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Constructivism: The Latest Architecture and News

Ukrainian Architectural Landmarks Face the Threat of Destruction

Photo by Andriyko Podilnyk on Unsplash . ImageLviv
Photo by Andriyko Podilnyk on Unsplash . ImageLviv

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine unleashed a major humanitarian and refugee crisis, with 4.2 million people fleeing into neighbouring countries and 6.5 displaced internally. According to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA), 18 million people are projected to become affected in the near future with the current scale and direction of the ongoing military violence. In addition to the threat to human lives, Ukraine’s culture is also at risk, as cities and historic buildings are being destroyed. In March, the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has expressed concern over the damage caused to historic landmarks in Ukraine and called for the protection of its cultural heritage. The following are some of Ukraine’s most prominent architectural landmarks, which are now in danger of being destroyed amid the conflict.

Rbrechko, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons. ImageSt.Sophia's Cathedral, Kyiv. ImageSt. Sophia CathedralVia Shutterstock. ImageDerzhpromVia Shutterstock. ImageUkrainian wooden churchVia Shutterstock. ImageResidence of Bukovinian and Dalmatian Metropolitans+ 5

"We Still Have Not Built that City of the Future Where I Once Lived": In Conversation with Nishan Kazazian

What follows this short introduction is my unusually personal interview with a Lebanese-American architect and artist Nishan Kazazian. His work is inspired by numerous sources that come from many directions such as Kintsugi, the Japanese art of putting broken pottery pieces back together, primary color geometric abstractions evocative of Russian Constructivism, as well as paintings by Piet Mondrian and Paul Klee. Yet, a stronger inspiration comes from his memories of home and family history. Layering and superimposition of cultures and languages were constantly present in his life since childhood and remain guiding forces to Kazazian, who is both a licensed architect and a professional artist.

Synergic Landscapes, 2018. Image Courtesy of Nishan KazanianArizona House, Flagstaff, Arizona, 1994. Image Courtesy of Nishan KazanianSpeculative Zoo with Satellite Imagery & Holograms, Hudson River, New York, 2019~2020. Image Courtesy of Nishan KazanianAmphibian Concert Hall Son et Lumière, Non Site Specific, 2018. Image Courtesy of Nishan Kazanian+ 25

Coop Himmelb(l)au to Build Constructivism-Inspired CKA Arena and Park

Vienna-based architecture firm Coop Himmelb(l)au has won an international competition to redesign the CKA Ice Hockey Arena and Park in St. Petersburg, Russia. The design of the complex is inspired by Russian Constructivist architecture, an era that redefined architecture with the works of Tatlin and El Lissitzky, and removed the limitations of construction and movement. The structure and general layout of the arena is based on Tatlin's “Monument to the Third International,” where it is translated as the flowing, dynamic movement of a person skating around the stadium.

© CoopHimmelb(l)au© CoopHimmelb(l)au© CoopHimmelb(l)au© CoopHimmelb(l)au+ 9

The Winding Saga of the Restoration of the Narkomfin, an Icon of Soviet Constructivism

If you wandered down Novinsky Boulevard in central Moscow five years ago looking for the Narkomfin building, you’d have been greeted by a sorry sight. The Narkomfin, the poster child for Constructivist architecture designed by Moisey Ginzburg and Ignaty Milinis in 1928, had been slowly falling into a state of dereliction after being left unloved for 45 years. Paint peeling, concrete crumbling, and windows broken—not to mention the numerous, muddling alterations made to the block of flats, including a completely new ground floor.

The apartment block is raised on pilotis, a hallmark of High Modernism. An indoor bridge connects this main structure to an ancillary building, which was originally designed to contain communal spaces. Image © Ivan MuraenkoOne of the 44 apartments in the building. Private kitchens were gradually added since the building’s opening in 1930–32. Image © Ivan MuraenkoA common area in the ancillary structure, whose curved, glazed facade contrasts with the residential block’s curvilinearity. Image © Ivan MuraenkoA view from the roof, looking north, with the Stalin-era Kudrinskaya Square Building in the left background. Image © Ivan Muraenko+ 5

12 Important Modernist Styles Explained

Modernism could be described as one of the most optimistic styles in architectural history, drawing from notions of utopia, innovation, and the reimagination of how humans would live, work, and interact. As we reflected in our AD Essentials Guide to Modernism, the philosophy of Modernism still dominates much of architectural discourse today, even if the world that gave rise to Modernism has changed utterly.

As we say goodbye to 2019, a year that saw the centenary of the Bauhaus, we have collated a list of key architectural styles that defined Modernism in architecture. This tool for understanding the development of 20th-century design is complete with examples of each style, showcasing the practice of Modernism that lay behind the theory.

