The Campus on Lenin Hills: yesterday, today, tomorrow

The new university campus on Lenin Hills greeted the first science students on August 27, 1953. Together with the new dormitories, the total floor area of the new campus buildings amounted to 640.000 m2, considerably more than 140.000 m2 of the buildings on the old campus. The grand opening of the MSU Main Building took place on September 1, 1953. Thus, on September 1, 2008 the temple of science and education celebrated its 55th anniversary, the territory of the University on Lenin Hills (Leninskiye Gory) being developed all these years.

The history of the campus began with the Decree of the USSR Council of Ministers No 53, dated January 13, 1947, “On the construction of multi-storey buildings in Moscow”, which stated : “to build a 32-storey building on Lenin Hills in the center of the bend of the Moscow River, with a hotel and housing in it…”. Later the Decree of the USSR Council of Ministers No 803, dated March 15, 1948 “On the construction of new buildings on Lenin Hills” specified that it was necessary “to build within the time period 1948-1952 a new building for the MSU on Lenin Hills, its total structural volume being 1700 m3 and its central part at least 20 storey high”, and “to approve the project scope statement provided by the Ministry of Higher Education, Moscow State University and the Administration of the Palace of Soviets”.

As the Moskovsky Universitet (“Moscow University”) newspaper wrote in November 1948, the Chief Architect L.V. Rudnev had demonstrated the MSU Academic Council the designs and the layout of the building and gave the following explanations to them: “The construction in 110-hectare Lenin Hills area is under way. The main building, 180-meter high, will be crowned with a sculpture of V.I. Lenin”.

The Main Building groundbreaking ceremony took place on April 12, 1949. The construction started in July 1949 and that year alone over 1500 students helped the builders. The difficulties began with the foundation, due to the soil conditions. Geologists had discovered that on Lenin Hills the ledge rock lay at the depth of 120 meters. Engineer N. Nikitin and his colleagues devised an original design of the foundation, which was a thick reinforced concrete box filled with reinforcement and placed 14 meters below ground level. Such a foundation was very durable and relatively light at the same time. In April 1949 the builders started to lay the concrete foundation, in the autumn they began work on the skeleton of the building, after that brick laying could begin.

40,000,000 bricks were used to build the walls of the Main Building. It was the first building over 200 meters high to be erected in Russia. The highest tower crane that the builders had at their disposal could reach no higher than the 10th floor; in this situation a smaller crawler crane proved to be a solution. The weight of the metal framework of the main building was 40.000 tons and it comprised 71 thousand parts, which meant 71 thousand lifts for the crane. Whole trains loaded with bricks came up to the giant skeleton of the building and passed it through, entering where the Assembly Hall is situated now. The crane lifted containers with bricks directly from platforms. In 1950 the total volume of excavation was 1.000.000 m3, the volume of concrete laid was 130.000 m3, the weight of the fittings assembled was 8600 tons, beside 15.000 tons of metal structures installed and 27.000 m3 of bricks laid.

According to the project, 8-metre sculptures were put at the 27th floor level. The figures of Worker and Collective Farm Woman were made of concrete and then coated with diapsidite, an alloy of dolomite, chalk and sand that is as durable as granite.

When you look up at the golden spire of the Main Building from the ground, it seems to be weightless and delicate. In reality it weights over 12 tons and its mounting at the height of 200 meters proved to be a difficult and unsafe operation. The builders came up with an original idea to assemble the framework of the spire inside the building and then use a hauling winch to put it in place. To make this operation possible the two upper beams of the star at the top had to be detached. High above the ground welders assembled the golden star adorning the spire. Both the star and the spire were coated with aluminium amalgam underlying the yellow glass outer layer.

The area of Lenin Hills developed in the early 1950s was about 187 hectares. The total structural volume of the new Main Building was 2,6  mln m3. At that time its estimated gross heat demand amounted to 90 mln calories per hour, gas consumption up to 10.000 m3 and water consumption up to 5,400 m3 a day. The total length of lighting network was 453 km, of central heating network 240 km, of plumbing 173 km. The capacity of ventilation facilities and conditioners was 3 mln m3 per hour. The new building had 15 two-way speaker systems and an automatic telephone exchange for 4 thousand numbers. There were 160 lifts and elevators to install.

All in all, during the construction of the Main Building the total volume of excavation reached 7 mln m3, the number of bricks laid turned out to be 180 mln, besides, more than 480,000 m3 of concrete and iron concrete was laid. The builders assembled 53,000 tons of steelworks, put up over 270,000 m2 of ceramic veneer and cased 68,000 m2 of walls with granite, they plastered 2,1 mln m2 of surface and painted 2,5 mln m2. For the newly-constructed Main Building about 500 companies made and delivered 150,000 units of furniture.

