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

Mossel’prom [Моссельпром], 1923-1925


Mossel’prom [The Moscow Association of Enterprises Processing Agro-Industrial Products] was built by the architect David Kogan between 1923 and 1924.  A ten-storey commercial building, it was one of the tallest structures in Moscow built during this period.

It became notorious through Vladimir Mayakovsky’s advertising slogan: “Everything for everyone — at Mosselprom.” 1924 saw the release of the film The Cigarette Girl of Mossel’prom by Iurii Zhelyabuzhskii, which featured the building.

The façade was renovated in 1997.

alexander-rodchenko-mosselprom-building-webmosselprom 1923Мы думаем, что снимок сделан между 1925−1928 годами

silver Gelatin PrintДом Правления Моссельпрома уг.Калашного и Кисловского пер. Россия, Москва, ЦАО, Район Арбат Фото датировано- 20.10.1924a70b0ec9bc1f6e7ff86abb521d0000f3d (1) Мы думаем, что снимок сделан в 1931 году

mp 0_afb98_79d7bba4_XXXL'Mosselprom. Coffee, cocoa, sausages, pasta, chocolate, caramel, candy, tobacco, cigarettes, beer, waters, wines. Nowhere but in Mosselprom.'2527315eaaadcf4c6509c1bd1e8b8380030

Soviet workers’ clubs in the 1920s

View of the principal façade of the Zuev Club, Moscow 1927 or laterPartial view of the lateral façade of the Rusakov Club, Moscow, 1929 or later

The workers’ club

Anatole Kopp
Town and Revolution,

First, we must establish just what was meant by a “club” in the USSR of the twenties, a country in which the word had previously been applied only to private rooms reserved for the use of a group of nobles or wealthy bourgeois. A club was exactly the opposite of what is sometimes implied by a “club” today.

The important thing about a club is that the mass of the members must be directly involved. They must not approach it or be channeled into it from the outside as mere entertainment. They themselves must find in it the maximum of self-expression.

The role of the club is to serve as a sort of school of culture…Within its walls workers of every age should be able to find rest, relaxation, and a renewal of energy at the end of the working day. There, outside the family, children, adolescents, adults, and the old should be made to feel members of a collectivity. Their interests should be expanded. The role of the club is to liberate men from the old oppression of church and state.

Originally, this new building, the expression of a new social function, was the response to a spontaneous demand, proof that it met a genuine need. Within a few months of the installation of the Soviet regime numerous clubs had been established. They were run by trade-union or political organizations, often by local groups, and set up in former private houses, in converted churches, in sheds, almost anywhere. In fact, the adaptation of these unlikely premises was one of the first tasks to confront the Soviet architects immediately following the revolution.


A center for creative activity and the diffusion of culture, the club was also some compensation for the discomfort and overcrowding that the workers suffered at home. Unable to provide apartments for all, the state tried to make up at the collective level for its deficiencies on the individual plane. But this was not all. Essentially, the club embodied a conception of culture that was no longer that of an elite but of the mass, no longer acquired in the silence of the study or in halls of learning, but in a group bound by common interests and an awareness of their need. It corresponded to a conception in which the home tended to become merely a place for the individual to rest, while life in all its social and cultural aspects developed in collective centers and collective forms, at a time when a craving for culture was beginning to seize the broad masses of the population:

We are living at a time when an immense cultural movement is developing among the working masses, the idea…of a new social and collective way of life is advancing with giant strides…

Every worker [in our new industrial centers] is anxious to take an active part in both public and cultural life. The thirst for knowledge is enormous. The time has come for us to give the workers not only homes but buildings with facilities for meetings, study, recreation, reading, and the activities of various special groups [kruzhok]…

…The idea of building palaces of labor or clubs is in the air…

Both in its architecture and in the facilities that it offered, the club, which El Lissitzky was to call a “social power plant” [soziales Kraftwerkand “a workshop for the transformation of man,” evolved between the early years of the Soviet regime and the beginning of the thirties. Continue reading

Lissitzky, Wolkenbügel (1924)

El Lissitzky’
s skyscrapers stood on great elevated piers above intersections of radial and ring-rods in Moscow. These piers with their open-faced lift-shafts, support the horizontally cantilevered building. Beneath them are metro stations and bus-stops. The building is supposed to be made of steel and glass, all the parts being standardized so that no scaffolding is needed for its erection.

