We conceived this adventure as a project to return to Almaty's Arman Cinema one of the original elements of its facade, lost through the passing of historical eras – a decorative metal "crown" with a unique design that once framed the perimeter of the roof. We were inspired by the idea of preserving architectural heritage while being faithful to the original conception of the masters who created it.
Piece by piece, our research project was able to restore the lost image of the "crown", despite a lack of original drawings or complete images.
We have assembled a dedicated and professional international team, constantly consulting with the cinema's original architect and with experts on architectural preservation. Our work took almost a year and took us beyond Almaty and Kazakhstan; our efforts met many challenges, and the project itself became an impetus to think about issues that weren't initially apparent.

How do architectural sites, though iconic for their time, survive the repudiation of former ideologies? How do public buildings change their functions throughout a radical change in economic paradigms? What can be considered architecture's true identify if was born into an era of transformation - the original incarnation or the stratified layers of history above?

Piece by piece, our research project restored the lost appearance of the "crown", despite a lack of original drawings or complete images. This complex process become an invaluable experience for us, which we have collected into a blueprint of actions for architects or advocates dealing with issues of heritage and restoration.

Fragment of the Crown
In addition, our team studied the cinema's past through a changing historical context and found previously unknown photographs, documents and data in the archives. We tried to perform an anthropological analysis of the life cycle of Arman as a building, a cinema and a public space. A separate goal of the project involved a difficult search for information about the artist Viktor Konstantinov, the creator of the "crown".

The facades and interiors of this architectural site retain the special spirit of the dreamers who pioneered an era of space exploration era, and over many years of complex social transformations – and structural changes to the building itself – this spirit has not been lost.

In recent years, attempts have been made to purify Arman of the extraneous elements that appeared on the building throughout years of transition. The vestibule was restored to its original appearance, and things that had been hastily and thoughtlessly lost have been returned to the interior spaces. Moreover, the new era has brought new functions to the building and changed its appearance, though not as drastically. In its own way, the half-century history of Arman reflects the history of Kazakhstan and Almaty in particular.
We want to ask questions, but we can't claim to know the answers.
We have restored an image of what the "crown" looked like, but the meaning of our project went beyond an artistic reproduction. We want to ask questions, but we can't claim to know the answers. The history of this sample of deeply ideological Soviet monumentalism, as well as the history of its destruction, of its unconventional and aesthetically complex decor, provokes new questions.

How did it happen? Why did the "crown" have to appear and how did it happen that it disappeared without a trace? Perhaps its current absence reflects an absence of part of our memory? Or is it no longer needed at all - or not in its original form?

We want to continue this discussion about architectural heritage, which was started by our colleagues and ordinary Almaty citizens, with new questions about reconciling with the past, about progressivism in society and architecture, and about the right to memory and about the romanticization of totalitarianism. By understanding how we relate to history through the study of architecture, perhaps we will understand our relationship to the past.
Project Team
Special gratitude
Dennis Keen
Vasiliy Sorokin
Adil Nazarov
Assistant Architect
Nargiz Shukenova
Co-author "Arman Alma-Ata. Origins"
Dastan Bisenov
Co-author "Arman Alma-Ata. Origins"
Aidar Naizagarin
DJ, promoter