Moscow constructivism

Images taken from the Russian language website Medusa, along with a translation of the short blurb that accompanied it. Reportedly several hundred Musvovites gathered to protest the razing of the Tagansk Telephone Exchange, mentioned below. But developers went ahead with it anyway.

Demolition of the Tagansk Telephone Exchange — a constructivist building lacking the official status of architectural landmark — began at the end of April in Moscow. In place of the Telephone Exchange, they plan to build a hotel. Aleksandr Gorokhov, photo editor of Medusa, found in the archives of the Shchusev Architecture Museum some old photographs of other constructivist buildings, in order to show readers how they looked having just been built.

В конце апреля в Москве начался снос Таганской АТС — конструктивистского здания, не имевшего формального статуса памятника архитектуры. На месте АТС планируют построить отель. Фоторедактор «Медузы» Александра Горохова нашла в архиве музея архитектуры имени Щусева старые фотографии других конструктивистских зданий, чтобы показать читателям, как они выглядели, когда только были построены.

Вегнер А.П., Мотылев М.И., Молоков Н.М., Звездин И.А., Шервинский Е.В., Федоров А.Н., Буров И.Г., Блохин Б.Н., Савельев Л.И., Виссинг М.Г. Дворец культуры автозавода им. Сталина-Лихачева. Здание столовой. Архитекторы братья Веснины А.А., В.А., Л.А. Фото 1937 года Дворец культуры автозавода имени Сталина-Лихачева (ЗИЛа). Крыша с обсерваторией. Архитекторы братья Веснины А.А., В.А., Л.А. Фото 1937 года Дворец культуры автозавода имени Сталина-Лихачева. Клубная часть. Интерьер, лестница. Архитекторы братья Веснины Фото 1937 года Дворец культуры автозавода имени Сталина-Лихачева. Переход из театрального зала в клубную часть. Архитекторы братья Веснины Фото 1937 год. Дом «Известий». Архитектор Бархин Г.Б. Фото 1937 года Continue reading

Ivan Leonidov: Artist, dreamer, poet

Andrei Gozak
Complete Works
January 1988

The greatest poet is not the one who wrote best but the one who suggested most.

— Walt Whitman

Since he first emerged on the architectural scene in the twenties, the name of Ivan Leonidov has acquired legendary status. The reason for this is simply the uniqueness of his work. Its power and originality have been attested by the deep and fruitful influence which it exerted, and continues to exert, on worldwide architectural thinking — despite the fact that the vast majority of his projects remained on paper and unbuilt.

For all the complexities of his life, Leonidov produced a great deal of work. Till the very end of his life he preserved his sharpness of eye and steadiness of hand. But more important he also preserved a total faithfulness to the central ideas of his architecture and to his own aesthetic principles. Thus those commentators are profoundly mistaken, and indeed inaccurate, who say that he was only fully able to display his talent in those brief avant-garde years of the late twenties and early thirties during which he first became known. Notable here has been the writing of P. Aleksandrov and S.O. Khan-Magomedov.1 The triumphant success of Leonidov’s projects in those years is obvious, but what he did later is neither architecturally nor artistically inferior to it. His capabilities in no way diminished with time, but only now, when we can see the fullest possible range of his sketches and designs, such as is assembled here, can we really appreciate the inexhaustible quality of his talent. Naturally his work underwent a process of evolution, as on one hand it reflected the beating of his own internal artistic pulse, and on the other it reacted to external influences and circumstances. But through all the modifications it was characterized by an enviable stability, both in aesthetic and ethical dimensions of his worldview, and in its style of graphic representation.

Ivan Il’ich Leonidov was born into a peasant family on the 9th of February 1902 in the village of Vlasikh, in what was then the Stantskii district of the Tverskoi gubemia, or province. His childhood was spent in the village of Babino, and when he had completed four years at the local parish school he went at the age of twelve to earn his living in Petrograd.2 It is known that Leonidov first received training in painting and drawing in Tver, at the Free Art Studios which were organized in 1920.3 In 1921 he was sent to continue his study in Moscow at the Painting Faculty of the VKhUTEMAS, from which he later transferred to the architecture faculty and the studio of Aleksandr Vesnin.

The atmosphere of the VKhUTEMAS and his personal contacts with Aleksandr Vesnin played an important role in the shaping of Leonidov’s creative personality. Aleksandr Vesnin contributed a great deal to drawing out every side of his gifted pupil’s talents. While still a student, Leonidov took part in numerous open architectural competitions, and often achieved success. There were for example third prizes for an improved peasant hut and for a housing development in Ivanovo-Voznesensk, as well as a “recommendation for acquisition and adoption” for his Byelorussian State University project for Minsk. None of the original drawings done during his training have survived, but several publications from those years give a relatively full idea of his highly individual manner of composition and his graphic skills, as a young architect who had already mastered the language of early constructivism. There are manifestly close links between these Leonidov works and the projects of the Vesnin brothers and other founders of the constructivist architectural association, OSA.4

Leonidov’s final diploma project, for the Lenin Institute of Librarianship, must be regarded not only as his first truly independent work, but also as the distinctive credo of an architect setting out on his professional life. Displayed publicly at the First Exhibition of Modern Architecture in Moscow in 1927, it was received as the opening up of a whole new architectural direction.5 Alongside Tatlin’s tower of 1919 and Melnikov’s Paris Pavilion of 1925, the Lenin Institute has remained to this day one of the great symbols of the revolutionary, innovative spirit of the first decade of Soviet architecture.

