Author Topic: Alexander Palace Restoration  (Read 165360 times)

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Offline Helen_Azar

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Re: Alexander Palace Restoration
« Reply #30 on: March 27, 2007, 03:58:51 PM »
Helen,
There is always a fear in a restoration to create a fake but the argument of Disney world is a bit "irritating",in  the case of the "Grand Versailles"(300 millions euros )project in France it was always used ,for the Hohenzollern palac in Berlin,for the Tuileries project...and for any reconstruction it must be said!If you take the case of the Catherine palace precisely ,the actual state is a "mix"between the 19th century state and the 18th ones .Moreover,in the throne hall the fresco of the ceiling was placed there by restorators whereas it has never been put there before .Nobody asserts that the Catherine palace was a sham version of the old palace.

Vassili,

I am so sorry my post irritated you. Perhaps I shouldn't have used the term "Disney World", which seems so objectionable to you. What I meant to convey was that in the end there may be nothing authentic left about it, as there is nothing authentic about the Catherine Palace. It would be such a shame, especially since right now the AP is intact and has a lot of authenticity left about it, unlike the CP, which was pretty much destroyed...They certainly did a wonderful job restoring the CP, but it isn't authentic - no matter how you look at it. But they would have to take what still remains of the AP and take away its authenticity by "restoring" it.. Of course this is purely my opinion and doesn't have to be yours or anyone else's.

I wrote a little about the "autheticity" aspects of restoration of places such as this in my thesis, specifically the AP and the CP. You can read more of my thoughts on this subject, if you like, right here: http://www.geocities.com/mushkah//HistoricalMuseums.html  I hope it doesn't irritate you even more!  8)  ;)

Offline ChristineM

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Re: Alexander Palace Restoration
« Reply #31 on: March 27, 2007, 06:05:59 PM »
Vasilli - these are very difficult discussions in any language.   Congratulations you on your willingness to participate in this discussion in a foreign language.

Restorers and conservationists all over the world have an on-going debate on the difference been 'restoration' and 'conservation'.   It can be very, very difficult to know where to draw the line.   The temptation to 'improve' can result in a conservation disaster.

Of course it is not the business of foreigners to inflict opinions on the Russian approach to this dilemma, but sometimes it is worthwhile to look and learn from other peoples' experiences.   Although admiring and respecting the brilliance of the art and craft which has gone into the recreation of the Amber Room in the Catherine Palace, to be frank, it does appear to have been created only yesterday.   There is no atmosphere of age or history to be found in this room.   Much the same criticism can be levelled at the entire Catherine Palace.   I agree with Helen, the Catherine Palace has been virtually rebuilt.   The sheer scale and sumptuousness of its interiors are awe-inspiring.   The commitment, bravery, skill and artistry of the men and women who recreated this Rastrelli and Cameron masterpiece against all the odds have my total admiration.

The Alexander Palace is a very, very different proposition in a totally different time and circumstances.

I hope you are correct, Vasilli, and the restoration of the Quarenghi rooms are only just the beginning.   However, before they even begin on the Quarenghi rooms, a major decision has to be made.   This concerns the original Quarenghi concerthall.   If this is to be recreated, Alexandra Feodorovna's Corner Salon will  be destroyed.   Nicholas II's Formal Study will be destroyed.   There will be nothing left from the reign of Nicholas II except his Reception Room - formerly a dining room.   Whether the politicians like it or not, this is the period which is likely to attract both Russian and foreign visitors in vast numbers to the Alexander Palace.   Quarenghi's Garden Enfilade does not require restoration.   What it needs is conservation.   Done properly this can be even more demanding and expensive than a restoration.   Meanwhile, the roof over the Quarenghi rooms is - and has been for a number of years - in danger of collapse.   Fortunately recent winters have been comparatively mild.   Any serious accumulation of snow could spell disaster for the Quarenghi enfilade.

If I may express my impression of Helen's reference to 'Disney World' - I feel she used this expression in a metaphorical rather pejorative sense and I can find it very easy to agree with her.   To achieve a successful restoration which retains historical integrity demands huge restraint on the part of the restorers.   To reiterate, it also  is also carries a much greater financial burden.