Emil Roth, the Swiss architect, also helped in working out this design. He, as well as Mart Stam, were extraterritorial members of the Society of New Architects (ASNOVA) founded in Moscow in 1923. This society consisted mostly of architects connected with the VKhUTEMAS school in Moscow. The work of Ladovskii’s pupils from that school was published in the journal ABC.

Click any of the images below to enlarge them.

El_Lissitzky_in_Weimar1Emil Roth (left) and Mart Stam (right)

The Reconstruction of Architecture in the Soviet Union (1929)

Old cities — New buildings
The future and utopia
El Lissitzky (1929)

The creation of an office complex that would respond to the demands of the new times within the context of the old Moscow urban fabric was the basic idea leading to the concept of the so-called “sky-hook.” Moscow is a centralized city, characterized by a number of concentric ring boulevards connected by radial main streets emanating from the Kremlin. The proposal intends to place these structures at the intersections of the radials and the boulevards, where the most intense traffic is generated. Everything delivered to the building by horizontal traffic is subsequently transported vertically by elevator and then redistributed in a horizontal direction.

Compared to the prevalent American high-rise system the innovation consists in the fact that the horizontal (the useful) is clearly separated from the vertical (the support, the necessary). This in turn allows for clarity in the interior layout, which is essential for office structures and is usually predicated by the structural system. The resulting external building volume achieves elementary diversity in all six visual directions.

The problems connected with the development of these building types, including the scientific organization of work and business, are being dealt with on an international level. In this field, as in others, reconstruction will pose new demands.

In these times we must be very objective, very practical, and totally unromantic, so that we can catch up with the rest of the world and overtake it. But we also know that even the best “business” will not of itself advance us to a higher level of culture. The next stage of cultural development will encompass all aspects of life: human productivity and creativity, the most precious faculties of man. And not in order to accumulate profits for individuals, but to produce works that belong to everybody. If we just consider all the accomplishments of our own generation, we are certainly justified in taking for granted a technology capable of solving all the tasks mentioned earlier. One of our utopian ideas is the desire to overcome the limitations of the substructure, of the earthbound. We have developed this idea in a series of proposals (sky-hooks, stadium grandstands, Paris garage).

It is the task of technology to make sure that all these elementary volumes that produce new relationships and tensions in space will be structurally safe.

The idea of the conquest of the substructure, the earthbound, can be extended even further and calls for the conquest of gravity as such. It demands floating structures, a physical-dynamic architecture.

Continue reading

Amidst the ruins of the Soviet avant-garde

Isa Willinger on her film
Away from All Suns!

Originally published at the architecture website uncube. Several weeks ago I posted another interview with the director.

Architecture was once considered fundamental to the rethinking of society and the shape it took. This is the premise of Away from All Suns! a new feature-length documentary by filmmaker Isabella Willinger, a documentary filmmaker based in Munich and Berlin, whose work focuses on gender, social upheavals and human rights. Her film examines the relics of Constructivist architecture scattered throughout Moscow and attempts to tease out what’s left of their revolutionary past. Upon their construction, these buildings embodied the emancipatory change promised and, at least for a time, instituted by the Bolshevik Revolution. Over three-quarters of a century later, suspended in a fragile purgatory between decay and demolition, structures like the Narkomfin Building (1928-30) and the Communal Student House of the Textile Institute (1929) still stun in their radical and emphatic newness.

These buildings seem to rise “from a time more modern than my own,” Willinger says at the beginning of the film. And yet they are just one part of the story. The film’s narrative juggles a cast of unconnected characters, each of whom occupies — in one sense or another — three revolutionary residences. As becomes apparent over the course of the film, their paths are intrinsically bound up with the misfortunes of their storied addresses; like the buildings themselves, they are imperiled by increasingly conservative, reactionary forces that, buoyed by a galvanized corporate sector, threaten their existence, if not that of democratic Russian society. Even so, they persist against great odds, with mixed feelings of nostalgia, hope, and helplessness.

Willinger recently premiered Away from All Suns! at the Istanbul Architecture Film Festival, where it was awarded the top prize. Ahead of its European DVD release, she talks to Sammy Medina for uncube about her film, the Soviet avant-garde, and the bleak future of Russian architecture.

Archival newsreel footage of a Soviet parade with a wooden model of Vladimir Tatlin's Monument to the Third International (1919-1920) carried through the streets

Newsreel footage of a parade with a model of Vladimir Tatlin’s
Monument to the Third International (1919-1920) in the streets


Sammy Medina:
When did you first visit the modernist ruins in Moscow?

