The end of the First World War did not mark the end of struggle in Europe. France, as the primary location of the conflict’s Western Front, suffered heavy losses in both manpower and industrial productivity; the resulting economic instability would plague the country well into the 1920s. It was in the midst of these uncertain times that the French would signal their intention to look not to their recent troubled past, but to a brighter and more optimistic future. This signal came in the form of the Exposition Internationale des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels Modernes (International Exposition of Decorative Arts and Modern Industries) of 1925 – a landmark exhibition which both gave rise to a new international style and, ultimately, provided its name: Art Deco.
Best known for the Rusakov Workers’ Club and his own house, Russian architect and painter Konstantin Melnikov (August 3rd, 1890 – November 28th, 1974) has only recently received his due, now more than forty years after his death. He spent much of the twentieth century shunned by the Soviet architectural establishment, having refused to capitulate to the increasingly conformist (and classicist) prescriptions of Stalinism. As a result, he was forced to end his career only a decade after it started, returning to his other avocation as a painter and leaving in his wake only a precious few completed works.
Konstantin Melnikov (August 3, 1890 – November 28, 1974) played a key role in shaping Soviet Architecture from the mid-twenties to mid-thirties, despite being independent from the Constructivists who dominated architecture at the time. Besides his well-known pavilion for the USSR at the 1925 Exposition des Arts Decoratifs in Paris, Melnikov was famous in Moscow for his workers’ club building, for his own house, and for his bus garages.
With this recent photoset, photographer Denis Esakov (who is now looking for a publisher to produce a photobook featuring the full set of almost 600 images) has created a unique opportunity to explore – both inside and out – all 12 Melnikov projects that shaped Moscow’s Architecture during the Soviet Era.
Ahead of the 125th anniversary of the birth of Russian architect Konstantin Melnikov, Photographer Denis Esakov provides a recent look at 12 of Melnikov’s projects—all of which have been standing for over 70 years. Enjoy this selection of photographs that show how some projects have aged, deteriorated or been adapted, and note Melnikov’s persistent fascination with the meeting of curvature and rectangularity.
Rumor has it that Constructivist architect Konstantin Melnikov’s Bakhmetevsky bus garage may soon be transformed into Moscow’s prime modern art gallery. An “equivalent to London’s Tate Modern,” as the Calvert Journal describes, the historic 1927 structure has been said to be the most likely location for the new museum, dubbed “Pushkin Modern.”
UPDATE: The ArchCouncil of Moscow reports that the Melnikov House has been listed as a cultural heritage site of federal value, an important step in its conservation. The following article first appeared on ArchDaily on April 23rd, 2013.
Peter Eisenman, Steven Holl, and Rem Koolhaas are among the many architects who have signed a letter pleading for the preservation of one of Konstantin Melnikov’s greatest works, the Melnikov House. As we reported in December of 2012, the Melnikov’s house 83-year old foundations have weakened considerably since the onset of neighboring construction. Unfortunately, the situation has only worsened “significantly” over the last few months.
Read more about the state of the Melnikov House, and what architects are doing to try and prevent its deterioration, after the break...
The Independent reports that nearby construction (which visibly moves the ground the building sits on) has weakened the 83-year-old foundations dangerously. Konstantin Melnikov’s grand-daughter (and current resident of the house), Ekaterina Karinskaya, further told The Independent that, due to broken heating pipes, the wooden house spent more than 50 days without heating in what were often sub-zero temperatures.
Although there have been interests expressed to turn the house into a museum, a tense legal debate between Ms. Karinskaya and a developer has put any plans on stand-still. Meanwhile, time is running out for the architectural icon.
More on the Melnikov House debate, after the break...