The masterpieces of Lev Kekushev – “the father of Moscow modernity” and a man of mysterious and dramatic fate
If we talk about buildings built in pre-revolutionary Moscow in the modernist style, it is imperative to mention the two mansions of architect Kekushev. They are extraordinarily original and, interestingly, built by the architect, not to order, but for themselves. Fortunately, both houses are in excellent condition, and we can admire them, admiring the imagination and talent of the “father of Moscow modernity”.
At the turn of the XIX-XX centuries, Lev Kekushev was a very famous and successful architect and teacher. The architect usually started working at six or seven in the morning and, fulfilling orders, was sometimes so carried away that he often left the client’s estimate, but did not refuse his ideas and did “extra” at his own expense. On the one hand, such an obsession and passion for work ultimately forced him into debt. On the other – now we, descendants, have the opportunity to admire the masterpieces of his architectural thought, not constrained by the framework of circumstances.
The style developed by the Moscow architect and based on the experience of the famous Belgian modernist architect Victor Orta, even received the name “Kekushevsky modernist style” at one time. His unique handwriting was always recognizable.
House on Ostozhenka
At the time of the construction of the Gothic building on Ostozhenka, Lev Kekushev already had his own apartment house, and he erected this small but elegant “castle” next to him for his wife. Therefore, the house is also called the mansion of Anna Kekusheva.
The asymmetrical building, reminiscent of the European castle of the Middle Ages, personifies the versatility and ambition of the architect. Different volumes and shapes, original window openings and their decorated frames, stucco molding, mosaic, tent tower, an unusual combination of colors – all this makes the house look like any other in Moscow and very romantic. Very well and a combination of bricks, plaster and ornamental inserts. Completed the picture a huge lion of the Austrian master Otto Wagner, mounted on a high pediment of the street facade.
Inside the building, everything was arranged very rationally and, at that time, fashionable: in the center – the main staircase, on the first floor – the living room, the hall and the office of Kekushev, in the attic parts of the house – the bedroom. In total, the house had 15 rooms.
Interestingly, this project was originally intended for the future home of Savva Mamontov, which was to be built in the area of Tverskoy Boulevard (successful joint work of Kekushev with V. Kuznetsov). However, due to the bankruptcy of the merchant, ambitious plans could not be realized. “Do not disappear with such an interesting idea! – Lev Kekushev thought and used the project to build his own house, adding new magnificent details to it.
In 1903, construction was completed. It is believed that in this work, Kekushev as a master of modernity has realized all his years-old capabilities and revealed all his talent.
About how the life and career of the architect after the construction of the mansion, it is known only fragmentary. According to some reports, he had a dramatic break with his beloved wife, after which they several times tried to reunite again, but in vain. As for his projects, after the revolutionary events of 1905, the popularity of modernism in architecture began to decline, which led to the decline of Lev Kekushev’s career.
About his architectural projects, created later in 1912, really nothing is known. His last work was the Old Believer Hospital and the warehouse on Preobrazhensky Val, after which his name was no longer mentioned in the newspapers. According to some data, the architect died in 1913. According to others, from 1913 to 1917 he was in a psychiatric clinic, where he died.
In the 60s of the last century, military attaches of the United Arab Republic were located in this castle house, then the Defense Department of the Egyptian Embassy. Alas, during its existence, the building has lost most of its decor and interiors, but at the end of last year, work was completed to recreate the original look of this unique building.