THE IDENTITY OF AN INDIVIDUAL:
URBAN HOUSING IN MOSCOW, RUSSIA
Tad Martin Schrantz
Architecture & Planning Department
In partial fulfillment of the requirements
for the Degree of Master of Architecture
University of Colorado
UNIVERSITY OF COLORADO at DENVER
We hereby recommend that the Thesis prepared under our
supervision by Tad M. Schrantz be accepted as fulfilling in part,
requirements for the completion of the Master's Thesis program at
the University of Colorado at Denver.
I. ABSTRACT 1
II. THE ARGUMENT: 2- 14
Why Russian Housing Must Exemplify
III. THE DESIGN 15-19
A Historical Overview of Relevant Events.
Pre-Revolutionary History 20-27
The Break with the Past 28-32
The Intelligentsia within the System 33-42
Societal Developments 43-48
The Transformation of Communism 49-54
The Present Day Dilemma 55-60
V. HEADLINES 6 1
VI. LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS 6 2
VII. BIBLIOGRAPHY 63-66
This thesis addresses the housing dilemma faced by the
emerging middle class in Moscow, Russia. Housing has always
been a problem for the Moscow community due to a series of
economic pitfalls and poor governmental policy decisions. At this
crossroads in Russian history, the Moscow housing situation
demands consideration as the Communist regime is replaced with
a democratic government and an open market system is installed.
A historic overview of the different types of housing used
throughout Moscows development will be studied as a framework
for potential solutions. A focused comparison between housing in
the 1920s, at the onset of communism, and recent solutions to the
problem will provide a background for discussion of pertinent
issues surrounding the dilemma. These essential housing issues
will manifest themselves in an architectural solution which will
address the urban texture of Moscow and attempt to enhance the
The proposal will address the emergence of the individuals role
within this culture and how it can be expressed in architecture.
The project will address the society within a culture, the
community within the society, the neighborhood within the
community and the individual within the neighborhood. These
levels of consideration will serve to produce an accessible scale to
the user while emphasizing the need for quality housing in an
Why Russian Housing
Historically, the housing situation in Moscow has never been
acceptable. From its origin as a walled city when people would
build wooden shacks in and around the perimeter to pre-
industrial Revolution times when stick frame houses were stacked
together without running water, the problem has never been
properly addressed. The population explosion which occured as a
result of the Industrial Revolution has left Moscow struggling to
meet its housing needs to this day. This problem has been
compounded by economic pitfalls and several improper
governmental policy decisions. This paper will address the
problem of urban housing in Moscow and offer an architectural
solution based on the comparison of previous housing methods and
the distillation of pertinent issues which reflect the needs of the
During the mid nineteenth century, a mass exodus of people
from the countryside to urban centers occured across Europe and
western Asia. Moscow was no exception as farmers flocked to the
city with hope of work and a prosperous life. This influx of
inhabitants flooded the existing housing market and placed strain
upon the boundaries of the city. In order to meet these needs,
dwellings were erected in make shift fashion and located in
random arrangements near the factory centers. Utilities to service
these areas were well below requirements for the number of
occupants and safeguards against fire hazard were nonexistent.
When fire nearly consumed the Kremlin, the Tsar ordered all
housing near and around the palace removed with no plans for
relocation of dispersed families. Density continued to grow. Three,
four and five families were forced to live under one roof. There
was no privacy. There was no individuality.
As pressures mounted, the working class dissatisfaction
emerged and the communist state of the Soviet Union was
implemented. Under Vladimir Illich Lenin, the country was placed
within a governmental framework which was to address the needs
of the expanding working class. The vision of this new ruling
body was to gather the people as a collective which would provide
equally for all citizens. All would work as ability allowed and all
would be provided for. It was Lenins responsibility to provide for
these people things which had been neglected if the new
government was to be effective.
One of the most pressing concerns to be addressed was the need
for housing. With the continual growth of the urban population
base, infrastructure had to be placed and dwellings had to be
The immediate solution to the problem was the transfer of
ownership of the many Tsarist mansions located around Moscow.
