Upper Paleolithic in the center of the Russian plain


Museum Center "Palaty", Vladimir-Suzdal Museum-Reserve



Project team:

Curator: Elena Levitskaya, Sasha Puchkova
Architect: Ekaterina Yurchenko
Developer: Red Square
Graphic design: Natalia Dorogina
Equipment: Aledo
Photographer: Elena Tsibizova
Electrical installation work: Denis Kolesov

On November 10, a significant cultural and historical event took place in Vladimir. In the museum center “Palaty” opened a permanent exposition dedicated to the archaeological monument of the primitive era – “Sungir. Upper Paleolithic in the center of the Russian Plain”. The site of ancient people with burials, jewelry and tools was discovered in 1955 on the outskirts of Vladimir.

The excavations lasted almost 30 years, during which time more than 70 thousand different items were found. The research is still underway. The exhibition dedicated to Sungir turned out to be not only large-scale, but also very unusual, as if immersing into the atmosphere of the primitive era.

Light in the design concept plays a great importance, acts as a conductor from era to era, from space to space and creates different moods.

Smooth light transitions and lighting accents help navigate the space.

Light draws the viewer’s attention to key exhibits and moments.

The first hall is dedicated to the flora and fauna of that time. In the center of the room there are huge stones, and right behind them in the showcase there are tusks, bones and teeth of mammoths, as well as casts of footprints of different animals.
The visual inspiration for this space came from memories of illustrations of primitive times from encyclopedias. When developing the idea, we relied on impressions of the dawn glow, the change of color temperatures at sunrise. In the circular windows, the combination of warm (2400 K) and cold (4000 K) light temperatures gave an incredibly beautiful gradient, completing a powerful image for this room.

Entering the second hall, visitors feel as if they are at the excavations themselves: there is sand, shovels all around, and in the center, on the floor directly in the sand, there is a huge screen on which you can see how archaeologists found a burial site. In the background you can hear birds chirping and the sound of brushes brushing sand off the finds.

A little farther away is the entrance to the tent, where archive photos, maps, drawings, and authentic Otto Bader belongings – a bag, a camping kettle, and a sapper spade – are on display. We found references to the light scenario for this space in the image of the tent of Soviet archaeologists. Graysing soft warm (2700 K) light around the perimeter of the entire tent helps to make the surfaces relief, create a sense of tactility and emphasize the atmosphere of romance of archaeological excavations.

A stretch of light bulbs further fills the space in a cinematic way. A particular challenge in working with a hall draped entirely in canvas fabric was the placement of the track with the exhibition light equipment.

In order to maintain a holistic impression, we developed a concealed lighting system installed on the ceiling behind the fabric. It allowed us to reveal visual dominants without visible light sources.

The third room is already devoted to the finds. In the center is the most famous burial of two boys laid head to head. Next to them lay spears, carved disks, beads and the legendary Sungir horse, to which the key showcase at the end of the exposition is dedicated. This area is decorated with an installation of red threads and stones.

The rays shining through the threads and stones raise the degree of special value to its highest point.

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