The word 'volna' translates from Russian as 'wave'. It was a significant part of Soviet style and discourse — the word 'volna' could be seen as part of Soviet names of institutions, clubs, and places and items such as movie theatres, cafes, factories, restaurants, football clubs, rocket ships, newspapers, and radios. Volna Culture Center's team does not view the preservation of historical name as a return to the values of the USSR, but as a careful approach to history, which can be brutal and anxious, to the memory of the place and people who lived there. These members of local communities remember the old 'Volna', they have meaningful memories connected to it — dates, weddings, funerals — all these events bring back memories and ideas about its location and its picturesque views of the Nizhny Pond.
Café Volna (translated from Russian as "wave") was built in Vyksa in 1985. The building, in the late modernism style, was designed by architect Sergey Medvedev. Volna is a rare example of the signature architecture of the late Soviet era, which was notably characterized by the use of strict standard requirements for buildings.

The uniqueness of the project is accounted for by the fact that the café was built specifically for foreign workers who then came to Vyksa. Japanese experts were invited to work at Vyksa Metallurgical Plant (VMP), which purchased new Japanese technologies for pipe production.

It was decided to build a café and a dormitory on the banks of the Lower Pond, not far from the plant. The construction was carried out by the Gorkovgrazhdanproekt (Eng. "Gorky Civil Project Institute") design institute, whose portfolio already included residential housing, cafés and schools in Navashino, Pavlovo, Arzamas, and other cities of the Nizhny Novgorod region.
Sergey Medvedev
architect of the café Volna
"In the 1970s what they did was mainly typical mass construction. I was a young specialist, and I was lucky that this café ended up on my desk. Such an order for an architect was a rare creative work that happens, probably, once in a lifetime.

I followed the developments in world architecture and worked on this café looking at the experience of the architect Alvar Aalto, who fits his buildings into the natural environment, and the architect Frank Lloyd Wright, who built the famous glass house over the waterfall. I wanted to fit the café into the nature around it, creating a building that opens windows onto the Vyksa nature.

During construction, we tried to use modern materials. For example, they installed gypsum suspended ceilings and aluminum stained-glass windows. The design of the café was thought through by VMP artists."
The construction of the café ended in 1985, and in 1986 the establishment welcomed its first visitors. Together with Volna, the design institute built a typical dormitory building, a large-panel house of the 121 series, to which the café is connected via a corridor.
an art critic, architectural historian, and senior researcher at the A. V. Shchusev Museum of Architecture
Mark Akopyan
"Volna Café is a complex three-dimensional structure made of concrete, with massive walls and a veranda facing the pond. The café is adjacent to a residential block - three typical buildings along First of May Street. These dormitories, typical of Vyksa, are noteworthy for their vertical columns with balconies, which have characteristic elements of the design - jagged ledges. This architectural motif of the late 70s is characteristic of many houses in Vyksa.

The café is connected to the residential building through a corridor. This configuration - a residential building and an extension - is often found in Vyksa. As a rule, public centers and department stores adjoin residential buildings. In this sense, the decision to attach a café to the house is unusual. This suggests that the customer pursued very specific goals and the café was designed as a unique facility.

Another attention-worthy context is the presence on the other side of the Lower Pond of a metallurgical plant's sheet-rolling shop - a world architectural monument of early modernism, an icon of Vladimir Shukhov's creativity. The lower pond turns into a recreational area that connects objects from different eras. There is a reference to modernism from a distance of almost 100 years. Shukhov's building and Volna are located near the water, which is an important element of modernism. This proximity allows us to observe the interaction of the architecture with the landscape."
Life of Volna
from 1986 to 2010
Chef Galina Maslikhina (first from left), head of production Natalya Krupina (center) and chef Veronika Tedysheva at Volna café, 1989
In 1986, a Japanese delegation of 200 workers arrived at VMP. As planned, they stayed at a dormitory at the address: First of May Street, 36. The Japanese went to Volna café for breakfast, lunch and dinner. From 1986 to 1988, the café served only foreign delegations.
Café employees and the Japanese delegation at Volna

worked in a bar and as a waitress from 1986-1987
Irina Leonidovna Chudnova
"The menu of the café stood out among the menus of ordinary factory canteens. The supply was very good: Once a week, food was brought to the café from the Beryozka store*. All year round in our café there was an assortment of vegetables and fruits, good meat, sausage and seafood. But the Japanese still brought rice cookers with them, because they thought that in the USSR they would have nothing to eat. We had good relations with the Japanese. On my 25th birthday, they surprised me with a Japanese porcelain doll."
Irina Chudnova at the bar
*Beryozka (lit. "little birch tree") was the overall name applied to two chains of state-run retail stores in the Soviet Union that sold goods in exchange for foreign currency. Beriozkas sold luxury goods such as chocolate and caviar that were often unavailable or unaffordable in traditional Soviet markets and shops.
the first head of Volna
Raisa Vasilievna Maslikhina
"We built the building with soul, there was a good finish inside. Our plates were not faience, as in all canteens, but porcelain. The main hall opened onto a balcony, the Japanese liked to go out on it and admire the pond.