Groups of families were moved in and asked to live in communal
fashion. Each was given a quadrant of the building and all were
asked to share in its maintenance. This relieved immediate
pressure but the long term problem lingered.
Architectural competitions were sponsored to address the
problem of housing. Artistic activity was ablaze in the newly
formed society and a wide variety of possible solutions were
offered. Nearly all reflected the communist ideals yet each offered
different organizational strategies. Ideas which received greatest
acclaim encompassed all aspects of living and integrated societal
goals Melnikovs proposal for Green City (111. 1) gained
acceptance for its organizational qualities, the incorporation of
green space within the complex and the pervasive implementation
of communal family lifestyle for this brotherhood society. It
became most important that all people were seen as a part of a
greater whole and that all worked toward the betterment of the
Mass production of housing, adopted from the investigations of
the Bauhaus, received attention as a positive direction of pursuit.
This method of construction exemplified the ideals of the
communist society and provided an inexpensive and expedient
solution to the housing problem.
Ivan Leonidov, an eccentric genius of the architectural
community, adopted the method of mass production and applied it
to the most far reaching solution of the era. His proposal for the
Working Skyscraper (Illustration 2) preceded Mies van der
Rohes investigations of high rise construction by nearly twenty
years. It also included an immense variety of programmatic
elements which served the user and the surrounding community.
It encompassed all suggested communal activities as well as
entertainment venues, shopping areas, office spaces and parking
for automobiles within a single architectural proposition. Unbuilt,
it inspired far reaching thought for several years.
Throughout the period of Lenins leadership, great efforts were
made to infuse the society with a sense of pride through the
instillation of civic projects. Upon Lenins death, the Soviet Union
was placed under autocratic rule by Joseph Stalin. His reign of
terror would drag all previous problems to the surface including
the lack of quality housing. It was reported that Father Stalin
provided for the communist family, but in actuality this occured
at the most cursory levels. He stripped the people of their
heritage, he stole the identity of church and he lumped the entire
working class into a group of subservient nameless numbers. He
demolished scores of historic landmarks and recreated a history to
flatter his efforts. Communism, in its intended form, had failed.
In its place was the shell of a thriving society.
Kruschev replaced Stalin in the mid 1950s and brought with
him a revitalization plan. It included a series of large scale
housing projects located along arterials on the outskirts of the city.
These micro-rayon satellite cities were to contain the essential
necessities to support the great number of people housed. Within
ten years, the housing supply had nearly doubled yet demand was
During this period an urban plan was developed to
accommodate the capital city. The main principle was a series of
five major arterials radiating from the civic core. One million
inhabitants would be placed along each of these The mass transit
system would accommodate the configuration and the pentagon
formation would limit urban sprawl. Intermittent concentric roads
would be designated greenways and civic parks at prominent
locations would be focal nodes of activity. In theory the plan was
sound. In application it failed to keep up with the population
growth which surpassed this cap of five million within twenty
years of implementation.
The microrayons also fell prey to the vises of the population
explosion. The new construction was unable to match the housing
need and this produced shoddy craftsmanship, insufficient
infrastructure and inhumane living conditions. Families of three
generations shared one bedroom apartments. Walls were paper
thin, plumbing barely worked and these mass produced units left
the inhabitants feeling like animals in cages. There was no
identity for the individual, the family or the group yet still the
Today these micro-rayons are in disrepair and as the economy
falters during a period of reconfiguration, little new construction
to replace lost residences is occuring. The building which occurs is
following the path of urban sprawl pushing further and further
into the countryside leaving behind the wreckage of years gone by.
Once again history has provided the citizens of Moscow with a
political breaking point. It is during these times of change that
hope can be restored, new ideas can be expressed and new
opportunities present themselves. Not unlike the 1920s, when
artistic expression ran unbridled and civic pride soared, this period
in Moscows history has the opportunity to be highly influential for
the next several decades. Learning from past mistakes can
provide this society a springboard from which to alleviate the
reoccuring problems of the past. These problems must be
addressed as Moscow moves into this transitional period.
