Total Eclipse: A Once-in-a-Lifetime Festival of Science, Music, and Celestial Wonder. August 19–21, 2017 in Eastern Oregon.

Moscow, Russia

Red Gates skyscraper

Stalinist skyscraper built with help of cryotechnology 

Many dictators in history have sought to leave a permanent architectural mark on their own imperial capitals. The “Seven Sisters of Moscow,” seven giant neo-gothic skyscrapers are Stalin’s permanent architectural mark or, as some would say, monuments of his megalomania.

The administrative building at Red Gates Square is arguably the least well known of the Seven Sisters, yet its construction holds the most interesting story. Moscow is a city built on a marshy ground, most of it ill suited for grandiose architectural undertakings, yet the builders of the brave new world, encouraged by the successes of soviet science were undeterred by such obstacles. In order to fulfill the original building plan they resorted to cryotechnology.

The soggy ground on one end of construction site was frozen. The building frame was then erected deliberately tilted. As the soil thawed the building slowly tilted back towards the desired vertical position. Unfortunately, finding the right freezing point proved difficult to calibrate. The ground didn’t quite thaw enough and the building didn’t reach the desired position. Still undeterred, the engineers responded by warming the ground pumping in thousands of cubic meters of hot water. Again the precise amount of heating was impossible to estimate. The process worked too well, and building finally settled tilted slightly to the opposite side.

The main architect on this project was Alexey Nikolayevich Dushkin, one of chief designers of Moscow metro. The building has a total height of 133 meters and 24 levels.

In the following decades the building housed the soviet ministry of heavy industries. Apparently, it is now the headquarters of Transstroy corporation, though to this day, it still leans.

Know Before You Go

M1 metro line, Krasnye Vorota station.

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