Isa Willinger: I first visited them in the summer of 2010. I was actually researching a completely different film topic in Moscow then and was not planning on making a film about them at all. On my walks through the city, I felt an affinity to the Constructivist buildings that I would come by randomly and began to photograph them. Moscow as an urban space and also as a cultural space has something very inaccessible about itself, something even unwelcoming and closed. In retrospect, I think the buildings were the only thing in Moscow’s cityscape I could visually and culturally connect with.

Sammy Medina: What was it about them that impressed you?

Isa Willinger: To me the buildings seemed like gigantic signs in the city. I have no background in architecture, so initially I wasn’t aware of the spatial and urban concepts behind them. In the course of making the film, this obviously changed, but I have never lost the sense of my initial impression. I’ve always continued to see and treat them as signs, rather than architecture. Continue reading

French cubist painter Fernand Léger’s wartime proposal to Leon Trotskii for “a polychrome Moscow”

According to a catalogue accompanying the Whitechapel Art Gallery’s landmark London exhibition Fernand Léger: The Later Years, edited by Nicolas Serota, the great French abstractionist advanced a radically colorful proposal for the layout of the 1937 Paris international exhibition that would feature

…a yellow square, a red and blue avenue, an Eiffel tower with a camouflaged silhouette…that would all be lit up at night, instead of fireworks.

Much to the painter’s chagrin, this proposal would only be partially realized. The Eiffel Tower — that iconic remnant from arguably the greatest of all world’s fairs, the Exposition Universelle of 1889 — would again be electrified and lit up, just as it had been for the 1925 bonanza. Even then, there’d be fireworks. In intermittent flashes, these served to illuminate its ferrous skeleton from behind the promenade.

Fireworks at the 1937 Paris exhibition

Fireworks at the 1937 Paris exhibition, despite Léger’s reservations. On the left in the photo, Speer’s monument. On the right, Iofan’s.

Outlines of the exhibition’s virtual frontispiece, which featured Hitler’s Deutscher Pavillon, designed by Albert Speer, set against Stalin’s Советский павильон, designed by Boris Iofan, were cast as a grim prefiguration of the unsurpassed bloodshed the two nations would experience over the next decade at each other’s hands. Continue reading

Le Corbusier’s Tsentrosoiuz building in Moscow (1928-1936) over the years

Planning and construction

In his 1928 proposal for the Soviet Central Union building, Le Corbusier invoked his much-vaunted principle of pilotis. As a postscript to his 1930  Precisions on the Present State of Architecture and City Planning:


Since we no longer have to lay foundations in the ground for the carrying walls; since on the contrary all we need is posts covering only .5% of the surface built upon and furthermore, since it is our duty to make the house more healthful by raising its bottom-most floor above the ground, we will take advantage of this situation by adopting the principle of “pilotis” or stilts.

What is the point of using pilotis? To make houses more healthful and at the same time allow the use of insulating materials which are often fragile or liable to decay and so should be placed far from the ground and possible shocks.

But most of all: behold, they are available to work a thorough transformation in the system of traffic on the ground. This is as true of the skyscraper as of the office building, of the minimum houses as of the streets. One will no longer be “in front of” a house or “in back of” it, but “underneath” it.

We have to reckon with cars, which we will strive to channel into a sort of river with regular banks; we need to park these cars without, at the same time, blocking up the river bed. When we leave our cars we must not paralyze traffic all along the river and when we come out of our buildings, we must not obstruct the areas reserved for movement. Continue reading

Moscow modernism

Color photographs from 1931

Image: A modernist staircase in a
workers’ club in Moscow (1931)


You know, this whole thing would have been much more of a fair fight and an interesting debate if any of these hysterics had actually bothered to read any Marx, Engels, Lenin, Luxemburg, Trotsky, etc. — figures in whose footsteps they claim to follow — rather than just regurgitate third-rate digest versions of these authors out of the Cliffite canon. If you’re really going to insist on being a “Leninist” today, it might help to have at least a passing familiarity with these authors’ writings, rather than desperately distort their work so as to confirm whatever it is you are doing already. Obviously, the famous revolutionaries from the history of Marxism mentioned above would find all the various grouplets of the Left today unrecognizable, bearing no relation whatsoever to the emancipatory project they either inaugurated or contributed toward. Yes, even the cryogenically-preserved consciousness of Trotsky himself (i.e., the Sparts).