Café L’Aubette/ Theo van Doesburg. Image Courtesy of Wikimedia user Claude Truong-NgocBarcelona Pavilion / Mies van der Rohe. Image © Gili MerinVilla Savoye / Le CorbusierVitra Design Museum / Gehry Partners. Image © Liao Yusheng+ 13

RIIA Designs Jewelry for the Minimalist In Us All

Courtesy of RIIA
Courtesy of RIIA

Are you in the market for a new set of minimalist earrings or a necklace inspired by the constructivist movement? You can now own all of this and more, with RIIA's line of minimalist-inspired jewelry. This Los Angeles-based jewelry designer is removing the overly decorative elements in jewelry and bringing to light the beauty of pure forms.

This Book Encourages Children to Build Their Own Russian Constructivist Playground

It was alongside the rise of the Soviet era when the Russian avant-garde movement started one of the most influential creative revolutions in the 20th Century. The Constructivists, forming part of this wave, rewrote the history of art, design and architecture, and their legacy still remains contemporary.

© Zupagrafika© Zupagrafika© Zupagrafika© Zupagrafika+ 20

Spotlight: Konstantin Melnikov

Melnikov Residence (1929) / Konstantin Melnikov. Image © Denis Esakov
Melnikov Residence (1929) / Konstantin Melnikov. Image © Denis Esakov

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.

Burevestnik Factory Club (1927 - 1929) / Konstantin Melnikov. Image © Denis EsakovRusakov Workers' Club (1927-1929) / Konstantin Melnikov. Image © Denis EsakovSoviet Pavilion at the Paris Exposition Internationale des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels Modernes (1925) / Konstantin Melnikov. Image © <a href='http://www.flickr.com/photos/27862259@N02/5842277086'>Flickr user kitchener.lord</a> licensed under <a href='http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/'>CC BY-NC-ND 2.0</a>Melnikov Residence (1929) / Konstantin Melnikov. Image © Denis Esakov+ 14

Photographer Raphael Olivier Explores the Suspended Reality of North Korea’s Socialist Architecture

North Korea is one of the few countries still under communist rule, and probably the most isolated and unknown worldwide. This is a result of the philosophy of Juche – a political system based on national self-reliance which was partly influenced by principles of Marxism and Leninism.

In recent years though, the country has loosened its restrictions on tourism, allowing access to a limited number of visitors. With his personal photo series “North Korea – Vintage Socialist Architecture,” French photographer Raphael Olivier reports on Pyongyang’s largely unseen architectural heritage. ArchDaily interviewed Olivier about the project, the architecture he captured, and what he understood of North Korea’s architecture and way of life.

The Workers Party Foundation Monument . Image © Raphael OlivierPyongyang International Cinema House. Image © Raphael OlivierPyongyang Ice Rink . Image © Raphael OlivierOverpass. Image © Raphael Olivier+ 21

AD Classics: Exposition Internationale des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels Modernes / Various Architects

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.[1] 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.

Courtesy of Wikimedia user François GOGLINS (Public Domain)Courtesy of Wikimedia user François GOGLINS (Public Domain)Horta’s Belgian Pavilion was a radical departure from his typically curvilinear Art Nouveau style. ImageCourtesy of Wikimedia user François GOGLINS (Public Domain)Courtesy of Wikimedia user François GOGLINS (Public Domain)+ 14

Project Meganom's Yuri Grigoryan: “Freedom is When You Realize that Anything is Possible”

Yuri Grigoryan founded Project Meganom in 1999 in Moscow with his partners Alexandra Pavlova, Iliya Kuleshov, and Pavel Ivanchikov. Together, the group all graduated from Moscow’s Architectural Institute, MArchI in 1991, the year of the Soviet Union’s collapse, and then practiced at the studio of Moscow architect Alexander Larin. Today Project Meganom is headed by Grigoryan, Iliya Kuleshov, Artem Staborovsky, and Elena Uglovskaya, and keeps in close contact with the theoretical side of architecture: Grigoryan teaches at his alma mater and until recently he was the Director of Education at Strelka Institute, founded in 2009 under the creative leadership of Rem Koolhaas, while in 2008 the practice was involved in the Venice Architecture Biennale with their San Stae project for curator Yuri Avvakumov's “BornHouse” exhibition. All of this gives Grigoryan an interesting overview of Russia's unique architectural context. In this interview from his “City of Ideas” column, Vladimir Belogolovsky speaks with Grigoryan about the issues facing Russian architecture and how Project Meganom has responded to those challenges.

Barn, Nikolo-Lenivets, Kaluga District, Russia, 2006. Image © Yuri GrigoryanTheater Mercury, Moscow, 2006. Image © Marco ZantaMolochny Lane residential building, Moscow, 2003. Image © Yuri PALMINTheater Mercury, Moscow, 2006. Image Courtesy of Project Meganom+ 15

AD Classics: Café l'Aubette / Theo van Doesburg

Concealed behind an 18th century Baroque façade in Strasbourg’s Place Kléber, the Café L’Aubette is a dazzlingly incongruous expression of the 1920s De Stijl movement. Designed by Theo van Doesburg, one of the movement’s founders and leading lights, the Aubette’s minimalist, geometric aesthetic was heavily influenced by the work of contemporary artists such as Piet Mondrian. In designing the café’s interiors, Van Doesburg sought to do more than simply place viewers before a painting; he wanted to envelop them in it.