A possible solution of housing which will revitalize the urban
core while providing quality accommodations for the inhabitants is
First, housing in the civic core is addressed. For decades the
intent has been to continually press the envelope of the city
boundaries to acquire cheap land for large scale building projects.
This has left behind a sea of used up neighborhoods, each in a
different state of disrepair. Located at the center of this lies the
Kremlin and its historic and tourist counterparts. Across the
Moskva River from the Kremlin is a neglected neighborhood
resulting from the effects of urban sprawl. Property values are
decreased. Location is central. Access is apparent. This site,
therefore, can act as magnifying glass for a closer look at the
problems which plague Moscow. The specific site of the project
will be located in the open space outside the south wall of the
Kremlin on the Moskva River. Along the wall are located seven
towers which will be utilized for access to the Kremlin. The
projects location is crucial as a symbol to the government within
the Kremlin to the potential of urban housing .
Second, the need for housing at this specific location must be
addressed. The need for housing in general cannot be argued.
Moscow is desperate for an increase in the housing supply. Left
open for discussion is the appropriateness of the site in relation to
its surroundings. Industries which need worker support are
prevalent in the area, most notably the government, yet housing is
not abundant. Upon study of the area, only two small scale housing
complexes are encountered. This lack of localized housing applies
added pressure to commuter traffic. It also develops a scenario in
which this segment of town shuts down after the work day. The
added layer of housing in the sector can inspire new activity and
revitalize the idea of neighborhood within the heart of the city.
Once the decision is made to add housing to the urban core
questions about the internal workings of the complex as well as
the support services which will accommodate the added population
arise. The site is examined for existing support services. Localized
retail is found to be an important missing factor. The opportunity
exists to incorporate small shops, art studios and other storefronts
which help bring life to the area. These will be located in
courtyard arrangements around the existing towers of the
Kremlins southern wall. The tower will be made accessible to
allow passage into the Kremlin. Parking for the stores as well as
the inhabitants will be located on the road which runs parallel to
Integral to the site is the need for the expression of community
property, shared property and owned property. The site will be
divided into spaces which will decrease in size from a community
level of large shopping plazas and large open green spaces to a
family level of neighborhoods and private yards. These levels of
distinction will help scale the project to the many layers of society
and eventually provide the opportunity for the individual to
As the site is developed to accommodate the layers of
society, the housing must also recognize the different groups of
inhabitants it services. It will provide a setting for the
neighborhood in its proximity to other units. It will strengthen the
family unit in its organization and it will respect the individual and
the need for privacy. Six units will comprise a neighborhood; (2)
three bedrooms on the ground floor, (2) two bedrooms supported
by the ground level and (2) one bedrooms elevated and separated
from the other units.
All units will be located around and accessed by a central stair
tower. This will be located within an entry courtyard visible from
the front door of each unit. Between the back of the units and
separated from other neighborhoods by a fence is a shared
backyard. Each unit will have its own balcony overlooking this
The individual neighborhoods will be connected together by a
series of structural and infrastructure walls which will also define
public and private zones within the units. The layering of these
walls will emphasize the need to recognize the different layers of
society and the family unit.
Inside the units the division of spaces promotes a sense of
family and individuality. Total square meters per family are
increased. More bedrooms are added for less overcrowding and a
large living space promotes family interaction. Separating the two
lies the service layer which contains kitchen and bath facilities for
These architectural elements will only be successful if the
inhabitants make them so. Housing must be taken possession of
by the occupants if it is truly to be considered a home.
Within a society which for so long has been denied any sense of
individuality, it may be a futile effort to strive for the
establishment of this societal unit. Yet as Moscow continues to
adapt to its new form of government and the implementation of a
market based economy, we see glimpses of hope. Artistic
endeavor is once again flourishing. A recent publication of unbuilt
Russian work, entitled Paper Architecture, offers new vision from
the architectural community. Brodsky and Utkin, featured in the
book, provide a view of the urban center of the future in Man
City (111. 3) and address the question of a new economy in
Intelligent Market (111. 4). These positive messages are the first
step in revitalizing the individual spirit. As this country spreads
its new found wings, it will be imperative to remember the
essential elements which will make this transition successful;
among them the need for quality urban housing.
