Expanding Space: Out of the Centre

Expanding Space is a large-scale continuation of the V–A–C project of the same name in 2015-16, whereby contemporary artists developed works for the urban environment, producing pieces from scaffolding to street signs and metro station installations. This time round, selected artists are working further afield on the outskirts of the city, with a variety of local institutions and associations including libraries, cinemas, chess clubs, public squares and houses of culture, in order to get to know these communities and create new cultural opportunities.

The main goal of ‘Expanding Space: Out of the Centre’ is to broaden the focus of existing local activities towards more open and social participative practices as well as exploring their potential and meaning within the local context. V–A–C will run seven programmes over several months, which will see musicians, theatre directors, filmmakers and performers work together with residents of the different Moscow districts.

Website of the project (Russian only)

Built in 1907, GES-2 is a disused power station located on the Bolotnaya Embankment in the popular Red October district in the centre of Moscow. V–A–C bought the power station in 2014 and commissioned Renzo Piano Building Workshop to convert the main building and surrounding area. Once a supplier of energy to the Kremlin and today a prominent listed building, GES-2 and its grounds will soon become a new, public space and major cultural venue for the city of Moscow.

V–A–C’s future home is designed to gather its audiences and together produce and inspire new artistic expressions, cultural events and learning opportunities.

The entire site covers 20,000 square metres and will feature a large outdoor space surrounding GES-2. The main building will be transformed into an open plan activity area at over 100m long and 20m high, also serving as a sheltered pedestrian walkway for passers-by. The complex will also host an indoor amphitheatre-like stage and seating area, galleries, a 420-seat, glass-front playhouse overlooking a birch tree grove, a library, shop, canteen, café and restaurant, learning centre and residency block. The new GES-2 will be energy efficient via the use of solar panels and the extraction of clean air to ventilate the building. GES-2 will fully embody V–A–C’s production spirit through a new facility for experimentation and production - 2,000 m2 of workshops and co-working spaces connected to the main gallery. This historic redbrick vaulted building, once a vodka distillery, will house fully equipped workshops for new generations of Moscow artists and creative practitioners.

I have always liked building places for people, places where people could come together and share emotions.

If this happens in a former power station, I like it even more.

And if this happens at a place in the centre of Moscow, overlooking the Moskva river, it blows my mind.

The GES-2 project has everything an architect could wish for: a place rich in memory, a former industrial space that is a factory of light and the opportunity to build a place for beauty.

The beauty of art, of science and of conviviality.

And if beauty cannot save the world, as Dostoevsky’s Prince Myshkin believed, it can at least save a good number of people.

Renzo Piano

GES-2 building (40,000 m2)

The GES-2 building consists of 5 parts: the Front Building, the Main Building, Right and Left Risalits and the Playhouse.

1. Front Building
Running parallel to the Moskva river, the front building hosts the Second Square — a large space to gather. This area is designed for visitors to meet, learn about GES-2 programs and continue through to visit the activities held in GES-2. A small library will be located on the balcony overlooking the Square.

2. Right Risalit
The Right Risalit hosts 6 apartments and spaces for communal work allocated to the artists and creative professionals participating in the GES-2 international residency programme.

3. Left Risalit
The left risalit will become a laboratory for the culinary arts.

4. Main Building
The main exhibition area of GES-2 is located on Level -1. Despite being underground, it has natural light coming through the double height ceilings. Through the exhibition spaces one can also reach the workshops in the Vaults building.

The GES-2 Prospekt is the main artery of GES-2 located on Level 1. The Prospekt is surrounded by spaces dedicated to exhibitions and learning programmes. The rear part of the main building has a café, a shop and the Playhouse.

5. Playhouse
The Playhouse is a transformable performance space with nine different possible stage configurations, which can seat up to 420 people. The space will host lectures, theatre performances, concerts and film screenings.

Vaults (2,000 m2)

The former Smirnoff vodka warehouses will become the creative heart of GES-2.
The Vaults will provide a communal means of artistic production to artists in Moscow. The goal of the Vaults goes beyond simply providing a new workshop space. The Vaults is designed as a place where professionals will feel intrigued and be motivated to launch new collaborations and experiment across disciplines.

Workshops and laboratories in the Vaults:

  • Wood and metal workshop
  • Textile workshop
  • 3D printing
  • Assembly and finishing workshop
  • Ceramics workshop
  • Sound recording studio
  • Film editing suite
  • Listening room
  • Material library
  • Photo lab
  • Printmaking studio
  • Bakery

Outdoor area (10,000 m2)

The construction of the Pier, located in front of GES-2 is almost complete. In the future, passenger boats will be able to stop off here.
Dvor [russ. yard] – a green space with a birch tree grove and an open area for summer concerts and screenings – is located behind the GES-2 building. A path leading through the grove takes visitors to a sightseeing platform, which runs parallel to the Patriarshy Bridge.

Underneath the birch grove is a two-storey Dno [russ. underworld/bottom], serving as a car park with over 200 parking spaces. Dno can also transform into a space for music performances.

Below Dno the Second Dno is situated: a 2000 m2 art storage, which holds the V–A–C collection. It will be accessible to visitors by appointment.

V–A–C Foundation, ГЭС-2 Moscow, 2019
Designed by Renzo Piano Building Workshop
Construction site images by Gleb Leonov
2009 – 2021 (c) V–A–C