Rem Koolhaas unveils renovation concept for New Tretyakov Gallery

Through eliminating dysfunctional parts and removing a number of walls, OMA plans to breathe new life into Russia’s largest museum building.

Rem Koolhaas has arrived in Moscow to present OMA’s renovation plans for the New Tretyakov Gallery on Krymsky Val. The redesign of the Soviet modernist landmark will be the third major cultural project for the Dutch firm in Russia, after the modernization plan for the State Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg and the design of the Garage Museum of Contemporary Art in Moscow. 

Russian architecture firm Reserve will collaborate on the project as a local partner.

With a space of more than 61,000 square meters, the building housing the New Tretyakov Gallery and the Central House of Artist is the largest museum structure in the country. The Gallery is home to some of the greatest works of 20th century Russian and Soviet art, such as Malevich’s iconic ‘Black Square’ and Chagall’s ‘Over the Town.’ 

The concept unveiled by the revered architect identifies four distinct areas, clarifying the orientation and creating a basis for architectural differentiation. The vast space of the building will be divided into Art Storage, an Education Center, the Collection, and a Festival Hall.

Speaking during a press conference on Tuesday, Koolhaas said that each of the sectors will have a distinctive identity and role, and will be linked by a new pedestrian route along the embankment side of the Moskva River. Carefully placed cutouts in the façade will open up the interior spaces to the city.

“Our proposal is a reconsideration of the New Tretyakov, focusing on improving its spatial infrastructure and the elimination of dysfunctional parts,” Koolhaas said.

“We also undo the absolute separation between museum and the House of Artist, and remove a number of walls to make the different components more accessible and visible. Because of its size, it is almost impossible to consider it as a homogeneous entity; modern interventions which were unaffordable in Soviet times, such as escalators, improve circulation and draw together the different autonomous elements of the museum complex.”

Designed by Nikolay Sukoyan and Yury Sheverdyaev in 1964 and completed in 1983, the building housing the New Tretyakov Gallery and the Central House of Artist is considered one of the finest examples of Soviet modernism. However, it was threatened with demolition in 2008, after plans were announced for an ambitious Norman Foster-designed project to be built on the site. Following massive public outcry, the project was called off.

Photos: OMA
Text: Timur Zolotoev