The construction and equipping of the Main Building proved to be a huge and demanding project that all the country helped to carry out. Thus, for instance, granite was sent from the Ukraine, marble was from Georgia and Uzbekistan, steelworks came from Chelyabinsk and Dnepropetrovsk, building materials and millwork were from Belorussia, electrical equipment was made in Leningrad and Riga, while ceramics was supplied from Harkov, etc.

The height of the central 32-storey part of the Main Building is 239.5 m, its total structural volume is 1,370,000 m3. In the wings there are 5,754 dorm rooms for students and graduate students and 184 apartments for professors and faculty members. The Main Building has three gymnasiums, an indoor swimming pool, the 1500-seat Assembly Hall and a recreation centre with an 800-seat concert hall.

In 1953 the Physics Building and Chemistry Building were opened, their total structural volume being 274,600 m3 and 267,700 m3, respectively. At the same time a number of other buildings and facilities were set into operation, among them the 42-hectare Botanical Garden, a 22,500 m3 field-and-track pavilion, a 19,000 m3 ball-game pavilion and open team-game fields. The MSU meteorological station began its work on Lenin Hills in the same year too. All in all, the new university buildings included 162 lecture theatres and classrooms, 1693 various other facilities, research laboratories among them.

In 1954, the building of Shternberg Astronomical Institute was completed; it consisted of the main three-storey building with four towers, seven separate pavilions and the journeyman clock basement.

On the 29th of March, in the eastern part of the territory of the MSU Lenin Hills territory, the 1st Humanities Building groundbreaking ceremony took place in accordance with the construction project, approved by the Architectural and Construction Committee of Moscow in 1958. The building was opened on September 1, 1970.

The construction of the 2nd Humanities Building took a long time, it was decided to complete its parts and put them into operation in sequence which was finished only in 1982.

It was not only the educational and scientific facilities but also the sports facilities of Moscow State University on Lenin Hills Campus that were developing. April 20, 1988 witnessed the memorial stone laying ceremony at the site of the first baseball stadium in our country, a gift from the president of the Japanese Association of Cultural Relations with Foreign Countries, the Rector of the University of Tokai Shigeyoshi Matsumae. The stadium was opened on September 1, 1989, it bears the name of Shigeyoshi Matsumae. Its area is about 30,000 m2, the length of each of two wings is 97,5 m, the maximum length of platforms diagonally is 122 m, the playground has an artificial turf. The stadium seats 1,500 spectators.

In 1992 the nine 2-storey laboratory buildings of the MSU Science Park were erected and fully equipped on the 1,5-hectare area near the Botanical Garden.

With the University’s constant evolving and opening new faculties, there is permanent campus expansion, construction of new buildings going on in the new century. In 2000 the construction of the Business School Building, a gift to MSU from the Japanese government, was completed; with its lecture rooms, library, audiovisual and computer classes the building has the total floor area as large as 3000 m2. In the same year, the Main Building was renovated, while in 2003 the facades of the Physics Building and the Chemistry Building were cleaned and renovated. On October 27, 2003 the cornerstone laying for the Economics Building was held, a time capsule being buried with a message to future generations of university students.

On 28 February 2003 the Rector’s Decree № 109 approved the project for construction of the MSU Main Library Building which, with its total floor area of 11,130 m2, could house 5 million volumes and seat 1500 readers. It was the construction project that started the development of the so-called New Campus of MSU. The grand opening of the Main Library Building and the Intellectual Center was held on Moscow University 250th anniversary. On Tatiana's Day, January 25, 2005, the time capsule ceremony and cornerstone laying for the new Humanities Building took place. The first of the four buildings to be constructed around the Main Library, the New Humanities Building was opened on September 1, 2007; the total area of its classrooms is 72,000 m2, there are 4 lecture halls, 300 seats each, six 150-seat classrooms and a number of others for 50 and 25 seats. The New Humanities Building has its own library with the book depository for 700,000 volumes, a gym and a wrestling gym, as well as catering services, which include a spacious dining room, a cafe and two snack bars. The building has an underground parking lot for 650 cars.

At the moment the construction of the MSU Medical Center on the New Campus is being finished. The Medical and Diagnostic Building comprises the medical research facilities and diagnostic and medical care wards, among them MRI, therapy, cardiology, surgery, hydrotherapy, aerothermotherapy wards. Also the complex includes a 300-bed hospital, operating rooms, a clinic receiving 450 outpatients a day and some other units. The hotel for patients from other cities has also been built.

The expansion and development of the New Campus is going on, a true sign of dynamic development of Moscow State University.