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 exhibition 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.
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 Kazakhstan; Ukraine, 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’ 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…