The beginning of Leonidov’s professional activity is marked by his active participation in competitions. From 1927 to 1930 he was himself teaching at the somewhat reorganized version of VKhUTEMAS known as VKhUTEIN. Competitions were very numerous in Soviet architecture in those years, and they gave the young architect an opportunity to express himself in the various typological genres of current practice. Leonidov’s works of those years are universally characterized by the coherence of the synthesis he achieved between the constructivist functional method and his own compositional approach, but they are equally characterized by the consistency of his representational technique in exploiting the restrained language of black-and-white graphics.

In 1928 Leonidov took part for the first time in international architectural competitions, for the headquarters of the Tsentrosoiuz in Moscow, and for the monument to Christopher Columbus in Santo Domingo. Many well-known Soviet architects participated in both competitions, as well as Westerners. Corbusier of course was eventually to build the Tsentrosoiuz, which was completed in 1935; it is well known that he met Leonidov on related visits to Moscow during 1929-1930, as he did other leading constructivists, and that he had a very high opinion of Leonidov’s scheme for that building.

The finale to this series of competition designs was the project for the new socialist town around the Magnitogorsk Metallurgical Combine in the Urals executed at the end of 1929. Leonidov headed an OSA design team composed of students from his own class in the VKhUTEIN.

Ivan Leonidov at the first OSA congress, 1928 Ivan Leonidov with the rest of the VKhUTEIN faculty, 1930

The next year, 1930, was to be a fateful one in Leonidov’s biography. He took part in a competition for the design of a Palace of Culture in the Proletarskii district of southern Moscow, around the old Simonov Monastery. The plan which he submitted for the first round diverged significantly from the brief, and proposed not a building, but a model for the “cultural organization” of a whole area of the city. Even in the first round of the competition Leonidov’s project therefore provoked sharp criticism. Discussion of the results of the second round took place in even more complex circumstances, revealing acute disagreements between the various groupings and philosophies now becoming consolidated in and around Soviet architecture. Although this time his proposal was in complete accordance with the terms of the brief, Leonidov’s scheme once again became the focal point of heated debate and discussions of larger architectural issues. Continue reading

The hammer-and-sickle kitchen-factory in Samara (1931)

Ekaterina Maximova’s 1931 fabrika-kukhnia [factory kitchen or canteen] on Maslennikov in Samara is a constructivist wonder in the shape of a hammer and sickle. Soviet “factory kitchens” were intended to provide proper nutrition to workers and liberate women from domestic slavery (i.e. the anonymous toil and drudgery of child-rearing and housework). Many such public kitchens were built and opened in the 1920s, but the one designed by Maximova is without a doubt the most spectacular.  As with most constructivist buildings in Russia, however, especially in the hinterlands, strategies to preserve this avant-garde monument have been less than adequate. Or more frequently, entirely absent.

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Archnadzor noted in an article from March 2008 that “if this building had appeared in a capital, it would have been esteemed and entered the textbooks of architectural history long ago.” (Though the sad state of similar constructivist buildings in other parts of the former USSR should call this assumption int0 question, with the exception of Melnikov’s oligarch-sponsored pieces and Kharkov’s polished Gosprom façade). Most of Maximova’s original design — both the interior and exterior — has unfortunately been destroyed in the course of the extensive reconstructions and modifications it underwent over the 20th century.

In an effort comparable to many countries’ pre- and post-WWII preservation measures, the factory had already been extensively refurbished by 1944. The entire front façade was remade, and covered the face of the building like a sarcophagus built in the classical style. Some internal changes and coverings were also made. In 1998-99 the building was once again transformed, this time into a shopping center. Threatened by demolition several times since, the building now houses stray dogs and the homeless.


Its function and purpose highlight several aspects of the era’s industrial art. These architectural concepts were ideally employed for factories, workers’ clubs, canteens, garages and modern working-class housing projects, airy and sunlit, and even in Moscow a quarter built purposely to maximize sunlight exposure in all the flats; art became a practicality, industrialized, and intended to serve or otherwise stimulate the masses. Housing projects were designed as a vessel to attune Soviet citizens to the perks of communal living.

The hammer and sickle layout must seem an ideological extravagance, a symbolic excess, but similar projects were realized in Moscow and Leningrad: a school in a vaguely similar hammer and sickle shape, or a Red Army theater in the shape of a star. Maximova’s building thus “demonstrated the progressive aesthetic, engineering, and ethical ideas of the Soviet avant-garde.” It was also one of the first buildings in the Volga area with concrete lift slabs/floor structure, a showcase of modern, creative technology.

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The factory kitchen itself was located in the hammer, from which three conveyor belts brought the food to the canteen in the sickle. There were two floors, with airy mezzanines and staircases, and the building also housed a sports facility, reading room as well as the kitchen’s administration. The interior and plan design formed an integral, dynamic part of the building’s aesthetic impact; however, these aspects are rarely considered by the city council when it comes time for renovations, considering their lack of expertise.

In the TV-program Dostoianie respublika, it is mentioned that neither federal nor local government is willing to lend aid to these decaying structures. Another tragic example of this is Moisei Ginzburg’s Narkomfin building in Moscow, which appears on the UNESCO list of endangered buildings, while it is literally falling apart (often with people inside, as Owen Hatherley observed during a recent Moscow excursion). Back in 2008 there were again plans of transforming the Samara kitchen-factory, this time into an office center, but by February 2010 the restoration plans stagnated. Today the building faces destruction once more.

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Anatole Kopp (1915-1990): the Engaged Architect and the Concept of Modern Architecture

by Anat Falbel
University of Campinas, Brazil

The bulk of the biographical data amassed below comes from an essay by a Brazilian professor, Anat Falbel, so much so that it has been appended in full. It’s rather awkwardly translated, in parts, so I’ve taken the liberty of purging some bits where he equivocates about which word to use. Beyond that, it’s a serviceable enough piece — rather weak in its gloss on Kopp’s politics despite its attention to his party membership, but filled with helpful facts and information throughout.

