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"Project Russia" Magazine No. 32


Maria Nashchokina

                                                                    HOUSE OF ARCHITECT UTKIN

   “Nirnzee House”, “House of Architect Melnikov”, “House of Zholtovsky”, “House of Architect Utkin” (this name was given to him by investors)... It sounds! I think very soon other applicants for similar names will not be slow to appear, for the lineup is small, but luxurious and clearly built into the Moscow tradition.
   So, another author’s elite house in the center of Moscow... The city, which is still attractive to all kinds of “third-rate prosecutors” who want to look at it from above from their “prosecutor's” penthouses, is rapidly and everywhere sprouting with new elite housing. Especially a lot of it is being built in the areas of Ostozhenka, Prechistenka and Arbat nostalgically glorified during the Soviet era. It is here that investors “shuffle” mentally and in vain, shuffling architectural styles in order to ascertain their commercial potential. Modernism, constructivism, the “Moscow style”, the Stalin's empire style and the Art Deco so far mainly determine the basic historical priorities of developers and buyers.
   The corner of the Big and Small Levshinsky is the very heart of noble Moscow, here (opposite the house in question) there once stood the Church of the Intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary "that is in Levshin"; around - a few miraculously survived to this day tiny houses with porticos and mezzanines. They were joined by the "House of Architect Utkin", which was complimented in the press already at the level of the author's project, and in fact was pleasantly graphically executed. This is a seven-story profitable new building with a semi-basement, visually crouching from the outside to the next five-story building, the two upper floors are penthouses. The building was built surprisingly high quality; the concrete frame is “dressed” with a facade that is impeccably made of brick and natural stone (!). In general, in all respects, the building is quite worthy of becoming the subject of an impartial analytical analysis by a contemporary who, incidentally, is well aware that only one objective critic - time, gives a real assessment of everything and everything.
   The house closes the long perspective of Money Lane and is unobtrusively built into the front ribbons of both Levshinsky; its angular arrangement, as usual, implies a composite response, which in this case was a “gap” in the stepped glass body of the penthouses of the 6th and 7th floors, where a glass rotunda bulb modestly perceived from below from the ground is modestly located. In the drawings and drawings, it looks slimmer and more monumental, in nature, its size is somewhat obscured by a prospective reduction, which, however, doesn’t really bother - the house is emphasized strictly and aristocratic, it does not try to plebeianly intrusively draw attention to itself, like its unreborn brothers.
  A pergola separates the rotunda from the street, not yet twined with lush greenery, advertised in print. Its foundations are crowned with several flower vases, which just would have gone very well plant edge, it is too tough, "in German", they are painted. Considering the generally soft silhouette of the building (thank God, without tents and spiers !.), the eye also comes across charming functional details that are unlikely to cause the author special creative torment - these are traditional chimneys without claim to independence of shape, which it would seem that they remained only in the memories of apartment buildings a century ago. Oddly enough, but it is they who tell the building almost more historical persuasiveness than some decorative-style delights.
  According to the historian’s professional opinion, two stylistic principles coexist in the house - classic eclecticism and Art Deco. The five-story brick-stone body of the building refers us to the forms of late eclecticism of the late XIX - early XX centuries. By the way, anyone who wants to can compare: almost nearby in Maly Levshinsky Lane (No. 3) there is a good example of it - the apartment building of 1912 by the architect P.A. Zarutsky, then a rather famous architect. The stylistic prototypes of the pergola-colonnades of penthouses are much younger - their "relatives" are found among the monumental buildings of 1930-1940, that is, in the architecture of the Moscow Art Deco. The symbiosis of styles is quite unexpected, although they do not look visually such. The house, made of expensive and “eternal” materials in muted colors, embodies the solidity and timelessness of the Italian palazzo. Even the masonry here is not simple - each brick with color spraying on one side, so that the noble earthy color of the wall vibrates.
   Occupying, as usual, the entire length of the allotted area, "Utkin's House" is frankly facade. The five-story ribbon of the main facade on both lanes is divided into three traditional tiers: the base, the actual body of the house and the cornice, not striking with either perfection or ugliness of proportions - that is, not causing any emotional response in this regard. The main means of facade expressiveness are order applications. The most monumental among them are two-story glazed porticos with paired Roman Doric half-columns carved from stone according to all the rules of ancient building art - an abacus from its own pebble, echin from its own, neck from its own... All these elements are made very carefully, although too much the elongated non-canonical proportions of half-columns prevent one from fully admiring this rare property in Moscow. Along with the strict captivity of the capitals, the interfloor embossed friezes from tiny ionics and shaggy acanthus leaves, which visually intersect half-columns at mid-height and are interpreted again in the spirit of eclecticism, are somewhat surprising.
  The bumps leave an uneven impression - the most noticeable and refined seasoning of the classics. They turned out most expressively on the balconies, offensively primitive and anemic - framed by porticos and window sandriks. The upper horizontal thrust of the first floor with rarely spaced flat dies, for some reason not even linked to window openings, is also not quite thought out. The horizontal rust of the lower part also looks sluggish, which is especially noticeable at the junction with the nearby neoclassical house of 1913, built by the good Moscow master Gustav Gelrich and also rusticated below.
    A lot of effort was spent on drawing front brackets of several types. It seems that the most successful are the brackets of the balconies of the 3rd floor with large volutes, the weakest are the frequent brackets of the cornice. The brackets of the central balcony above the entrance from B. Levshinsky’s side are large herms of frowning and densely bearded old men - either these are four Frost-Red Noses, or four Marshmallows, or a multiplied image of an investor — a portrait resemblance to the author is not observed. Sculpture has not yet occupied that prominent and influential place in modern profitable construction as it was a century ago, and therefore its rare introductions into architectural compositions, as a rule, do not differ in the necessary degree of generalization, style correspondence or symbolic validity.
   With a slight stretch to the Art Deco style, one can attribute the “firewall” side facade from the alley and the frankly seven-story facade - the courtyard, with analogies to which are also found in the modernism of the early 1900s. This facade is free from a somewhat strained street order, and therefore it is much more lively and interesting. The fencing chains of the French balconies look nice, against their background is a rectangular angular belvedere with a staircase very expressive, a completely playful trick seems to be an unexpectedly “wrapped” order fragment of the main facade here. From the courtyard, the territory of the house is fenced off by a high wall with a towering pergola, again with vases, which, however, are not yet available. A prosaic electrical substation is mounted on it from the “alien” side, and from its “own” side there is an arched stone grotto with a lion's head in the castle (not yet implemented), very reminiscent of a miniature and - alas! - the lost predecessor of the work of the Vesnin brothers from a small courtyard on Znamenka street. Again - the Moscow tradition.
    In general, the house is well inscribed on Wednesday, and its drawing and implementation will undoubtedly exceed the level of many modern buildings. Nevertheless, the status of the author and his high mark of appreciation seem to allow us to expect more. Despite the obvious literacy, the house does not leave a bright “aftertaste” - everything is very representative, expensive, but ... boring3. It seems that the problem is not Utkin’s professionalism, which is not subject to doubt, not his knowledge of the chosen classical language of forms, but the absence of a genuine passion for him. Therefore, not all the little things are thought out, which in real classics, as a rule, does not happen. Just the classic clothes of a nominal house is only one of the vast modern architectural "wardrobe" owned by the master...
   Battles for the embodiment of functions in the form (and not vice versa), dropping the past from the “ship of modernity”, refined searches for excellence in the Palladian heritage, the revival of the post-fire empire as a style of military victory and utopian attempts to completely relocate people to new dwellings (by the way, almost succeeded in Moscow ) - these aspirations, both romantic and orthodox, like everything that the “Russian genius” touches, were left behind, in the last century. The new millennium, which had not yet really begun, put everything in its place, reminding architects, from the institute, frivolously aimed at rebuilding the world, that they serve as one of the oldest professions, and therefore should know its simple laws. The theme of the battle immediately moved from the culmins, that is, computers, to the offices of investors struggling for their own income, and into the corridors of power. Appearance and style have become primarily a commodity. They are cloned to please customers and do not always correspond to the tastes and creative predilections of the authors. Unfortunately, the commercial Moscow eclecticism of recent times, which is absolutely confident in its own legitimacy, even in its best creations, is not usually inspired by what distinguishes high art - by its selfless pursuit of excellence.
  But... you can’t get anywhere, architecture always creates the most reliable portrait of society, whether it wants it or not.