I respect your optimism, Vasilli.   It is my dearest wish is that we see it realised.

tsaria           

Offline Sarushka

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Re: Alexander Palace Restoration
« Reply #32 on: March 27, 2007, 06:10:10 PM »
Vassili,
I am so sorry my post irritated you. Perhaps I shouldn't have used the term "Disney World", which seems so objectionable to you. What I meant to convey was that in the end there may be nothing authentic left about it, as there is nothing authentic about the Catherine Palace. It would be such a shame, especially since right now the AP is intact and has a lot of authenticity left about it, unlike the CP, which was pretty much destroyed...They certainly did a wonderful job restoring the CP, but it isn't authentic - no matter how you look at it. But they would have to take what still remains of the AP and take away its authenticity by "restoring" it.. Of course this is purely my opinion and doesn't have to be yours or anyone else's.

I wrote a little about the "autheticity" aspects of restoration of places such as this in my thesis, specifically the AP and the CP. You can read more of my thoughts on this subject, if you like, right here: http://www.geocities.com/mushkah//HistoricalMuseums.html  I hope it doesn't irritate you even more!  8)  ;)
I may be exposing a fair amount of my own ignorance, but here goes....

For those of us who aren't well-versed in the nuances of restoration, can you be more specific about what threatens the authenticity of the AP's proposed restoration? Are you concerned about the authenticity of the materials, the workmanship, the style -- or all three, and possibly more? Or are you only referring to the furnishings and accoutrements themselves? If so much of the original palace items are missing, what elements of "authenticity" are still at risk of being destroyed during this restoration?

According to the dictionary, there is certainly more than one type of autheticity:
- "not false or imitation"
- "conforming to an original so as to reproduce essential features" or "made or done the same way as an original"

I generally view the phrase "authentic reproduction" as an oxymoron, but I do have to concede that to my mind, an item made of the same materials, using the same process, and built to the same specifications as the original does have a certain type of authenticity about it -- that of the second definition. It would seem to me that in the case of the Alexander Palace, the first definition is simply not possible. If the originals are gone, destroyed, or irretrievable, what more authenticity can we hope for than painstaking recreations?
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Offline Helen_Azar

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Re: Alexander Palace Restoration
« Reply #33 on: March 27, 2007, 06:30:09 PM »
Sarushka,

This is why I was saying that I have mixed feelings about the restoration of the AP and would probably prefer they just maintained it and left it alone.

I talk about this exact thing in my "Historical Museums..." paper, in this part:


The Concept of Authenticity

"Men often applaud an imitation and hiss the real thing"

-Anonymous

During the interview, P1 (Deputy Director of Research of TS Museum) pondered several times on the idea of complete restoration of the AP: should it be restored to its original pre-Revolutionary state? Ultimately she answered her own question, reasoning that since many of the original items from the AP no longer exist, it would be difficult to retain the aura of authenticity if exact restoration is attempted, what will be achieved would be purely reproductive, lacking any authenticity. Although an attempt to restore the palace to its exact original state may give people the feel of what it really looked like, the exact restoration is not really desirable since it will lack authenticity in the direct historical sense - something which can never be achieved at the AP. Alas, most of the items from the palace no longer exist and there is no real collection that can be used as part of restoration. The few rare items from the AP that survived the revolution now belong to another museum. They have, however, on at least one occasion had been able to borrow these items for a temporary exhibition.

Some visitors do not realize that the items displayed are not original items from the palace, and not even analogues. The displays in every room of the temporary exhibit have floor to ceiling black-and-white backdrops against each corresponding back wall, with pre-WWII images of each room and the items that it used to hold. When asked to elaborate on these backdrops, P1 stated that these were created before she assumed her present position and did not know what the goal behind this type of an approach was. She felt that the curators took a "theatrical" approach, but she is unsure what they were going for. Originally the idea was to show through these black and white images what these rooms looked like prior to WWII, providing there were at least 2 or 3 original items available for display. But as more objects were acquired by the museum - not the originals but analogues, the rooms began to look less and less like the photos, and the backdrops no longer worked effectively. (P1) Most museum visitors agree that the backdrops are ineffectual - they add nothing but distract from the exhibit.

