16-17 January 2020 the International Advisory Committee (IAC) meeting for conservation of the Melnikov House took place in the Moscow-based Schusev State Museum of Architecture. Members of the IAC chaired by Professor Jean-Louis Cohen (France) discussed the results of the pre-conservation survey of the Melnikov House (Moscow, 10 Krivoarbatsky Lane) conducted in 2017-2019 with support of Keeping It Modern grant from the Getty Foundation (USA) and donation from PIK Group of Companies (Russia), and next steps to take to save this monument of Russian avant-garde architecture.
A wide circle of experts took part in the presentations and discussions including architecture and art historians, architects, conservators, members of museum community, ICOMOS Russia, Russian Academy of Architecture and Construction, Moscow City Architecture Committee and others.
The members of the International Advisory Committee and invited experts of the IAC meeting heard research report on structures, footings and foundations, utility networks, heating system, construction materials, colors and paints, archival and documentary survey of the Melnikov House. The following text is excerpts from IAC meeting Communique adopted on the basis of presentations and discussions. The full text of the Communique is available here.
Research done in 2017-2019 appears to be comprehensive and almost sufficient for an objective assessment of the state of the building and making decisions on the necessary conservation and restoration works. According to the results of the research, there are no immediate risks to the building structures. The condition of foundations, walls and posts, basement ceilings is assessed as usable and generally satisfactory. One of the exceptions is the critical condition of the lower supporting beam of the large window in the living room.
Provided with proper operating conditions, monitoring and timely repairs and maintenance, the building can be considered suitable for the specific use as a site of museum-scientific collection and presentation and the organization of visits with strict limitations on the number, total weight and behavior of visitors. An important factor in the safety of the Melnikov House is the maintenance of the target temperature and humidity conditions in the interiors and construction.
It is necessary to comply with the recommendations on organizational measures to ensure the safe operation of the building - the procedure and quantitative restrictions on visitor tours, preventing snow overload of the roof, seasonal and regular works. The hydrogeological risks for the building as a result of active construction in the 1990s-2000s are currently non-existent. Nevertheless, it is advisable to continue the hydrogeological and geodetic monitoring of the building.
The Schusev State Museum of Architecture is advised to proceed to the next phase of saving the Melnikov House: preparation of a detailed conservation implementation project with the involvement of the Russian and international specialists who participated in the research phase.
During the conservation campaign of the Melnikov House visitors should not be excluded but given the (temporally and spatially limited) opportunity of sharing the experience of the work “in restauro” on site (“open renovation”).
The following priorities should be established:
- the least possible interference (“as much as necessary and as little as possible”),
- conservation as preservation rather than restoration as recreation with loss of authenticity,
- authenticity of materials, finishes and techniques as well as authenticity of design.
With the exception of façades, for which total work is ahead, all the other proposed measures are of local nature. Full restoration of the façades is also advertising and motivating starting point of the conservation campaign.
It is advisable to reflect at an early stage the increasing interest of visitors and to take in consideration a necessity to reduce the stress of this tiny heritage site (house and garden) by relocating affecting visitor facilities (cloakroom, bathroom, information and education spaces etc.) in neighboring buildings.
It is recommended to explore the possibility to combine the World Heritage nomination of the Melnikov House and site with an application of related Melnikov Archive / Estate / Collection for the documentary world heritage of the Memory of the World program of UNESCO.