On engagement

The Petit Robert dictionary defines engagement as “the act or attitude of an intellectual or artist who, aware of his condition as a member of society and of the world of his time, renounces his position as a mere spectator and puts his thinking or his art to the service of a cause.” While he was still a high school pupil, at a time when the ideological debate in France was polarized between right and left, Anatole Kopp become engaged with the French Communist Party (FCP). For the son of Russian Jewish immigrants who was raised between cultural boundaries that permeated and nourished each other, and who faced the chauvinistic and xenophobic France of his youth, the October Revolution signified a new universality, a society free of social as well as national differences, suggesting affinities between Jewish messianic aspiration and a social utopia interpreted as on ethical enterprise.

Record of Anatole Kopp's birth information

Record of Anatole Kopp’s birth information

Kopp’s engagement and awareness of his role as a militant and Modern architect is illustrated in the excerpt below, taken from the 1952 letter he sent to the French Architectural Board that had been refusing his membership since 1947 because of his militant activities. The passage indicates the emergence of on early idea of a modern monument:

…As for as I am concerned, it is the social aspect of architecture that played a crucial role in the choice of studies I have mode. I believe that the path leading to architecture through the Villejuif School, the proletarian towns in Vienna and the great Dam of Dniepr is just as worthy as the way through the Parthenon, the Farnese Palace or the Louvre Colunatta.

…it is widely known that we cannot transform society through architecture or urban planning. To believe in that would be confounding cause and effect…

This study seeks to understand Kopp’s historical work based on his career as an architect and his role as an engaged intellectual. It recognizes his personal struggle with one of the problematic aspects of the militant’s engagement: the need to recognize the primacy of the revolutionary process and the hegemony of the political entity it personified, namely the Communist Party, a primacy that proved increasingly unsustainable in the late 1950s. Continue reading

Soviet Constructivist Architecture – Blueprints and Realizations

The following pictures are examples of architecture built in the Soviet Constructivist style, a style founded by the Vesnin brothers (Aleksandr, Leonid, and Viktor) along with Moisei Ginzburg between 1923-1925.  Officially, the Society of Modern Architects (OSA) was the main organ for all Constructivist architecture.  However, I have also included pieces which clearly exemplify the Constructivist style, even if the architects involved were not technically members of OSA.  Both blueprints and photographs of the eventual realizations of their plans are shown here:

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Models and Sketches from Nikolai Ladovskii’s Studio at VKhUTEMAS-VKhUTEIN (1922-1930)

The following models and sketches were produced by students at VKhUTEMAS (1921-1928) or VKhUTEIN (1929-1930), under the supervision of Nikolai Ladovskii, in his famous classes regarding architectural problems and formal solutions, unbound by physical constraints.  Though I will not be adding captions for each individual piece, I will say that they are in roughly chronological order:

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«Москва «историческая» и социалистическая (Николай Ладовский)»/“Moscow, ‘Historical’ and Socialist” (Nikolai Ladovskii)

Nikolai Ladovskii

Из Строительство Москвы — (1930) — № 1

From Building Moscow — (1930) — № 1

[Pg. 17]

Москва — столица СССР — стихийно растет и вопрос о необходимости уяснения сути этого роста и его организации для планировки Москвы является основным вопросом ее жизни. Понятие роста города не может быть сведено к простому механическому увеличению территории, ширины проездов, этажности и т. д. Рост надо понимать как органический, на разных этапах своего развития, представляющий различный не только количественно, но и качественно организм. Между тем, все имеющиеся до настоящего времени проекты «Большой Москвы» рассматривают вопрос исключительно с количественной стороны и потому страдают основным пороком — «механистичностью».

В журнальной статье нельзя дать полного анализа сути гор. Москвы, как столицы СССР, и представить подробный проект ее реорганизации, здесь имеется в виду лишь указать на те ошибки, которые, на мой взгляд, имеются во всех проектах «Большой Москвы» а сделать предложение, относящееся к основной планировочио-конструктивной схеме «Новой Москвы».

За 12 лет, после революции было сделано несколько проектов: а) проект коллектива архитекторов под руководством акад. Жолтовского, б) проект акад. Щусева, в) проект инж. Шестакова, г) проект Земельно-планировочного отдела МКХ. Все эти проекты исходили из основного положения, что радиально-кольцевая система планировки Москвы является, вообще, рациональной планировочной системой, обеспечивающей нормальный рост (наслоением колец) и правильную организацию движения и транспорта. Кроме того, во всех проектах подчеркивалась мысль о необходимости сохранения исторического облика Москвы, что, как-будто, обеспечивалось сохранением кольцевой системы.

Кольцевая система планировки имеет много сторонников в мировой литературе по градостроительству.  Поэтому на разборе ее необходимо подробнее остановиться.  Средневековый город-крепость, город-сад Говарда.  Сателлитных городов Унвинам предложение по перепланировке Парижа Корбюзье, — все эти планировочные [18] конструкции, несмотря на их кажущееся различие по форме и назначению, можно отнести к одному и тому же разряду статических форм, характеризующих отсталый метод мышления их творцов. Прививка этих систем к растущим и жизнедеятельным городам неминуемо должна вызвать болезненные явления при их росте.

