We conceived this adventure as a project to return to Almaty "Arman" Cinema one of the elements of the facade, lost during the change of historical eras – decorative forged "crown" with a unique plot pattern framing the perimeter of the roof. We were inspired by an idea of preserving the architectural heritage as an authentic idea of the masters who created it.
Our research project piece by piece restored the lost appearance of the "crown", from which there are no original drawings or complete images.
We have assembled a dedicated and professional international team, constantly consulting with the Chief Architect of the cinema project and with experts on monument protection. In the work which took almost a year and geographically went beyond Almaty and Kazakhstan, our efforts met many challenges, and the project itself became a reason to think about issues that did not initially stand before us.

How do architectural sites iconic for their time survive the negation of former ideologies? How do public buildings change their functions under the influence of a radical change in economic paradigms? What is considered the true identity of architecture, which age fell at a time of change - the original appearance or stratified historical layers?

Our research project piece by piece restored the lost appearance of the "crown", from which there are no original drawings or complete images. This complex process has become an invaluable experience for us, which we have gathered into an algorithm of actions for architects or enthusiasts who want to deal with the issues of heritage return.

Fragment of the Crown
In addition, our team studied the past of the cinema in a changing historical context and found previously unknown shots, documents and facts in the archives. We tried to perform an anthropological analysis of the life cycle of "Arman" as a building, cinema and public space. A separate mission of the project was also a difficult search for information about the artist Konstantinov, the author of the "crown".

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

In recent years, attempts have been made to purify the "Arman" itself and its atmosphere from the excesses that arose on its body during the years of change. The entrance group was brought back to its original appearance, and everything that was hastily and thoughtlessly lost is returned to the interiors. Moreover, the new time dictates new functions to the building and changes its appearance, although not so aggressively. The half-century history of "Arman" reflects in its own way half a century of the history of Kazakhstan and, in particular, Almaty.
We want to ask questions, the answers to which we do not want and will not monopolize
We have restored an image of what the "crown" looked like, but the meaning of our project went beyond artistic reconstruction. We want to ask questions, the answers to which we do not want and will not monopolize. The history of this sample of deeply ideological Soviet monumentalism, as well as the history of its destruction - 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 is the absence of part of our memory? Or is it no longer needed at all - or is it not needed in its original form?

We want to continue the discussion about architectural heritage, which was started by our colleagues and ordinary Almaty citizens, with new questions about reconciliation with the past, progressivism in society and architecture, the right to memory and about 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. Origin"
Dastan Bisenov
Co-author "Arman Alma-Ata. Origin"
Aidar Naizagarin
DJ, promoter