When cities grow, fuelled by an expanding population, housing becomes an essential component of the urban character of a metropolis. Across the world, housing experiments have been propagated by governments and states, with mixed results, and undoubtedly mixed opinions. The Soviet-era housing estates of Central and Eastern Europe are particularly interesting in that regard. These mass housing projects have been dismissed as eyesores and viewed as unimaginative monolithic structures. The legacy of these developments, however, is a lot more complicated than that.
Soviet Union: The Latest Architecture and News
After the success of the original guide-book on underrated Soviet architecture, Garage Museum of Contemporary Art is publishing an English version of the bestselling guide: Moscow: A Guide to Soviet Modernist Architecture 1955–1991 in a new digitalized format with six new chapters.
The Republic of Georgia’s past is defined by turbulence and a struggle for identity. A former republic of the USSR, Georgia is perhaps best known as the birthplace of Joseph Stalin. The nation's history has been anything but calm, and remnants of the architectural past provide a glimpse into the nation that was.
The country's remaining Soviet landmarks give Georgia an air of being caught between the past and the present. Italian photographers Roberto Conte and Stefano Perego capture this in their photo series, Soviet Architecture Heritage in Georgia, with a compilation of photos that highlights the existing Soviet heritage in Georgian architecture today.
Kleinewelt Architekten in partnership with Citizenstudio / Gorozhane Group, created a re-design proposal for the Northern River Boat Station Park, also known as the Park of Five Seas, in Moscow. Built in the 1930’s, the current park is supposed to act as the city’s gateway to the five seas: the White, Baltic, Black, Azov, and Caspian Sea. However, the park is removed from city life and separates Moscow from it’s historic waterways.
The history of what is now the Republic of Belarus is a turbulent one. It has been part of the Russian Empire, occupied by the Germans during both World Wars, divided between Poland and the Soviet Union, and finally declared its independence in 1991. Although Belarus is now an independent nation, it is also an isolated dictatorship that has in some ways remained unchanged since the 1990s, and is largely seen both culturally and architecturally as a sort of time warp, Europe's most vivid window into life in the Soviet Union.
Photographer Stefano Perego recently documented the postwar Soviet legacy of Belarus' architecture from the 1960s-80s, and has shared the photos from his 2016 cross-country drive with ArchDaily.
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.
Khoja Obi Garm is a Soviet sanatorium nestled high in the mountains of Tajikistan – a place known for its curative, radon-rich waters. When Maryam Omidi, a former journalist, visited in 2015 she was "blown away" by both the architecture and landscape: a enormous concrete, Brutalist block at the peak of a snow-capped mountain. She has since launched a Kickstarter campaign to develop a book of photographs exploring "the best sanatoriums" across the former Soviet Union.
In this article, which originally appeared in the Calvert Journal, Ksenia Litvinenko narrates the story of the K-2 Dacha – a governmental residence in St. Petersburg which sought to shrug off Russian Classicism and Soviet Modernism in favor of the principles of Finnish Modernism. Illustrated by photographs by Egor Rogalev and researched alongside Vladimir Frolov, this article examines a Modernist gem that you probably won't have heard of, or seen, before.
If you ever find yourself in St. Petersburg, take a taxi along the Pesochnaya embankment, far away from the polished attractions of the city centre. Sit back and watch the landscape changing on the other bank of the Malaya Nevka. Among the trees you will see the former dachas of Russian nobles, private residences of local officials and the buildings of the new elite, overlooking the river. This is the best and perhaps the only perspective from which to see the K-2 dacha.
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.
Darkness, light, warmth, cold, silence and sound – the ground zero of creating space – are the focus of a mystical experimental exhibition currently open at the Museum of Estonian Architecture in Tallinn.
An attempt to speak about space, its creator and its user as a coherent whole, the exhibition acts as an intimate meeting with professionals who create the environments we inhabit. "Expedition Wunderlich: 11 Interior Architects" is only open on Saturdays and Sundays, 1 hour at a time (12 pm – 1 pm).
An unconventional man with radical ideas, Buckminster Fuller was an "affable weirdo" and "counterculture icon" who, as Gizmodo reports, often caught the attention of the FBI. For the first time ever, his (heavily redacted) FBI files have been released, revealing some of the reasons why the FBI felt the need to keep tabs on the world famous architect and designer, including speculations regarding Fuller and the Soviet Union. Though it seems nothing ever went beyond speculation, the files are fascinating. You can read them in full, here.
"Twenty-five years after the Berlin Wall’s demise, it is as though a large part of the twentieth century never happened," writes OMA principle Reinier de Graaf in his article for Metropolis Magazine "The Other Truth". "An entire period has been erased from public consciousness, almost like a blank frame in a film." Through the course of the article, de Graaf outlines how the West has rewritten the history of the cold war, erasing the "other truth" that existed for nearly half a century in East Berlin, the USSR, and other soviet-aligned states - a truth that we forget to our peril. It may not be immediately architectural, but the essay provides an interesting look into the political thoughts of de Graaf who, as the principle of one of architecture's most prominent research organizations in AMO, has an important influence on the profession's understanding of the wider world. Read the article in full here.
UPDATE: The Jury has selected Jeremy Jacinth and Luliana Teodora Amza as the winners of the £600 scholarship to participate in the GIPpy workshop at the AA Visiting School in Santiago, Chile.
What does Soviet Union architecture have to do with Chilean astronomy? A lot more than many realize. In the 1960s, the Soviet Union 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 Architectural Association 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…
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.
The Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts will be hosting an exhibition on Russian Modernist Architecture starting October 11 through February 16, 2013. Featuring a wealth of rarely published material on architecture that spanned the empire of the Soviet Union, the 80+ large-scale photographs – documented by British photographer Richard Pare – provide unique insight into the movements of the Soviet revolutionary period. More photos and information after the break.