Museums | Restoration and Conservation

Museum of Contemporary Art GES-2

Moscow | Russia

PROJECT DETAILS

City
Moscow
Country
Russia
Customer
V-A-C Foundation
Architectural design
RPBW Renzo Piano Building Workshop
Period
2016 - 2020
Amount of works
36.000.000 €
Services Provided
Structure design
Sector
Museums | Restoration and Conservation
Construction technique
Metal carpentry

The house of culture

In the famous Red October district, the rebellious heart of Moscow, the tsars built a thermoelectric power station in 1907 to power the Kremlin, located a short walk away. A magnificent historic station converted by RPBW for the VAC Foundation into a major cultural and exhibition center.

GES-2 is not a museum and not just a fascinating building. It is a house of culture, designed as a large cultural hub intended for artistic activities and open to the public, a gathering place where people are the real protagonists of this new space.

Moscow's oldest thermoelectric power plant, built by the Tsars in 1907 and decommissioned at the beginning of this century, is transformed by Arch. Renzo Piano's project for the VAC Foundation into a Museum of Contemporary Art. The intervention involved maintaining the original soul with the preservation of the steel structures. The chimneys were used to capture clean air for ventilation of the building.

An island of culture and creativity

Interior Museum of Contemporary Art GES-2 Moscow
Interior Museum of Contemporary Art GES-2 Moscow
Interior Museum of Contemporary Art GES-2 Moscow
Interior Museum of Contemporary Art GES-2 Moscow
Museum of Contemporary Art GES-2 Moscow

The area in which the GES-2 museum is located is part of an extremely vibrant district known today as Red October. This area is home to a chocolate factory turned innovation center for start-ups, cafes and restaurants, the Strelka Institute, an urban laboratory offering an educational and research program, and the Udarnik Theater, an important example of Russian architecture.

The synergies between these buildings and the V-A-C Foundation help strengthen the cultural and multigenerational character of this part of the island, making it a popular destination for both Muscovites, Russians and tourists from abroad.
Arch. Renzo Piano's design transforms this building into a space conceived as an articulated experience ranging from visual and performing arts to a free civic space for people.

Inside the building 20,000 m² of spaces and functions are organized into four main hubs:

  • the civic hub, a combination of open-access spaces and activities open to the outdoor plaza to capture and engage street life;
  • the inner plaza, barycentric to the building, the entrance to the V-A-C experience to which are connected the library and media center to the north, free art installation spaces to the south, and the restaurant;
  • the reception hub, on the ground floor in the center of the main building, which contains multiple informal activities such as ticket office, info point, orientation, and store;
  • spaces for shows and performances on the upper floor, overlooking the birch forest created outside.

The exhibition hub is a combination of spaces of different sizes and heights, offering a variety of spatial conditions to accommodate any kind of artwork. The educational hub offers a look at exhibitions and includes the School of Art, dedicated to training a new generation of curators, critics and art historians, and Lifelong Learning, with classrooms and workshops geared toward the general public. Also part of this hub are several artist residencies with workshops located in the north tower.

Interior Museum of Contemporary Art GES-2 Moscow

The recovery of structures

The more than 100-year history of the building, connected with disuse and lack of maintenance, has resulted in significant deterioration of the structures.
The main problems involved the basement, where water infiltration caused damage to the masonry walls and the advanced state of deterioration of the above-ground steel structures.

The carpentry, affected by corrosion, had many deformed elements and some nailed and welded joints that were no longer efficient.
Thus, structural consolidation was the preliminary intervention that the building needed as part of its redevelopment.

Construction Site Museum of Contemporary Art GES-2 Moscow
Historical photo interior of Moscow GES-2 thermoelectric power plant
Construction Site Museum of Contemporary Art GES-2 Moscow
Aerial view construction site Museum of Contemporary Art GES-2 Moscow
Construction Site Museum of Contemporary Art GES-2 Moscow

The main approach was conservative, with the intention of maintaining as much as possible of the existing structures, an integral part of the soul of the building, which is considered a Cultural Heritage Site. The masonry and steel structures were consolidated and reinforced.

In order to detect defects and degraded structural elements, it was necessary to carry out a comprehensive structural investigation with specific tests on different materials, both during the design phase and during the actual disassembly of the existing apparatus.

Interior Museum of Contemporary Art GES-2 Moscow
Interior Museum of Contemporary Art GES-2 Moscow
Interior Museum of Contemporary Art GES-2 Moscow
Interior Museum of Contemporary Art GES-2 Moscow
Interior Museum of Contemporary Art GES-2 Moscow
The restoration project was designed to meet the criterion of preservation, with interventions aimed at preserving the original image of the power plant and respecting the integrity of the materials already in place such as masonry, steel and concrete.

The metal trusses were preserved in memory of the site by applying specific solutions: disassembled and reassembled following sandblasting, replacement of damaged elements that could not be recovered, verification of connections, and application of protective agents. The pillars were reinforced to be able to support the new roof loads: the connecting lattice elements of the C profiles that make up the pillars were removed and replaced with steel plates welded to the flanges in order to increase their rigidity.

The masonry was restored through cleaning systems, removal of deteriorating elements, filling of joints, and application of waterproofing protective agents.
Conservation Restoration Museum of Contemporary Art GES-2 Moscow
Conservation Restoration Museum of Contemporary Art GES-2 Moscow
The chimneys, historic elements of the city skyline, were instead redesigned respecting the original volumes. They were built with four hollow-section steel spirals and two rows of tie rods. A natural room ventilation system is developed within them through the use of wind turbines at the top.
Chimneys Museum of Contemporary Art GES-2 Moscow
Chimneys Museum of Contemporary Art GES-2 Moscow
Historical photo chimneys GES-2 Moscow thermal power plant
Before proceeding with the work, we carried out a mock-up of the building's roof, which allowed us to learn more about the glazing assembly system, the installation of solar panels, and the operation of the stormwater disposal system.
Mockup Museum of Contemporary Art GES-2 Moscow
Photovoltaic panels Museum of Contemporary Art GES-2 Moscow
Mockup Museum of Contemporary Art GES-2 Moscow
The building, which has achieved LEED Gold certification, is a virtuous example of sustainable design. From the rehabilitation of existing steel structures, to the planting birch forest, through the energy autonomy guaranteed by the large area of solar panels covering the roof. Every design action was taken with the aim of reducing the environmental impact of the intervention.
Sustainable Design Museum of Contemporary Art GES-2 Moscow
Sustainable Design Museum of Contemporary Art GES-2 Moscow
Sustainable Design Museum of Contemporary Art GES-2 Moscow
Interior Museum of Contemporary Art GES-2 Moscow
"The real protagonists of this new space are the people. Today, a new museum model is needed; art spaces must engage."

Teresa Iarocci Mavica, Director, V-A-C Foundation

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