On guard of historical heritage
Realnoe Vremya continues a series of articles about the creative activity of TAIF. Part 3
TAIF does a lot of work not only on the construction of new buildings, but also in the field of preserving the historical and cultural heritage of Tatarstan. In the republic, the company has restored dozens of historical, cultural and art monuments destroyed by time and continuous operation. Realnoe Vremya continues a series of articles devoted to the creative activities of TAIF Group in the field of civil construction. Which buildings of the city and the republic got a chance for a new life through the efforts of the builders of TAIF and which project Mintimer Shaimiev called “a symbol of our aspirations” — read in the next material of the cycle.
Preserving the heritage of the republic
TAIF's participation in the restoration of the old merchant mansion on Musa Dzhalilya Street, 3, where Avers Bank settled, has become a striking example of the social responsibility of the big business. In 1901, the Kazan Merchant Bank bought a plot of land from A.E. Makarov and in 1903 built its main building on it next to the Volga-Kama Bank. A solid two-storey structure, in the appearance of which the motifs of classicism and Baroque intertwined, dominated by the richness of decor among the ordinary buildings of the street.
The new history of Avers Bank began in 2000, when its members joined the enterprises of TAIF Group. TAIF carried out a delicate restoration in it. The specialists were faced with the task of preserving the appearance of the historical building and its internal layout and, at the same time, connecting it to engineering networks and equipping it according to modern fire safety requirements. As a result, the mansion decorating the historical centre of Kazan was not only put in order, but also reconstructed in the part of worn-out structures and communications.
By the 1000th anniversary of Kazan, the company helped bring back to life another unique object — the Kekin's commercial apartment building. The four-storey Art Nouveau building was built in 1905 by the order of merchant Leonty Kekin by architect Heinrich Rusch, also known for projects: Alexandrovsky Arcade, railway station, Shamil's house and others. The building on Gorky Street, 8/9 with facades on two streets was erected in one season. Before the revolution, there were a school and two gymnasiums, the board of the Kazan Railway District, a library, a printing house, shops, and comfortable rooms above them. In the Soviet years, cooperative shops worked here, and communal apartments were equipped on the upper floors. By the end of the 1990s, the building was badly dilapidated, the roof leaked, the basement flooded, the foundation suffered, and cracks appeared in the walls. Kazan almost lost its attraction, but thanks to the efforts of TAIF, one of the most beautiful buildings of the city was preserved.
Of course, there were proposals to demolish the mansion not to engage in expensive restoration. But TAIF decided otherwise and bought Kekin's house in 2000 to restore it. They studied the experience of foreign countries, Moscow and St. Petersburg, where old mansions were converted into office and business centres. The reconstruction of the facility took almost 5 years, but as a result, experts estimated the life of the Kekin's house at 150-200 years.
“I would especially like to mention the work on the preservation and restoration of facades. According to art critics, the main distinguishing feature of the Art Nouveau style is its commitment to a special colour scheme, built on bleached, faded, pastel colours — mainly grayish-silver, smoky, ash-marsh, bluish. The light gray colour of the facade was selected by us on the basis of soundings of plaster layers, which revealed the original colour under five layers of paint. The detailed stucco elements on the facade were restored according to templates, the cast friezes in the staircase interiors also exactly repeat the previous decour," said Farida Zabirova, Honoured Architect of the Republic of Tatarstan, head of the Kekin's house restoration project, who passed away in June 2021.
TAIF managed to save another old house in the historical part of Kazan at the intersection of the former Poperechno-Lyadskaya and Staro-Gorshechnaya streets. The building on Gogol Street, 1 — an exquisite example of civil architecture — reflects the nature of the development of the noble part of the provincial city, decorating the historical architectural appearance of modern Kazan. In the restoration, the main task was to restore the stucco on the facade of the mansion in full: partially lost details were restored, the decor was cleared of whitewash and paint. Thanks to the research, it was possible to restore the ochre tone of the building, characteristic of the time of construction, with protruding white decorative elements.
TAIF's contribution to the restoration of the ancient shrines of Tatarstan is no less valuable. The company responded to the appeal of the chairman of the board of trustees of the Vozrozhdenie Foundation, first president and State Adviser of the Republic, Mintimer Shaimiev, to render all possible assistance in the revival of the ancient city of Bolgar and the island-town of Sviyazhsk. The restoration of the complex of state-owned structures on the island took place under the supervision and sponsorship of the holding.
The object that the investor undertook was a monument of civil architecture in the traditions of early classicism. The complex was built according to a standard “model” project for state-owned structures, as required at that time by the order of Catherine II. A similar project was implemented in Laishevo. Under the project, the volume of public places was reduced and connected to prisons.
The Sviyazhsky complex of state-owned structures consists of four buildings united by a brick fence with two travel gates. It is believed that in 1835 the object already existed. In the main two-storey building there were offices and the treasury, in the building at the back of the courtyard there was a prison with cells, in one-two-storey buildings on the right and left there were guard rooms, a keeper's apartment, a hospital, staging rooms, household services. Until the 1930s, the city administration remained in the main building, the women's department of the prison remained in the prison building, and from 1933 — GULAG correctional labour colony. In 1953, the complex was transferred to a correctional boarding school, and in 2000 it received the status of a monument of history and culture. In 2009, the boarding school was closed and the complex was transferred to the Sviyazhsk State Historical, Architectural and Art Museum. Today, government buildings on the island are united not by prison buildings and offices, but by 28 museum halls.
