by Olga YEGOROVA, Cand. Sc. (Technol.), Moscow State Open University
In March 2004 a bad fire wrecked an architectural masterpiece in the heart of Moscow, the famous Manege. Its unique wooden roof designed by Augustine Betancourt went up in flames (a model of this roofing on the 1:36 scale is displayed in the Central Museum of Railway Transport in St. Petersburg). The public town-building council of the Moscow municipality decided to restore the edifice in its original beauty. The job was done in less than 400 days. Exact replicas of the ruined beams and rafters were made for the purpose.
The vogue of roofed-in riding-schools, in which whole cavalry regiments could learn riding skills in cold weather, came to us from Germany, and so did the name, das Exerzierhaus. Subsequently this big word was changed for the French manege. By the beginning of the 19th century several magnificent structures like that had been built in Russia, a country known for its cold, harsh winters. However, as good as all of them were sited in St. Petersburg, the capital city. The Moscow Exerzierhaus (Manege) was put up in 1817 on the fifth anniversary of the Russian victory over Napoleon whose troops seized for a while the old Russian capital and burned it to the ground. Emperor Alexander I moved his court from St. Petersburg to Moscow for a year so as to spur the rehabilitation work by his sheer presence. The opening of the new Manege was timed for the emperor's arrival as a place for a military march-past on that solemn occasion.
Ground was broken a few months before the event as Moscow's Governor-General, A. Tormassov, who was in charge of this key project, commissioned Major-General L. Carbonier (Inspector General of Communications) to proceed with feasibility studies, that is hydraulic and digging works, and "make up the layout and facade of the proposed exerzierhaus which is to be large enough for a complete battalion to march freely..."
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