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Constructivism Trends In Moscow Architecture

Sep 3, 2008
In Russia Constructivism is one architectural style that appeared ahead of its time. Russian architects began to develop it more or less immediately after the Great October Revolution in 1917, and the style that is also known as the aesthetics of straight corners, emerged in Moscow in 1919-20.

One of the most famous examples of Constructivism, the style which combines straight lines and various forms such as cylinders, squares, rectangles, cubes and so on, is the world-famous Lenin mausoleum in the center of Red Square. It was designed in 1924 by architect Alexei Shchusev.

The style does not only exploit the opposition between different forms and models, but it also plays on the contrast of different surfaces: rough walls (decorated with granite chips) and windows. Windows are usually either strictly square or rectangular. They can also be horizontal like giant ribbons wrapped around an entire building. Ideally, there are round windows, too, usually at the very top of the building.

The earliest buildings designed by architects Konstantin Melnikov, Ilya Golosov, the Vesniny brothers, Moisei Ginzburg and many others, appeared in 1925 as the country was just emerging from WWI and had no money for new construction. Constructivism did not live for long, only until 1931-33. There are about 600 Constructivism-style buildings in the Russian capital today.

Private mansions were things of the past, the revolutionaries decided, and it was time to build public buildings instead: communal houses, factories doubling as communal kitchens, workers clubs and office buildings.

Besides the mausoleum, another famous Constructivist building is the newspaper Izvestia offices at 5 Pushkin Square. While looking very business-like, it has a number of round windows on its top floor.

The editorial offices of Pravda on 24 Pravda Street also belong to the style, a rectangular building fitted out almost entirely with windows.

Then there is this amazing department store near metro 1905 Goda on the corner of Krasnaya Presnya street and Presnenskaya Zastava, the one with the Benetton sign on it. It occupies a small area and looks like a triangle with its top cut off. On one side a huge window rises from the first to the third floor.

Constructivist buildings began to undergo considerable reconstruction after 1930-33, when the political situation in the country had changed. The new functionaries called the famed style poor, rough and bourgeois, saying it made the city look ugly. Later on, it was replaced with what later became known as Stalin Empire style (It is sufficient to mention the seven almost undistinguishable skyscrapers that dominate the city skyline.)

In the 1940s and 1950s, the Constructivist architects were denied the chance to work, so some of them either gave up architectural design altogether, while others resorted to teaching.

The architects returned to Constructivism after 1958, when they designed a lot more public buildings such as the hotels Yunost, Sputnik, Luzhniki, and Orlyonok, the post-graduate student house on Shvernik street near metro Leninsky Prospekt and one of the buildings that makes up the Kursk railway station and others, basing their designs on the once popular architectural style.

But all over the word the style gave a push to contemporary architecture. Today, to see the precise, simple structures of the Constructivism age, you merely need to travel to Ivanovo, Kizhma, Novosibirsk, Yekaterinburg, or St. Petersburg. Examples of industrial towns that underwent rapid growth in the 1920s and '30s include Pavlovsky Posad, Voznesensk and Nizhny Novgorod. There are other examples of such cities in Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan.
About the Author
Winston Johns is a correspondent of the famous Danish newspaper in Moscow, Russia. For the past 2 years he has been working as a freelance journalist and editor for the web-site Moscow hotels and Moscow apartments
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