111. 1 Proposal For 'Green City'- Melnikov 1929
111.2 'Proposal for the Working Skyscraper' -Leonidov
111. 3 "Man-City" Brodsky & Utkin 1989
111. 4 "Intelligent Market" Brodsky & Utkin 1989
The origin of Moscow at the confluence
of the Moskva and Neglinnaya Rivers.
A present day urban diagram with
the Kremlin at its heart.
The Kremlin surrounded by Red Square,
an urban park and the Moskva River.
A site diagram; housing along the Kremlin
wall with retail courts flanking the
The layers of design; the river, the road,
the tree-lined walk, the open space,
the housing, the private space and
The future expansion across the river.
1 - 1 1 ig i
r _j l 1 I I 1 K n n -1 X r i 1 i x L
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K I 1 * K X ! 1 1
V, l-U 1 : i / JL ' I
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A Historical Overview
of Relevant Events
The city of Moscow has experienced the ebb and flow of an
evolutionary current which leaves it today in a state of uncertain
peril. From its beginning, Moscow has been perceived as a city of
strength. It was not initially deemed the capital of the Rus nation,
reunited in the late thirteenth century after years of warring
amongst the factional Eastern European families vying for control,
yet it was always seen as an excellent place of congregation.1
Location, more than anything, provided Moscow with its presence.
Situated at the confluence of the Moskva and Neglinnaya Rivers,
Moscow became the centrally located meeting place for officials of
all regions of the empire.2 Because of the location, its status as a
trade mecca flourished. Raw materials, furs and the crops used to
feed the nations people were exchanged and distributed from the
heart of this growing city.
In the fourteenth century, the establishment of the
autocratic method of government which would control Russia for
the next five hundred years emerged. The implementation of the
order of the Tsars would stabilize Moscow and continue
strengthening its fortified position. The battles with the Tartar
hordes, which had for so long seen the subjugation of the
Muscovites, now resulted in Rus victory. Under the leadership of
Kathleen Berton, Moscow: An Architectural History (New York: St. Martin's
Press, 1977) 13.
Tsar Ivan III, Muscovy attained local prominence and began its
process of growth as a regional power. Although battles with the
Tartars would ensue for the next two centuries, the establishment
of what would eventually become the capital of the Russian empire
3Kathleen Berton, Moscow: An Architectural History (New York: St. Martin's
Press, 1977) 15.
During this formative period, the site for what was to become
the Kremlin was established. A small palace, constructed for
Prince Dolgoruky, was erected on the Moskva River near the civic
center which would evolve as the seat of government over the
ensuing centuries. In the year 1156 it was recorded that the
Prince had a wooden barrier erected around the palace, the origins
of the Kremlin Wall.4
The evolution of the Kremlin occurred quickly as power was
passed along the lineal heritage of Tsars. Ivan the Great, ruler of
the fourteenth century, transformed the old city into one of visual
and physical strength. Known for his fierce temper and somewhat
paranoid behavior, Ivan the Terrible trusted no man. He willingly
murdered friends suspected of treason, and separated himself
from close contacts or personal confidants. This attitude revealed
itself in his approach to the safety of the Kremlin. A massive
restructuring was undertaken replacing the fortress walls and
constructing them of stone. The Kremlin became impenetrable to
any current weapon of war and insured the safety of its
inhabitants as well as its role of capital to the empire. Over the
ensuing decades, the Kremlin would experience a great increase in
new construction. The Assumption Cathedral, began in 1475,
would reign as a symbol of excellence well into the seventeenth
4Kathleen Berton, Moscow: An Architectural History (New York: St. Martin's
Press, 1977) 14.
century.5 As the oldest building in Cathedral Square within the
Kremlin, the Cathedral set the standard with its previously
unheard of structural spans and decorative excellence. It became
the location for the crowning of the Tsars and held many of the
states priceless art works.
