Ivan Leonidov

These are some utopian sketches and plans by Soviet avant-garde architect Ivan Leonidov.  Here’s a defense of Leonidov’s work against some of the criticisms leveled against it by the rationalist Nikolai Dokuchaev, written up by his fellow constructivist, Aleksandr Kuzmin:

Projects may be criticized in various ways.  Amongst the critics of Leonidov’s projects there is a category of architects who, whilst understanding and recognizing the great importance of the projects to the development of a genuinely contemporary architecture, try by all means fair and foul to discredit them.

True, for all who understand this, such manoeuvers appear dismal and trite.  But unfortunately they do not all understand this.  They do not all see clearly that the heart of the problem can all too easily be littered up with scientific rubbish; not everyone sees that there are very few true theorists of architecture on the pages of our magazine, but a lot of reporters who jump from one case to another and are helplessly attacking issues which are beyond their capabilities.  In just this way Professor Dokuchaev writes in the journal Building Moscow (and when not being unduly familiar, he is incoherent), in an attempt to shape public opinion on Leonidov’s work.

Let us consider why it is that Dokuchaev is trying to discredit OSA, and in particular Leonidov.  Dokuchaev is an ideologue of the dualistic, idealistic, and formalistic trend in architecture, while OSA is a diametrically opposed grouping which stands in the thick of Soviet reality and upholds a monistic, functional, and materialist method in its work on architectural form.  This is the hidden agenda behind Dokuchaev’s swoops on Leonidov: that must be clearly understood.  Now, a few words on the interweaving of God-seeking dualism with formalism in the meditations of Dokuchaev.

Dokuchaev clings to a fantastic, idealistic project and relies on categories handed down from bourgeois architecture, such as the idea of the ‘ensemble.’

The ideas of OSA are criticized not only by ASNOVA but equally by other architectural groups for their denial of the influence of forms on the human being.  But in fact it is only OSA which is stepping over this artificial notion of the influence of external form, and is trying to genuinely design the architectural object in a way that takes account of the ideological dimension from the very beginning, in relation to the social function of the building, and right to the very end, down to the details, at the level of their standardization, correct functioning, and justification.  It is precisely for this reason that many people consider OSA stands for bourgeois architecture, Manilovism, leftist deviation, Suprematism, etc.

Before drawing…false conclusions about the possibilities for form to have an ideological influence on the consciousness of a building user, it should be made clear that the actual influence of the Gothic cathedral on the masses was determined and made possible only by the larger religious, idealistic, dualistic psychology of the masses, which had been perverted to this state by the burdens of unreleved, centuries-old expression.

If we understand this, then it becomes clear that any idea of a form having an ideological influence on the building user is quite unrelated to the industrial psychology of a proletariat which is building a new life for itself, and that such an idea operates on precisely those religious and idealistic atavisms in the mass’s psychology inherited from the Tsarist lack of culture.

Aleksandr Kuzmin’s “Against irresponsible criticism: about the attacks on Leonidov’s projects.” Sovremennaia arkhitektura,  1930 (no. 4, pg. 9)


8 thoughts on “Ivan Leonidov

  1. Pingback: Period photographs of Soviet avant-garde built exteriors, 1926-1934 | The Charnel-House

  2. Pingback: Soviet avant-garde architectural negatives (mid-1920s to early-1930s) | The Charnel-House

  3. Pingback: Soviet Abstract Architecture Blueprints (mid-1920s to early-1930s) : socks-studio

  4. Pingback: Encore un effort, si vous voulez être modernes ! | @phorismes

  5. Pingback: Современная архитектура: Organ of architectural modernism in the Soviet Union, 1926-1930 | The Charnel-House

  6. Pingback: Ivan Leonidov: Artist, dreamer, poet | The Charnel-House

Leave a Reply to Matt Rings Cancel reply