Designed by Spanish engineer Agustín de Betancourt with a unique roof without internal support for 45 m (the building's width), it was erected from 1817 to 1825 by the Russian architect Joseph Bové, who clothed it in its Neoclassical exterior, an order of Roman Doric columns enclosing bays of arch-headed windows in a blind arcade, painted white and cream yellow. The roof, with its internal rafters and beams exposed, rests on external columns of the Manege.
The structure was used first as a traditional manège, to house parades of horsemen and a training school for officers. The 180 m long Manege was large enough to hold an entire infantry regiment—over two thousand soldiers— as well as an invited audience. Since 1831 it has been an exhibition place. In 1867, Hector Berlioz and Nikolai Rubinstein performed at the Manege before a crowd of 12,000. During the Soviet years, the building was used as an art gallery. It was there that Nikita Khrushchev (in)famously chided avant-garde artists for promoting degenerate art.
On 14 March 2004 the building caught fire and burnt out, killing two firefighters. The wooden beams and rafters collapsed, leaving the walls remaining on site. The official investigation concluded that a short-circuit caused the fire. On 18 February 2005 the restored Manege resumed its operation as an exhibition hall by mounting the same exposition that had been scheduled on the day of the fire.