The Garage Museum of Contemporary Art, one of the biggest contemporary art museums in Russia, is getting ready to significantly expand. The Moscow institution is set to revitalize the Hexagon pavilion, an architectural landmark of Gorky Park that has sat in disuse for decades, and turn it into a new space where the museum will host exhibitions. The Japanese architectural firm SANAA has partnered with the museum to overhaul the original design by Russian architect Ivan Zholtovsky.
Dasha Zhukova, a prominent collector who cofounded the museum, said in a statement, “Garage continues to champion work that is contextual, contemporary, and collaborative. The Hexagon, originally designed by legendary Russian architect Ivan Zholtovsky, will be revived by SANAA’s thoughtful and sensitive design, allowing Garage to ground itself in Russian history while expanding into the current global conversation. We want to ensure that our building reflects our ongoing inquiry into the function, purpose, and responsibility of the modern-day museum.”
The Hexagon was built in 1923 as the Machines and Tools (Mechanization) Pavilion of the Machine-Building Section at Russia’s first agricultural and industries showcase. As the only pavilion constructed from reinforced concrete, it is the sole remaining relic of the exhibition.
The pavilion was named for its striking layout—it features six neoclassical-style buildings linked by single-height galleries, creating an enclosure around the internal courtyard. In 1928, the pavilion was designated a public park and converted into a canteen that was initially only open in the summer. (It was not officially dubbed the Hexagon until 1935.) Before being abandoned, the space also served as a dance hall and a lemonade factory. The structure fell into further ruin following a series of fires. In 1999, the city government declared it a protected monument of garden and park design.
SANAA’s plan will preserve Zholtovsky’s original columns, his arrangement of the fountain basin, and his physical passages connecting each pavilion, among other design elements. Additions will include an energy-efficient geothermal system and high-performance glass capable of withstanding Moscow’s harsh winters. The finished Hexagon will provide the museum with an additional 102,000 square feet of functional space dedicated to three exhibition galleries, a library, a bookstore, and a café. The courtyard will also once again become an open public space.
Garage was founded by Zhukova and her then-husband, billionaire Roman Abramovich, and took its name from its first home, a 1920s bus depot. In 2015, the museum inaugurated its current home in Gorky Park, a midcentury concrete pavilion renovated by Rem Koolhaas and OMA. Their design preserved the canteen’s original Soviet-era details, including a mosaic wall, tiles, and brick.
“With each of its buildings (Bakhmetevsky Bus Garage, Vremena Goda café) Garage has opened a new chapter in its program of reviewing and repurposing architectural heritage and, in the end, returning it to the contemporary context,” Anton Belov, museum director, said in a statement.