House of the week: high-rise of the Ministry of Railways near the Red Gate

Of all the skyscrapers in Moscow, the one at the Red Gate on Sadovaya-Spasskaya Street is the most mysterious. The skyscraper was immediately built with a roll of 16 centimeters.

For the 24-storey administrative and residential building of the Ministry of Railways, the highest point of the Garden Ring was chosen. This place was once marked by a baroque triumphal arch, the same Red Gates erected in honor of the victory of Russian weapons in the Battle of Poltava. In 1709, the returning troops solemnly marched through the wooden front gates. They, repeatedly swept away by the flames of a fire, were translated into stone by the architect Dmitry Ukhtomsky. This happened already in 1757.

From that day on, the Red Gate had to stand for another 170 years, and the Soviet authorities were successfully dismantling them in order to widen the roadway. Soon, the Church of the Three Hierarchs, which stood near the gate, was also dismantled, despite the fact that Mikhail Yuryevich Lermontov was baptized under its vaults. They also destroyed the mansion of Major General Karl Wilhelm von Toll, where the future poet was born. A circumstance that did not prevent the renaming of Red Gate Square into Lermontovskaya.


After the war, when the Palace of Soviets, a large Stalinist project, the “center of the world” was removed from the agenda, it disintegrated into a ring of skyscrapers.

In 1947, a competition was announced for the project of a high-rise building of the Ministry of Railways on the Red Gate. The competition was attended by four creative teams led by architects Alexei Dushkin, Ivan Taranov, Samuil Kravets and Georgy Voloshinov.

On September 7, 1947, in honor of the 800th anniversary of Moscow, a ceremonial laying of eight high-rise buildings took place at the same time on the city’s reference points in order to emphasize the verticals. Seven skyscrapers were built.

The victory in the war determined the preference for monumental architectural solutions for the reconstruction of Moscow. The architects were faced with the task of creating stepped compositions reminiscent of ancient Russian temples. However, it is hard not to notice how these compact volumes crowned with spiers with stars look like American skyscrapers of the early 20th century.

On September 11 of the same 1947, the newspaper “Udarnik Metrostroy” reported that by the decision of the State Council of the Committee for Architecture under the Council of Ministers of the USSR, the project of Ivan Georgievich Taranov was recognized as the best. But it soon became clear that the design and construction of the skyscraper was entrusted to another architect, Alexei Nikolaevich Dushkin, a native of the village of Aleksandrovka, Kharkov province, a graduate of the Kharkov Construction Institute, the author of the master plans for Gorlovka and Kramatorsk. In those years, he served as chief architect of the Central Architectural Workshop of the Ministry of Railways. In architecture, the virtuoso Dushkin was able to dissolve ideological bias and, without contradicting state tastes, create a masterpiece.

“A lot can be expressed by means of architectural language only if our concepts are in agreement with the laws of harmony,” the laureate of three Stalin Prizes formulated.

The skyscraper on Sadovaya-Spasskaya Street, crowned with a spire, consisted of two seven-story residential buildings. The building was erected simultaneously with the construction of the second vestibule of the Krasnye Vorota metro station, and in a short time. The first entrance to the subway appeared, as you know, earlier, in 1935, according to the project of architect Ivan Fomin.

The team of authors, which included architects Alexei Dushkin, Boris Mezentsev, design engineers Viktor Abramov and Yakov Dorman, from the very beginning decided to build the object at a slight slope, and artificially freeze the ground around the pit in order to force it to sink exactly when it necessary, without waiting for the natural shrinkage of the foundation. This was the first case of approbation of the technology of freezing water-saturated floating soils, which was innovative at that time.

270 wells 27 meters deep were dug around the building and connected to freezing stations. With the help of pumps, a saline solution and freon were supplied for cooling to minus 25 degrees. For some time the skyscraper teetered on the edge of the pit. It was an incredible responsibility and risk, but the calculation turned out to be accurate. After the soil thawed, the building stood upright.

Technical intelligentsia, employees of the Ministry of Railways, famous doctors and teachers settled in the residential part of the skyscraper. The corner five-room apartments were occupied by ministers and their deputies. The president of the Academy of Sciences, Mstislav Keldysh, lived in one of them. In his creation, the architect Alexei Nikolaevich Dushkin himself and his family received an apartment.

Unlike other Moscow skyscrapers, there was no such special luxury here – no frescoes, no mosaics, no crystal chandeliers in the lobbies. There were no sculptures on the facade, although they were in the project. The coat of arms of the USSR one and a half floors high, however, remained, as well as the plinth, trimmed with red granite.

But still, the interiors and the level of comfort here differed markedly from the furnishings of ordinary apartments: the floor was covered with oak parquet, the ceilings were decorated with stucco, there was air conditioning, boilers for space heating. The kitchen had typical furniture with sinks and waste crushers, a refrigerator, and a garbage chute. Next to the kitchen there was a narrow room for a housekeeper.

Each entrance had its own bomb shelter and underground garage. Trucks plied along the underground ring road, collecting garbage from the entrances. Right in the building, in one of its wings, a kindergarten was opened.

However, since 1953, the moment construction was completed, the high-rise of the Ministry of Railways (Sadovaya-Spasskaya, 21) has never known a major overhaul. At the moment, the restoration project of the cultural heritage site of the peoples of the Russian Federation of regional significance is almost ready, which will begin in 2023. They promised to clean up the facade, locally replace the cladding, engineering communications systems, restore stucco decoration, bas-reliefs, stained glass window fillings, balcony and parapet railings.

Photo: Maxim Mukhin, Slava/

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button