“For us, it was a unique chance to touch the priceless heritage of history, to contribute to the revival of the monument of history and architecture. Today, when all the work has already been completed, looking at the restored complex of state-owned structures, we are pleased to realise that there is a piece of our soul in the architectural ensemble of the renewing island-town of Sviyazhsk," said Albert Shigabutdinov, the director general of TAIF JSC.
“I started working in 2008 as the head of the Sviyazhsk settlement, then in 2010 I headed the museum “Island-twon of Sviyazhsk”. At that time, Sviyazhsk was a depressed village, and it seemed that there were no prospects for development. The creation of Vozrozhdenie Foundation by Mintimer Sharipovich Shaimiev made it possible to start real work to change the situation for the better. The whole transformative process took place before my eyes, and I can compare what was and what it has become. Some people express the opinion that the authenticity of Sviyazhsk has been lost, but I believe that this is not the case. It's good for a person from the city to come here for a couple of hours and enjoy such a dying Venice! But for a person who lives here permanently, the conditions were very difficult. Here we are talking not only about the restoration of monuments, but also about the creation of normal living conditions for local residents, since the interests of people should be above all else," Artem Silkin, the director of the Island-town Sviyazhsk Museum, is convinced.
“The company fully confirms its motto 'Strength for good' — everything that is created by the company works for the benefit of the republic and its residents. A vivid example of this is the participation of TAIF Group in the revival of ancient Bolgar and the island-town of Sviyazhsk. TAIF was one of the first to get involved in the implementation of the project — in June 2010. Already in May 2011, at the expense of the company's forces and funds, the complex of buildings of state-owned structures of the late 19th-early 20th century was restored. Thanks to the donation of TAIF JSC, the Vozrozhdenie Foundation could carry out work on the creation of the museum of the history of Sviyazhsk. Specialised exhibition and multimedia equipment was purchased and installed for the arrangement of the museum, exposition materials were made," the first president of the Republic of Tatarstan, state adviser of the Republic of Tatarstan, Mintimer Shaimiev, shared.
In 2016, the holding took an active part in the initiative of Tatarstan citizens to raise funds for the construction of the Bulgarian Islamic Academy and the reconstruction of the Cathedral of the Kazan Icon of the Mother of God. Besides, the White Mosque was erected in Bolgar with the participation of TAIF Group.
In the Year of Historical and Cultural Heritage (2012), dozens of objects were built, repaired and restored with the financial support of the company. Among them — the Kul-Sharif Mosque, Orthodox Annunciation Cathedral, Kazan Theatre for Young Spectators, Ekiyat Puppet Theatre, the building of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of the Republic of Tatarstan, Saidashev Big Concert Hall, Dinamo Stadium, Kazan Kremlin, Kul Gali Hotel in Bolgar.
“A symbol of our aspirations”
TAIF was the first in the republic to undertake the construction and reconstruction of cultural and recreation facilities. The cultural and entertainment complex Piramida, built in 2002 at the expense of the group, became a grandiose project and new symbol of Kazan. The authors of the project are architects Gulsine and Viktor Tokarevs, the total area of the complex is 16 thousand square metres. There are few modern large objects of this shape in the world. Piramida quickly became an iconic landmark of the city, today it is the largest cultural and entertainment centre in the Volga region. Experts believe that the strict geometry of the structure perfectly combines with the historical panorama of the Kremlin and the surrounding buildings.
When laying the centre's building, a capsule with a message to descendants was laid in the base. The opening ceremony was held with the participation of the first president of Tatarstan, Mintimer Shaimiev, and the ex-president of Russia, Boris Yeltsin. Opening the facility, Shaimiev called Piramida “a symbol of our aspirations”, and Yeltsin said that “as a builder by profession, who has visited 60 countries, I have never met anything like Piramida in Kazan”.
“When developing the architectural appearance of this complex, we faced the question of a harmonious combination of the future building with the Kremlin and the surroundings. It is for this reason that the shape of the pyramid was chosen. The wide base of Piramida is projected onto the relief dip (19 m) and does not obscure the panorama of the Kremlin. Piramida is the oldest archetype, the heritage of universal civilisation. It is the basic form, the embodiment of our national culture: suffice it to recall the tent coverings of the Bulgarian chambers, pay attention to the completion of the towers of the Kazan Kremlin. Therefore, pyramid is not something alien, but the most native!” says Gulsine Tokareva, Honoured Architect of the Russian Federation and the Republic of Tatarstan.
The project was unique both in architecture and in the use of new materials, which required different approaches and new thinking in construction. But the builders faced a dilemma of another nature: where to place heat supply, catering and gym, boiler room, how to increase sound insulation, make parking spacious. As a result, the boiler room was placed above the ground, the station's pipe was stylised as a stele with a torch, and its ventilation outlets were placed under small pyramids. For the first time in Kazan, a panoramic external elevator was installed in the centre, which rises to a height of 22 metres.
All these projects are only a part of what has been implemented by the group. “TAIF is a group of companies, managers and staff who do not forget, know and appreciate the history of their people," Mintimer Shaimiev said in an interview with Realnoe Vremya. The company's policy has not changed over the years. TAIF constantly participates in the implementation of social programs, actions and events held by the republic and on its own, from year to year strengthening its status as a reliable benefactor.