Originally published 07/28/2013
Just steps away from the matryoshka-strewn Old Arbat, where tacky trinkets offer a shallow slice of Russian culture to go, an object of genuine cultural significance is on the brink of destruction.Builders are at work on a multifunctional center with three levels of underground parking, in the process, experts say, endangering a celebrated gem of the Russian avant-garde.The Melnikov House on Krivoarbatsky Pereulok is utterly original. Formed from two intersecting cylinders with over 60 diamond-shaped windows, the house eschews typical horizontal space in favor of a steady spiral upwards: from basic needs on the ground floor, to sleeping and living rooms on the second, to creation in the form of a lofty, radiant studio on the third.Built as a model for mass housing in 1929, the house soon became a refuge for its pioneering designer, Konstantin Melnikov, when Stalinism's conservative turn in the early '30s left the architect unable to teach or practice his craft. Yet even now the unique structure still has an uncertain future....
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