Renzo Piano and GES-2

Project: History and architecture of GES-2

The reconstruction of GES-2 is the work of the Italian architect Renzo Piano—best known for having designed the Centre Pompidou in Paris, Piano was the winner of the 1998 Pritzker Prize, the most prestigious prize in the architectural world, and is an honorary senator of the Italian Republic.

Piano poetically terms his approach to architecture as “rammendo”—the Italian word for “darning.” Piano’s “darning” transforms dead zones on city maps into public spaces where people, walls, and nature interconnect. Sometimes, as was the case with the Forest growing alongside GES-2, nature appears as if out of nowhere. Piano gave the power station a new life, and a new landscape to live in.

Renzo Piano on GES-2 House of Culture construction site, 2019
Photo: Gleb Leonov

Piano’s first task was to bring light back to the building. Although GES-2 continued to produce electricity until it was closed for reconstruction in 2016, the power station itself had only grown darker and darker. Piano proposed to clear away decades of debris, free up the window spaces, and make the roof transparent. At the same time, the architect sought to preserve and restore as many of the building’s historic elements as possible: ceiling supports designed by Vladimir Shukhov, a clock tower above the space that once housed the Tramway plant’s offices, and even a number of lightning-bolts—the historic emblem of Mosenergo, the company responsible for providing power to Moscow and the Moscow region—on the gate separating the territory of GES-2 from the House on the Embankment.

Thanks to Piano’s reconstruction, GES-2 has been transformed into a space that produces creative rather than electric energy. The House of Culture is a place designed for experimentation and new experiences. It is for this reason that various shades of white have been chosen to for its interiors: the walls are ready to take on any form of art, to be brought to life by both the public and artists.

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