According to P4 (Expositions Curator), the black and white backdrop approach started out with a temporary exposition at the AP that displayed items that were strictly inherent to the AP - mainly personal belonging of Catherine II, which included lots of paintings. Then the black and white backdrop was created and at least one or two items displayed on this photo had to be included in each exhibit. The furniture used in the displays of the Alexander Palace was built for a film set. The movie, "Romanovi: Ventzenosnaya Sem'ya"("Romanovs: the Imperial Family") was filmed on location at the palace, and in return for allowing this, the film studio donated the furniture to the palace to use in their exhibit. The film portrayed the private life of the last imperial family viewing them not in the political light, but as just an ordinary family. Because the furniture was given to the palace, the exhibit at the Alexander Palace was created. Without this furniture, there would be too few items to exhibit, as each room only contains 2-4 original items or analogues from the contemporary time period. Hence the museum display literally became part of a movie set, where historical reality became fluid and the displays are a form of story telling based on a script.

In contrast to the CP, the AP was not changed drastically from its original design, but things were added, particularly in the east wing where the servants' quarters were from 1896 then from 1903. (P1)


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« Last Edit: March 27, 2007, 06:38:14 PM by Helen_A »

Offline Helen_Azar

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Re: Alexander Palace Restoration
« Reply #34 on: March 27, 2007, 06:49:27 PM »
...can you be more specific about what threatens the authenticity of the AP's proposed restoration? Are you concerned about the authenticity of the materials, the workmanship, the style -- or all three, and possibly more? Or are you only referring to the furnishings and accoutrements themselves? If so much of the original palace items are missing, what elements of "authenticity" are still at risk of being destroyed during this restoration?

I wasn't referring to the furnishings of course, since those are not authentic/original to begin with, but to the entire "feel" of the place, after they get their hands on it. I don't really know how to explain it... The TS museum curators/administrators seemed to agree with this perspective. The idea of restoration is not to make something look "pretty" but to preserve its historical value in as much of its orginal form as possible. If the latter is not going to work, then what is the point of the former... I feel that physically restoring the AP, especially to its original 18th century form, would be sort of like taking the London Bridge apart, transporting it to Iowa (?) and putting it together again with some extra stuff to fill in here and there. It just wouldn't be the same, would it?  ;) (BTW, this is actually what they did - although I am not sure if it was Iowa).
« Last Edit: March 27, 2007, 06:52:14 PM by Helen_A »

Offline Sarushka

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Re: Alexander Palace Restoration
« Reply #35 on: March 27, 2007, 07:08:55 PM »
Yes, I read the Concept of Authenticity section of your article before I posted, but it didn't really answer my questions. I can definitely see the trouble with the current display, but I'm not so clear on your view of the potential restoration. We don't seem to be getting our points across to one another effectively, so let me ask this in a different way:

What, in your view, would an ideal restoration/conservation of the AP involve?
« Last Edit: March 27, 2007, 07:12:32 PM by Sarushka »
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Offline Janet_W.

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Re: Alexander Palace Restoration
« Reply #36 on: March 27, 2007, 07:12:17 PM »
Psst, Helen! London Bridge is standing up in Arizona, not Iowa!  ;)

Offline Douglas

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Re: Alexander Palace Restoration
« Reply #37 on: March 27, 2007, 07:39:52 PM »
The 'restoration'  will go forward and I  wonder if anyone's opinions will really matter.

Maybe someone will build a replica of the Alexander  palace in Iowa and make it exactly like it was during the era of Nicholas II.

Believe me,  stranger things have been done.

I visited an exact replica of the Oval Office of President Reagan in California.  It was haunting.  The exact same furniture, carpets, everything. And yes, it is actually oval- no corners in the room at all.  This is for psychological reasons naturally.

