6 November 2015
After the inauguration of the Fondazione Prada in Milan, Rem Koolhaas and OMA finished work on a new space with a similar function, the Garage Museum of Contemporary Art in Moscow, which opened last June with eight projects on show. In this case too, the Dutch studio has converted a fascinating abandoned building, making the most of the original structure. The Garage Museum is the third and definitive location of the center set up by the entrepreneur and collector Dasha Zhukova. The first was a former bus depot built in 1920s—whence the name Garage—redesigned by Konstantin Melnikov on the northern outskirts of Moscow and active since 2008. In 2012, Garage became a museum and moved to Gorky Park, into a temporary seat created by Shigeru Ban. And its current home is still inside the park, in what used to be the Vremena Goda restaurant, built in 1968 and abandoned in the nineties, which Koolhaas recalls having seen on a trip he made to Moscow in his youth. The structure, on two levels, covers an area of 5400 square meters and has the typical features of Soviet architecture: a sober space built of reinforced concrete, with a grand central staircase and large-scale decorations in tiles, mosaic and brick. The big idea has been to keep it as it was, covering the walls with a skin of two layers of translucent polycarbonate honeycomb: much of the technical plant has been installed in the gap between the two panels, leaving the surface free for display. The façade, suspended two meters above the ground, reestablishes the visual connection between the original building and the park. The same function is performed by the entrance, with 11-meter-wide sliding doors that rise vertically to reveal the two levels of the lobby. A staircase of red metal provides access to the terrace. Zhukova has also turned to Koolhaas for the work on the nearby Hexagon, a site dating from the twenties and once the location of one of the biggest movie houses in Europe, acquired by the businesswoman together with her husband, the Russian magnate Roman Abramovich.