Near the end of the fifteenth century, Moscow experienced
an extraordinary growth in population. The city was no longer
able to be contained within the fortress walls of the Kremlin. It
spread out along the Moskva River and expanded in arcs radiating
from the established center. During this period, the establishment
of town planning helped to organize the circulation of outlying
areas as well as form new centers for local gathering. The use of
town squares as focal points and the preservation of green spaces
aided in organizing the population explosion. Red Square, located
directly adjacent to the Kremlin, was given definition at this time.
The plinth was used to help establish presence for St. Basil's
Cathedral as well as to provide an added layer of protection near
the Kremlin, now home to the government of all Russia. The
homes and shops which had been built on the outside edge of the
Kremlin, erected there for their own protection, were removed
due to the threat of fire, a constant concern in a city of primarily
wooden construction. These inhabitants were forced to the
outlying areas of the city which were currently under
development. New town centers were established along the
5Kathleen Berton, Moscow: An Architectural History (New York: St. Martin's
Press, 1977) 26.
radiating arcs and their origins laid the ground for future
Moscow would continue to develop through cyclical periods
of prosperity and hardship. The descendents of the Tsars
maintained control throughout the next several centuries, each
bringing his own methods and individual idiosyncrasies to the
system of autocratic rule. It was not until the days of Peter the
Great and the early eighteenth century that great change was
infused into the culture.
The styles and influences of Western Europe entranced Peter
and soon became his obsession. No longer were the aristocracy
allowed to dress in the garb of their forefathers. The flowing robes,
beaded headgear and full beards were to be replaced. They
adopted fashion brought from the west and removed the
ornamental fashions which for so long had been custom. These
mandates were applicable only to the ruling class. The void which
had been created by the establishment of the autocratic method of
rule was increased as the diverging factions of social classes were
widened. The peasant people were thrown further into poverty
and illiteracy as the obsession to adopt the western ways became a
focus for the ruling class. This growing separation enhanced civil
unrest and would continue to fester until the Bolshevik Revolution
in the early twentieth century.
The desire for modernization foretold the temporary
downfall of Moscow. Peter the Great insisted on the establishment
of a capital based on a more orderly and classical fashion. Moscow,
with its winding streets, local flavor and architectural history was
unsuitable as a home for this Tsar. During the early years of the
1700's, St. Petersburg was transformed into such a place. It
assumed the role of capital for the Russian empire in 1712.
Moscow floundered for the next several decades as funds
were diverted toward the growth of the newly established capital.
Ironically, St. Petersburg was known to be located in extremely
marshy surroundings and was unsuitable for any substantial
building mass. Peter, acting against advice and common sense,
proceeded with the transformation of the capital. It quickly
became a large scale neoclassical folly as the earth began to
swallow the great weight of the these buildings. Moscow, the
capital of the people, was always seen as the true Russian
statement of tradition where as St. Petersburg had taken to the
influences of the western civilization.
It wasnt until the 1760's that Moscow was reestablished as
capital in concert with St. Petersburg. Both cities retained
functions within the governmental structure as Peter was
unwilling to admit total defeat in his architectural endeavors.
Moscow was revived fully as funds were once again used to
revitalize this center of trade. St. Petersburg slowly lost any claim
as part of the governmental center and Moscow regained its
promitory status. Moscow would continue its struggle toward the
twentieth century under the system of autocratic rule and its
series of familial idiosyncrasies.
The Break with the Past:
As the Industrial Revolution began to affect the various
nations around the world, a new division of societal class was
being established. The new group of workers formed to service
the explosion of industry were drawn from the peasant class and
greatly depleted the numbers of peasant farmers. As a result
there was a rapid expansion of the population of urban centers.
