GES-2 House of Culture, Moscow
GES-2 House of Culture is a contemporary art center in Moscow housed in a former power station, from which it took its name, refurbished after a design by acclaimed Italian architect Renzo Piano.
Cover image: the south-eastern facade of the GES-2 House of Culture in Moscow; photo © Michel Denancé courtesy of RPBW.
Located in Moscow’s Yakimanka District, the GES-2 power station was built in 1907; at the time of its construction, it was the second-largest power station in the city. The vast Russian-revival style building of the station was designed by architect Vasily Bashkirov and engineer Mikhail Polivanov. After being decommissioned in 2014, the power station was acquired by the V-A-C Foundation – a non-profit organization founded by Russian businessman Leonid Mikhelson and Teresa Iarocci Mavica – with the objective to transform it into a 20,000-square-meter multidisciplinary art center.
GES-2 is inspired by the traditional Russian “houses of cultures” (Russian: dom kultury) namely multidisciplinary centers aimed to let people participate in culture and make art, which house an art gallery, a library, creative workshops, a cinema, and a performing art space under one roof.
GES-2, view from Patriarshy Bridge; photo © Michel Denancé.
Renzo Piano respectfully restored the historical building of the former powerhouse while, at the same time, transforming it into an open-plan, light-filled contemporary space where, in the architect’s own words, “visitors feel guided by their own intuition”.
The GES-2 center accommodates four main functional areas, which Piano called “poles”.
The Civic pole contains free access spaces – including a library, a media hub, a free art installation space, and a restaurant – opening onto an outdoor plaza.
The Welcoming pole is in the center of the main building and, on two levels, accommodates various visitor facilities – including the center’s ticket and information desks, a shop, a café, and a snack bar – together with a performance area and the auditorium.
As the name suggests, the Exhibition pole is the center’s area dedicated to exhibitions; it contains a combination of spaces of different sizes and heights, suitable for displaying a diverse set of artworks and artifacts of different types and sizes.
Finally, the Education pole houses classrooms and workshops aimed both at professionals – like art curators, critics, and artists in residence – and the
Piano also restored the 4 brick chimneys present on the site into iconic blue steel chimneys. Yet, the new chimneys are more than an architectural embellishment, they are also functional devices that activate natural ventilation by collecting clean air 70 meters above the ground to greatly reduce the energy consumption of the building.
Ground floor plan; image Renzo Piano Building Workshop.
Transverse and longitudinal sections; images Renzo Piano Building Workshop.
View of the center at dusk; photo © Michel Denancé.
Program of activities
Opened on December 4, 2021, GES-2 House of Culture hosts a varied program of events and activities, focused primarily on Russian and international contemporary visual arts, design, and architecture – which comprises special exhibitions, performances, concerts, lectures, film screenings, and creative workshops for children.
As mentioned earlier, the center is strongly focused on art-making and also includes a former warehouse that has been converted into an art production center, called “The Vaults” which provides resident artists seven workshops with state-of-the-art equipment for experimenting with photography, printmaking, 3D printing, audio and video production, as well as to work with different materials including ceramics, metals, plastics, textiles, and wood.
Along with exhibition spaces, educational facilities, and workshops, the center – which is fully accessible to physically-impaired people – also houses a 420-seat auditorium, a library, a book and gift store, a restaurant, three cafes, and a bakery.
GES-2 House of Culture, interior views; photos © Michel Denancé courtesy of RPBW.
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copyright Inexhibit 2022 - ISSN: 2283-5474