This article is part of "Eastern Bloc Architecture: 50 Buildings that Defined an Era", a collaborative series by The Calvert Journal and ArchDaily highlighting iconic architecture that had shaped the Eastern world. Every week both publications will be releasing a listing rounding up five Eastern Bloc projects of certain typology. Read on for your weekly dose: Communist Culture and Socialist Sports.
Karen Demirchyan Complex / A. Tarkhanian, S. Khachikyan, G. Pogosyan and G. Mushegyan
The Karen Demirchyan Sports and Concerts Complex is a large entertainment and sports complex, which sits on the western part of Armenia’s capital, Yerevan. The structural design of the complex resembles a large bird with its wings open, a design very unique to the city that symbolizes superiority and freedom. The structure was open to the public in 1983, but a few years later, a fire broke about and forced the management of the complex to close its doors until it was fully renovated in 1987. Among the many unique design elements in the complex, 184 steps lead up to the Tsitsernakaberd Hill, as well as a turning tribune which can create additional seating space, a design concept that awarded the architects behind the project the USSR State Prize in 1987. The complex includes a main arena (up to 8,800 seats), a concert hall (1,900 seats), sports hall (2,000 seats), diplomatic halls, and a foyer for exhibitions. Since its inception and to this day, the complex has housed hundreds of events and conferences, such as concerts, championships, and presidential inaugurations.
The State Circus of Chisinau / Ala Kirichenko and Simion Shoyhet
At the time of its opening, the State Circus of Moldova was an avant-garde venue with a never-seen-before design, new equipment, and grand rehearsal spaces, attracting performers from all over the world. The venue was considered the largest auditorium in the country, as its 40-ft ring was surrounded by a capacity of 1,900 seats. 7 years after its opening, a sculpture of two acrobatic clowns by Matvey Levinson was installed above the main entrance, greeting people as they went in. Unfortunately, due to the serious economic crisis and rapid inflation in the country, the venue was abandoned in 2004. A decade later, the circus was brought to life yet again by the Ministry of Culture and private companies but in a smaller scale of almost a 300-person capacity. The current state of the structure of the circus is relatively good, with minor renovation work needed on decorative elements and the facade.
St Petersburg Sports Complex (SKK) / I. M. Chaiko N. V. Baranov V. F. Yakovlev N. A. Vladislaveva A. P. Morozov
St Petersburg, Russia
Previously known as the V. I. Lenin Sport & Concert Complex during the Soviet era, the project sits in the Moscovsky District, a commercial complex which includes Moscow Avenue, Victory Park, and the sports stadium itself. The circular sports stadium is an attraction for visitors and residents of the city as well. The arena housed numerous local and international concerts, fairs, events, games, etc… But today, it is left under plenty of controversy. The St. Petersburg Architects Union and the Monument Protection Society wanted the SKK to be considered as a Cultural Heritage Site, but was refused by the city’s government. In 2019, an open architecture competition was held for the arena’s reconstruction, leaving the options open for contestants to demolish, rebuild, or renovate the structure. However, in January 2020, the roof, along with parts of the walls, collapsed during dismantling some parts of the building, as some people are illegally conducting work on the building.
Dostoyevsky Drama Theatre / Vladimir Somov
Veliky Novgorod, Russia
This eccentric building, which was under construction for almost 20 years, was born from the desire to bring the theater arts closer to the proletariat, leaving a successful legacy of more than 30 years of cultural activities. Located in foreshortening on the embankment of the Volkov river, one of the best-accomplished design aspects of the building is its relationship with the immediate context and respect for the local heritage. Although at first glance its brutalist form is imposing and seems unrelated to anything, the design of the building was planned to stay out of reach of the main historical lookouts and thus respect the patrimonial route, while managing numerous facades that were either inspired by details of local orthodox churches facades, or that carefully framed the best views towards the river. The pale concrete exterior contrasts with the interior in elaborate organic forms, covering ceilings with acoustic objectives, as well as details of handrails and balconies, as well as the patterns of the marble floors. What was once a building symbol of progress, today has become a monument, a landmark of nostalgia and the ideals of an extinct state.
V. Lenin Palace of Sports / V. Kostin, V. Marukov
The V. Lenin Palace of Sports is a multi-disciplinary sports venue. One of the most recognizable design elements of the building is the visibility of the structure on the facade with the use of truss girders, which are expressed in the atrium of the main facade complementing the rhythm of sports gargoyles. The rest of the facades have geometric bas-relief details that give a unique texture to the concrete, or they break out with sculptures, such as spiral staircases. The varied program includes the entrance area esplanade, an auditorium with 3,000 seats and a stage, an administrative wing orthogonal to the inner courtyard, and a swimming pool equipped with a sauna and fitness center.
Nowadays the building is still in use and it is known as ‘The Kojomkul Sports Palace’ and is part of the list of national monuments of Kirghiz.