Melnikov House, an iconic vestige of avant-garde architecture in Moscow, has opened its doors as a museum to the public today, despite calls to keep the site closed until major renovations can be completed.
Until now, the legendary round building, with its two interlocking cylinders and hexagonal windows, has been the subject of a bitter dispute between the house's architect Konstantin Melnikov's two granddaughters, who have been locked in a series of legal wranglings over the fate of the property.
A number of journalists who attended the press opening of Melnikov House on Monday this week confirmed concerns that the house has suffered as a result of its speedy opening. A journalist from Russian-language media outlet Meduza reported: "It is clear that for three and a half months [since museum staff first visited the building], no restoration has been completed, as well as a failure to complete an inventory. This was confirmed by the staff themselves: 'restoration' of the building went as far as cleaning the rooms and washing the walls and windows, as well as the removal of junk."
In September, over 60 of Russia's best-known architects, journalists and filmmakers penned an open letter to Minister of Culture Vladimir Medinsky urging him to suspend plans to turn the house into a museum and renovate the property.
The letter's signatories included eminent architect and artist Alexander Brodsky and curator of the Moscow Museum Evgeniya Kikodze, who accuse the Schusev State Museum of Architecture, the organisation responsible for the development of the house, of negligence. The surprise eviction of the house's resident, Melnikov's granddaughter Yekaterina Karinskaya, in August was also criticised.
"There is no doubt that a museum cannot be established on the basis of such legally dubious action, direct force, and speed," the letter reads. "Without restoration the house could be lost within a short time; the position of the Schusev State Museum of Architecture goes against the main ambitions of the creation of the Melnikov Museum — the preservation of a unique building."
Pavel Kuznetsov, director of the Melnikov Museum, has spoken of future plans to make the entire site as accessible as possible. "At the moment, the creative archive of Konstantin Melnikov — and this is a huge amount of original architectural drawings — is inaccessible, beyond the reach of the cultural sphere, and therefore beyond the reach of those interested in architecture. But as soon as the legal formalities have been resolved, our goal is maximum accessibility."
Others have continued to denounce the museum opening. Journalist and historian Grigory Revzin, one of the signatories of September's open letter, said: "I believe it is deeply heinous to throw out a relative so as to make a museum out of their home. This is what the Bolsheviks did, seizing private property for the sake of the nation, and it's what they're doing now. The Museum is an institution that must adhere to high standards of conduct and legal humanism. Our country has enough criminals, so why [are those at the] museum behaving like thugs?"
Currently, tours of the building are possible, but only in one group of up to five people per day.