Khudozhestvenny is the oldest cinema in Moscow dating back to 1909. In 1912-1913 the building was redesigned by the renowned Russian architect Fyodor Shekhtel. In the course of reconstruction, many original elements of his design were restored or recreated while the building was transformed into a popular public venue and relaunched on April 9, 2021.
By the time the rescue operations started, the historical film theatre in the heart of Moscow had fallen into a sad shape. The building designed by the iconic master of Russian art nouveau Fyodor Shekhtel, the architect behind the Russian village at the Glasgow International Exhibition of 1900, was in critical condition. Before tackling the actual restoration, the team had to resolve safety issues as the brickwork had been largely destroyed by humidity and fungi and the original beams had lost their strength.
Comprehensive historical and spatial research allowed Strelka CA to develop a new vision for the cinema and set up a design competition for the adaptive reuse of the heritage building. The office went on supervising the design development and implementation of the project. As a result, the concept design was created by merz merz, a German office with a broad experience of working with heritage sites, most notably the State Opera and the Old National Gallery in Berlin. The restoration effort was led by a specialised Moscow-based office, Faros. The interiors were designed by the award-winning Spanish architect Lázaro Rosa-Violán.
The first months were spent clearing up the facades and repairing the roofing. Two trusses were selected by the conservation professionals to stay in place and be museified.
Complex restoration methods, extensive preliminary research, and cutting-edge technologies transformed Khudozhestvenny into a state-of-the-art, pleasant public space. The heritage screening halls are now equipped with the most advanced Dolby Atmos sound systems and smart Barco laser projectors with a stunning resolution. There are only 17 of these projectors in the world today in addition to those installed at Khudozhestvenny. The design of the building created additional complications. For instance, it was originally intended for silent movies and therefore had no place left for sound systems. In the end a special design solution was devised to fit the contemporary equipment into the ceiling and the walls of the main historical auditorium.
The operational excellence of the international architecture team transformed the cinema into a trendy and agreeable public space while preserving heritage elements and reviving some design solutions that required extensive scientific and historical research.
The entrance facade was recreated after the original drawings of Fyodor Shekhtel. The openings that had been closed off over time were reopened and the decorative solutions restored, including the Entrance and Exit signs above the front doors, the Khudozhestvenny Electrotheatre sign, the Helios and Selene bas-reliefs, the male and female mascarons. The lanterns at the main entrance have also been reproduced after the original designs. The facade now features an electro-poster composed of small pointed lamps and located in the same spot as the historical afiches. This solution allowed to keep the historical facade intact.
Shekhtel’s fountain is back in the lobby. The old installation has gone missing but its exact location and dimensions were established through the surviving blueprints and the remnants of the base that could be found in the lounge. Unfortunately, no images or description of the fountain survived but the new water feature was placed in its original spot, next to the giant stained glass window.
The regeneration enhanced the functional programme of the theatre: along with screening facilities, Khudozhestvenny now features a cafe, a restaurant, several bars, and a library. It is welcoming and exciting regardless of screening times. The reopening of side entrances and emergence of the new ones on the front was a key factor in transforming the building into a vibrant and welcoming urban space.
Strelka KB is a leading Russian company offering strategic consulting services in the field of urban development. Since 2013, Strelka KB helps cities to develop their spaces, economies, management and technologies based on the demands of their residents. The company develops comprehensive solutions for improving mobility, ecology and sustainability of the urban environment and the quality and accessibility of housing as well as heritage preservation and redevelopment. Strelka KB’s work has received international recognition and a series of awards, including the Urban Land Institute Awards 2019, ISOCARP Awards 2018, Qatar Sustainability Awards 2018 and LILA Awards 2018. Strelka CA — is an architectural office within Strelka KB, which works on design and implementation of the effective architectural decisions helping to transform the everyday experience of citizens’ interaction with the space.