My reaction to the latest hullabaloo — Muscovite worker taking a swig from a bottle while on break (1931)

My reaction to the latest hullabaloo — Muscovite worker taking a swig from a bottle while on break (1931)

That’s not the point, thankfully. While it may seem antiquarian in the Nietzschean sense, the reason for my “obsession with and curatorial affection for communism’s arcana and paraphernalia” is not some vain belief that this past, which they belong to, can be recreated or revived, but because they belong to a period when the Left actually mattered and played a significant role in world events. By comparison, the actually-existing Left of today — whether former advocates of a Living Marxism or self-declared members of “the (still-living) Left” — appears a rather shriveled, paltry thing. Sure, one could point out that there are X or Y number of doctrinally Marxist or avowedly leftist groups “still kicking,” slowly hemorrhaging its membership or amalgamating itself into the amorphous blob of “Left unity.” But what kind of “life” is that? If eking out some miserable, politically-irrelevant existence “carrying on the good fight” is what they call “living,” then I’m more than happy to admit to myself that I’m “dead.”

As things stand, I’m losing interest in satirizing or polemicizing against these intellectual pygmies. It’s just not worth the time or effort. Vintage Soviet alphabet-porn and ceramic Suprematist plateware are far more educational and spiritually uplifting (quite possibly even more revolutionary) than any of this nonsense.

Konstantin Mel'nikov, Rusakov workers' club (1931)

Mel’nikov, Rusakov club (1931) — Where my erstwhile opponents should go: Школа Коммунизма

So now for something completely different:

Here are a few select examples of Moscow modernism taken from the fantastic album “Life in Moscow, 1931: Color photos.” Highly recommended for anyone who reads this blog. Thanks also to The Constructivist Project, whose Facebook page I encourage you all to “like,” for bringing them to my attention. Enjoy! Continue reading

A Hitherto Untranslated Letter from Le Corbusier to Anatolii Lunacharskii

Le Corbusier sitting in front of the site for the Tsentrosoiuz Building in Moscow (March 1931)

The following letter, from the famed French architect Le Corbusier to the Soviet Commissar of Enlightenment Anatolii Lunacharskii, has up to this point never available in English translation:

13 mai 1932

Monsieur Lounatcharsky


Cher Monsieur,

Vous ne m’en voudrez pas de revenir sur l’entretien que nous avons eu à Genève samedi dernier concernant le Palais des Soviets.

Le Palais des S[oviets] est (dit le programme) le couronnement du Plan quinquennal. Qu’est le Plan quinquennal? La tentative la plus héroïque et véritablement majestueuse dans sa décision d’équiper la société moderne pour lui permettre de vivre harmonieusement. Au bout du Plan quinquennal, une idée. Quelle idée: rendre l’homme heureux. Comment atteindre, au milieu des résidus innombrables d’un premier cycle de civilisation machiniste, un état de pureté capable seul d’ouvrir une ère de bonheur? En n’hésitant pas à se tourner résolument vers l’avenir, en décidant d’être d’aujourd’hui, d’agir et de penser «aujourd’hui».

Ainsi a fait l’URSS. Du moins le croyons-nous, nous qui regardons de loin votre effort. Nous le regardons avec un tel intérêt, avec une telle soif de voir se réaliser quelque part sur la terre, cette aspiration universelle vers un état d’harmonie, qu’une fois en est née, partant, une mystique. Cette mystique: l’URSS. Poètes, artistes, sociologues, les jeunes gens et surtout ceux qui sont restés jeunes parmi ceux qui ont connu la vie, — tous ont admis que quelque part — en URSS — le destin avait permis que la chose fût. L’URSS se fera connaître un jour matériellement — par l’effet du Plan quinquennal. Mais, dès aujourd’hui, l’URSS a allumé sur le monde entier une lueur d’aurore. Des coeurs vrais sont tournés vers nous. Ça, c’est une victoire, — bien plus forte que celle qui suivra sur le plan matériel.

«L’architecte exprime la qualité d’esprit d’une époque.» Donc le Palais des Soviets révélera, dans la splendeur des proportions, la finalité des buts poursuivis chez vous depuis 18. On verra de quoi il s’agit. Le monde verra. Plus que cela, l’humanité trouvera sous les auspices de l’architecture un verbe exact, infrelatable, hors de toute cabale, de toute surenchère, de tout camouflage: le Palais, centre des institutions de l’URSS.

