Stepan Liphart in the past 2020. The ensemble of two buildings, joined by a colonnade, is executed in a generalized neoclassical style with elements of Art Deco.
​In Three Voices
The high-rise – 41 stories high – housing complex HIDE is being built on the bank of the Setun River, near the Poklonnaya Mountain. It consists of three towers of equal height, yet interpreted in three different ways. One of the towers, the most conspicuous one looks as if it was twisted in a spiral, composed of a multitude of golden bay windows.
​In the Space of Pobedy Park
In the project of a housing complex designed by Sergey Skuratov, which is now being built near the park of the Poklonnaya Hill, a multifunctional stylobate is turned into a compound city space with intriguing “access” slopes that also take on the role of mini-plazas. The architecture of the residential buildings responds to the proximity of the Pobedy Park, on the one hand, “dissolving in the air”, and, on the other hand, supporting the memorial complex rhythmically and color-wise.