Moscow: seeing what's left of constructivist architecture

Rusakov Workers Club by Melnikov
Yesterday (in Moscow's continuing exceptional heat) we saw about as much as still can be seen of the  city's constructivist architecture designed and built in the 1920s and beginning of the '30s. The architects and engineers' aims were to create spaces for the education and expressive development of the workers (with libraries, theaters and sports and recreation areas), announce by their strikingly new design the society's entry into a new communist era, and to do all this quickly and cheaply with available scarce materials. (In addition to the Wikipedia article, see New World Encyclopedia, source of photo at the right.)

As with the constructivist art that I mentioned yesterday (and which in some cases was produced by the same people who designed the most impressive architecture), that creative, open and experimental period did not last. The art was mostly destroyed or hidden with the bureaucratization of the Soviet state and the imposition of "correct" tastes. The architecture was neglected or altered, sometimes drastically, for uses for which it was never intended. But some of it is still standing, and some has even been conscientiously restored. 

It would have been impossible for us to get to so many widely separated sites on our own in one day, or for us to negotiate in Russian with the doorkeepers so we could see the interiors of some of these places. Fortunately, we had hired Arthur Lookyanov to get us to all these places, and Arthur is a very persistent and organized guide — with very good English, an air-conditioned car with GPS, and photographic skill and equipment. Susana had sent him in advance the list of sites, and he had worked out the most efficient itinerary; he was very dogged in trying to get us into places, some of which were in reconstruction or were in top security sectors — a power plant, for example, or the famous Shukov radio tower.

He took much better pictures than we would have managed. I'll share them with you once he sends them. If you're planning a tour of Moscow, he would be a good guide: Moscow Driver is his website.

1 comment:

Some Thoughts From A Broad said...

Hi Geoff, We were in St. Petersburg for 3 days in 2011. I loved the architecture there. We stayed in the neighborhood near the Opera House and where Dostoevsky and other famous 19th c writers lived and worked. We stayed with a woman who invited us from our Couchsurfing.org site, and we learned a lot about life in Post-Soviet Russia.

Hope you and Susanna are well. We may be passing through Spain from India next spring when we will travel to the US. Maybe we can meet up!

All the best,

Liz (Iler)