Vous avez fait connaître par le monde que ce palais serait l’expression de la masse anonyme qui vit l’époque présente.

Décision: comme la Société des Nations, le Palais des Soviets sera construit en Renaissance italienne…

La Renaissance italienne — comme les Romains et les Grecs — construisait en pierre. Si grands que fussent les rêves, la pierre fixait les limites de sa mise en oeuvre et de son obéissance aux lois de la pesanteur.

A la Renaissance, il y avait des princes lettrés qui dominaient les masses. Un gouffre séparait la fortune et le peuple. Un gouffre séparait le palais, logis des princes, de la maison du Peuple.

L’URSS, union des républiques soviétiques prolétariennes, dressera un palais qui sera hautain et hors le peuple.

Ne nous illusionnons pas dans la rhétorique: je sais parfaitement que le peuple — et le moujik aussi — trouve admirable les palais de rois et qu’il est de son goût d’avoir des frontons de temple sur le bois de son lit.

Mais la tête pensante des Républiques soviétiques doit-elle conduire ou flatter et cultiver des goûts prouvant la faiblesse humaine?

Nous attendons de l’URSS ce geste qui domine, élève et conduit, parce qu’il exprime le jugement le plus haut et le plus pur. Sinon? Sinon il n’y a plus d’URSS et de doctrine et de mystique et de tout…Il est EFFARANT de devoir être conduit à poser de telles questions.

En un mot pour conclure: il est effarant, angoissant, dramatique, pathétique que la décision actuelle de Moscou puisse commencer son oeuvre de désagrégation de l’opinion, de désenchantement, d’amère ironie. Et que le Plan quinquennal se couronne de ceci: «petitesse des hommes».

Cher Monsieur, dans mes propos, nulle amertume de candidat évincé. Non. Mais j’aime trop l’architecture et trop la Vérité pour désespérer déjà. Je voudrais aller parler à Moscou, expliquer, exprimer. Je voudrais aller dire ceci: l’effort innombrable, l’immense labeur anonyme ou signé de ces cent années de sciences, a créé sur le monde la grande collaboration. Il n’est un appoint technique: béton armé, fer, verre, chauffage, ventilation, acoustique, statique, dynamisme, il n’est un outil: machines de toutes natures — qui ne prouvent la grande collaboration.

L’architecture — en l’occurrence l’architecte — a pour mission de mettre en ordre cette armée de collaboration et par la vertu de la puissance créatrice de composition, par la puissance d’une intention élevée, elle peut exprimer le visage unique et magnifique de cette humanité créative. Ce visage serait-il un masque? Jamais, non jamais.

Me permettez-vous de parler objectivement? J’aimerais aller à Moscou.

Le 29 de ce mois, s’ouvre à Barcelone la session du Comité inter[nation]al pour la préparation du Congrès international d’Architecture qui se tiendra à Moscou en septembre.

Mon voyage d’Alger peut être remis (je viens de l’apprendre) à mai.

Je suis attendu à Rome pour deux conférences présidées par Mussolini et pour une entrevue avec lui. But: les Italiens me demandent d’aller arracher le Duce à l’erreur dans laquelle il s’enfonce en ordonnant de construire l’Italie en style Romain (Vous voyez combien le mal est partout.)

S’il vous était possible de préparer mon voyage à Moscou? Je vais même être indiscret: ne m’avez-vous pas dit que vous retourniez sous peu à Moscou? Alors ceci: s’il m’était possible de vous accompagner dans ce voyage, je pourrais vous entretenir de tout ce qui bouillonne en moi, relativement aux villes et aux maisons.

A Moscou, je pourrais, en dehors du Palais parler en public de la Ville Radieuse et expliquer où le progrès et une vue large nous ont conduits et exposer à votre pays qui est le seul ayant les institutions permettant la réalisation des programmes contemporains, le détail technique de la question:

la réforme architecturale

la journée solaire de 24 heures et son programme

les nouvelles techniques de la respiration exacte à l’intérieur des bâtiments (avec les résultats des récents essais du laboratoire de St-Gobain) (Problème décisif capital pour l’URSS)

les problèmes de l’économie du sol dans l’économie domestique

l’insonorisation des logis


Là sont des vérités, des réalités, des choses à longue trajectoire qui sont dans l’esprit du Plan quinquennal — beaucoup plus que certaines méthodes restrictives, sans imagination et malthusiennes, auxquelles on a fait grand accueil en URSS.

