Garage Museum expands in Gorky park with move into historic Hexagon pavilion

Sanaa architects masterplan turns 1920s site in Moscow into vast exhibition space and library

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A rendering of the new Hexagon pavilion at Gorky Park in Moscow Courtesy of Sanaa and Garage Museum of Contemporary Art

A rendering of the new Hexagon pavilion at Gorky Park in Moscow Courtesy of Sanaa and Garage Museum of Contemporary Art

Officials at the Garage Museum of Contemporary Art in Moscow announced today that the institution will expand into the historic Hexagon pavilion next door, which was built almost a century ago in Gorky Park.

The building, designed by the architect Ivan Zholtovsky, was constructed in 1923 as the Machines and Tools (Mechanisation) Pavilion of the machine building section at the First All-Russian Agricultural and Handicraft Industries Exhibition. The redevelopment and design of the site, which has been neglected for decades, will be overseen by the Japanese architects Sanaa. The new venue is scheduled for completion by 2026; the project cost is undisclosed.

The Hexagon consists of a ring of six pavilions which look over a central courtyard. The site will incorporate three exhibition galleries—two in the so-called facet pavilions and one on the lower ground level—a vast art historical library, a bookstore and a café. The courtyard will be turned into an open public space that they “hope will be filled with art and events”, says a Sanaa spokeswoman. The new building has a total of 9,500 sq. m of usable floorspace.

At a virtual press briefing held this morning, Sanaa stressed that they will “respect the original form and proportions” of the landmark structure, which “can look classical and modern at the same time”. Dasha Zhukova, the co-founder of Garage, says in a statement: “The Hexagon, originally designed by Zholtovsky, will be revived by Sanaa's thoughtful and sensitive design, allowing Garage to ground itself in Russian history while expanding into the current global conversation." In 2015, the Hexagon was purchased by Roman Abramovich, Zhukova’s ex-partner.

Garage, founded in 2008, was first based in a Konstantin Melnikov-designed garage, which is now home to the Jewish Museum and Tolerance Center. The museum moved to Gorky Park in 2012 where it was first housed in a temporary structure designed by the Japanese architect Shigeru Ban. It moved again in 2015 to a Soviet Modernist building—the former Vremena Goda restaurant—redesigned by Rem Koolhaas and his firm OMA, who were originally lined up to renovate the Hexagon pavilion. 

At the press briefing, Anton Belov, the director of Garage, pointed out that the institution “has never existed in a purpose-built building… [Garage] has become a campus. The proximity of the buildings will form a new ecosystem. Each space [at the Hexagon] will have its own audience.” Visitor figures to the museum have increased from 10,000 in 2008 to more than 942,000 at pre-pandemic heights.

Renderings courtesy SANAA/Garage Museum of Contemporary Art

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