In 2006, HSE University acquired a complex of buildings on Pokrovka Street that includes the Durasov House. HSE News Service spoke with Anna Molotkova, the main project architect, about its restoration.
The Durasov House was built in the second half of the 18th century. At the end of the 18th century, an annex was added to the building’s left side, a portico was erected, and two fences were built. When the project team assessed the structure, they found that the facades were in poor condition: the basement, cornices, and window sills were partially destroyed, and the decorative molding and wall plastering were damaged.
In some places, the team discovered intact ornamentation dating to the second half of the 19th century, and on the second floor, they discovered a door and frame dating back to late 18th century. The enfilade of the first- and second-floor entry areas survived, and three historical staircases were also found preserved, though in need of restoration.
‘The main house of the Durasov estate has been used for educational purposes for almost two centuries,’ says Anna Molotkova, chief architect of the restoration project. ‘The building was rebuilt many times, the interiors were repaired, remodeled, and decorated, and the facades were simplified. Speaking of which, the main façade of the building was actually restored in the 1950s by specialists of our workshop [Architectural Design and Restoration Workshop No. 13, Mosproekt-2 Posokhin OJSC – Editor’s note].
‘The building was vacated only recently. Restorers were then able to fully examine the property and determine when all of the structural and architectural elements were originally built.
‘During the restoration process, the team needed to preserve as much of the original structure, floorplan, and decorative elements from the late 18th-early 19th centuries as possible. Archival materials and discovered fragments of the original décor were used in the restoration of the interior of the house.
‘For example, when painting the middle segment of the façade facing the courtyard, the team used a plaster fragment dating to the 1770s that they found in a window opening. (At that time, the building was still symmetrical, without the addition of the two-timbered White Hall.) And we returned the third-floor windows, which had been expanded in the 19th century for the classrooms of the Commercial School, to their original dimensions.
‘When you’re inside the White Hall, I suggest that you take a look at the windows on the wall running lengthwise. Originally, this wall was an external wall with window openings, but after the extension of the part of the building containing an entrance hall and a two-room hall at the end of the 18th century, the window openings were turned into recesses, where we discovered painted window frames.
In one of the openings near the stage, we found a wooden frame: this opening was used for viewing the stage from the actors’ quarters located on the third floor of the theater of the estate’s owner, the foreman Durasov.’