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The State Schusev Museum of Architecture opens a permanent exhibition presenting to the public the model of the Grand Kremlin Palace, built in the 1870s by the great Russian architect Vasily Bazhenov.
The model is a unique monument of classicism and one of the most ambitious architectural models in world history. It is connected with the ambition of Catherine II: to build on the spot of the Kremlin walls a great Palace, demonstrating the might of the Russian crown.
The project’s design was entrusted to the young architect Vasily Bazhenov and it was to radically change the entire look of the Kremlin ensemble and Red Square. The greatest Russian and German masters worked to create a model of the Great Kremlin Palace under the guidance of the architect, built in a purpose-chosen model house. From May 1771, once a month, the model was open for public viewing; so whilst still fully in the creation process, Bazhenov’s work still managed to become one of Moscow’s major attractions.
The model perfectly embodies the architect’s vision and is a faithful reproduction down to the very smallest of details. The central part of the model was made to be dismountable, opening up to allow a view of the interior of the state rooms. This is the earliest project in Russia of classical Palace interiors of this magnitude and it is one of the few examples of Bazhenov’s interiors that remains today.
The Palace’s official founding took place on June 1st 1773, but just two years later construction was stopped on the Empress’ orders. Bazhenov’s architectural ensemble would never take its place on Kremlin Hill, but the model of the Palace remains as evidence of one of the most ambitious projects of the Russian monarchy, and as the leading architectural symbol of the age of enlightenment in Russia.
The fate of Bazhenov's model was dramatic. During the 19th century it was transported several times, moving from a model house in the Armoury Chamber, then to Rumyancevsky, and then to the Polytechnic Museums and over to the territory of the Kremlin, where for seven years it lay disassembled in the lower space of the Ivan the Great Bell Tower.
In 1936, the model of the Grand Kremlin Palace was handed over to the care of the Museum of Architecture, where a huge effort was made toward its restoration and reconstruction. Reassembled, it was exhibited in the large Cathedral of the Donskoy monastery, where there was a branch of the Shchusev Museum. However, in 1991, after the return of the monastery to the Russian Orthodox Church, the model was again disassembled and moved to the main building of the Museum on Vozdvizhenska Street. For twenty years the model lay in parts in storage.
Today the best preserved fragments of the model are once again presented to public. Visitors to the Schusev State Museum of Architecture can now view the model in a permanent exhibition. The model takes us back to the historical period when daring, groundbreaking projects sought to glorify the Russian State.