The transformed Bolshevik Factory in Moscow is a unique building and an important example of the city's great industrial heritage, spanning both the pre-and post-Soviet period. Located in the heart of Moscow, the site comprises seventeen buildings of varying ages and styles, including listed buildings dating from the late 19th century, the first buildings in Moscow to boast electric light.
When the site was acquired in 2012, the Bolshevik Factory had been abandoned for many years and the buildings were critically neglected, roofs caved in, the 19th-century brickwork facades seriously damaged, inadequate infrastructure, no working services and no fire safety systems. The metal framing was badly corroded, as were the concrete floors. This transformational project faced the dual challenge of careful restoration (three of the factory buildings had cultural heritage status) and complete renewal of engineering and utilities at the site. Empty unheated buildings decay quickly in Moscow’s climate so there was an urgent need to stabilise the buildings’ environmental performance in order to properly protect the Factory’s vulnerable fabric. The entire site was in a state of near collapse and almost complete dereliction.
The restoration work focused on preserving and restoring historical elements of the buildings. Stairway balustrades were renovated with the help of surviving drawings and a large-diameter heating pipe, which connected the factory buildings, was retained and incorporated into the interior of the new restaurant. The interiors have kept their historic Monier vaulted ceilings and iron columns, which originally supported the building.
All the key elements of the original design by French architect Oscar Dio have been retained and restored: the original decorative brick façades have been painstakingly restored, as has the main entrance staircase. Similarly, the iconic chimney gracing the street façade has been retained, and all the pitched roofs have been restored to their original design.
Consisting of five distinct elements, the scheme features dramatic, naturally lit atria - internal covered ‘streets’ linking the Grade A office accommodation, as well as high-end new build residential elements that have been inserted within the historic building fabric, a new Museum of Russian Impressionism and fully accessible public gardens.
The 5-storey atria provide covered circulation to many parts of the masterplan - given the size of the estate and the rigours of the Russian winter, this is of great benefit to all tenants. Designing these atria was an exercise in structural ‘gymnastics’ as no element within the complex is vertical or aligned. The streets reveal the original factory grain and moving through it enables a distinct appreciation of the original layers the Factory’s history. The ‘loft-style’ office space ranges in size from 300 to 15,000 sqm, taking advantage of high ceilings and large windows which provide excellent natural light, ventilation and views.
The Museum of Russian Impressionism provides over 1,000 square meters of exhibition space, a cinema, a multimedia zone, educational facilities for children, a café and retail facilities. The exhibition space is arranged over three floors, with the permanent collection on the ground floor and temporary exhibits on the upper floors. The mesh cladding expresses a contemporary feel while referencing the site’s industrial aesthetic. The Museum is an adaption of an existing circular storage silo on the site, making it an authentic part of the Factory’s history. The first major private art museum to open in the city, it now hosts annual exhibitions of works from leading museums and private collections.
Sustainability is a fundamental design principle of the Bolshevik Factory. The project consists principally of the retention and sensitive restoration of the original historic fabric across the site. This level of forensic repair and conservation meant that the construction process created very little wastage or carbon footprint, with the sourcing of new material kept to a minimum. An integrated energy masterplan was carried out across the whole site to ensure that the buildings would conserve energy. By increasing the thermal performance of all elements, carbon emissions and energy costs were reduced. Statutory standards have been achieved making the site as energy efficient as possible. In line with the overall environmental strategy for the site, the new internal ‘street’ features a heat recovery and buffer system to reduce energy consumption.
The external spaces have been landscaped to create a sequence of generous pedestrianised zones - open and accessible to tenants, residents, the local community and visitors to the business centre and to the Museum of Russian Impressionism. The landscaping creates a sequence of spaces, courtyards and gardens, limiting vehicular movement to the perimeter, with parking concealed underground.
The Bolshevik Factory is an exemplar of adaptive reuse and historic conservation in the city and the project has profoundly influenced Moscow’s conservation policy regarding the adaptation of historic architecture. Its return into active use is part of the city’s revaluation of its remarkable cultural heritage. The 50,000 sqm redevelopment is a successful fusion of working, living and cultural uses. An economic hub that has significantly enhanced the Belarusskaya district and created an exciting cultural destination with the addition of The Museum of Russian Impressionism.
John McAslan + Partners (London-Edinburgh-Doha) works across cultural, heritage, infrastructure, hospitality, commercial, residential, education, masterplanning and landscape sectors. Our portfolio includes the Belfast Transport Hub, the redevelopment of the Stanislavsky Factory, Moscow, the Museum of Russian Impressionism (Bolshevik Factory, Moscow), the British Embassy, Algiers, Iron Market, Port-au-Prince, Haiti, and a Cultural Forum, Mandarin Oriental Hotel, Jumaa Mosque and Heritage Museums, Doha, Qatar, a masterplan for the Royal British Columbia Museum in Victoria, Canada, and the redevelopment of the British School, Rio de Janeiro. Our transformation of King’s Cross Station has won 30 international awards and we are working on Crossrail Bond Street Station. The Catholic Cathedral, Kenya, won the 2016 BCIA Judges ‘Special Award’ and the 2017 Civic Trust National Panel Special Award. The practice has won 25 RIBA Awards, 3 Europa Nostra Awards and the Queen’s Award for Enterprise.