Et si l’on veut, je pourrais parler de proportion, de beauté, de ces choses qui sont les impératifs de ma vie, car il n’y a pas de bonheur possible, sans l’esprit de qualité.

A Buenos Aires en 1929, j’ai fait dix conférences (un cycle) en quinze jours. Je veux bien le faire à Moscou.

Cher Monsieur, voici vingt ans que je vis comprimé. Paris m’a été jusqu’ici indispensable car Paris est le champ clos de la qualité. La vie sévère que j’y mène a porté des fruits. Ignorant en tout, je le sais, je connais toutefois beaucoup de choses de l’architecture et de l’urbanisme.

J’ai à Moscou des amis de coeur, des collègues dans lesquels j’ai grand espoir. J’ai à Moscou des ennemis, mais, je crois, beaucoup d’amis.

Je vous dirai encore ceci: à Moscou j’ai toujours défendu M. Joltowsky qui est un vrai architecte, sensible et plein de talent. C’est cet arrêt inattendu sur une forme historique de l’architecture qui a créé nos divergences. Mais je parlerais avec lui d’architecture, infiniment mieux qu’avec la plupart de mes collègues occidentaux qui se dénomment «architectes modernes».

Je termine : entièrement désintéressé, passionné d’architecture, à l’âge de maturité où un homme doit donner, j’offre ma collaboration en toute loyauté et sans espoirs de gains.


Tout cela était long à dire. Voulez-vous me pardonner d’avoir retenu si longtemps votre attention.

V[otre] bien dévoué

— Le Corbusier

Here, for the first time, is a full English translation of the letter, provided courtesy of my father, Michael Wolfe, and his friend, Michael Vogel:

May 13th, 1932

Mr. Lunacharskii


Dear sir,

You will excuse me for returning to the discussion we had in Geneva last Saturday concerning the Palace of the Soviets.

The Palace of the S[oviets] (hereafter referred to as the “program”) is the crowning achievement of the five-year Plan.  What is the five-year Plan? The most historic and undeniably majestic attempt in its decision to equip modern society in order to enable it to live harmoniously.  At the end of the five-year Plan, an idea.  What idea? To make mankind happy.  How is it possible, amid the innumerable residues of the initial cycle of machinistic civilization, to achieve that state of purity which alone is capable of ushering in an era of happiness? By not hesitating to turn resolutely toward the future, by deciding to be contemporary, to act and think “today.”

This is what the USSR has done.  At least this is what we believe, we who observe your effort from afar.  We observe it with such an interest, with such a thirst to see achieved, somewhere on Earth, this universal aspiration for a state of harmony, from which is consequently born a mystique.  This mystique — the USSR.  Poets, artists, sociologists, young people, and above all, those who have remained young among those who have experienced life — all have admitted that somewhere — in the USSR — destiny has allowed the thing to be.  One day, the USSR will make a name for itself materially — through the effect of the five-year Plan.  Yet the USSR has already illuminated the entire world with a glimmer of dawn, of a rising aurora.  The hearts that are true have turned toward us.  That in itself is a victory, one that is far greater than the one that will follow in material terms.

“The architect expresses the spiritual quality of an era.”  Thus, in the splendor of its proportions, the Palace of the Soviets will reveal the finality of the goals pursued in your country since 1918.  We will see what this is all about.  The world shall see.  But even further, humanity will find under the auspices of architecture a precise, uncorruptible verb, devoid of cabalistic machination [cabale], of exaggeration, of camouflage: the Palace, center of the institutions of the USSR.

You have made known throughout the world that this palace is to be the expression of the anonymous mass that is witnessing current events today.  Decision: like the headquarters of the League of Nations, the Palace of the Soviets will be built in the Italian Renaissance style…

The Italian Renaissance — like the Romans and the Greeks — built with stone.  However grandiose the dreams, stone set the limits for its realization, in compliance with the laws of gravity.

During the Renaissance, there were literate princes who dominated the masses.  There was a chasm separating the wealth from the people.  A gulf separated the palace, the dwelling-place of princes, from the house of the people.

The USSR, a union of proletarian soviet republics, shall erect a palace that will be haughty and separate from the people.

