The long-abandoned Hexagon Pavilion will be restored in order to turn it into a new gallery space by the Japanese firm SANAA as part of the Garage Museum of Contemporary Art, created to reimagine Gorky Park as Moscow's cultural center.
Designed by the Soviet architects Ivan Zholtovsky, Viktor Kokorin and Mikhail Parusnikov for the 1923 "First All-Russian Agricultural and Handicraft Industries Exhibition", the Hexagon Pavilion – or "Machine and Tool Pavilion" – was an exhibition center for mechanical engineering. The building features a series of six identical halls set around a circular courtyard. It was the only concrete structure made for the fair and the only one which survived.
Over time, various changes have been made to the structure as the building was used as a kitchen, beer garden, popular disco, cinema and lemonade factory. Then, after a series of fires in the 1970s and '80s, the pavilion – even if it was defined in 1999 as protected monument of culture – fell into disrepair, like much of the surrounding Gorky Park. Despite its enviable location, in fact, the "Gorky Central Park of Culture and Leisure", designed by Konstantin Melnikov, by the end of the century was a desolate place.
SANAA's "thoughtful and sensitive design" – as it was defined by arts patron Dasha Zhukova, founder of the Garage Museum – restores the original proportions of the internal layouts. The structures will be freed by any non-original decorative elements – in order to highlight the neoclassical and at the same time modernist form of the building – and the restoration will create 9,500 square metres of functional space, including three exhibition galleries, a library, a bookstore and a cafe. SANAA founders Kazuyo Sejima and Ryue Nishizawa said their aim is to retain the Hexagon Pavilion's "particular charm".
The project represents a link to 20th-century Modernism's ideas and Russia's architectural legacy, that have been at risk due to the state of neglect in the late Soviet period.