Ilya Utkin



Architects "Utkin Studio":
I. Utkin (lead), D. Nikolaev, E. Peresvetova, V. Fenogenov
"Sergey Kiselev and partners":
S. Kiselev, O. Marchenko, M. Chirkov
I. Schwartzman, A. Reent
Sculptor: S. Storozhev
Mosaic panels: I. Shakhovskoy
Customer: Investstroy CJSC
Investor: KV-Engineering
Contractor: CONIP

   The project of this house was born in the bowels of the workshop "Sergey Kiselev and Partners". Initially, he was entrusted to Sergei Skuratov, who worked there. The proposal he made, however, did not arouse enthusiasm for the customer: not modern, but neoclassical, he imagined at the intersection of two old Prechistensky lanes. As a result, Ilya Utkin replaced Skuratov, for whom this object was the first significant sale in Moscow. At the project stage, the house in Levshinsky was covered in detail in the 24th issue of our magazine. The stylistics proposed by the customer turned into a utkin object with the punctuality of an archaeologist: the house seemed to be made by a graduate of the School of Painting, Sculpture and Architecture, and not of the post-soviet MArchI. However, knowing Utkin’s “paper” creations, one can hardly doubt the sensitivity of his “architectural ear”. The building unequivocally refers to housing construction in the 2nd half of the 19th - beginning of the 20th centuries: from the street, at least, it looks like recreated - almost in the spirit of Luzhkov’s “restoration with demolition” - an old-Moscow apartment building, moreover, an elite house. This is indicated not only by the thoroughness of the detailing of the facade, but also by the harmonious balance of its rhythmic relationships, which often hides the feeling of monotony that accompanies such buildings and imparts a grandiose representative character to the house. The choice of a "pulsating" brick for the background cladding is an undoubted success of the author. The picturesque ripples of the terracotta walls deprives the building of dryness and intangible estrangement that is characteristic of modern stucco finishes. Thanks to the active presence of brick, the object becomes a “local elite digest” - its image refers not only to its classic manifestations (empire and neoclassical style mansions, Stalin's classicism in the person of Z. Rosenfeld’s house on Prechistenka 31, etc.) or profitable by typology houses of the Art Nouveau era, but also to the Brezhnev nomenclature construction of cream brick in neighboring alleys. Any digest is a priori eclectic. However, the utkin creation is alien to the compilation omnivorousness of postmodernity - the unambiguity of the stylistic reference is a clear indicator of the elite of the object. The mechanical mixture of styles characteristic of the so-called Luzhkov architecture is not welcome in this case, because the elitism of an “A” class object implies not only its functional, but also figurative exclusivity. Here, following Walter Benjamin’s thesis about the genuine as irreproducible, one should resort to such artistic systems that are marked (or disguised) as genuine. The expensive housing market does not seek to mix cultural identities, but to keep them at a certain distance from each other. To paraphrase Boris Groys, we can say that the universalism of the market is hidden in this case, being obscured by the “commodity form of diversity and differences”.

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