The building of Medium Merchant Rows has always existed in the shadow of its "overhead" neighbor - GUM (Upper Merchant Rows). Both buildings were constructed as the parts of single ensemble performed in Neo Russian style. High slope of terrain to Moscow river is the first thing to take one's attention when looking at the Medium Merchant Rows, as well, as irregular shape of the area they were erected at. Both factors have influenced artistic and compositional solution of the ensemble. Apparent irresolvable problem has turned into unique feature. Southern part of the Rows is located lower than primary and folded in a small angle to it. This solution has underlined changes in topography of the area. The building of the Medium Merchant Rows is built into the ensemble of the Red Square and the landscape.
The present Medium Merchant Rows were constructed in 1891 by an architect Roman Klein, but the trading process at this place began in XV century. First shops made of stone have appeared between Iliynka and Varvarka streets in 1594. The most notorious merchant row was Schepetilniy row, which provided Moscow fashionable people with fancy and perfume goods. The building has been rebuilt several times since the end of the XVI century. After the fire of 1812 the Medium Merchant Rows underwent a significant restructure. The work was conducted by general Empire-style architect of Moscow Osip Bové. Thus the Medium Merchant Rows has acquired elevations on its corners decorated with columns and bas-reliefs.
In the late XIX century the building fell into disrepair. Most important, it didn't correspond with modern requirements of life and commerce anymore. Architect Roman Klein has faced a difficult challenge in addition to the rebuilt of the Medium Merchant Rows: to give an architectural grounding to the north-eastern part of the Red Square. Klein has brilliantly solved this problem. Of course, the society didn't hesitate to compare his work with the Upper Merchant Rows. However, the decorations of the Upper Rows are horizontal while in the Medium Rows vertical decorations prevail. If the Upper Rows are slightly overloaded with decorations, the Medium Rows were intentionally abridged of dressings by Klein, thus awarding them with a spirit of freedom.
Moscow commerce has always existed by its own laws, traditions and customs. Surely one can't accuse traders in a lack of sense of humor. Sometimes they initiated a game called "Red or green". Imagine the buyer coning to a shop and asking for grey cloth. The trader revealed red or green cloth instead, assuring the buyer that this is exactly what he needs. The buyer went to another shop where the situation repeated. Instead of a grey cloth they presented a red or a green one. After visiting several shops poor man was not sure if his mind was at the right place. Usually the game ended with purchase of a red or a green cloth or with horror-stricken retreat of the buyer from the merchant rows.
There is a chance that commerce will never return to the Medium Merchant Rows. President Vladimir Putin has suggested conveying the Rows to the Museum of the Russian Kremlin after reconstruction to serve as exposition halls. However, for native Muscovites this building will always be connected to commerce. Not being dressed up as the Upper Merchant Rows, they still sparkle with elegant small decorations. Take a good look. You can get an impression that the main facade is a carpet with complicated rhythm of windows. Architect Klein has applied elements of Neo-Russian style together with Modern style, very young but promising at the time.