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Heritage at Risk: Preservation of 20th Century Architecture and World Heritage

Moscow, 17-20th April 2006

It is well known that Russian Avant-garde and Constructivist architecture of the 1920s - early 1930s made one of the most important contributions to the International Modern Movement. But the deadline for rescuing some of these buildings is fast approaching.
Many of iconic buildings of the Avant-garde have been deteriorating for several decades. In Moscow this includes Konstantin Melnikovs workers clubs, and communal housing such as Ivan Nikolaevs student hostel. Most of these buildings will have their 75th anniversary over the next few years and yet have had minimum maintenance since their construction. The most tragic example of this is Moisei Ginzburgs Narkomfin apartment building 1928-1930, which was on the World Monuments Funds Watch List for the 100 most threatened sites world-wide in 2004.
Nearly all of these buildings have only local or regional listed status in Russias state heritage register. This means that they are vulnerable to the worst sort of conservation practice: facadism and crude refurbishment. As a result, many of these buildings have lost their historical authenticity and cannot therefore be included in the World Heritage List that would protect them from further mutilation.
Russian specialists and foreign architects have been aware of the plight of the treasures of the Russian Avant-garde for years. Unfortunately this architecture is not appreciated inside Russia itself. Russias professional community has tried hard to lobby the cause of these buildings, but with few results.
Judging the importance of the Russian architectural Avant-garde in the international context, and bearing in mind the well-established creative interrelations between Russia and other countries, it is evident that this is not only Russia`s heritage, but at least part of it belongs to the world community. Such important buildings as Le Corbusier`s Centrosojus or the Narkomfin house in Moscow, the ensemble of Stachki street in St. Petersburg or Alvar Aalto`s Library in Vyborg are considered to be in the group of the most important witnesses of the 20th Century Modern Movement located in Russia. Global fame is also connected with the monuments of the Stalinist architecture of the mid 1930s-1950s including famous Moscow metro stations and high-rise structures. And yet 20th century Russian architecture is underrepresented in the World Heritage List.

The Russian Academy for Architecture and Building Sciences, Federal Agency for Culture and cinematography, the Moscow Chamber of Architects, the Moscow Committee on Architecture and Town-planning, the Moscow Committee for the Preservation of Cultural Heritage and the Schusev Architecture Museum, with the support of Russias UNESCO Commission, ICOMOS International, DOCOMOMO International,World Monuments Fund and International Union of Architects (UIA) are organising an international conference devoted to this problem and to the issue of contemporary preservation methods for 20th Century architecture. The conference is held under patronage of the Moscow Government.

The general partner of the conference - CAPITAL GROUP.

The conference will take place in Moscow in April 17-20, 2006. It will include a chance to see many of these buildings. Your participation in this conference will strengthen the status of these buildings within Russia.
Working languages are Russian and English.
If you are interested in taking part and coming to Moscow in April 2006, please register using the following e-mail:
Yours sincerely,
Professor Alexander Kudryavtsev,
President of the Russian Academy for Architecture and Building Sciences,
President of the Moscow Architectural Institute
Moscow Architectural Institute
Rozhdestvenka street, 11
107031 Moscow
Phone / Fax: + 7 495 924 79 90
Fax: +7 495 921 48 08
Texts are based on the materials of the DO.CO.MO.MO register (Sharp D., Cooke C. (ed.). DO.CO.MO.MO Selections from the DO.CO.MO.MO Registers. Rotterdam, 2000. P. 210-212) and guidebook (Latour A. Moskva 1890 1991. Putevoditel po sovremennoi arkhitekture. Moskva 1997) with additional comments on the current condition of the buildings and the main threats that they face.
Information and photos are also available in German language at:

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