Специфическим признаком их механистичности является то положение, что эти системы могут иметь смысл лишь на мгновенный отрезок времени, при условии их целостного осуществления, в следующее же мгновение роста их необходимо будет начать разрушать — короче, они не предусматривают роста из «клеточки» в систему из низшей системы в другую, высшую и т. д.  Если во времена средневековья при преобладании «статических» моментов над динамическими, т.-е. при относительно. Медленном жизненном темпе и недостаточном учете координаты времени, кольцевая система еще могла в планировка некоторое время держаться, — то с развитием капитализма, с ростом городов она всюду была сломлена.

Кольцевая система Говарда (рис. 1) при постройке его городов-садов никогда не применялась; жизненной оказалась лишь его социально-бытовая установка на определенную общественную прослойку в буржуазном обществе.

Сателлитная система городов Унвина (рис 2) как бы возвращает средневековой, кольцевой системе права на жизнь. Но это лишь так кажется при поверхностном взгляде. На деле эта система есть ни что иное, как перенесение методов колониальной политики в градостроительство. Сателлиты — это «колонии», образовавшиеся вследствие плохой организации города-«метрополин». Недаром эта система зародилась в Англии (стране колоний). В результате роста «колоний» они образуют замкнутое кольцо, ничем не отличающееся от конструкции средневекового кольцевого города, — следовательно, в процессе роста система движется назад к менее совершенным организационным формам.

Корбюзье (рис. 4) предлагает создать два города: город труда и город отдыха. Он дает лишь идею конструкции первого и эта идея ничем не отличается от идеи средневекового кольцевого города: три замкнутые, не могущие развиваться, статические пояса, стилизованные в прямоугольники.

Как уже указывалось, с ростом городов, при развитии капитализма, кольцевая система потерпела поражение, на смену ей пришла сетчатая планировка, как выражение текучести, — своеобразный, непрерывный территориальный «конвейер», более отвечающий потребностям капиталистического, более механического нарастания, а не организационного роста. Крайним выражением этой текучести являются идеи городов-линий. Являясь выражением максимальной динамичности, эти планировочные конструкции неминуемо окажутся слабыми организмами, так как низводят трехмерное пространство к «одномерному», ставя ударение на линейность. Вся же современная материальная культура и техника дает возможность решать градостроительные задачи в трехмерности, ставя ударение на «горизонтальную двухмерность».

Обратимся теперь к проектам «Большой Москвы». По всем этим проектам Москва представлена в виде центрального ядра, окруженного двумя кольцами, а с ростом пригородов, которые ни одним из проектов не увязаны в систему, естественно, в ближайшем будущем образуется и третье кольцо.

В центре предполагаются правительственные и общественные сооружения государственного и местного значения. Территории, колец по организационному содержанию представляют расплывчатый, не связанный с формою колец, конгломерат, рост которого вообще не предусмотрен и не связан с общей формой кольца. Такая несвязанность естественна, так как геометрическая природа кольцевой территории предопределяет ее пространственную статичность, физическая же природа ее строительства в лучшем случае допускает лишь уплотнение. А поэтому [Pg. 19] проектировщик чувствовал, что бесполезно связываться с формою колец. Секториальная же система роста, казалось бы, возможная в радиально-кольцевой планировке, но динамо-геометрической сути находится в противоречии с ней, должна ее исказить, а потому и невозможна. Все проекты «Большой Москвы» исходили в основе своей из положения прироста населения и, как следствие, прироста территории. Но этот рост ими принимается без анализа отдельных, составляющих и взаимодействующих сил, а лишь формально, как округление, в общем анархично растущих органов города, в геометрически оформленную территорию. Ведь снеговой ком, катящийся и увеличивающийся в своем объеме, мы не вправе считать органически растущим. Таким же приростом является по всем проектам «Большой Москвы» и увеличение ее площади. Органическим же ростом города нужно признать такой, который при росте целого, обеспечивает рост отдельных его, различно действующих, частей-органов, объединенных в пространственно-временную экономическую систему. Этого-то как раз момента не предусматривает ни один из проектов.

Если представить себе полное согласование по форме, т.-е., если кольца будут означать различные органы, различного назначения территории, — то рост одного из них будет происходить за счет гибели другого.  Если же отбросить различную функциональную значимость каждого кольца, а принять их функциовнувд однообразность, то в силу экономики динамо-геометрического принципа при всех прочих равных условиях разовьется центростремительная сила, которую можно себе представить, как давление колец друг на друга в направлении центра, в то время как центральный круг, стремясь расти, наталкивается таким образом на огромное и непреодолимое сопротивление колец (рис. 3). Это и имеет место в современной Москве.

Сумма расстояний точек, образующих плоскость (рис. 4), до определенной точки Д на той же плоскости тем больше, чем точки ближе к периферии. Этот принцип оказывает влияние на всякую планировочную конструкцию — сетчатую, концентрическую, радиальную и всякую другую, определяя организационные и экономические преимущества центральных и серединных — осевых — и т. д. районов.

Влияние вышеописанных факторов, которые имеют одновременное действие, можно условно выразить рис. 3.

Картина, данная рисунком 3, говорит о том, что при кольцевой планировке Москвы центр, стремясь к естественному развитию в горизонтальной проекции, встречает трудно преодолимое сопротивление колец, и разрешение самого основного момента жизни города — диалектического процесса его роста.

Экономика динамо-геометрического принципа планировкой плоско выражается, в следующем: не предусмотрено данной конструкцией плана, так как рост без сокрушэнин соседних (надо полагать тоже жизненных органов города) невозможен. И, действительно, эту картину мы уже наблюдаем в действительности в столице СССР в настоящее время.

При выборе участков под крупное строительство, в центре Москвы возникают огромные организационные и экономические затруднения и радикальный выход из положения возможен при кольцевой системе, лишь в сплошной сломке [sic — сломе] старого и возведении на его месте нового.

