Moscow Museum of Contemporary Art garage plans major expansion in Gorky Park

On Monday, the Garage Museum of Contemporary Art in Moscow announced the construction of a major new exhibition space that will both transform Gorky Park and revive one of the park’s original structures.

Designed by the Japanese architectural firm SANAA (Sejima and Nishizawa and Associates), the new structure, called the Hexagon, will be built on the site of a former machinery and tools pavilion designed by Ivan Zholtovsky for the All-Russian exhibition of agricultural and cottage industries of 1923.. The hull of the Zholtovsky pavilion, unused for decades, still stands in Gorky Park between the Salyut playground and the existing garage site in the Vremena Goda cafe.

Machine and Tool Pavilion, view from the inner courtyard, 1923
Garage archive collection (Alexei Shchusev archive)

The Hexagon, which will incorporate elements of Zholtovsky’s original structure, will consist of six pavilions arranged around a central courtyard. The drawings show that each of the six pavilions will be preceded by columns, giving the effect of a contemporary interpretation of ancient Greek temples.

Architects Ryue Nishizawa and Kazuyo Sejima, winners of the 2004 Golden Lion, clearly express their desire to preserve the original layout and proportions of the Zholtovsky pavilion. They have designed a new structure that will be “both classic and modern” and at the same time “preserve the ideas of the past and be reborn as a whole new building”. For example, the architects plan to maximize window space, which would reduce the distinction between interior and exterior and maintain the “transparency” of the existing crumbling structure. Artists and curators would have the ability to control the amount of daylight entering the gallery’s exhibition spaces.

The large scale of the Zholtovsky pavilion will also be preserved: the new building will include more than 2,000 square meters of exhibition space, a library with a collection of 200,000 books and 300 workstations, and an expanded archive. In the basement there will be other conservation rooms, support spaces and a huge underground exhibition space occupying the central circular area under the central courtyard. In this unique 1,500 square meter space without columns, the museum intends to organize “exhibitions, performances, events and so many other possibilities – all year round,” according to Yumiko Yamada of SANAA. A large corridor encircling the central underground hall will provide even more exhibition space. Garage envisions fluid circulation through the new pavilions: visitors will be invited to experience the spaces on their own by navigating their own way, rather than following a defined path through the gallery.

Rendering of the proposed library Courtesy of the Garage Museum of Contemporary Art

Render of the proposed library
Courtesy of the Garage Museum of Contemporary Art

To harmonize with the existing structures of Gorky Park, the architects have chosen to use aluminum on the exterior and interior of the Hexagon which will gently reflect the surroundings of the building and give off a warm light. The building will be constructed using sustainable materials, such as energy efficient glass. A heat recovery system will be installed as a green alternative to air conditioning. The Hexagon, near Vremena Goda, is envisioned as part of a “new ecosystem” of Garage buildings, according to museum director Anton Belov. Belov envisions that each garage space – including Vremena Goda, the Hexagon and the education center, will have its own audience.

However, since the project made its plans public, the architectural watchdog organization Arkhnadzor has asked the Moscow Department of Cultural Heritage to deny approval until several contradictions in the project descriptions are resolved. The Hexagon is in Arkhnadzor red book.

Garage has been developing this project for at least a decade. The museum, which was founded in 2008 by Dasha Zhukova and Roman Abramovich, is a hub of Moscow’s contemporary art scene and one of the city’s most important galleries today – offering not only exhibitions, but also film screenings, workshops and a program edition of books on contemporary Russian culture. The museum has grown considerably since it opened in 2008 in the building of the former Bakhmetevsky bus garage, from which it takes its name. From 10,000 visitors in the first year, Garage welcomed nearly a million people in 2019. The new building partly reflects the museum’s need for more space. As Belov commented, Garage never had a purpose built space, having first adapted the Bakhmetevsky site, and then the Vremena Goda cafe, to its needs. According to Belov, Garage is “rebuilding and returning the Hexagon building to Moscow – reinventing the idea of ​​what a modern museum can be today.”

The opening of the Hexagon is scheduled for 2026. The designs of the new building are available to view on the Garage website.

Model of the Hexagon Ivan Erofeev © Garage Museum of Contemporary Art

Model of the Hexagon
Ivan Erofeev © Garage Museum of Contemporary Art

James C. Tibbs