Les Gallery, new interactive space at VDNH

18 september 2021

The interactive Les Gallery has recently opened in the historic Pavilion No. 17 Timber Industry at VDNH. 'Les' is the Russian for 'forest'. Prominently displayed for visitors' cognisance are 18 original high-tech installations sharing a common theme. Both adults and children are sure to find the exhibits interesting.

Visitors will find out what the human being and the tree have in common and how trees communicate. They can take part in a shadow show, take a forest-themed quiz and learn some unusual recipes, such as how to make coffee from acorns, toothpaste from mint plants and many other things.

Visitors to the interactive space will be offered the opportunity to aid reforestation by contributing financially towards the planting of saplings across Russia. The gallery's partners plant sapling trees twice a year, in the spring and autumn.

For the time being, the gallery operates in a trial mode. It is open from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday.

The Timber Industry Pavilion was built to replace the pre-existing Agriculture, Timber and Amelioration Pavilion in 1954 (architect: V.V. Tolkushkin). It was named Forest Cultivation until 1955.

The exhibits inside the pavilion highlighted the importance of forests, explained their beneficial usages and methods of reforestation practised in the Soviet Union. The adjacent outdoor sites served as a showcase for forestry equipment, forest shelter belts, fruit-bearing trees, berry shrubs, commercial crops, afforestation for soil conservation and green hedges. Before 1956, the exhibits also covered hydrometeorology.

In 1958, the thematic emphasis of exhibits was modified in favour of timber processing and use, causing the pavilion's name to be changed first to Forestry, Timber Processing and Forest Management, and eventually to just Timber Industry. Much of the exposition was devoted to fighting tree and shrub pests and fast-track reforestation methods. Timber processing equipment, specimens of standard wooden structures and timber industry products were also on display.

In the 1990s and 2000s, the pavilion housed some shops and stalls selling seeds, electronics and consumer goods. Eventually the pavilion was closed.

Many elements of the pavilion's original décor are still intact, most notably the carved doors and stucco moulded ceilings with floral ornaments. The Forest panel by the artist V.E. Panfilov is still prominently displayed in the antechamber. In the round Dome Room, visitors cannot fail to admire the painted floral ornaments on the ceiling.

The Timber Industry Pavilion went into reconstruction in the summer of 2020. The exterior and interior architectural features and artwork were carefully conserved. The façades underwent full renovation, some wall structures were replaced, the badly worn or unsafe wooden and moulded décor features were restored and the sculpted artwork in the middle of the main façade was reconstructed.

The Forest painting was conserved, and the surviving chandeliers repaired. The pavilion's entire foundation was revamped, and its granite and mosaic floors restored. The conservation artists reconstructed the ceiling art in the round room and the floors of the stylobata on the main façade. The building got all new supply systems for electricity, water and heat, as well as new ventilation, air conditioning and video surveillance systems.

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