Built between 1928 and 1930 and designed by Moisei Ginzburg and Ignatii Milinis for employees of the National Finance Ministry, the Narkomfin building is a seminal monument in the history of Modern architecture. The design of the building was based not only new construction technologies but new socialist housing ideas intended to transition from family housing to collective living communities. Of the larger master plan, including two residential blocks, a school and a hostel, only the Narkomfin building, a laundry, and a shared facilities building were built. Although the building sits in the middle of a desirable, developing neighborhood in Moscow, the building today stands in a semi-ruinous condition. Moisei Ginzburg’s grandson, architect Alexei Ginzburg, has drawn up a restoration plan, which ensures the layout is retained with minor modifications of its use. His plan calls for the building to become an apartment-hotel, but progress on this vision only creeps along since the building is still owned by city agencies and any restoration is complicated by the necessity of re-housing the families who still live there.
Despite being listed three times (2002, 2004, and 2006) on the Watch, little progress has been made in preserving this treasure of Modernism and Russian history. Increased attention was gained from an ICOMOS-sponsored conference in Moscow in 2006 on the preservation of 20th century Russian architecture at which a WMF representative spoke about strategies for conserving landmarks of Modernist architecture. Since the conference, a development company has acquired a number of the apartments and is proposing restoration project of the building through the Narkomfin Foundation. Comprehensive restoration has yet to begin.
The Narkomfin building is recognized as one of the finest examples of surviving Russian Constructivist architecture. Its design demonstrated some wholly new concepts in architecture that had influence beyond Russia. For instance, its duplex living units accessed at their midpoints by glazed corridors notably served as the model for aspects of LeCorbusier’s Unite D’Habitation constructed from 1947 to 1952. The dire present condition of the Narkomfin building is of acute concern to both local and international architectural conservationists and it is hoped that its careful restoration and protection will come soon.
Since the Watch
Alexei Ginzburg, grandson of the building's designer, has led the effort to preserve the building. In 2008 an exhibition titled Narkomfin House and its Importance was hosted in the Schusev State Museum of Architecture. Additionally, plans were announced for the Narkomfin building to be converted into a boutique hotel by real estate developers MIAN. In January 2009 it was reported that these plans had been delayed as a result of changed economic conditions. In April 2014, the Moscow Times reported that the building’s primary owner intends to announce a plan for the complete restoration of the site. However, recent interventions have led to an outcry over the potentially permanent damage that they have caused. They include the replacement of wood floors with concrete, destruction of original window frames and doors, and replastering of walls. Mosgornaslediye, the department for cultural heritage of the city of Moscow, was not consulted about these actions. October 2014