Douglas

 ;)
« Last Edit: March 27, 2007, 07:44:10 PM by Douglas »

Offline pastpalacelife

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Re: Alexander Palace Restoration
« Reply #38 on: March 27, 2007, 11:07:17 PM »
It seems like a lot of this donated money would have to be spent on replacing the right wing roof and repairing whatever structural damage the leaking gutters have caused.  If this is the case, there wouldn't be a whole lot of cash left to destroy any of the original interiors.  I would love to see the interiors (minus the partitions) even if their present state is poor.  I want to know that the doors or floors or whatever, are the actual ones the IF touched and used, not a recreation.  It seems like I read sometime ago that the doors are not the originals.  How about the baseboards, windows and also the exterior light fixtures at the entrance to the left wing, are they original or from Home Depot?  I am remaining optimistic about this gift to the palace!

Offline ChristineM

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Re: Alexander Palace Restoration
« Reply #39 on: March 28, 2007, 05:02:55 AM »
The area of the Alexander Palace which was virtually destroyed were the rooms occupied by the last Imperial Family.   What remains is the Empress' Corner Salon (the light fitting is not original to that room, but is from the Parade Rooms - TSM have the other two): a reconstructed - but with original elements - Nicholas II's Formal Study:  Nicholas II's Reception Room - virtually in its entirety - including its original panelling and ceiling - with the exception of furnishings - the wallcoverings and drapes are original to the room, as are the drapes in the next door room - Nicholas II's 'Working Study'.   The ceiling in what during the last reign was a space divided to form Alexandra Feodorovna's dressing room/bathroom/lady-in-waiting's room/ mezzanine wardrobe/Grand Duchess's Dining Room, has its original ceiling intact.   In all other rooms, not only are the original furnishings, paintings and decorative pieces missing, in the case of the Maple Room and Pallisander Room, accesses have been reconfigured.   None of the plaster mouldings, doors or timber work survive.

The 'Quarenghi rooms' have all their plasterwork intact, the faux marbre lined walls are intact, pillars and pilasters likewise, original fireplaces in situ, in the Portrait Hall the original hangers for the portraits are still in place.   The doors to the Semi-Circular Hall are not original.   The French doors and windows of this room survive - the family's last exit route from the Alexander Palace.

I have been in part of the Right Wing.   From what I saw, the original plasterwork survives.   The rooms are disposed as they were in 1917.   I have been told that the original fireplaces survive, certainly in the English suite and in Ella's rooms, as do the fireplaces on the upper floor.   However, the Right Wing has its own very costly, and unlikely to be addressed problems.   Decontamination.   

Perhaps not of interest in general, but an area which I found particularly fascinating was the basement.   Here it is possible to see the intricacies of the structure, and it remains unchanged, including the services.   The basement appears completely sound and dry.

So, at least I can confirm that the Alexander Palace stands on a firm foundation.   Chimneys have previously been removed.   The entire roof structure (including the 'new roof' over the Family Wing) requires replacement - this probably includes the roof timbers - all door and window lintels, window cills, door and window frames gutters, downpipes, ballustrade must be replaced: the entire plaster should be removed - it is 'bossing' due to water penetration between plaster and brick - bricks regrouted and plaster replaced using original lime plaster render and the entire structure repainted.   These are the priorities and should be achieved before work on the interior of the Alexander Palace is addressed.   The costs, even Russian costs, for this work alone will probably be of the order of a minimum of $25,000,000.   

Like Sarushka, I have a problem with 'authentic reproduction'.   This is a contradiction in terms.   When it comes to any work on the interiors, I can see the attraction of restoring (please God, preserving) the Quarenghi rooms.   All the elements are there and costs will not be prohibitive.   I have already expressed my concern vis-a-vis decisions regarding Quarenghi's Concert Hall.   

The Family Wing is an altogether different proposition.   Excluding areas previously mentioned, this would require what probably can only be termed 'authentic reproduction'.   The costs are daunting and the will is questionable.   However, the Maple Room alone is virtually irreplaceable.   Despite what the purists might say - which was really criticsm for criticsm's sake, and fundamentally anti-Alexandra  - the Maple Room was probably the most unique room in the whole of Europe - probably the world.   It was the finest example of Art Nouveau/Style Moderne/Jugendstil ever created.

