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Russian Jewish Museum

Project type: Museum/Adaptive Reuse


Location: Moscow, Russia


Time: 2009


The Russian Jewish Museum injects new life into one of the most spectacular landmark buildings of Moscow, the Bakhmetevsky Bus Garage by Konstantin Melnikov. The enormous 154 × 54 metre space of the impressive shell will be the new home of the Russian Jewish Museum. The design for the former bus garage must house a series of museum studios, a museum for children, a learning centre, large areas for multi-purpose, temporary exhibitions, an 800-seat auditorium and smaller lecture halls, a restaurant and bar, a museum shop, and space for office admin and museum staff. GRAFT’s concept addresses issues such as how to exemplify the diverse cultural roots of Russian Jewish society, how to relate the historic with the present-day activities of the Russian Jewish community, and how to respect the heritage of a building such as the Melnikov Garage, an icon of Russian constructivism, when it is to act as a symbol of a new institution, communicating the past and present of Russian Judaism.


GRAFT’s proposal leaves the existing structure untouched, intact and clearly legible as a monument to Russian heritage. Within this shell, an architectural intervention creates an undulating landscape that animates the interior of the garage and serves as a highly versatile stage for events of all kinds, including changing exhibitions, art fairs, concerts, and conferences. The intervention expresses a direct and literal relationship between the past and present: the historical context, presented in a series of underground studios, informs the floor above, which serves as a flexible platform for presenting the activities of today’s Russian Jewish community. The formal contrast of the interior surface enhances the architectural space of the original Melnikov building while metaphorically evoking the tumultuous history of the Jews in Russia. Two architectural identities come together and establish a complementary balance, creating a new, mutually beneficial synthesis.