06 November 2007

Moscow's strange architectural highlights

It is a shame of destiny that I had to erase "Architecture" from my university exam placement list (because I was told that I would be destined to a life in front of computer screens) and now here I am, a slave of computer age, regardless of what I have chosen. So my hidden passion for architecture has always urged me to discover new styles and designs in every city I have been to.

It is a fact that Moscow is not a Paris or New York or even Prague but it also has its own unique feel in an architectural way. A lot of visitors and expats hate this and claim that it is a big heap of grey concrete without any human or ergonomic touch. It is not hard to agree with it (as a person who has tried all his engineering background to maximise his life in a standard Russian apartment) but a familiar eye would catch a lot of interesting objects in Moscow.

I was able to go out on Monday (it was Unity Day Holiday in Russia and a day off) to discover two of these objects: The Moscow Monorail and Ostankino TV Tower.

Another Moscow Metro scene...bums making comfortable

The bums prefer the Koltsevaya (Ring) Line because this line doesn't have an end and the guys can keep on snoozing for a couple of hours before they are kicked out by Metro workers

Although Moscow is already dug deep with kilometers of Metro tunnels and a thousands of buses, trams, trolleys and marshrutkas roam the streets day and night, I think somebody in the Transport Department must have been pretty impressed with their visit to Disneyland and add a similair monorail to the Soviet Disneyland in Moscow (also called as VDNKh). So it operates between Sergey Eizenshtein Street and Timiryazevskaya regions, linking the metro stations VDNKh and Timiryazevskaya.

The Vistavochniy Tsentr (Exhibition Center) Monorail Station

Although it is proudly displayed as a part of the Metro System, it has different payment cards (which cost 5 times more than a regular underground ride (50 roubles for one way)) and the trains ride with heart breaking intervals ranging from 15 to 20 minutes. Also, the open-air platforms conflict with the freezing Moscow weather (It was almost -3 on Monday) and all the passengers flock inside small anterooms at the upper end of the escalators where it is warmer. These eradicate the fact that this system has been introduced as a relief to the ever-crowding traffic jams on the ground or the already stinking Metro under it; but it still gives some great views over the VDNKh park and the surroundings. (It is so sad that my favourite soviet monument, The Conquerors of Space, is under renovation...thanks to those post-soviet Russian punks who nearly destroyed the titanium rocket trail by their skates and graffiti)

Monorail arriving to Vistavochniy Tsentr Station

One of the Monorail Stations, Telesentr, is situated near the gigantic Ostankino Television Centre Building and offers a 20 minute walk to the entrance of Ostankino TV Tower Exhibition. I have to admit that this 20 minute walk in -3 weather and a possibility to see Moscow atop from the tallest building in Europe have galvanized my enthusiasm to see this tower ; but I (and a couple of tourists who also had nothing else to do but come to the tower or just lost their way) was disappointed by a sign that said "Excursions to the tower do not continue". So I endured another 20 minute walk in the blizzard back to the station.

The Ostankino TV Tower is 570 meters and built in 4 years to be completed in 1967. The main reason for erecting such a horrible but awe-inspiring building is (unbelievably) was to serve Moscow and the Moscow Region with crystal clear TV and radio transmission. For me, it is just another remnant of the cold war competitions, one of which is to build "faster, taller, bigger" than each other. Anyway, who would need this when all you had as TV and radio was just state propaganda.

Ostankino Television Center Building, this is where all the rubbish of Russian TV is produced and shamelessly broadcasted

When it was on service, the tower also housed a restaurant ,called Seventh Heaven, up on 100 meters and the waitresses wore stewardess costumes to establish a dining atmosphere as if on a plane. If they also sustained the legendary aeroflot culinary approach, I am sure that the dissatisfied guests didn't use the elevators to reach the ground floor.

The Excursions to TV Tower building is already decomposed after 40 years of ignorance

Maybe most of you will remember this tower from the highly televised fire in 2000 where 3 people died. The tower also caught fire this year but without any casualties.

The ill-fated tower suffered two fires in 7 years

The TV Tower dominates the Moscow skyline (notice the beautiful concrete forest...we simply love it)

A view of the tower from the VDNKh

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