I’m Alper Kokcu. Join my journey where I am exploring cultures and ideas via the connection of art, nature and architecture.

Garage Museum of Contemporary Art

Garage Museum of Contemporary Art

This is the full text of my first video on YouTube and here I am telling how I met with Garage Museum of Contemporary Art in Moscow, Russia and its temporary locations along its history.

On this channel I will be talking about architecture and showing you the places I’ve been on my trips. I am an architect and looking back on my over ten years work practice, I realized that I am slightly losing the beautiful sense of doing architecture. Rather than focusing on the reasons for that, I convinced myself to dig in my archive and find the buildings I visited so far about which I was getting enthusiastic and excited to share my feelings to others. So that’s why I am here. Welcome to my architectural journey!


It was 2008 when I had the opportunity to work in Moscow. I did not know back then but I stayed 8 years in Russia. Before coming to Moscow I was checking online the buildings in the capital, like many young architects visiting a new city and back then what I could find was some brutal soviet buildings (which by the way I admire a lot) and also Khrushchyovka (Хрущёвка), which was the answer to housing shortage in Soviet Union in the 1960s. They were low-cost, brick or concrete panel buildings mostly 5 or 9 floored.

Maybe I will cover this topic later in details but what I wanted to tell is that I didn’t have much options of modern building to visit. That’s why when they announced Garage Museum by Rem Koolhaas studio OMA to be opened in 2015 I was quite excited. But in fact, the Garage Museum was not new, nor the building itself. So let’s go a little back in time and I’ll explain how.


Garage Museum first opened in 2008 on an old building called Bakhmetevskiy (Бахметьевский), which was a garage for buses back then. That’s actually where the museum got its name from. The building was designed in 1926 by the legendary Russian (Soviet) architect Konstantin Melnikov. My first visit to Garage Museum was in 2010 and I went there not only for the building but for Rothko exhibition as well. One of the greatest artists ever.

In 2012 Garage Museum left this building to the Jewish Museum and Tolerance Center, which later I had chance to visit too and Garage Museum transferred to its temporary location in Gorky Park.


That temporary building called as Garage Pavilion and designed by Japanese architect Shigeru Ban. He is known for his innovative work with paper. He uses recycled cardboard tubes for a quick and efficient housing, designed as a solution to disaster victims.

No wonder why the founders of Garage Museum Dasha Zhukova and Roman Abramovich, hired him for this temporary building. With some other temporary structures in the center, this pavilion also required low-cost and quick construction. For the oval wall of the building the architect again used paper tubes, which were produced locally.

I visited this building when they had installations by German-born artist Katharina Grosse and the installation was called ‘Yes No Why Later’.

After a while on an autumn day, I was walking around the Gorky Park and I saw a construction going on and on its fence they had the 3d model of the building which got my attention quickly. I came closer and found out that this building has the name of Rem Koolhaas on it. Till the opening I was visiting the construction site just to check how things were going on. Though they did not allow me to enter the site. Obviously.

The building actually was not designed from zero. That was an abandoned building owned by a restaurant called Vremena Goda (Времена Года), means Seasons, dates back to 1968. So OMA, led by Koolhaas, kept the structure of the building and even some interior finishing materials.

The interesting thing they did was to wrap the building with a shiny, strong and dominant material. This massive block has an outlook which -I felt that- you won’t mind to see it in Kubrick’s Space Odyssey.


Look at this, isn’t it fascinating.

Well, since I was not allowed to get in the construction site and check the materials closer I did not have any idea about this material.

I was thinking some kind of brushed glass or maybe aluminum, but I was wrong. It was translucent poly-carbonate, which was double layered to be able to hide some ventilation equipment to allow the exhibition spaces to remain free. What I liked more is that they lifted up this facade more than 2 meters from the ground to have the visual connection with the park.


After the opening they had eight different exhibitions and one of them was by Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama, who was the most popular artist in 2014 according to the Art Newspaper. Her ‘Guidepost to the Eternal Space’ was based on her famous dots.

Well I did not mention how the opening was. It was one of a kind.

When they slid up two large facade panels at the entrance… well actually they are fixed, not moving, just an illusion, yeah architects and engineers do that… anyways when they opened the building, they invited more than 3000 guests including George Lucas, Woody Allen, Karlie Kloss, Natalya Vodianova, Sasha Luss, Lena Perminova, fashion designers Stella McCartney and Ulyana Sergeenko, fashion editor Giovanna Battaglia.

And even Leonardo di Caprio’s mother.

Yeah, this ‘high society’ would not be able to gather without powerful founders. I am aware of that. Maybe some of you may like to underline such powerful person’s relationships with the government as well. Well I don’t know much about politics. But we are talking about a cultural center, not another shopping mall or fancy office building. That’s what only I am interested in.

Even with such financially-strong owners, the building had some unsolved issues and even unfinished parts when they opened. Construction is a hard task, especially when your time is limited.

I would like to underline that apart from the pavilion and the museum, the Garage Center has other units as well for education, publishing, archive and research. They support the young artists as well. And I’ll tell you what: Since 2008 till my visit to Garage in 2015 for the first time in a Russian museum I saw young, passionate and energetic people working and ready to help you. Mostly what I get was “Нельзя фотографировать! Запрещено!” (Can’t shoot, forbidden!) kind of attitude.

I am pretty sure it is getting better now but I am sorry my Russian friends, back then it was like that. That’s why for me this place is worth to visit and talk about. Architecture can create beautiful platforms to help us to gather for such events.

So thank you for your time and if you had chance to visit this building let us know what you think about it by writing your comments below.

Further Reading:


Bakhmetevsky Bus Garage, Moscow Architecture Preservation Society

Архитектурный мираж Бахметьевского гаража

Bakhmetevsky Bus Garage Photos by Yuri Palmin

About Mark Rothko Exhibition at Garage Museum



Garage Center for Contemporary Culture Temporary Pavilion by Shigeru Ban Architects

About Katharina Grosse Exhibition



Official website

Project page from OMA

About the opening

About Yayoi Kusama


The Impact of 1960s Soviet Modernism

The Sandcrawler Building

The Sandcrawler Building

Kula Fairy Chimneys

Kula Fairy Chimneys