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Le Corbusier’s project for the Palace of the Soviets (1928-1931)

The Radiant City: Elements for a doctrine
of urbanism for the machine age 
(1933)

Le Corbusier

The Main Auditorium: an audience of 15,000. Open-air platform: 50,000 people. And perfectly regulated acoustics. Small auditorium: 6,500 people. Huge crowds can move about at their case of the esplanade. Cars are on a lower level; the parking lot is beneath the auditoriums.

General ground-level plan: The natural declivities of the ground are left untouched. Automobiles are assigned a circuit on either side, in the open or underground. The circuit leads to the various entrances: an automatic classification of all visitors. Pedestrians never come into contact with cars. (There can be 25,000 people inside the Palace, and 50,000 more on the open-air platform).

Le Corbusier’s sketches of the Palais des Soviets

1932: Project for the Palace of the Soviets in Moscow

1928-1931 Moscow classified traffic system

The ground is devoted to movement: pedestrians, cars.

Everything above the ground (the buildings) is devoted to stability.

No similarity between the two. The ground beneath the buildings must be freed, for regular streams of cars and lakes of pedestrians. The streams flow directly to certain entrances; the pedestrians are widely scattered. This makes for a new economy of layout.

The streams of cars can flow in sunken beds or along elevated highways. Starting 5 meters above the ground, buildings take on definite shape. Distribution of traffic has been achieved below, on the ground.

Here, the dynamic functions: distribution of sorts of traffic.

(Pilotis on the ground level).

Here, the static function is expressed by offices, club, and auditorium. 1928. Palace of Light Industry (first called the Tsentrosoiuz) in Moscow. Now built.

Le Corbusier at a conference in Moscow, 1928

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Here, the dynamic functions: distribution of sorts of traffic.

(Pilotis on the ground level).

Here, the static function is expressed by offices, club, and auditorium. 1928. Palace of Light Industry (first called the Tsentrosoiuz) in Moscow. Now built.

Tsentrosoiuz: Plans, models, site visits

Master plan for the urbanization of the city of Moscow

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In 1931, Moscow officials sent me a questionnaire, admirably thought out, about the city’s reorganization. If only all cities would send out such questionnaires! Their lot would be improved.

The theoretical drawings of the “Radiant City” were made in order to answer this questionnaire. They form a theory of urbanization for modern times.

My “Answer to Moscow” caused an unexpected reaction: its technical aspects were hailed in flattering terms. But the cornerstone of my work was freedom of the individual, and this was held against me. Doctrinal vehemence prevented any worthwhile discussion. Capitalist? bourgeois? proletarian? My only answer is a term expressing my line of conduct and my ingrained revolutionary attitude: human. My professional duty, as architect and city planner, is to achieve what is human.

Charitable colleagues — Frenchmen, too, and far from being “Reds” — proclaimed to all who would listen or read, “that I wanted to destroy Moscow.” Whereas they themselves, if only they were called upon, would, etc.…

The plate which appears opposite (last in the “Radiant City” series), is not a program for Moscow’s destruction but on the contrary, for its construction. It shows zoning and axes of movement along which the city could gradualIy achieve a position of supple ease, expansion without difficulty, and so forth. This plate shows a specimen of urban biology.

So far, only the International Congress for Modem Architecture, the C.I.A.M. has required its members to seek the lines of vital communication which can bring a city into efficient contact with its surrounding region. (A task which will fall to the 5th Congress).

Corbu’s iconic model of the Palais des Soviets

Palace of the Soviets in Moscow

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The administration building, on the left, is independent of the ground. Not only is the ground freed but, moreover, the expanse of open space beneath the building forms a highly architectural frame for the landscape seen in the background.

On the right, impressive ramps lead the way to the open-air platform for 50,000 people.

By contrast, 15,000 can reach the main auditorium from ground level by means of a continuous inclined plane, becoming concave until it reaches the seats. No stairways, not even a single step can be tolerated in a public building — and certainly not “monumental” stairways!

Corbusier in the USSR
Space, Time, and Architecture (1941)

Sigfried Giedion

Le Corbusier’s Geneva plan remained a project, but the principles embodied in it were partially realized in the Tsentrosoiuz at Moscow (1928-34). The erection of the Tsentrosoiuz — now the Ministry of Light Industry — was retarded partly by the requirements of the Five-Year Plan and partly by the emergence of an architectural reaction. It was one of the last modern structures erected in Russia.

Le Corbusier with Sigfried Giedion and Gabriel Guervekian at La Sarraz for CIAM 1 (1928)

Le Corbusier with Sigfried Giedion and Gabriel Guervekian
at La Sarraz for the founding of CIAM (1928)

Le Corbusier’s design for the Palace of the Soviets (1931) fell within the period of Stalinist reaction. With the ceiling of the great hall suspended on wire cables from a parabolic curve, it was Le Corbusier’s boldest accomplishment up to that time. In 1931 the realization of this project or any of the other contemporary schemes, such as those by Gropius and  Breuer and by the sculptor [Naum] Gabo, was no longer conceivable in the U.S.S.R.

Russian translation of Le Corbusier's 1925 classic, Urbanisme [Планировка города]

Russian translation of Le Corbusier’s 1925
classic, Urbanisme [Планировка города]

10 thoughts on “Le Corbusier’s project for the Palace of the Soviets (1928-1931)

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  5. You present on your site a portrait of Le Corbusier and himself with his cousin working on the project palace des soviets.
    Both picture are by LIMOT. I hope you really are a student if not you should pay a fee for copyright. If yes just add the information “photo LIMOT 1936″.
    TU LIMOT

    TU

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