These Drone Photographs Reveal the Hidden Geometries of Late Soviet Modernism

Though the ahistorical dogma of modernism would seem a perfect fit for the Soviet Union’s mandated break with traditions, the architectural history of the USSR was somewhat more complex. Stalin’s neoclassically-inflected socialist realism superseded the constructivist heyday of the early Soviet Union, only to be replaced by a return to modernism under Khrushchev, facilitated by an opening to the West. Architectural photographers Denis Esakov and Dmitry Vasilenko recently used a drone to capture photographs of several landmark structures of the Khrushchev-era return to modernism, focusing on how these aerial views reinforce their rational geometries and regimented forms. Until the recent advent of satellite imagery and commercially available drones, these were views that were only ever seen by the architects, and the officials who reviewed the plans. Even so, the photographer notes that these methodical forms must have been very attractive to the state officers tasked with implementing Khrushchev’s mandated aesthetic.

The photographs, taken in and around Moscow, include works by several prominent Soviet architects. Leonid Pavlov’s long career spanned the full spectrum of state-sponsored architectural styles, starting as a constructivist, and moving into more historicist designs under Stalin, before emerging as one of the Soviet Union’s most prominent post-war modernists. Similarly, Yuri Platonov’s work received extensive state recognition, earning him the title of “People’s architect of the USSR,” as well as awards such the Silver Medal of the Arts Academy of the USSR, the USSR State Prize, and the State Prize of Russia.

Druzhba Multipurpose Arena / Y. Bolshakov, and I. Rozhin. Image © Denis Esakov and Dmitry VasilenkoOrlov Museum of Paleontology / Yuri Platonov. Image © Denis Esakov and Dmitry VasilenkoV. I. Lenin Museum in Gorki / Leonid Pavlov. Image © Denis Esakov and Dmitry VasilenkoInstitute of Bioorganic Chemistry / Yuri Platonov. Image © Denis Esakov and Dmitry Vasilenko+ 33

Why NL Architects + BeL's Winning Proposal for Hamburg's St. Pauli Won't Win You Over With Glossy Renders

After the Bolsheviks secured power in Russia in the late 1910s and eventually created the Soviet Union in 1922, one of the first orders of business was a new campaign, Novyi bit (new everyday life), which sought to advance many of the most hallowed causes of their newly minted socialism. The initiative’s great success came from the bold designs of Constructivist artists such as Alexander Rodchenko, Vladimir Mayakovsky, and Lyubov Popova. Using a high-contrast visual language and a combination of words and symbols, the graphics were arresting and comprehensible in a post-tsarist country that was largely illiterate, and became some of the most recognizable examples of twentieth century graphics and political propaganda.

It's hard not to see the connection between the styles of the Constructivists and the unusual graphics created by NL Architects in association with BeL (Bernhardt und Leeser) Sozietät für Architektur BDA for their competition-winning proposal for Hamburg’s St. Pauli neighborhood, consisting of an urban plan of housing and other amenities at the former site of Esso Häuser on the Spielbudenplatz. And, while this stylistic connection may not have been intentionally drawn by the architects - the inspiration for the graphics is not mentioned in the four-page project description - it is oddly appropriate for this particular development.

Courtesy of NL ArchitectsCourtesy of NL ArchitectsCourtesy of NL ArchitectsCourtesy of NL Architects+ 21

A Short History of Yekaterinburg's Constructivist Architecture

Constructivist architecture is most often remembered in writing and on paper. The movement’s two most radical and recognized structures, Vladimir Tatlin’s “Monument to the Third International” and El Lissitzky’s “Lenin Tribune,” were never built at scales larger than models. Taking hold in the wake of the Russian Revolution of 1917, Constructivism was the result of Cubo-Futurist artists marrying their kineticism and abstraction to the social concerns of the Bolsheviks, in the hopes of using art as a platform to motivate changes in society. Viewing the museum establishment as a “mauseoleum of art,” in 1918 the new broadsheet Art of the Commune affirmed: “The proletariat will create new houses, new streets, new objects of everyday life...Art of the proletariat is not a holy shrine where things are lazily regarded, but work, a factory which produces new artistic things.”[1]

In spite of the predominance of "paper architecture" in the history of Constructivism, there is one city that experienced the fruit of this movement to an unrivaled degree. Yekaterinburg is Russia’s fourth-largest city, home to nearly 1.5 million people. It is also the largest concentration of Constructivist architecture anywhere in the world, with approximately 140 structures. To celebrate the importance of Yekaterinburg in the history of architecture, photographer Denis Esakov has shared his images of the city's architecture with ArchDaily.

© Denis Esakov© Denis Esakov© Denis Esakov© Denis Esakov+ 34