The Japanese did not really like soups, but vodka - very much. Thanks to the translator, we communicated well with them, went to visit, they often gave gifts, for example, they gave me a watch.

After the departure of Japanese workers in 1988, the café continued to work for the plant's specialists and foreign delegations, and other workers moved into the dormitory. In the evenings, Volna was opened for city dwellers."
Drawing of the design department of VMP that organised the decoration of the café in connection with its opening to local visitors
the last head of Volna, who worked there from 2002 to 2010
Natalya Mikhailovna Remizova
"We were one of the first cafés in Vyksa to stay open until 4 am. Banquets and weddings were often held in the café, anniversaries were celebrated.

Famous artists always came to Vyksa on Metallurgist's Day, staying at the Vyksa hotel and going to eat at Volna. So, among our guests were Lyudmila Gurchenko, Irina Miroshnichenko, Anita Tsoi, Ivanushki International. We even kept a book with autographs of famous guests."
In 2010, the café stopped working. The building became empty, continuing to remain the property of the plant.
Reconstruction of Volna
In 2019, the OMK-Uchastie Foundation invited the NOVOE architectural bureau to develop a project for turning the café into an art residence and cultural center Vyksa. They decided to reconstruct the building, adapting it for the work of artists and public events. Now the residence is a multifunctional space for a variety of guests. The former café building houses a cultural centre, administrative block, workshops, art storage and technical areas.
Sergey Nebotov
architect of NOVOE bureau
"When I first saw Volna, I immediately realized that this was not a typical modernist building, but the work of an architect who embodied his idea in this project. On our first visit, when we looked around the building, we wanted to walk around it to understand how the terrace and corridor connecting it to the dormitory were integrated into the landscape. Throughout the project, we tried to restore the original concept.

We were most impressed by the kitchen, as its space was organised vertically. This was a double-height room with upper vertical windows that allowed you to fill it with light and create the effect of a light well into which you fall.

We tried to keep the zoning and café paraphernalia in the new design. For example, the building has a residential block, which is located in the former workshop and kitchen premises. Their walls were painted with classic oil paint, with a fairly bright colour coding that we kept in the resident block.

A terrazzo floor was discovered in a public space. Unfortunately, it was impossible to save it, because it was already uncovered during the dismantling of the tiles and was damaged. We tried to restore this material with new technology and return it to its historical place. Another complex process is the restoration of tiles. We had to convince everyone that this tile has a cultural and historical value, then carefully dismantle and restore it.

We adapted the residence for the work of artists with disabilities. We equipped the premises with a bathroom for people with limited mobility, a special navigation system for the visually impaired, a means of communication with staff, and parking for people with limited mobility."
Alisa Bagdonaite
Curator of Vyksa Artist-in-Residence programme
"In 2019, our first visit to Volna took place. We formulated for ourselves several principles on which the reconstruction project should be based. Firstly, the decision itself to reconstruct the building and make it useful again to the city is an example of an environmentally friendly approach to the construction and development of territories. Secondly, it was important for us to have an ethical attitude towards the history of the building, place, district, and residents. Therefore, we worked with archives, collected stories about how Volna used to function, and tried to strike a balance between preserving the historical appearance and creating new functionality.

We found traces of renovations from the 80s, 90s, and 2000s in the café - both extravagant and touching, but we were not able to save everything because of the focus on the functionality and practicality of the building, and not its museumification.

Together with Vyksa's resident artists, we walked around all the rooms and discussed several ideas for future reconstruction, which were included in the terms of reference for architects. For example, we then decided that a strict division of space into a private, working part for artists and open public areas for visitors was necessary.

Thanks to the new building, Vyksa Art Residence can expand its mission and become the core of a cultural center. Volna is not just for artists – it can become a place for urban communities and creative professionals with different backgrounds and different needs to work. We want Volna to become an island that is comfortable and takes into account the needs of different people."
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