Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Russian Grandeur Restored

Two post-Soviet hotels.
At the Ukraina, in part since the interior was less opulent than its competitor's, Moscow authorities granted its owners more leeway in dropping $300 million on their rehab. This included gutting the lobby to install a dozen boutiques offering diamonds and furs. Alexander Solovyev, a preservation architect who worked on both hotels, says regulators fought a constant battle against glitz.

"If the restoration experts hadn't been there, the whole inside would have been covered in gold," he says.
The Ukraina's penthouse, used for decades by police to monitor the city, was converted into a nest of restaurants commanding postcard views. Under the spire sits a special nook just for two—for wedding proposals and other romantic occasions.

Architects scrapped the basement room full of KGB eavesdropping gear. Nearby loading docks became a huge health club with an Olympic-size pool and cushioned-bamboo aerobic floors.

Conservators delicately restored a fresco above the lobby entrance depicting happy Ukrainian farm workers and cleaned the hotel's collection of 1,200 socialist-realist paintings, now on display.

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