Таким образом, жизненное по существу проявление роста центра, в силу неправильной конструкции этого центра, вредно отзывается на городе в целом и, прежде всего, на его нормальном росте.

Но помимо интенсификации застройки, рост города влияет также и на движение по артериям-улицам. Улицы оказываются тесны и требуют также расширения. Решение этого вопроса по всем имеющимся проектам планировки «Большой Москвы» особенно наглядно доказывает неправильность кольцевой системы и тех остро-болезненных явлений в жизни города, которые она порождает.

Идея реорганизации Старой Москвы и перерождение ее в новую «Большую Москву» по всем проектам кольцевой системы осуществляется в настоящее время методом так называемых «красных линий», своеобразного врастания Новой Москвы в старую. Как этот метод тяжело отражается на жизни города и его строительстве, хорошо известно всем, кто с этим строительством сталкивается. Задача, которую система «красных линий» в ее теперешнем виде пытается разрешить, оказывается неразрешимой, так как, ставя вопрос в плоскости пространственной, эта система не ставит его в плоскости временной. Без календарных сроков реорганизуемые улицы города будут представлять вообще и всегда изъеденную ломаную линию, имеющую расширения лишь на небольших и случайных протяжениях и, следовательно, пропускная способность улицы будет оставаться всегда на старом уровне. Если же в некоторых небольших протяжениях положение улучшится, то в общем положение все же останется тяжелым.

Вторым тяжелым последствием системы «красных линий» в нынешней их трактовке и методах осуществления является понижение ценности большинства участков, или вследствие того, что от них отрезаются части, уходящие под мифически уширенные улицы, или из-за того, что эти мифические улицы их перерезают и делают невозможными для застройки.

В общем же эта система приводит старую путаную Москву к полной дезорганизации. И если болезнь центра города при кольцевой планировке можно сравнить с болезнью сердца, то принятая система «красных линий» является ничем иным, как «склерозом» в системе кровообращения города.

Могут возразить, что это — болезни роста, что то же происходит и на Западе и т. п. Однако, с этим согласиться нельзя. Скорей все это происходит потому, что наши проектировщики мыслят еще статическими категориями, не рассматривая город, как растущий организм. Короче, — они не мыслят диалектически.

Можно было бы привести значительно больше доводов в доказательство тех болезненных явлений, которые вытекают из неправильной планировочно-конструктивной схемы города и необходимости пересмотра ее в первую очередь. Но и тех соображений, которые уже высказаны выше, думаю, вполне достаточно.

Каков же выход из положения, что можно предложить?

Мы предлагаем, прежде всего:

1. Разорвать кольцевую систему в одном из участков и дать тем возможность центру свободно расти (рис. 5). Центр в виде планировочной точки, хотя бы и диаметра кольца «А», как теоретически, так и практически вообще недопустим. Центр города должен иметь возможность расти не только по третьему измерению, вверх, но и в горизонтальной проекции поступательно вперед. Следовательно, центром города должна быть не статическая точна, а динамическая линия — ось. Разорвав кольца и отогнув их в виде подковы, мы дадим возможность центру, а также и соответствующим ему ветвям бывших колец расти. Центр города приобретет форму веера. Эта форма наиболее соответствует функции центра, так как по мере роста города и нарастания его динамики и усложнения организация центр не остается зажатым, а свободно разворачивается за счет площади веера. Весь город и центр представляют по этой конструкции как бы поток, постепенно расширяющийся.

2. Сосредоточить все новое строительство в одном секторе, который должен стать начальным сектором нового, социалистического строительства столицы СССР.

Такая строительная политика города будет, прежде всего, наиболее экономической политикой, потому что сосредоточит капитальные затраты на благоустройство, главным образом, в одном секторе, вместо того, чтобы разбрасывать их равномерно во многих направлениях. Она создает также целостное впечатление строительства нового города. Начавшись у старого центра Москвы и проходя наслоения его, новый город будет, таким образом, как бы лишь частично наложен на старый город.

3. Для выявления равнодействующей роста города, необходимо создать новый центр тяготения на оси Тверская-Ленинградское шоссе, забежав со строительством немного вперед. По обеим сторонам этой предполагаемой оси нового города, на освободных территориях Ходынки и Останкино может начаться рационализированное социалистическое строительство. Выбор этого сектора для нового строительства предопределяется главным образом тем, что его незастроенные свободные пространства наиболее близко расположены к центру теперешнего города, а на пути развития в целом он меньше, чем другие окраины, встречает природные или искусственные препятствия.

4. Рассматривать весь остальной город лишь как материальную среду, благоприятствующую росту его новой части и со временем образующую «город-музей». Такой принцип роста нового за счет материала и организации старого весьма распространен в природе.

5. Реорганизовать транспорт, перенеся центральный вокзал на место Белорусско-Балтийского, а остальные районные вокзалы расположив по кольцу Окружной жел. дор. Отнесение вокзалов на Окружную ж.д. разгрузит Мясницкую магистраль и создаст более равномерные условия жизни во всех районах города. Борьба ж.-д. узла с городом за территорию для товарных станций представляет обычное явление в крупных городах Запада и особенно Америки. В интересах удешевления жизни города, желательно ввозить потребляемые городом товары как можно глубже внутрь. В организации же городского транспорта товарные станции внутри города представляют трудно преодолимое препятствие. В Москве в предлагаемом участке это противоречие может быть легко разрешено, так как естественный рельеф в вышеуказанном месте дает возможность легко расчленить различные по функции движения в двух или нескольких уровнях.

Связь всех железных дорог может быть осуществлена через Окружною ж. д. Точно также легко разрешается вопросе вводе железной дороги вдоль оси новой Москвы, в виде ли открытой траншеи, или туннеля, с устройством станций в любой точке нового города.

