THE REVIVAL OF THE
ALEXANDER PALACE

Translated and Edited by Paul Gilbert, Founder of Royal Russia

The newly restored palace-museum complex is scheduled to open in 2016.

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In November 2009 the Alexander Palace was officially handed over to the operational management of the Tsarskoye Selo State Museum-Preserve.

During the Second World War (1941-1945), the palace was shelled, and sustained considerable damage to both its exteriors as well as its historical interiors. The palace was also looted by the retreating Nazi’s which resulted in many of the palaces works of art, furniture and other items being stolen. After the war, the palace was restored carelessly by the Soviets in which many of the original interiors were not preserved. No major repairs on the palace have been carried out since 1957, while running repairs since were carried out infrequently. As a result, the Tsarskoye Selo State Museum-Preserve received the historical building in a very poor state of disrepair.

Of particular note was the poor condition of all engineering systems: heating, ventilation, electricity, water supply and sewerage. Their last repair was carried out in the 1970s. All of these systems were outdated and on the verge of a full technical and physical deterioration. The need for a complete reconstruction is needed to bring them up to modern day standards.

Constant leaks from the palace roof have leave ceilings in a terrible state.
© Государственный музей-заповедник Царское Cело.

Many original pieces including fireplaces will be brought back to life.
© Государственный музей-заповедник Царское Cело.

Original staircases will be restored and polished.
© Государственный музей-заповедник Царское Cело.

The West Wing of the palace is in very poor condition due to constant leaks of the roof. The leaks destroyed the attic floor, the condition of which are considered in a state of emergency. The leaking caused further damage to the plaster walls and ceilings.

Even before the completed transfer of the building to the Tsarskoye Selo State Museum-Preserve, some repair work had been carried out between 2007 and 2010. This included the emergency repair and restoration of the roof, facades, and terraces. In 2009 restoration on the State Rooms (the Portrait, Marble and the Semi-Circular Halls) was carried out. These three rooms were open to the public the following year to coincide with the celebrations marking the 300th anniversary of Tsarskoye Selo. Further repairs to the heating on the ground floor exhibition space were carried out during the winter of 2010-2011. This was followed by the completion of landscaping in front of the central facade of the palace.

In 2011, a master plan for the "reconstruction, technical re-equipment with the elements of the restoration and adaptation for use of the Alexander Palace Museum" was developed by Architectural Studio 44 LLC in St. Petersburg. The plan was approved by the Council for the Conservation of Cultural Heritage under the government of St. Petersburg, KGIOP.

In accordance with the Alexander Palace project, the design will accommodate a multi-museum complex, which includes: museum area, cultural - recreational zone, commercial zone, among administrative offices.

Cellar / Basement. The envisaged total usage of the existing floor to the western part of the central building, as well as the reconstruction of the internal staircase and the entrance to the underpass leading to the kitchen. At the level of the basement / ground floor will be created:

• new entrance lobby with ticket counter, information area, administration office, stairs and the entrance area to the underground passage, security zone, wardrobe, rentals, restrooms for visitors, and tour desk;

• two cafes – one each for visitors and staff, each with utility rooms;

• museum gift and book shop;

• Group facilities engineering and support services;

• offices for security and safety;

• technical and storage facilities

Ground floor. Main entrances for visitors to the museum will be organized in the projection in the facade of the main facade. Entrance for visitors to the museum will be from the terrace along the axis of the main building. In the eastern wing of palace will be the children's center, which will be located on the 2nd floor. The west wing entrance will be organized for visitors to the cultural and historical center on the 1st floor, as well as the main administration offices, and scientific and methodological departments on the 2nd floor.

In the eastern wing of central building will be the permanent exhibition halls. In the western wing of the central building will be the temporary exhibition halls of the cultural and historical center and a lecture hall with 100 seats and a library containing 15-20 thousand books with a reading room for 12-15 seats and the library holdings of open and closed access, medical center.

The second floor. In the eastern wing of the premises will be located children's center and temporary exhibition halls.

In the central, eastern and western parts of the main building will house temporary exhibitions halls.

Attic. The attic will house the technical facilities (ventilation chamber) and the layout of utilities (heating pipelines, heat, water, air transit stations, electrical and low voltage network).

The building will upgrade all the internal stairs and staircases of different types, including those used for emergency. There will be new stairs, elevators and lifts.

The reconstruction and technical re-equipment of the building and restoration of the Alexander Palace is to be carried out in several successive stages, in accordance with the technological scheme of construction, the following sequence:

The first stage. The priority of the reconstruction is to dismantle existing barriers and the strengthening of foundations.

The second stage. Continued work on deepening the cellar, strengthening and waterproofing the basement.

The third stage. The reconstruction and adaptation of the building for museum purposes.

The fourth stage. Engineering Systems and Equipment

The fifth stage. The reconstruction of the historical interiors of the private apartments of Emperor Nicholas II and Empress Alexandra Feodorovna. These include the restoration of the historic design of six rooms, including the Moorish bathroom, a study of Nicholas II, bedrooms; and the Mauve Boudoir, Pallisander Room, and the Maple Room.

Experts will carefully restore many of the original hardwood floors of the palace.
© Государственный музей-заповедник Царское Cело.

Years and years of neglect have taken their toll on this beautiful and historic palace.
© Государственный музей-заповедник Царское Cело.

Once restored, the basement of the palace will host a museum shop, cafes and more.
© Государственный музей-заповедник Царское Cело.

By the spring of 2011, the former rooms of the children of Tsar Nicholas II, located on the second floor of the East Wing had been renovated and open to the public. The rooms will be used to host temporary exhibitions, the first of which In the Children's Rooms of the Alexander Palace opened on June 2, 2011. This unique exhibition offered more than 200 personal items reflecting the lives of the children of Russian Emperors at Tsarskoye Selo, from Nicholas I's to Nicholas II's reign.

On November 29, 2011 the concept of restoration and adaptation for use of the Alexander Palace Museum was discussed at a meeting of the Board of the Ministry of Culture of the Russian Federation. Upon review of the draft the project was considered a priority to be carried out between 2012-2015. In accordance with the decision of the Board on November 29, 2011 № 17, the Tsarskoye Selo State Museum-Preserve is expected to complete the first phase of restoration and adaptation for use of the museum of the Alexander Palace. This will coincide with the celebrations marking the 400th anniversary of the House of Romanov in 2013. However, this solution differs from the financing plan works, under which up to 2015 the flow of funds is limited to the fifth part of the cost estimates provided. Nevertheless, the Tsarskoye Selo State Museum-Preserve will make every effort to complete the work on schedule.

The new palace-museum complex is scheduled to open in 2016, two years before Russia marks the 100th anniversary of the murder of Tsar Nicholas II and his family at Ekaterinburg in July 1918.

Source & Copyright: Paul Gilbert
Founder, Royal Russia
4 May, 2012