Every fan of constructivism in the world recognises cylinder silhouette of the Melnikov’s house, one of the most famous buildings in Moscow. However, very few know how the house looks like inside. Despite peculiar facade, its interior is quite conventional, but the history of the house is still unique.
Architect Konstantin Melnikov moved in here together with his wife Anna, their son and daughter in 1929. His son lived here until his death in 2006. Since then, Konstantin’s descendants fought with the Moscow Museum of Architecture for control over the house, eventually the house was transformed into museum in 2013.
Melnikov was gained right to use a territory in the center of Moscow in 1927. By that time he had already executed several projects that brought him fame, including Soviet pavilion at the Exhibition of Decorative Arts in Paris in 1925 and sarcophagus for Lenin’s body. He had a lot of orders and was able to build the house using his own money.
The initial project comprised an edifice composed of two cylinders, which were same in size. But in the process of construction, the foundation of previous house was found, that is why the author had to make one cylinder taller than the other one. Melnikov chose the form of cylinder because it helped to use less material than for a standard regular construction.
The interesting fact is fact the author organised the territory basing on principles of Russian manor – the house is in the center of it, and not on the red line of the street, from the side of the street there are two gates and behind the building there is a yard (the funny thing is that since Peter the Great the administration of the city fought to make dwellers build their houses on the red line, and only in Soviet time the problem was solved).
The building has three floors with kitchen, dining room, bath room, wardrobe on the first floor, living room and bed room on the second floor and architect’s workshop on the third floor.
The first floor seems a little bit dark and its interior has acute contrast with the exterior. As you can see in the photo, the dining room’s furniture dates back to the beginning of the XXth century. The chair with letter “K” belonged to Konstantin Melnikov, embroidery was made by his wife Anna (her chair with letter A is opposite her husband’s)
Near the dining room there is a kitchen, in the photo you can see an interesting detail – a cooler that was made out of a window cut. In fact, the very structure of the building looks like grid, Melnikov didn’t cut the windows, he filled open spaces with remained material instead. Even today, some new “window” can theoretically be open. This cooler is a good example of the author’s non-convetional thinking, who not only created outstanding edifice, but elaborated smart menage – he organised heating system, etc.
On the second floor there is a specious living room with Melnikov’s desk, where he worked when his architectural career declined. In the beginning of the 1930s, a group of architects wanted to create new style, more adapt for young Soviet state than constructivism, which was considered too “formal”. In addition, according to one version, Melnikov had personal conflict with his former student Alabyan, who became apologist of a “new” style. The latter made a lot of efforts to prevent Melnikov from architectural job, and he had to work as professor almost till the end of his life.
The pink carpet on the floor was brought from Belgium and the colour of the walls was picked in order to match the carpet. The small window on the right was cut here because the architect found out that it would open on a church that he liked (today the church is not visible because new building were erected in front of it).
Next to the living room there is bedroom, which looks completely different in comparison to its original design. Initially, there was no furniture in the room except podium which served as bed (the children also slept here, their beds were separated by a curtain). The emptiness is explained by Melnikov theory of sleep – he thought that in order to sleep well it was necessary to rule out any element of distraction, for example, family members read in other rooms (children had special study rooms on the first floor), and that is why there was even no lighting. However, there are so many windows, which open on three sides, so it was difficult to fall asleep. Later, under Anna’s influence the bedroom took more traditional forms – she brought here the furniture that she had before marriage, and Konstantin slept in the living room.
The last floor is occupied entirely by Melnikov’s workshop, where his son Viktor, who was a painter, also worked.
The house was designed as experimental, meaning that it could become example for other architect’s workshops, but up to date there is no similar building in Moscow and in the whole world.
“I never could design anything that would be boring. And I considered uniteresting and boring everything that resembled me things that I’ve already seen”.