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Icon at Risk : The Melnikov House

The fight to save a Russian avant-garde masterpiece gets a new impetus.

Over 30 of the world’s leading architects and eminent architectural historians have signed a letter expressing their grave concern about the dilapidated state of the iconic circular house built by Russian avant-garde architect Konstantin Melnikov in Moscow.

The letter calls for the preservation of the Melnikov house as a public museum, and for fair compensation for the Melnikov family, members of which have preserved the house since the architect’s death in 1974. It also suggests that all the archival materials relating to Melnikov in Russia should be collected together in one place, preferably a museum next to the house, and made accessible to scholars and the public.

Earlier attempts to preserve the Melnikov House, including several by the authors of this letter have come to nought. Now, with a new mayor in Moscow and other changes in key cultural institutions, they believe it is time to renew the effort. They think it is also important to simultaneously bring together the dispersed archival material relating to Melnikov’s career, including documents under the control of the Institute of Architects, which excluded him from membership and hence from the profession. To this end, they have prepared the letter we publish here, which has been sent to Russian officials and influential cultural figures in order to encourage them to embrace and preserve this important national monument, while reminding them that both building and archive materials are part of the world’s cultural heritage.

Iconic Houses is publishing the letter here, in order to stimulate debate and add another voice to the call for policymakers to save this important part of world heritage before it is too late.