“Superstructure”: 11 Projects That Defined Kiev’s Soviet Modernism

Pavilion “Transport”, from the of Achievements of the National Economy of USSR. Image Courtesy of Valentyn Shtolko

Around the globe, the post-war years were a period of optimism and extreme experimentation. On both sides of the cold war’s ideological divide, this optimism found its greatest expression, architecturally speaking, in modernism - but of course, the particular circumstances of each city offered a unique spin on the modernist project. According to the curators of “Superstructure,” an exhibition presented at Kiev’s Visual Culture Research Center from January 28th to February 28th, the utopian architectural works of Kiev represented ”an attempt to transform the city into the environment for materialization of artistic thinking – in contrast to the strict unification of city space by typical construction and residential blocks.” Architects such as Edward Bilsky and Florian Yuriyev, often working in collaboration with artists such as Ada Rybachuk and Volodymyr Melnychenko attempted to create projects that were a complete synthesis of architecture and art – an approach to design that often didn’t sit well with the Ukrainian authorities of the time.

Featuring research by Alex Bykov, Oleksandr Burlaka and Oleksiy Radynski, “Superstructure” examined the projects which were typical of this particular cultural moment in Kiev. After the break, we present this research, and a selection of images from the exhibition.

Why Putin Likes Columns: 21st Century Russia Through the Lens of Architecture

Rendering of the proposed Lakhta Center in St Petersburg. Image Courtesy of www.proektvlahte.ru

In August 1932, , holidaying in Sochi, sent a memo containing his thoughts on the entries for the competition to design the Palace of the Soviets, the never-to-be-built monument to Lenin and center of government. In this memo he selected his preferred design, the colossal wedding cake of a tower topped with a 260-foot (79-meter) high statue of Lenin, designed by Boris Iofan. Just over 80 years later, again hosted the architectural whims of a powerful Russian leader for the 2014 Winter Olympics. An oversimplification? Probably. But it’s got nice symmetry to it.

Win a Scholarship for the AA Visiting School in Santiago

What does architecture have to do with Chilean astronomy? A lot more than many realize. In the 1960s, the manufactured three Grand Passage Instrument telescopes (GIPpy), and their accompanying domes in Saint Petersburg. Unfortunately, they fell into ruin after the Soviet astronomical mission’s departure from Chile following the 1973 military coup d-etat. Now, however, the Architectural Association Visiting School in Santiago, Chile, in partnership with the Pontifical Catholic University, will host a 10-day workshop in January on the GIPpy telescopes. The workshop is organized by the team that was recently awarded the Silver Lion at the 14th Venice Architecture Biennale for their work on Soviet prefabricated housing in Chile, and we’ve teamed up with the Visiting School to give away two £600 scholarships to attend the workshop!

For more information on the workshop and to find out how to enter to win a scholarship read on after the break…

AD Round Up: Architecture of the Soviets

Druzhba Recreation and Retreat Centre - Yalta, . Image © Frédéric Chaubin via edgecast.metatube-files.buscafs.com

During the Soviet Union’s relatively brief and tumultuous history, the quest for national identity was one that consumed Russian culture. The decadence of Czarist society was shunned, and with it, the neoclassical architecture the Czars so loved. Communism brought with it an open frontier for artistic experimentation, particularly where public buildings were involved. It was on this frontier that Russian Constructivism was born, and some of Russia’s greatest buildings were built.  This article on EnglishRussia.com compiles a list of some of the “best of the best” in —and we liked it so much that we’ve compiled our own top ten list! See all of our favorite Soviet projects, after the break!

In Drawings, The Historical Trajectory of Soviet Architecture

Yakov Chernikhov, Factory building, Ca. 1931, Drafting pen, ink and pencil, 298 x 248 mm. Image Courtesy of the Tchoban Foundation

This article by Ross Wolfe, originally posted on Metropolis Magazine as “Cultural Divide: The ‘Paper Architecture’ of the USSR” explores the complexity of various Soviet architecture movements through the lens of paper architecture.

In the history of 20th-century Russian architecture, there exists a central struggle. In one corner, the Constructivists, champions of light, airy, and functional buildings that drew their power from the social and aesthetic revolutions of the 1920s; in the other, the Stalinist architects, whose thuggish hybrids and clumsy pastiche became the predominant vernacular throughout the Soviet republics. The latter, as we know, eventually came out on top. 

Things are rather more complicated, of course, as an recent at Berlin’s Tchoban Foundation argued. Architecture in Cultural Strife: Russian and Soviet Architecture in Drawings, 1900-1953 brings together a total of 79 unique architectural delineations that chart a historical trajectory running from the twilight years of the Romanov dynasty up to Stalin’s death by the midcentury.

Read on for more about the multiple movements that made up the whole of Soviet architecture.

A Collection of Striking Soviet Bus Stop Designs

Pitsunda, Abkhazia. Image Courtesy of herwigphoto.com

Over a decade ago on a cycling trip across Europe, photographer Christopher Herwig stumbled upon a curious phenomenon that would become his obsession for years: bus stops. Curiously for a regime usually associated – both architecturally and otherwise – with uniformity and with sameness, the bus stops built by the Soviet Republic display remarkable diversity and creativity. Herwig made it his mission to photograph as many of these remarkable structures as possible, travelling through Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia and Russia; Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and KazakhstanUkraine, Moldova, Georgia, Armenia, and Abkhazia.

Now complete, Herwig has launched a Kickstarter to turn this remarkable collection of photographs into a limited edition book, which he describes as “the most mind-blowing collection of creative bus stop design from the Soviet era ever assembled.” Check out some of the images after the break.

Soviet Modernism 1955-1991: Unknown Stories

Residential building on Minskaya Street, 1980s, Bobruisk, Belarus © Belorussian State Archive of Scientific-Technical Documentation

Soviet Modernism 1955 – 1991. Unknown Stories’ explores, for the first time comprehensively, the architecture of the non-Russian Soviet republics completed between the late 1950s and the end of the USSR in 1991. The research and exhibition project shifts the Russian-dominated perspective and focuses attention on the architecture of Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Estonia, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Krygyzstan, Latvia, Lithuania, Moldova, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, The Ukraine and Uzbekistan.

More information after the break…