The following is taken from the international art journal Docomomo. It is a serviceable enough text, if somewhat awkwardly translated from French. One gets a good sense of the project’s evolution from the remarks Forte makes, even if the context he provides is a bit superficial. Plus, he highlights a central point toward the end of this excerpt: cultural regression following upon political regression.
Docomomo № 37
The “heroic” building of the Pravda’s printing complex, sancta sanctorum of the communist doctrinal orthodoxy and ideological manifesto of Soviet power, was erected between 1930 and 1935 in the Muscovite district of Yamskoye Pole. Thanks to its symbolic content and programmatic commitment, it undeniably embodies an unrivaled episode in the history of modern architecture in Russia.
This prodigious building of colossal dimension, eulogistic icon of a new model of society which, forged upon the ideals of the Revolution, advancing towards the “glorious edification” of socialism and containing in its poetics of bold lines inspired by the vision of a civilisation machiniste, provided a most profound sense of that ideology of progress and aesthetics — a secular “religion of Utopia” — upon which the expectations of the modern movement were founded.
A manifesto of Utopia: The aesthetic search for the “supreme building”
In 1929 the Central Committee of the PCUS (Communist Party of the Soviet Union), in order to find a suitable solution for the growing production needs of the Pravda, the Bolshevik Party’s newspaper founded by V.I. Lenin in 1912, announced a national competition for a large-scale publishing house to serve as new headquarters for the newspaper, the regime’s official press organ. The plan for the editorial complex of the principal Soviet newspaper belonged in every respect to the vast modernization program which the Russian government embarked on in the mid-1920s. The period’s extraordinary intellectual effervescence and unprecedented creative fervor were such that the NEP (New Economic Policy) contributed in a decisive measure to the feverish construction activity in the public sector. Such activity was embodied by the realization of great infrastructures, services and industries, as well as in the creation of new organizational typologies, such as the “social condensers” (public housing, industrial establishments, workers’ clubs), catalyzing centers of the new socialist culture, that are constitute the regime’s most significant experimental results.
The ambitious project launched by the Soviet leadership, whose intention was to emphasize symbolically their own hegemonic control of Russian society, simultaneously developing the device propaganda for the official party line from one boundary of the Union to the other, constituted for the avant-garde architects a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and a formidable experimentation field for the new doctrinal directions and composition models that were formulated in those years. The competition’s prescriptions laid down that the functional units of administrative offices, newspaper offices and typographic works were to be integrated in a single large complex. The chosen site — today the area comprised between the Belorussky and Savyolovsky subway stations — was located in the Yamskoye Pole district, a strategic localization right in the city center, which at the time was still barely constructed. Continue reading