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Renzo Piano transforms a Moscow power station into an artistic hub
The GES-2 in Moscow, an old thermal and electric power station being converted into a gigantic contemporary art center. RENZO PIANO

Since the great chocolate factory built in 1697, renamed Red October in 1917, has been transformed into a place of festivities and cultural activities, Bolotny Island has become a Poles of attraction of Moscow youth. She will soon be brewing much wider. On the other side of the bridge that leads to the Church of Christ the Savior, an old thermal and electric power station is being converted into a gigantic center of the city. contemporary art. Started in 2016, the project is expected to be delivered in 2020. At the origin of the operation, Leonid Mikhelson, engineer who made a fortune (26.7 billion dollars according to the magazine Forbes) in the gas and petrochemical industry.

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His VAC Foundation, with which he restored the Palazzo delle Zattere in Venice in 2017 to install, among other things, his art collection, will ensure its functioning. For architecture, he turned to Renzo Piano, world star in his field and author of splendid museums such as the Pompidou Center (1977, with Richard Rogers), the Menil collection in Houston (1986), Fondation Beyeler in Béle (1997) â € | In recent years, its RPBW agency has distinguished itself by beautiful interventions on heritage sites. Last, the graceful and piquant conversion of the citadel of Amiens, a masterpiece of fortified urbanization designed by Jean Errard at the dawn of the 17th century.e century, in a modern campus for the University of Picardy Jules-Verne (2018).

A "palace of light"

As he introduced him to the phone, the challenge of this new project would have been to transform a dark, opaque factory into a "Palace of light". Designed in 1907 by the architect Vasili Bashkirov and the engineer Vladimir Shukhov, the GES-2 power station supplied gas and electricity to the large neighboring housing complex, its laundry, its cinema © ma, and the whole neighborhood up to the Kremlin.

"Industrial buildings still have great potential, because they are generous"says Renzo Piano. To reveal this potential, to create with him a place of exhibition which is also an open public space, it was first necessary to destroy: to unveil the carcass of everything that loses € ™ encapsulate, free the structure, convince the customer to buy the surrounding buildings to destroy them too, and create a void … In this void, there will be a garden, of ™ where will be a large ramp planted with a "Birch forest", which will run up to the roof of neighboring cellars. Created in 1901 by Piotr Arsenievitch Smirnov to preserve its vodka, this splendid series of vaulted brick rooms is also part of the project.

Renzo Piano, architect: "Transform the place without betraying the spirit, it's a game of balance. You have to know what's going on. "

"Transform the place without betraying the spirit, it's a game of balance, the German architect summed up. It is necessary to know how to keep what holds, what makes the strength of the building, which belongs to the history, and to the site. Do not erase what is good – masonry, the sequence of voids and solids … It is this idea, very European, that cities are made of strata. AT" On this site where hundreds of workers, Russian, Uzbek, Tajiks, make the three eight under the authority of Serbian managers and Antonio Belvedere, the chief architect of the agency RPBW, the steel structure is now bare, the roof has jumped, the voices leave the light spread over the heaps of brick on the ground. The large chimneys that once signaled the building are being rebuilt, but in metal rather than brick, their original material. In "This factory of the art", to use the expression used by Anna Prokudina, who supervises the engineering part of the site, they will ensure the ventilation of the building.

At 81, Renzo Piano seems to be well done to Russian habits and customs. Â € œIn Moscow, itâ € ™ s slightly more tiring than elsewhere, © EUPHA he putbut we get there! It is important for that to have a good client, who protects the project. Leonid is a rough man – that's normal, he's a builder, he builds gas extraction plants in Siberia. But he is good. He listens. AT"

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