El Lissitzky’s “Architecture in the USSR” (1925)

IMAGE: El Lissitzky’s Wolkenbügel (1924)

 From Die Kunstblatt, No. 2 (February 1925)

Modern architecture in Russia?

There is no such thing.  What one does find is a fight for modern architecture, as there is everywhere in the world today.  Still nowhere is their a new architectonic CULTURE.  Any isolated really new buildings were designed only to meet the need of the moment, and only by some anonymous character, some engineer, over the head of the artist with a diploma.  At the same time, modern architects in various countries have been fighting for some decades to establish a new tectonics.  The main watchwords remain the same: expedient, in suitable material, constructive.  Every generation puts a different meaning into the same ideas.  For many this process is not developing rapidly enough.  There is certainly no lack of forces.  The trouble lies in the economic abnormality of the present time and the utter confusion of their intentions.

In the world of today, Russia is moving at record speed.  This is manifested even in the name of the country: — Russia, RSFSR, SSSR.  Art also advanced at the same tempo.  There the revolution in art began by giving form to the elements of time, of space, of tempo and rhythm, of movement.  Before the war cubists in France and futurists in Italy advanced new theses in art.  There re-echoed loudly in Russia; but from the early years of our isolation we went our own way and put forward antitheses.

The European thesis was: THE FINE ARTS (BEAUX-ARTS) FOREVER.  Thus the arts were made to become a completely private, subjective-aesthetic concern.  The antithesis was: ANYTHING BUT THE FINE ARTS.  [372] Let us have something universal, something clear and simple.  Thus a square is simple, or a glass cylinder.  Out with the painting of pictures! ‘The future belongs to those who have a remarkable lack of talent for the fine arts.’  Organic growth is a simple thing — so is building, architecture.

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