Ivan Leonidov’s proposal for the Lenin Institute in Moscow (1927)

AIM: To answer the needs of contemporary life through maximum use of the possibilities of technology.

THEME: The Lenin Institute is the collective knowledge center of the USSR.

LOCATION: Where the new city is developing. Lenin Hills in Moscow.

CONSTlTUENT PARTS: A library with 15 million volumes of books and 5 reading rooms of 500-1000 seat capacity, and an institute of librarianship.

Auditoria varying in capacity from 250-4000 people. A scientific theater, i.e. planetarium. Research institutes for individual academic work.


MECHANIZATION: Library — Delivery of books to the reader and back into the stacks takes place through vertical and horizontal conveyor systems; upon request from the catalogue hall, the books are automatically delivered to the reading rooms.

Auditoria — Mobile suspended walls can subdivide the sphere into partitioned sectors for the required number and type of auditoria. The entire globe can seat 4000; smaller crowds are accommodated in appropriate rooms separated by blind-like screens. The sphere also serves as a speaking platform for mass gatherings. When one half of it opens up, and seats withdraw into the remaining half. Entrance to the auditorium is gained by walkways leading up to a system of elevators. The research institute is linked to the auditoria and reading rooms, and feature a whole series of devices: telephones, radios, and remote televisual equipment. By this arrangement the entire academic staff of the institute can work together simultaneously on a single project.

Planetarium — The sphere is convertible into a science theater after projection screens are installed along the inside skin.

The connection with Moscow itself is made by an aerial tramway with a central aerodrome for the suspended roadway. The connection with the world is through a powerful radio station.

MATERIALS: Glass, steel, reinforced concrete.

Extract from the minutes of session 17 of the exhibition committee for the first exhibition of modern architecture and its foreign section (June 1, 1927)

Received Paragraph 4:
Reports on the sections and individual displays at the exhibition.

Resolved: In the section concerned with individual exhibits, the Exhibition Committee declared unanimously in favor of the work of Ivan Leonidov, emphasizing the especially successful solution presented in his graduation project, “The VI Lenin Central Institute,” which clearly indicates a new direction for architecture accomplished with great innovation and comprehension of today’s situation.

Ivan Leonidov, View of the diploma project model for the Lenin Institute and Library, Moscow, U.S.S.R. (now Russia) 1927

The specialists, groups of workers and foreign guests who visited the Exhibition were particularly impressed by Leonidov’s design. His works were also noted in the press.

In light of this the Exhibition Committee notes the great social significance of these designs for our artistic and technical culture, and considers it necessary to stress its positive disposition toward Leonidov’s project.

Certified true copy.

Secretary to the committee,
Aleksei Gan

“Results and Prospects,” by Moisei Ginzburg (1927)

Leonidov’s Lenin Institute of Librarianship is exceptionally interesting methodologically, and deserves thorough consideration. Amongst the other works exhibited at the SA Exhibition it stands out particularly for its originality of approach.


All the same, there is some reservation in Leonidov’s work. Solving his problems by constructive means, and very bold ones at that — though technically feasible and theoretically applicable — Leonidov at the same time creates something which is impossible to realize today. Having taken a bold leap out of ordinariness, he has fallen into a certain utopianism. This utopianism consists not only in the fact that the USSR is not now economically strong enough to erect such buildings, but also in the fact that Leonidov was not really able to prove that his constructive conundrum was actually necessary, i.e. that this solution and only this will solve the problem concerned.

Thus while noting that Leonidov’s work in a sense constitutes a landmark and reference point for our future work, we must still not forget about these real conditions in which our practical activities have to take place.

Constructivism is the most relevant and timely working method for our present conditions. A Constructivist is working today in the interests of tomorrow. That is why he should avoid all yesterday’s stereotypes and canons, and with them all the dangers of utopianism. He must not forget that in working for tomorrow he is in fact building today.

Impressions of Ivan Leonidov

Architect Leonidov displayed great talent and capacity for innovation in his graduation project. His work is imbued with the spirit of the progressive artistic culture and a love of bold technical conceptions. Unfortunately I cannot give more extensive testimony about comrade Leonidov, since my judgment is based solely on impressions derived from my familiarity with his diploma work. But I do not think myself mistaken in judging his outstanding abilities as a designer.

Nikolai Ladovskii
August 22, 1927

5 thoughts on “Ivan Leonidov’s proposal for the Lenin Institute in Moscow (1927)

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