The redevelopment of old Soviet sites in Moscow has been met with controversy in the Russian capital according to a recent report from Alec Luhn in The Guardian.

Campaigners say unique Soviet architecture will be lost with the building of upscale apartment blocks, boutique shops and a branch of St Petersburg’s famous Hermitage Museum, as part of the 65-hectare ZiLArt project in the heart of Russia’s capital city.

The project, to redevelop the former ZiL car factory, is part of a city-wide push by the Moscow government to encourage renovation of its derelict industrial areas.

But as Alec Luhn reports, some architects, historians and activists have raised concerns about the preservation of architecture at the ZiL and other sites.

According to Marina Khrustalyova, coordinator of the preservation group Arkhnadzor nine-tenths of the historic buildings in the ZiLArt is being torn down.

In his article, Luhn wrote that Soviet factory buildings don’t lend themselves to new uses without significant reconstruction, tempting investors to knock them down and build something more profitable in their place.

Eugene Asse, the founder of the March architecture school, called ZiLArt an “attempt at a good compromise” between preservation and profit but highlighted doubts on how much will be preserved.

Yury Grigoryan, from architecture practice Project Meganom, said the press shop – a renowned building within the ZiL – was “difficult to save” due to bad materials and weak
construction, but argued that keeping parts of it intact could encourage preservation as more of the ZiL is developed.

Khrustalyova gave Grigoryan credit for saving at least the facade of the press shop but argued the demolition of ZiL structures were against preservation promises before work began.

“The fact they tore them down is not against the law, but everyone involved in this project knows that from (the) experts’ point of view these buildings had architectural and historical value, and it was possible to implement adaptive reuse,” Khrustalyova said.

The Zil project forms part of a large redevelopment by the Moscow government, which includes a £1.4bn (AU$2.45) renovation of a million square metres of streetscapes and more than 70 new subway stations, in a bid to develop new business hubs and transportation options outside of the city centre.

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