(MUAR) Unrealised Moscow:
Moscow architecture from the 1930s to the early 1950s undoubtedly occupies a central place in domestic construction of the socialist epoch. Its specific nature and scope is the most outstanding illustration of the socialist Utopia in architecture. This period saw the work of the greatest Soviet architects; B. Icfan, A. Schusev, I. Zholtovsky, the Vesnin brothers, I. Fomin, L. Rudnev, I. Golosov, V. Schuko. Among the far-reaching projections of the first stalinist "five year plans", the 1935 General plan for the reconstruction of Moscow overshadowed all others. According to this plan, Moscow was to become, in the shortest possible time, the showpiece capital of the world's first socialist state. The General plan envisaged the development of the city as a unified system of highways, squares and embankments with unique buildings, embodying the ideas and achievements of socialism. This plan contained a number of major flaws, especially in connection with the preservation of the historical heritage of the city. The specific nature of the architectural process of this period was determined wholly by ambitious government schemes. In order to realize them, extensive architectural contests were held and architects of diverse orientations and schools of thought were invited to tender their projects. The competitions for the projects of the Palace of Soviets (1931-1933) and for the building of the People's Commissariat of Heavy Industry (1934) were particularly noteworthy in scope and results. Although, ultimately, neither of these projects was realised, the plans submitted by the participants had a notic eable influence on the development of Moscow, and many of the entries have earned a place in this century's repository of project planning. At the time, this style of architecture, like its contemporary literature and Soviet depictive art, were proclaimed to be an exemplary implementation of the "most progressive" artistic method of "socialist realism",. Considered today, it is clear that the best examples of this architecture, most of which never got beyond the drawing board, are more profound and interesting than the ideological norms within the constraints of which they were devised. Behind many grandiose projects one may often discern the desires of those endowed with power to affirm the greatness of this or that historical epoch. May the unrealised plans of these monumental buildings serve as a reminder that it is right and proper to build innovatively without destroying the historically valuable past. That which history has given us, both good and bad, is our undeniable heritage, and we must accept it as it is. Yet we should not forget the lessons history has taught us, for upon this h inges the future of Russia.
The building of the People's Ñîmmissariat of Heavy Industry, A. Vesnin, V, Vesnin, S. Lyaschenko. 1934
A competition for the design of a building to house the People's Commissariat of Heavy Industry (Narkomtyazhprom) on Red Square was announced in 1934. The construction of this grandiose complex of 110,000 m3 on an area of 4 hectares would have resulted in a radical reconstruction of Red Square and adjacent streets and squares of Kitai-Gorod. Twelve entries were submitted for the first stage of the competition. The impressive plans drawn up by the brothers A. and V. Vesnin-leaders of the constructivist movement-were not noted by the jury, along with a number of other entries, although the submissions included some of the most interesting architectural ideas and projections of this century. The building of the People's Commissariat of Heavy Industry was never realised.
Palace of Soviets. B. Iofan, O. Gelfreikh, V. Schuko. Sculptor S. Merkulov. Version of the approved project. 1934
The competition for the Palace of Soviets in Moscow was one of the most extensive and impressive of this century. The idea of constructing a building which could be a
symbol of the "imminent triumph of communism" in the capital of the world's first state of workers and peasants was mooted in the 1920s. The chosen location was the site of the demolished Church of Christ the Saviour. The competition was launched in 1931 and carried out in stages. Overall, 160 entries were submitted, including 12 commissioned ones and 24 which were fiors concours, as well as 112 project proposals. Twenty four proposals were received from foreign participants, among whom were such universally acclaimed architects as Le Corbusier, W.Gropius and E.Mendelssohn. The definitive turn of Soviet architecture toward the heritage of the past had emerged clearly by that time, and was the key factor in the choice of winners. The top awards went to architects I.Zholtovsky, B.lofan, G.Hamilton (USA), additions and revisions, was finally affirmed.
Hotel of the Moscow City Soviet ("Moskva"). L. Savelyev, O. Stapran. 1931
In 1931, the Moscow City Soviet (Mossovet) conducted a closed competition for a 1000-room hotel, conforming to the highest criteria of the time. Of the six plans submitted, the best was judged to be the work of young architects L.Savelyev and 0.Stapran. Architectural publications and the general press carefully monitored all the stages of design and construction: from the point of view of urban planning, this building had immense significance-it was located at the intersection of the city's main thoroughfare,
Gorky Street, with the projected new "Ilyich Avenue", an enormous street which would lead to the Palace of Soviets. When the walls of the future "Moskva" hotel were being erected, academician A.Schusev was appointed head of the architectural team. The plans for the facade of the building were changed to reflect the new
monumental spirit and orientation toward classical tradition. According to legend, Stalin was shown both versions of the facade of the building on one sheet, and placed his signature of approval on both, as a result of which the facade of the completed hotel was assymetncal. Construction ended in 1934, "Ilyich Avenue" was never laid out, but today's Manezh Square, formed on the site of demolished Mokhovye streets, is a trace of its beginnings.
