“Problems of Modern Architecture”
Image: Detail from Nikolai Krasil’nikov’s
final diploma project at VKhUTEMAS (1928)
Final diploma project for Aleksandr Vesnin’s studio at VKhUTEIN
Vol. 3, № 6: 1928.
“In order to really know an object, it is necessary to comprehend, to study all sides of it, all its internal and external connectivities.” — Lenin
It is necessary to pursue and elaborate the implications of this proposition in every specialized field.
My initial premises:
1. The environment in which an organic body exists has an influence upon its form.
2. The forms of the various parts of the organic body are determined by their functions. Thus in a tree the forms of the root, the trunk, and the leaves are determined by the purposes they serve.
3. To put it mathematically, the form of every body is a complex function of many variables (and the concept of form embraces the internal structure of the body matter).
4. A scientific theory of the design of form can be developed through the dialectical method of thinking, with the application of mathematical methods of analysis; analysis, that is, which uses the infinitesimal quantities of analytical geometry along with both differential and integral calculus, and the theory of probability and mathematical statistics.
5. A theory of the design of architectural form must be based on the physical, mechanical, chemical, and biological laws of nature.
6. Socialist construction is unthinkable without the solution of economic aspects of the problem such as would yield the maximum economic effect in the very broadest sense. So the constructional economics of a building for human work or habitation must be measured in terms of:
1. the material resources expended in erecting and running it;
2. wear (amortization) and repair of the building;
3. the time expended by people on all forms of movement in and around it;
4. impairment of the health of individuals, which depends on the extent to which the sanitary-technical norms and laws on safety at work and leisure are observed; and
5. the working conditions which would promote an improvement in the productivity of labor in general and mental work in particular, or in the conditions for leisure.
7. Under present Soviet circumstances [destvitel'nosti], the achievement of maximum constructional economics in architecture is also a vital necessity for the successful realization of socialism.
Specialists in the field of architecture are atavistically following the work methods of a thousand or more years ago.
To us, the creative process of the designer appears an inscrutable business, full of mysterious and intensely individualistic characteristics.
Modern architecture is a blind alley because it is not based upon a precise, scientific method.
The technical possibilities — that is, the structural form, the building materials, the condition and quality of the ground, all the preliminary, technical and economic investigations of the town, etc. — must be examined with a view to minimizing the aggregate costs of constructing and using the building. In the end we shall arrive at the solution which is the most economic overall, diverging as little as possible from the optimum for each factor, and this will then be the solution which is most rational for the particular case.
The problem that the designer will have to face first is that of arranging the units of accommodation so that their interconnections and links with the street will be as convenient as possible; that is to say, so that the amount of time expended in all forms of movement will be minimal.
The question of constructional economics is no less important than the question of convenience; indeed under our state of economic backwardness it is perhaps even more important.
The socialist revolution that is impending in a whole series of countries [!!] has to create new economic and industrial planning organs to consolidate its revolutionary conquests. The new technical apparatus will have to be moulded to the socialist system of administration: that means large areas whose administration will have to be concentrated geographically in order to function properly, thus creating the “socialist business center.”
This new scientific and materialist system for organizing human life not only gives a new form to the administrative apparatus, but demands in turn the appropriate equipment and set-up with which to operate; and these material requirements must in turn be reflected in the architecture of buildings and in the plans of the towns.
Quite obviously, the whole look of a town that forms such a politico-economic center and seedbed for socialist culture will differ significantly from that of the contemporary town which was shaped by capitalism and its anarchically unplanned economy. The arguments of commercial speculation determined the plan and form of its buildings.
The towns that were centers of bourgeois culture are gradually losing their relevance for the new forms of life.
Either they must be turned into ancient monuments, or they must fully or partially replan themselves — taking into account of the economic, geographical, and other conditions in which they now find themselves. There is a whole number of conditions which will require that there will be even more building of new towns in the future than the replanning of existing ones.
We have to look ahead to this, and prepare for it. There will be both small settlements and large towns to be created. How does one approach this problem?
It is certainly impossible to produce more or less precise plans for new socialist towns or settlements in the absence of a well-defined brief. In the USSR we have only just embarked upon the building of socialism, while other countries have not yet turned that way. We have as yet no more than the rudiments of a prototype socialist economy, and even less of a culture.
But for us socialism is not a utopia; it is a reality towards which we are moving. The basic characteristics of a socialist economy and culture are clear, and can be specified in advance.
When bourgeois specialists draw or describe “a town of the future” they become sunk in utopianism, eclecticism, and unreality, for they have no reliable materialistic base or starting point from which to work; if their intuitive guesses at the form of the future town ever prove at all accurate, it is only by chance. Their lack of any corresponding ideological aspirations wholly prevents them from making realistic projects.
In conclusion, I must say that the mathematicization of architectural projects (in which this work does not pretend to any degree of finality) must be based on a mass of scientific research into such factors as the psycho-physical effect on the human organism of light, heat-energy, the quality of air, of color, space and form, amongst many other factors.
The successes of the last decade in mathematical statistics and analysis must herald their even further development in the future, and all such progress will greatly assist the solution to our architectural tasks.