Only after the structure is made sound, should work commence on the interiors.   Whether this is how it is priorised, we will have to wait to see.

tsaria   
« Last Edit: March 28, 2007, 05:18:18 AM by tsaria »

Offline Helen_Azar

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Re: Alexander Palace Restoration
« Reply #40 on: March 28, 2007, 08:07:36 AM »
Psst, Helen! London Bridge is standing up in Arizona, not Iowa!  ;)

Thanks, Janet. I knew it was one of them places out west  ;)  ;)  ;).

Offline Helen_Azar

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Re: Alexander Palace Restoration
« Reply #41 on: March 28, 2007, 08:10:03 AM »
The 'restoration'  will go forward and I  wonder if anyone's opinions will really matter.

They won't matter one bit.

Maybe someone will build a replica of the Alexander  palace in Iowa...

Or maybe Arizona  8)  ;)

Offline hikaru

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Re: Alexander Palace Restoration
« Reply #42 on: March 28, 2007, 08:38:16 AM »
I think that the restoration plan must depends on the buisiness plan.
It depends on the fact ,how the Museum / Ministry of Culture is planning to use this palace and how to earn money from this.

For example: Now the Hermitage (Winter Palace)'s color is marine blue.
But in 19th century it was yellow. In the beginning of 20th -dark red.
We have forgotten about it and  all of us think that blue marine is better than dark red.

Personally, I believe, that the Alexander Palace will be the Memorial of the family of the last Emperor as well as the memorial of all Silver Age Epoque.

Offline Vassili_Vorontsoff

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Re: Alexander Palace Restoration
« Reply #43 on: March 29, 2007, 09:04:20 AM »
Helen,

I'm sorry once more my english did express as well my thoughts I was not really irritate even if this argument ("dISNEY WORLD")to my point of view is not a real one...Your page does not irritate me at all and to be true ,I must own up that I've all print your thesis some months ago given the fact I found it so much  interesting.I'll see if you post some new things but it take sme quite a time to read into english...

I think that at last thanks to both (your explanations and those of Tsaria )I understand more clearly the situation;thanks .

Personaly ,to pursue the joke I would be more interested by a replica of Alexander palace in the style of Quareghi if the model could still be restored in the art nouveau style...

Tsaria,
It's probably a bit exaggerating of my own (perhaps was it already been pos in the website but I did not see it)could you post some pics,watercolors of Quarenghi interiors and next to it the Nicolas II interiors to face more closely the differences?
If you do not have time to post with a written explanation,please send me.
Thanks in advance,
Vassia
P.S/At last, who decided all the sudden to recreate Quarenghi interiors,who takes the decision the donater or Tsarskoye's curator?

Offline Vassili_Vorontsoff

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Re: Alexander Palace Restoration
« Reply #44 on: March 29, 2007, 10:38:26 AM »
The more I read on Alexander palace the more fascinated I become...frankly,there are a century restoring Marie Antoinette Trianon in Versailles into his past magnificience could not been even thougt (during 3rd Republic)whereas it is the case nowadays,there is still a glimmer of hope...

The case wof the Maple room
in the Alexander Palace makes me think to the Nancy's school known for his art nouveau work :most of the furnitures disappered up to now and even the Majorelle house ( pilaster of art nouveau design in western europe) felt into neglect...Russian do not realize for the moment being what this ensemble represent probably will they be ashamed some years later of what they lost.

I've find this image of the musis room of Quarenghi it must have been quite huge to gathers the space of Maple room,Mave rooms,Alexandra Feodorovna's Corner Salon ,Nicholas II's Formal Study !

Is this the Quarenghi's Garden Enfilade ?


Architecturally the mountain hall seems to be from the classic style, is this the design of Quarenghi and as a matter of fact included in the would be restored rooms for 2011?

Is the project for the restoration of Quarenghi rooms really decided or does it remains a chance to save Alexandra's rooms?
« Last Edit: March 29, 2007, 10:41:03 AM by Vassili_Vorontsoff »