6. Систему «красных линий» сохранить лишь для нового, социалистического сектора, но проводить ее решительнее и в порядке календарного полна.

7. Перепланировну остальной части города не производить.

Вопрос о составлении плана новой, социалистической Москвы должен быть поставлен во всей своей полноте в порядок дня.

Students in Ladovskii's architectural form class with models (VKhUTEMAS 1923)

[Pg. 17]

Moscow, the capital of the USSR, grows spontaneously, and the question of the need to clarify the essence of this growth and its organization for the planning of Moscow is a major issue in its life. The concept of the growth of the city cannot be reduced to the simple mechanical increase of its territory, the width of its thoroughfares, its height in stories, etc.  The growth must be understood as organic, at various stages of development, representing difference not only quantitatively but also qualitatively. Meanwhile, everything available in the project for “Greater Moscow” to date only accounts for the issue on the quantitative side, and therefore suffer the major flaw of being “mechanistic.”

In a single journal article one cannot give a complete analysis of the essence of the city of Moscow, as the capital of the USSR, and submit a detailed draft for its reorganization.  Here is meant only to point out the mistakes that, in my opinion, exist in all the projects for “Greater Moscow,” and to make suggestions regarding the main planning-constructive scheme of “New Moscow.”

In the twelve years since the revolutions several projects have been done: a) the project by the architects’ collective led by the academic Zholtovskii, b) the project of the academic Shchusev, c) the project by the engineer Shestakov, and d) the Land-Planning project of the MKKh.  All these projects have proceeded from the basic proposition that the radial-ring planning system for Moscow is generally a rational planning system to ensure normal growth (the layering of the rings) and the correct organization of traffic and transport.  Additionally, all the projects so far have stressed the idea that we need to preserve the historic image of Moscow, which as it were would ensure the preservation of that ring system.

Figure 1: Howard's Garden-City

The ring system of planning has many supporters in the world literature on urban planning.  Therefore, in an analysis it must be parsed in detail.  The medieval walled city, the garden-city of Howard, the satellite cities of Unwin, and Le Corbusier’s redevelopment proposal for Paris — all these planning [18] designs [konstruktsii], despite their apparent differences in form and purpose, can be treated as belonging to the same category of static forms that characterizes the backward method of their creators’ thinking. The inoculation of these systems to the expansion and the buzzing life [zhisnedeiatel’nym] of the city inevitably causes painful developments during their growth.

Figure 2: Unwin's Satellite Scheme

A specific feature of the mechanistic position is that these systems can be meaningful only for a momentary span of time, providing for their integral implementation, for following that same moment their growth will necessarily begin to break down — in short, they do not provide for the growth of the “cell” into the system, from a lower into another, higher system, etc.  If this were medieval times, with the prevalence of “static” moments over the dynamic, i.e. with respect to the slow pace of life and the inadequate tracking of the coordinates of time, the ring system may still be able to hold on for a while — but with the development of capitalism and the growth of cities, everywhere it broke down.

Howard’s ring-system (figure 1) for the construction of his garden-cities has never been applied; living in his socio-domestic [sotsial’no-bytovaia] installations only turned out to be for a definite social stratum in bourgeois society.

Figure 3

Unwin’s satellite system of cities (figure 2) gives back to the old medieval ring system its lease on life, as it were.  But this is only so because this is how it appears at a superficial glance.  In fact, this system is nothing other than the transfer of the methods of colonial policy to urban planning. The satellites are this “colony,” formed as a result of the poor management of the city, the “metropole.”  Not for nothing did this system originate in England (the country of the colonies).  As a result the growth of the “colonies,” they form a closed ring that is no different from the construction of a ring of the medieval town — and, consequently, in the process of growth the system regresses to an even less perfect organizational form.

Le Corbusier (figure 4) proposes to create two cities: a city of labor and a city of rest.  He only gives an idea for construction for the first, and this idea is no different from the idea of ​​the medieval ring of a city: three sections are secluded and incapable of develop development, static zones stylized into rectangles.

Figure 4: Le Corbusier's Radiant City

As was already mentioned, with the growth of the cities and the development of capitalism, the ring system has failed, and in its place has come reticulated planning, as an expression of fluidity.  The original, continuous territorial “conveyer” more than meets the needs of the capitalist, a more mechanical accumulation, rather than organizational growth.  An extreme expression of this fluidity is the idea of linear cities [gorodov-linii]. As an expression of maximum dynamism, these construction plans will inevitably prove to be weak organisms, as if to relegate three-dimensional space to the “one-dimensional,” placing an emphasis on linearity [Ladovskii is here referring to the proposals of Ginzburg, Okhitovich, and the disurbanists — RW].  Nevertheless, modern material culture and technology make it possible to solve urban-planning problems in three dimensions, placing the emphasis on “horizontal two-dimensionality.”

We now turn to the draft of “Greater Moscow.”  For in all of these projects Moscow is presented  in terms of a central core surrounded by two rings, and with the growth of suburbs, which in none of the projects are linked to the system.  Naturally, a third ring is formed in the immediate future.

