Erich Mendelsohn, Red Banner Textile Factory in Leningrad (1926)

Charlottenburg, Germany
July 11th, 1926

We have completed the early project for Stuttgart. The enclosed sheet shows its directness as a spatial organism. To alter it, i.e., to eliminate or add anything, will call for new work and a new design.

So it will be better to push it through as it is and thus bring it to life.

This evening I am traveling to Stuttgart via Nuremberg. We are doing without pictures — which are only attempts to deceive untrained eyes — but are having a colored model prepared straight away. K. is bringing it on Wednesday morning. Until then I will…put my iron in the fire. On Wednesday I am lunching with Bonatz and dining with him at Hildebrandt’s. The omens are favorable, though I cannot believe we shall triumph without a struggle.

But I have a good conscience with regard to this project, which is half the battle.

Still no final decision from Leningrad. My telegram in reply to the renewed Russian invitation is so far unanswered. In this I see neither a good nor a bad omen, but am simply remaining completely indifferent to the way things are developing, which is hard enough to control from close to and quite impossible at a distance.

The endless space of Russia makes dream and aspiration — idea and action — impenetrable in the negative sense, infinite in the positive. [my emphasis — RW]

Even having to reckon with the reality of the few months when building can be done in Leningrad upsets numerical calculations and shifts their emphasis. The constants remain, but the indices explode, because the Russians are not sufficiently knowledgeable about their inner value, and their necessary correlation.

Meanwhile speculation continues about our possible handling of the whole project development. My studio is today a complete forum for statical computations, not, as it is generally, a trapeze of intuition or a firm springboard of organized planning.

At the same time H. telephoned in order to hold out a 90 per cent certain prospect of the Mosse block being realized. All three blocks are to be built at once and my negotiations with the building authorities must be taken up “at once.” People coax me into making compromises, without permitting themselves to notice that they are prepared to sell me down the river at the appropriate moment. So it is necessary to be doubly watchful and unyielding.

If all this comes together, holidays and mountain lakes become unthinkable.

Leningrad, USSR
August 1st, 1926

The presentation of the project in Moscow has caused the Textile Trust the greatest difficulties and disagreeable cuts, additions, and mixtures — in short a fine flower of compromise…

They want to create a prototype on the basis of the latest international experience, but they entrust the incomplete picture to the hand of a bad copyist.

They make a basic revolution but they are bogged down by even more basic administration. They look to America but they are stuck fast in the suburbs of Königsberg. And all the possibilities are here, as you know.

But this new structure needs a broad base on which to rest, from which to summon up its strength. Everywhere there are those knowledgeable and active people who have always given the hungry mass a new understanding of their freedom, of the goal of all freedom and of man himself.

Leningrad, USSR
August 4th, 1926

Here, after strong resistance, the battle is ended, insofar as I can control it.

The continuation of work within the framework which was promised in May is assured, and all that we have until Friday to complete is settled.

Because of this I wanted to be back in Berlin on Monday evening, traveling via Riga. But what I hope was a favorable star has made up my mind for me and settled for Moscow Nizhny Novgorod and Kiev — that is for a new Mosse book, Russia.

Mrs. Kamenev seems almost certain to obtain for me permission to take photographs, so that, given good weather, I can finish the whole thing. I am thinking of taking a Russian companion with me, Gr[opius] or some other architect. In that case I shall not reach you until a week later…

I think a good deal here about Russia: about that which will take shape about much that is new, much that is immutable and much that must come about if everything is not to be in vain.

Leningrad is more than its columns, and one must study it in all seasons in order to discover that, despite its European style, it possesses a part of that mystery that Russia presents — menacing when it lets itself go, vital when it is in control of itself.

Herrlingen, Germany
July 11th, 1927

The Russian book is no Amerika. We knew this. But it is simply because the pictorial material must rely for three-quarters of the time on history, while for the new, the enigmatic, there are only words, answers to enigmas but no striking pictorial suggestions. And nothing appeals more readily to modern man than pictures. He wants to understand, but quickly, clearly, without a lot of furrowing of brows and mysticism. And with all this the world is mysterious as never before, impenetrable and full of daring possibilities .

The new, the will to construct, carries on from the primitive. Here is where the enigma begins. Can Russia be constructive in form? Not only words and in human actions — but in the visible, tangible reality of the creative act?

A start was the wise limitation of the Soviet Union to the immediate, the dividing off of individual nationalities, which can only be absorbed into the greater unity as themselves, as complete entities…

Their constant feeling of polarity with America is instinctive. The enthusiasm of the young Russians to combine the two is understandable.

Is only courage in experiment, in self-sacrifice, in ecstasy a part of it? Do not the inward-turning of creative industry and sustained effort, opposed to the intuition of the moment, belong to it above all? Not simply recognition of the moment but its absorption in the dogma, its stabilization from the moment to all eternity?

Sacrifice to eternity as a daily habit, emphasis on straightforwardness, cold-sounding in the depths?

Here is the reason for the Russian’s love of tea, his delight in debate, the play he makes with the iconostasis, the piling up of cupolas and the latest glass ornaments.

To speak out about Russia is to help her reflect on her hybrid form, which swings like a pendulum, politically as well, between East and West.


Herrlingen, Germany
July 14th, 1927

O Russia, the holy!

Courage again.

Just now, two hours ago, I had given it up — on account of history, of lack of modern Russian examples.

I write through the eye of an architect, purely visually.

From buildings I deduce history, transition, revolution, synthesis…Synthesis: Russia and America — the future of Utopia! I am compensating for a lack of modern Russian examples by the new international, collective, parallel architectural views.

The contrast between the thirst for power of the unconsolidated élite and the nullity of the serfs and the proletariat and their yearning for salvation, between Eastern resignation and Western activity, reveals the soil of Russia as ready for revolution.

I hope to put onto paper a work of my own on these lines, a creative vision. A credo of our age, of the future, as a product of mechanization and divine mystery…

70bffabe70ab57546b767c27aadbb09f f377d92b30852f35f717a19129bddfdb 4ece778fb6470 g9ugkbx6vbiprg0oje 39_big Pages from Б.М. Кириков, М.С. Штиглиц Архитектура ленинградского авангарда  2008-2 07_Mendelsohn_Leningrad_Textilfabrik.jpg.2087967 3vav7c1kwgnzizygsb

5 thoughts on “Erich Mendelsohn, Red Banner Textile Factory in Leningrad (1926)

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