IMAGE: Suetin’s model
From the first chapter of Douglas Murphy‘s Architecture of Failure (if you haven’t checked this book out by now, you really should):
Industrial exhibitions of one kind or another had been held for at least half a century before 1851. However, as the Great Exhibition would be the first that was international in any sense, and as it would also be an event on a scale that dwarfed any previous exhibition, then it is not unreasonable to think of it in terms of a ‘first of its kind.’ Moreover, it set in motion a massive cultural movement; the Great Exhibition is often said to be the birth of modern capitalist culture, both in terms of the promotion of ideologies of free trade and competitive display but also in the new ways in which objects were consumed, and how they were seen. Benjamin refers to how the exhibitions were ‘training schools in which the masses, barred from consuming, learned empathy with exchange value,’ while more recently Peter Sloterdijk would write that with the Great Exhibition, ‘a new aesthetic of immersion began its triumphal procession through modernity.’ The financial success of the Great Exhibition was swiftly emulated: both New York and Paris would hold their own exhibitions within the next five years, and there would be a great many others held throughout the century all over the world. As time went on, the event would slowly metamorphose into what is now known as the ‘Expo’, a strange shadow counterpart to the events of so long ago, but one that still occurs, albeit fitfully, and with a strange, undead quality to it. By the time the first half-century of exhibitions was over the crystalline behemoths of the early exhibitions had been replaced by the ‘pavilion’ format, whereby countries, firms and even movements would construct miniature ideological edifices to their own projected self-identities. The 1900 Paris exhibition was the first to truly embrace this format, and in future years one could encounter such seminal works of architecture such as Melnikov’s Soviet Pavilion and Le Corbusier’s Pavilion Esprit Nouveau (Paris 1925), Mies van der Rohe’s Barcelona Pavilion (Barcelona 1929), Le Corbusier & Iannis Xenakis’ Phillips Pavilion (Brussels 1958), or witness the desperately tragic face-off between Albert Speer and Boris Iofan (Paris 1937).
Seeing as I recently published a post on Suetin’s ceramic Suprematism, and since Murphy mentions in his book the “desperately tragic face-off between Albert Speer and Boris Iofan (Paris 1937)” — that is, between architectural Nazism and architectural Stalinism — I thought it might be fitting to post the above, bizarre image of Nikolai Suetin’s model for the proposed setup of the Soviet Pavilion that year. Truly strange stuff.