The Ðalace of Technology. À.Samoylov, B.Yefomovich. 1933
A competition for a design for the Palace of Technology was announced in 1933. The project called for a complex of scientific and technical institutions, it was to be in the the capital city of a country which was being actively industrialised by a central administration called upon to "arm the masses with the achievements of Soviet industrial technology, agriculture, transport and communications". Asite on the banks of the Moskva river was selected as the location of this Palace. The industrial resolution selected by A. Samoylov and B. Yefimovich was not a tribute to a constructivisim which was receding into the past, but rather an illustration of the "technocratic" character of the subject. The Palace of Technology was never built.
Building of the People's Defence Commissariat. L. Rudnev. 1933
Architect L.Rudnev's buildings are among the most noticeable in Moscow. He headed the planning group of the high-rise Moscow StateUniversity building on Lenin Hills (1953). In the 1930s, a number of buildings assigned to the People's Defence Commissariat were designed by Rudnev; the Frunze Military Academy of the Workers' and Peasants' Red Army (1932), the buildings of the People's Defence Commissariat on the Frunze Embankment (1936) and on Shaposhnikova street (1933). For buildings of this profile the architect developed a specific style, conveying an impression of grim impregnability and crushing might to correspond to the official image of the Red Army. The project of a building on Arbat Square, which was only partly realised, reflects the architect's transition from the oppressive grandeur of the People's Defence Commissariat constructions of the 1930s to the bîuóant pomposity which became a hallmarkof the architecture of the 1940s and early 1950s.
Building of the People's Commissariat of Íeavy Industry. I. Fomin, P. Abrosimov, M. Minkus. 1934
I.Fomin was a leading representative of the St. Petersburg neo-classical Russian school of architecture, and had attained prominence before the revolution. Even in the 1920s, a period dominated by constructivism, Fomin managed to remain faithful to the principles of classical architecture and even devised a so-called "proletarian-order" expressed thus: "the two basic verticals of the main facade create an aperturewhich provides a clear view of the mausoleum. Aong Sverdlov Square, the construction finishes with a butt-end. We have selected the silhouette technique as the solution. The butt-end will be divided by a very ornate arch to blend with the character of the Square's old architecture. The building is planned as a closed circle. As the construction is a closed one, we did not wish to go above 12-13 floors, with only the tower reaching a height of 24 floors". Extract from annotations to the project.
Building of the People's Commissariat of Íeavy Industry. À. Vesnin, V. Vesnin, S. Lyaschenko. Version. 1934
"... Four towers, up to a height of 160 metres, on a stólîbate which harmonizes with the Kremlin wall. A rhythmical construction, expressed in four vertical elements and the colonnade of the stylobate, creating a visual extension, essential to the longitudinal framing of the Square and responding to the Kremlin wall. The vertical divisions correspond to the four divisions of the Kremlin tower and are necessary for the inclusion of the building into the overall ensemble. The project envisages a single vestibule the length of Red Square". Extract from annotations to the project.
The Aeroflot Building. D. Chechulin. 1934
In 1934, the attention of the whole world was focused on the fate of the crewmen of the ice-breaker "Chelyuskin", who were adrift on an ice-floe after the ship went down in the Sea of Chukotsk. In the summer of the same year Moscow greeted the courageous survivors and the pilots who had rescued them, and who were the first to be granted the "Hero of the Soviet Union" award. The new traditions of socialist life demanded the perpetuation of the memory of this outstanding feat in monumental form. The "Aeroflot" building, which was to be erected on the square beside the Byelorussky railway station, was planned by architect D. Chechulin as a monument to the glory of Soviet aviation. Hence the sharp-silhouette, "aerodynamic" form of the tall building and the sculpted figures of the heroic airmen A. Lyapidevsky, S. Levanevsky, V. Mîlîkîv, N. Kamanin, M. Slepnev, M. Vodopyanov, I. Doronin, crowning seven openwork arches, perpendicular to the main facade and comprising a distinctive portal. I. Shadr, the sculptor of the airmen's figures, took part in the project's design. The project was never realised in its original design or intention. Almost half a century later, the general ideas of the project were incorporated into the complex housing the Supreme Soviet of the RSFSR on thå Êrasnîðãåsnenskàóà Åmbankment (nîwadàós — Ñîvernment Íîuse).
