Mikhail Okhitovich, Moisei Ginzburg, and Disurbanism

Public-House for 100 People (1930)

According to legend, the Soviet sociologist Mikhail Okhitovich wandered into the VKhUTEIN (ВХУТЕИН) studios one day in the summer of 1929.  He left after a short while, having only been noticed by a few students and instructors.  Okhitovich returned the next morning, this time storming directly into the office of the esteemed Constructivist architect and theorist, Moisei Ginzburg.  Okhitovich then promptly locked the door, sequestering the surprised Ginzburg and himself inside the office.  Ginzburg, whose work had hitherto mainly been focused on the problem of the collective dwelling and its place in the modern city, was known to have been an enthusiastic supporter of Le Corbusier’s Urbanisme.  In fact, he had personally translated extracts from Corbusier’s book on city-planning for the inaugural issue of Sovremennaia arkhitektura (Современная архитектура) in 1925.  After an hour and-a-half of heated discussion, however, Ginzburg emerged from his office with Okhitovich a convinced Disurbanist.  The suddenness of his conversion was stunning.  He would later suffer a great deal of criticism for his perceived fickleness in this matter.  But Ginzburg would remain committed to the Disurbanist vision despite pressure from his friends and colleagues (Sabsovich and the Vesnin brothers) to revert to his earlier position.  Ginzburg only relinquished his allegiance to this philosophy of decentralization after Stalin’s government stepped in and put a stop to all this “utopian” speculation, as they called it.

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