In the center there are assumed to be governmental and public structures for both the state and local levels.  The territory of the ring appears blurry in its organizational content, unrelated to the form of rings, a conglomerate, the growth of which is generally not provided for and is not associated with the overall shape of the ring. This incoherence is natural, since the annular territory’s geometric properties determine its spatially static nature, the physical character of its construction at best only allows for its condensation. And therefore [Pg. 19] the designer felt that it was useless to connect to the form of the rings.  Sectoral growth within the same system one would think, would be possible in the radial-circular layout.  But its dynamo-geometric essence necessarily puts it into contradiction, such that it must be disfigured, and therefore makes it impossible.  All the projects for “Greater Moscow” basically proceeded from the position of population growth and, consequently, territorial growth. But this growth they accepted without an analysis of its separate components and interacting forces — only formally, as in general the rounded, anarchically sprouting organs of the city, in a geometrically structured territory.  Indeed, this “snowball,” rolling and growing in scale, cannot be assumed to grow organically.  The same increase is there in all projects for “Greater Moscow,” and increase its area.  The organic growth of the city must recognize that the growth of the whole, which ensures the growth of its various separate functions and parts of organs, is incorporated into the spatio-temporal economic system.  None of the projects provide so much as one moment for this consideration.

If we imagine a total coordination of form, that is, if the ring will mean different organs for different territorial purposes — the growth of one of them will occur due to the death of another. If, however, we reject the different functional significance of each ring, but accept their functional monotony, then by the economic dynamo-geometric principle (all other things being equal) will develop a centripetal force so that one can imagine the rings pressuring each other in the direction of the center, while the central circle, in trying to grow, thus encounters the enormous and insurmountable resistance of the outer rings (Fig. 3).  This is what takes place in modern Moscow.

Figure 5: Ladovskii's dynamo-"parabolic" vision of "New Moscow"

The sum of the distances of the points form a plane (Fig. 4) up to a certain point D on the same plane, as the point closer to the periphery.  This principle has an impact on every plan’s design — reticulated, concentric, radial, and all others, determine the organizational and economic advantages of the central, the middle, the axial regions, and so on. The influence of the above factors, which together have a simultaneous effect, can be provisionally conveyed by Fig. 3.

The picture, given in figure 3, indicates that the ring layout of the Moscow center, tending toward the natural development in a horizontal projection, meets the insurmountable resistance of the rings, and permits for the most basic point of city life — the dialectical process of its growth.

The economy of the dynamo-geometric principle of planar design is expressed as follows: it has not provided a set design plan, since growth without the crushing of the neighboring (and presumably also vital) organs of the city is impossible.  And indeed, this is the picture we see in reality at present in the capital of the Soviet Union.

In selecting sites for major construction in the center of Moscow there are enormous economic and organizational difficulties, and radical way out of the ring system is possible only with the continuous smashing of the old and erecting in its place the new.

Thus, the spirit is essentially a manifestation of the growth of the center, and because of the improper design of this center, it responds adversely to the city as a whole and, above all, to its normal growth.

But in addition to the intensification of building, the growth of the city and also influences the traffic of the street-arteries [arteriiam-ulitsam].  The streets prove to be too narrow and so also require expansion.  The resolution of this issue through all available planning projects for “Greater Moscow” very clearly demonstrates the incorrectness of the ring system as well as those acutely unhealthy conditions in the life of the city that it generates.

Figure 6

The idea of ​​reorganizing the Old Moscow and its degeneration into a new “Greater Moscow” in all projects of the ring system is presently being implemented by the method of the so-called “red lines,” a peculiar ingrowth of the new Moscow into the old one.  Just how this method is deeply reflected in the life of the city and its construction, is well known to all who are confronted with this construction.  The task that the system of “red lines” in its present form is trying to solve, proves to be unsolvable, since, raising the question only on the spatial plane, this system does not pose the question on the temporal plane.  Without calendar dates, the reorganized city streets will generally always be represented by a corroded, broken line, having expansion only on a small scale with aleatoric extension and, therefore, the street’s capacity will always remain at the old level.  If to some small extent the situation generally improves, the situation will still remain severe.

A second serious consequence of the system of “red lines” in their present interpretation and methods of implementation is the falling value of the majority of the construction sites, or due to the fact that they are cut off from parts that go under the mythically broadened streets, or as the result of these mythical streets sever them and make it impossible for construction.

In general, this system reduces muddled old Moscow to complete disorganization.  And if the illness of the city’s center in the ring layout can be compared to heart disease, then adopting a system of “red lines” would turn out to be nothing other than a “sclerosis” in the circulatory system of the city.

One could argue that these are just growing pains, the same that take place in the West, etc. However, with this we cannot agree.  Soon all this is happening because our designers [proektirovshchiki] still think in static categories, without considering the city as a growing organism.  In short, they do not think dialectically.

We could give significantly more reasons as proof of these painful developments that result from an improper constructive-planning scheme for the city, and for the necessity to revise it beforehand.  But these considerations have already been expressed above, so I think that that is enough.

But just which way out of this situation is there, that one could propose?

We propose, first of all:

1. Breaking the ring system into one of the sites and providing the opportunity to freely grow from the center (Fig. 5).  Seeing the center in terms of a planning point, even though it is also the diameter of the ring “A,” is both theoretically and practically entirely valid.  The downtown [tsentr goroda] should have the opportunity to grow not only in the third dimension — upward — but also in a horizontal projection growing progressively forward.  Consequently, the center of the city should not be a static point, but rather a dynamic line — the axis.  By breaking the rings and bending them into the form of a horseshoe, we will enable the center, as well as its corresponding branches in the former rings, to grow.  The downtown will acquire the shape of a fan.  This form best conforms to the function of the center, since in the measure of the city’s growth and the crescendo of its dynamics and organizational sophistication the center does not remain boxed-in, but rather freely unfolds by means of the squares of the fan. The entire city and center provide for this construction as a stream, gradually expanding.

2. Concentrate all new building into one sector, which should become the starting sector for the new socialist construction of the capital of the Soviet Union.