The House of Books (Dîì Knigi). I. Golosov, P. Antonov, A. Zhuravlev. 1934
The plan of the House of Books is typical of early 1930s perceptions of a building as an "architectural mînuinent. A trapezîid tall silhouette, simplified architectural forms and an abundance of sculptures on all parts of the building. Architect I.Golosov achieved prominence in the constructi vist movement in the 1920s (the "textbook" Zuyev Club was his project), and in subsequent years he found interesting solutions in the spirit of the new Soviet classicism. He submitted original projects to the competitions for the House of Soviets and the building of the People's Commissariat of Heavy Industry. Golosov's work is distinguished by features which are designated "symbolic romanticism". "The architect must not be bound by style in the old, historical sense of that word, he himself must be a creator of style... Òî this end, it is essential to set guidelines which facilitate the optimum realisation by the builder of each individual project... One must establish only absolute tenets, those which are inevitable, true and unchanging. There are many such,and these tenets, as vehicles of absolute values, are equally applicable to classical and contemporary architecture". I. Golosov. From his lecture "New Paths in Architecture".
"The Àrch of Heroes". Monument to the heroic defenders of Moscow. L. Pavlov. 1942
In October 1942, at the height of the Second World War, the newspaper "Literatura i Iskusstvo" (Literature and Art) wrote: "The competition for a monument to the heroes of the Great Patriotic War is drawing to a close. Some 90 projects have been submitted by Moscow sculptors and architects. It is also reported that entries have been sent from Leningrad, Kuibyshev, Sverdlovsk, Tashkent and other Soviet cities. Overall, more than 140 entries are expected". In order to acquaint the general public with the projects entered in the competition, there will be three exhibitions in winter and the spring of 1943. The demands of the competition included, inter alia, a monument "To the heroic defenders of Moscow". The choice of a putative location for the monument was left to the competitors. The designer of the "Heroes' Arch", architect L. Pavlov, suggested erecting the monument on Red Square. The monument was never erected.
Residental building in the Vosstaniya Square. V. Oltarzhevsky, I. Kuznetsov. 1947
Architects V.Oltarzhevsky and A.Mordvinov worked together on the plans of the high-rise building of the "Ukraina" hotel on Kutuzovsky Prospekt (1954). V. Oltarzhevsky devoted much time to architectural theory and methods of constructing tall buildings. In 1953 he published a book, "High-rise Construction in Moscow", in which he tried to establish links between this type of architecture and the traditions of Russian building, He was particularly interes
ted in the construction and versatility of methods of technically equipping the "high-rises". Oltarzhevsky's project was never realised. The tall building on Vosstaniya Square was constructed to a plan by the architects H. Posokhin and A. Midoyants (1953).
High-rise building in Zaryadye district. View from the Red Square. D. Chechulin. 1948
In 1947, the Soviet government adopted a resolution concerning the construction of high-rise buildings in Moscow. By the early 1950s, tall buildings had been erected on Lenin Hills (Moscow State University), the Foreign Ministry on Smolenskaya Square, an administrative building on Lermontovskaya Square, the "Leningradskaya" and "Ukraina" hotels on Komsomolskaya Square and Kutuzovsky Prospekt and residential buildings on Kotelnicheskaya Embankment and Vosstaniya Square. Only the construction of a 32-floor administrative building in Zaryadye, which was envisaged as one of the salient features of the silhouette of the central city skyline, was not completed. Work on it was stopped after the 1955 resolution of the Central Committee, which condemned "excesses and over-ornamentation in architecture" and signalled a new era in Soviet architecture. The work which had been done was dismantled, and the hotel "Rossiya" (also planned by D.Chechulin) was built on the foundations in 1967.
Ðalace of Soviets. B. Iofan, V. Gelfreikh, Ya. Âelopolsky, V. Pelevin. Sculptor S. Merkulov. Version of the approved project. 1946
The Palace of Soviets was planned to be the largest building in the world. Its height was to reach 415 metres — higher than the tallest buildings of the time, the Eiffel Tower and the Empire State Building, The building-postament was to be topped by a 100 metre statue of Lenin. The constuction of the Palace of Soviets developed into an independent economic and scientific field. This system included special laboratories dealing with optics and acoustics, for the development of special construction materials such as "D.S. steel" and "D.S. brick", mechanical and ceramic-concrete works, The building site was serviced by its own railway branch. By special decrees of the Soviet of People's Commissars and the Council for Labour and Defence, the construction of the Palace of Soviets was designate a priority project in 1934, and by 1939 the foundations of the upper part were completed. Construction was suspended in 1941 because of the war and never resumed. However, work on the Palace of Soviets project continued until the end of the 1940s.