Melnikov's House and Studio

World Monuments Watch
Moscow, Russia

2006 World Monuments Watch

In 1927 the master architect Konstantin Melnikov was granted a small plot of land to build a private house. Located in the center of Moscow, Melnikov’s House and Studio was the only single-family dwelling to be built for a private citizen during the Soviet era. The house-studio is an icon of Russian Constructivist architecture and is composed of two interlocking cylinders of different height but equal diameter. The street-facing façade is cut by a vertical stained glass plane and the rear cylinder is ornamented by a series of hexagonal windows. The building has no internal load-bearing walls, allowing for unobstructed internal spaces and maximum light and space. Since the death of Konstantin’s son, Viktor, in 2006, ownership of the building and its transformation into a private or public museum has been in limbo. Although recent government involvement puts it on track to become a state museum, the building continues to deteriorate. After being listed on the 2006 Watch, a number of parties stepped forward seeking to preserve the building. Placement of Melnikov’s House and Studio on the Watch was encouraged as a sequel to the Rusakov Club listing. Following Watch listing, WMF became involved with a 2006 ICOMOS conference in Moscow, “Preservation of 20th Century Architectural Heritage,” as a sponsor and sent a staff member to speak. WMF and WMF Britain have offered technical advice to Senator Sergey Gordeyev’s initiative to preserve the house as a museum and representatives of both offices were present at the Russian Avant-garde Foundation’s first meeting. The plight of the Melnikov House continues to be monitored and has been discussed in numerous lectures given by WMF staff since its Watch listing in 2006. Melnikov’s house studio is an icon of Russian constructivist architecture. Its original layout and furniture were preserved by the architect’s son, Viktor Melnikov, and it contains the archive of Melnikov’s architectural drawings and paintings. Built for himself and his family, it is experimental in form, layout, and building materials. The house dates from a highly experimental period in Russian architecture, which produced that country’s most significant contributions to modern architecture.

Since the Watch

In 2010 Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Zhukov formally instructed the Ministry of Culture to develop plans for the creation of a public museum at the house. Nevertheless, the building continued to deteriorate for several years after Watch listing. Through 2014 one half of the house remained in the ownership of the Melnikov family, while the other half was converted into a museum. In 2014, Konstantin Melnikov’s granddaughter Ekaterina Karinskaya was evicted and the Schusev State Museum of Architecture took ownership over the entire house. The State Museum of Konstantin and Viktor Melnikov opened in December 2014. Architects, journalists, artists, and preservation advocates have expressed concern that in the haste to open the Melnikov House, there have been no significant steps toward restoration, inventorying, or long-term preservation.

Last updated: July 2017.

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