Preservationists are imploring Russian president Vladimir Putin to take decisive measures to restore Shabolovka Tower, a deteriorating Constructivist masterwork in Moscow. The efforts, which include an online petition and awareness campaign, are led by the World Monuments Fund (WMF) in partnership with local conservation groups including the Shukhov Tower Foundation and DOCOMOMO Russia.
Vladimir Lenin commissioned the structure— more broadly known as the Shukhov Tower after its designer, Vladimir Shukhov—in 1919 to serve as a radio tower. The 50-story spire, with its stacked hyperboloid volumes and steel lattice structure, is a feat of modern engineering and a monument to post-revolutionary Russia.
Today the steel is corroding; slapdash repairs in the 1970s pushed it into further decline. Tourists are unable to directly access the site, and developers have eyed the valuable property for real-estate opportunities.
“The threat isn't just the development of the tower site, but the impact on the surrounding neighborhood, which was built in the decade following the construction of the tower,” says Kathryn Doyle, WMF program assistant.
WMF’s efforts come after several other attempts to save the tower. In 2010, Norman Foster spearheaded efforts; in 2014, after outcry from local groups and architects including Rem Koolhaas and Tadao Ando, the municipal heritage department reversed the decision of Russia’s state broadcasting net- work to tear it down. But appropriate—and costly—preservation efforts promised by authorities have yet to be carried out.
WMF and its partners will mount a two-day awareness campaign in Moscow this weekend, March 19-20, to coincide with the tower’s 94th anniversary and WMF’s Watch Day. The organization has also placed the Shukhov Tower on its 2016 Monuments Watch list—a biennial compendium of the world’s most at-risk cultural sites.
Says Doyle, “The tower is really a symbol of the neighborhood, and—from a wider perspective—a symbol of the city.”