Alexander Markin’s estate, one of the staples of Moscow Art Nouveau, gets the original color of its facades back

GlavUpDK under the MFA of Russia Capital Construction Department finished restoring facades on the main building of Alexander Markin’s Moscow estate at 7/1 Vadkovsky Lane.

GlavUpDK under the MFA of Russia Capital Construction Department finished restoring facades on the main building of Alexander Markin’s Moscow estate at 7/1 Vadkovsky Lane. Designed by architect Pyotr Kharko in 1905, the building is a cultural heritage site of regional significance and is under the management of GlavUpDK.

The estate that used to be little known until recently, is of great interest to historians and architects as one of valuable and expressive specimens of Art Nouveau style in Moscow. The building kept not only its composition and facade finishing, but the interior planning and interior decorations well enough.

The first owner of the house was Alexander Markin, Director of industry and trade company called “Successors of Alexei Gubkin, A. Kuznetsov & Co.” and a hereditary honorary citizen. In the 1980s-1990s, the mansion housed the Turkish Embassy; at present, it is occupied by Apostolic Nunciature, the Papal diplomatic mission to Russia.

The Building was one of P.Kharko’s most notable successes: architecture scholars note lavish plaster mouldings, typical of early Moscow Art Nouveau, fine details on flowers with twisting branches and female heads with flowing hair. The building’s outline is adorned with an overhanging cornice and facade attics interspersed with wrought iron railings between brickwork posts. Fine ornaments on the Art Nouveau railings continue in the balcony balustrade, the motif on the main entrance canopy, wrought iron fence and gates. The streetside facades are asymmetrical and their compositions are built around combining various size elements that balance each other, as Art Nouveau principles demanded. The facade’s most striking details are plaster relief sculptures of female faces, floral or even rocaille motifs located over the first floor and around the second floor windows. Resembling the French Art Nouveau pieces, they are what gives the house its inimitable image. The facades also feature various string cornices, window platbands, window sills, hood moulds with exquisite profiles and so on.

The works that started in 2021 involved the Capital Construction Department, together with specialist organizations, restoring the facades while preserving their composition and artistic decorations as they were in the early 20th century. The original colors of the facades discovered during cleanup were restored. Restoration artists had to pay special attention to the sophisticated spelter cornice (spelter is zinc and its alloys used in the 19th and the first 30 years of the 20th century as a replacement for bronze). That architectural element, unusual for our times, was discovered during the restoration. “Restoring spelter pieces now is challenging as the material and the skills needed to handle it went completely out of use in the modern times. That’s why we had to find and use a custom approach to put that element back to its original look,” said Dmitry Drachev, section head, GlavUpDK under the MFA of Russia Capital Construction Department.

On top of that, they restored the cornices, pediment, window platbands, friezes, rusticated abutments and pilaster strips, hood moulds, relief mouldings with female mask images near the main entrances, and other ornaments on the facades. The brickwork was carefully cleaned off old paint and plaster layers: in some places there were as many as 17 of them.

Ornamental railings were restored on the roof and rebuilt on the balconies and the terrace. The fence around the estate got a workover too: its foundation and brickwork were strengthened, lost ornaments of the fence facades replicated, plaster and metal elements restored.

Restoration architects used modern materials which, nevertheless, preserved authenticity and uniqueness of the original decorations envisaged by the author.