Such a building policy for the city will be, above all, the most economical policy, because the focus of capital expenditures for municipal improvements will be mainly in one sector, instead of scattering them evenly in many directions.  It also produces an holistic impression of the new city.  Starting from the old center of Moscow, and passing over its layers, the new city will be as if it were partially superimposed over the old city.

3. To reveal the resultant growth of the city, one must create a new center of gravity on the axis of Tver-Leningrad highway, anticipating the construction a little further.  On both sides of this proposed axis for the new city, in the freed territories of Khodynka and Ostankino, one can begin the rationalized construction of socialism.  The choice of this sector for new construction is predicated primarily on its undeveloped open spaces, which are situated closest to the center of the present city and the path of development in general, it is smaller than the other outskirts, and meets natural or artificial obstacles.

4. Consider the rest of the city only as a material medium favoring the growth of its new section, and in time forming a “museum city.”  Such a principle of growth through new material and old organization is very common in nature.

5. Reorganize transport, moving the central train station to the place of the Belarus-Baltic and other regional stations located on the ring of the District railway.  The assignment of the District railway stations will be to relieve the Myasnitskaya thoroughfare and create more uniform conditions of life in all the city districts.  The struggle of the railroads for the center of the city over territory for commercial stations is common in large cities of the West, and especially in America.  In order to reduce the cost of city life, it is desirable to import the goods consumed by the city inside as deeply as possible.  In the organization of this urban transport, the freight terminals within the city represent an obstacle that is difficult to overcome.  In Moscow, on the proposed site, this contradiction can be easily permitted, because the natural topography above the site allows one to easily divide different functions of its motion into two or more levels.

The communication of all the railroads can be accomplished through the District railway.  Similarly, the issue is easily resolved by the addition of a railroad along the new Moscow — whether in the form of an open trench or a tunnel — onto the established stations anywhere else in the new city.

6.  Keep the system of “red lines” only for the new, socialist sector, but develop it decisively in accordance with the calendrical totality.

7. Redevelop the rest of the city that does not produce.

The establishment of a plan for the new socialist Moscow should be placed in its entirety as the order of the day.

Recommended Architectural Blogs and Articles, along with My Gratitude

Leonidov's Proposed "Ministry of Heavy Industry" (1934)

I should like to thank the following architecture-related websites and point to some of their best articles:

  1. dpr-barcelona: I would like to thank Ethel Baraona not only for her enthusiastic promotion of my site on Twitter and so on, but for her friendship.  After I posted some links to a few of the journals I’d uploaded, she immediately e-mailed me personally expressing her thanks.  That said, she and her co-contributor have produced some excellent content of their own, in articles both in English and in Spanish.  To point to just a couple of them: “Ivan Leonidov and the Russian Utopias” and “Construction of Architectural and Machine Forms | Iakov Chernikhov.”
  2. Critical Grounds: Thanks to the author of this blog for pointing his students to the English-language modernist architectural archive I created.  And if you have the time, please read the following excellent articles: “In the Name of Being: Critical Regionalist Landscape Urbanism, a Critique,” his reference to another critique of environmentalism in “Ross Adams on the ‘eco-city’,” and finally his own “Parallel Lines: formal expression as publicity in the architecture of Hadid’s Central Building for BMW Leipzig.”
  3. sit down man, you’re a bloody tragedy: As always, the Bolshevist and “interdistrictite” Owen Hatherley must make the list.  Not only for his incredibly helpful promotion of my own blog, but for his numerous good articles.  Some of his older articles from his previous blog are more immediately related to what I’ve been working on: “No Rococo Palace for Buster Keaton: Americanism (and Technology, Advertising, Socialism) in Weimar Architecture,” “The Functionalist Deviation Politics of building, aesthetics of anti-architecture,” and especially “A Pod of One’s Own — Architecture or Revolution: the Congres International d’Architecture Moderne, 1928-33.”
  4. Kosmograd: There’s too much good, cosmopolitan material at this site, which is mostly dedicated to early Bolshevik architecture and the Soviet space program.  He has linked to my site on several occasions, for which I am very thankful.  Interesting articles on this site include “Communal House of the Textile Institute,” the hilarious “Eco-town of Tomorrow and Its Planning,” and his interesting piece on “Decaying Orbiters.”

Free PDFs of the German Avant-Garde Architectural Journal Wasmuths Monatshefte für Baukunst und Städtebau (1926-1931)

Wasmuths Monatshefte für Baukunst und Städtebau's Coverage of Ivan Leonidov's Proposal for the Lenin Institute

 The modernist movement was alive and well in interwar Germany.  Not only at the Bauhaus, which stood at the forefront of the avant-garde, under the leadership of Walter Gropius, Hannes Meyer, and Ludwig Mies Van der Rohe, but all over the country.  László Moholy-Nagy and Gropius published their famous Bauhausbücher series, El Lissitzky established his journal ABC: Beitrage zum Bauen, and Theo van Doesburg transplanted his Dutch De Stijl magazine to Germany. Continue reading

Another Batch of Soviet Avant-Garde Architectural Journals (Free PDFs)

Plan for "New Moscow" (April 1929)

Here’s another batch of early Soviet avant-garde architectural journals, from between 1929-1930.  The 1929 one is the one I most recently worked on; the others were converted into PDFs back before I had perfected the method of separating out the text from the rest of the page.  As a result, these are all in grayscale, though they remain very readable.  The image quality is a little lower than on my more recent uploads.  But here they are, so enjoy!

  1. Строительство Москвы – (1929) – № 4
  2. Строительство Москвы – (1930) – № 7
  3. Строительство Москвы – (1930) – № 8/9
  4. Строительство Москвы – (1930) – № 10
  5. Строительство Москвы – (1930) – № 12