Let us not be blinded by rhetoric: I know perfectly well that the people — as well as the muzhik — admire regal palaces, and that it is their taste to have the headboards of their beds engraved with temple façades.

Should the leadership of the Soviet Republics, vehiculate or flatter and cultivate tastes that attest to human frailty?

From the USSR, we expect the type of sweeping gesture that dominates, elevates, and conveys, for such a gesture is a reflection of the highest and purest discernment.  If not? Well then there is no longer such a thing as the USSR, or its doctrine, or its mystique, or anything else…the mere notion of such a thing is INCONCEIVABLE.

In other words — inconceivable, tormenting, dramatic, and indeed saddening [pathetique] that with the actual decision Moscow is now making, it may commence its work of disaggregating opinion, disenchantment, bitter irony.  And for the five-year Plan to be thus crowned: only by “the pettiness of men.”

Dear sir, my opinions do not reflect the bitterness of a defeated candidate.  No.  But I love architecture and the Truth too much to already have lost all hope.  I would like to go to Moscow to talk, to explain things, and to express all this.  I would like to go to say this: The immeasureable effort, the immense labor of so many persons — some known, some nameless — in the sciences these past hundred years has created all over the world the great collaboration.  There is no method of construction — using reinforced concrete, iron, glass, heating systems, ventilation systems, acoustics, or statics and dynamic elements; there’s no tool or any sort of machine that doesn’t reflect the existence of this great collaboration.

Architecture — and in this case the architect — must strive to discipline this army of collaborators, and by virtue of the creative power assemble all these elements.  By the power of its lofty aims, it can express the unique and magnificent face of all mankind’s creativity.  Is this face a mask? Never.  No, never.

How can I put it to you any more directly? I would like to go to Moscow.

On the 29th of this month, in Barcelona, there begins a meeting of the of international committee responsible for planning the upcoming International Congress of Modern Architects [CIAM] that will be held in Moscow in September.

My trip from Algiers can be put off (as I’ve come to learn) until May.

I am expected in Rome for two conferences presided over by Mussolini, and for a meeting with him.  Its aim: the Italians are asking me to save il Duce from the blunder into which he has driven himself by ordering the building of Italy in the Roman style.  (You see how much the evil is everywhere).

Is it still possible for you to set up my trip to Moscow? I’m even going to be indiscreet: didn’t you just tell me that you would be returning to Moscow soon? Consider this: if I could accompany you on this trip I would explain to you everything that is broiling inside me, as concerns towns and houses.

In Moscow, I could — outside the Palace — publicly speak of the Radiant City, and explain where progress and the grand view have led us and shown to your country, which is the only one possessing the institutions that permit the realization of modernist programs.  The technical detail of the questions concerning:

architectural reform

the 24-hour solar day and its program

the new techniques of exact respiration inside buildings (with the recent laboratory experiments at St.-Gobain) (the most pressing problem facing the USSR)

 the problems which agriculture poses for the domestic economy

the soundproofing of homes


Here are the truths, realities, the long-range items that are informed by the spirit of the five-year Plan — much more than certain restrictive methods, Malthusian and lacking imagination, which have been so warmly embraced in the USSR.

And if anyone wants, I could speak of proportion, of beauty, those things that are the driving forces of my life, because happiness is not possible without a sense of quality.

In Buenos Aires in 1929, I presented at ten conferences (one after the other) in fifteen days.  I really want to do the same in Moscow.

Dear sir, I’ve lived a confined life these last twenty years.  Until now, I have not been able do without Paris, because Paris is the only place that holds this quality.  The austere life I’ve lived has borne its fruits.  Though I can admit ignorance to everything else, I have always known a great deal about architecture and urbanism.

I have some close friends in Moscow, colleagues for whom I have great hope.  I have enemies in Moscow, but I believe also many friends.

I will tell you this again: in Moscow I have always stood up for M. Zholtovskii, who is a true architect, sensitive and quite talented.  It is this unexpected stopover in an historical form of architecture that has caused us to part ways.  But I would much rather talk with him about architecture than with the majority of my Western colleagues who call themselves “modern architects.”

Let me finish: entirely disinterested and passionate about architecture, at an age in adult life when a man must give, I offer you my assistance with completely loyalty and no hope of gain.  There you have it.

It took a long time to say all this.  Please pardon me for taking so much of your time and attention.

Yours truly,

Le Corbusier

«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.