With this grand restructuring of society, the opportunity for
reshaping the cultural benefits bestowed upon various groups
could be addressed. Russia was ripe for change as the peasant
farmers and lower middle class despised the ever-mounting
subjugation by the ruling class. The organizational structure to be
implemented would have to represent these groups of people
which made up nearly ninety percent of Russia's population.6
This domination of the ruling class over the workers
occurred throughout the European continent. In 1847, a manifesto
was proposed which addressed the issues of subjugation as well as
the espousement of the Communist method of reorganization. It
was presented anonymously around the world during the next
6Kathleen Berton, Moscow: An Architectural History INew York: St. Martin's
Press, 1977) 180.
three years with the authors, Karl Marx and Frederich Engels,
eventually credited near the end of 1850.7
The manifesto proclaimed that the workers of the world
would no longer remain silent. A new method of governmental
organization was to be established which would be controlled by
the masses. Capitalism was pronounced dead and the need for a
profit structured system no longer existed. Instead, all workers
would produce for the common good and all would be provided for
based on this collective effort. All land, raw materials and
produced goods would be used to provide for the socialist society.
No longer would a ruling class control the majority of goods and no
7Saul K. Padover, Karl Marx:On Revolution (New York: McGraw-Hill Book
Company, 1971) 79.
longer would individuals be able to attain power through this
corrupt system of money harboring. 8
During the first decade of the twentieth century, Russia
would struggle between the autocratic rule of the Tsar and the
desire of the people to be free of this system. This struggle raged
as small political skirmishes arose and were quelled. Organization
of a revolution was lacking yet the seed was planted and it was
only a matter of time before the collapse of the current system
In the year 1917 the final break occurred. Early in the
spring, a provisional government was established to replace the
8Saul K. Padover, Karl Marx:On Revolution (New York: McGraw-Hill Book
Company, 1971) 80-92.
now defunct Tsar. This short lived control was highlighted by lack
of organization and no clear vision of the future. Lenin returned to
Moscow shortly after this take-over from his exiled place in
France. He pressed for the replacement of the provisional
government. This persuasion led to another coup attempt near the
end of the year. In what was termed a 'bloodless battle', the
Bolshevik Army stormed the Kremlin and other key governmental
agencies in Moscow. During the week of November 7-14, fighting
raged in Moscow with the Bolsheviks gaining final control.9
Once power had been transferred to the newly established
government, the pressing societal problems had to be addressed.
The recent World War had left the nation in an impoverished state.
All of the determinant economic factors foretold recession of the
worst kind. It became Lenin's responsibility to not only reassure
the nation's people of prosperity but to produce programs which
would put food on their tables. Several drastic measures were
taken to restore the faith of the public. The redistribution of land
to all farmers, as well as the instigation of several socially oriented
programs produced an array of effects but most importantly
established Lenin as the people's leader. Under this new system of
government, the individual was given a chance to work for the
good of his fellow Russian. These programs were wide in scope
and influenced nearly every facet of life. Lenin established the
Five Year Plan program as well as NEP (the New Economic Policy),
9Kathleen Berton, Moscow: An Architectural History (New York: St. Martin's
Press, 1977) 194.
all measures to give security to the failing post-war economy.
Most importantly for the artisan community was to be the use of
art and architecture to help further this new national view of
communism. Great works were to be installed in and around
Moscow, sponsored by the people and for the people. The
sculpture, artwork and architecture would serve as a media blitz to
announce the newly established communist system.
The Intelligentsia within the System:
The period prior to the Revolution saw the growth of an
inquisitive form of expression. The artistic community was in the
process of coming to terms with a wide array of influences. The
social characteristics of their society were rapidly changing. Other
areas such as science and philosophy were investigating newly
discovered facets of modern life. The artists were forced to decide
whether to reflect the previous assumptions made by their
predecessors as far as representation went or to produce a new
vision for a rapidly changing social structure.
Forest-Red Sc Green' Natalia Goncharova 1916
The group which accepted the task of forging new ground
were termed the Avant Garde.10 They took exception to
previously accepted art forms and went about developing new
methods of representation as well as new ways of viewing the
perceived space which they were developing. The initial step into
the Avant Garde was given the title of Primitivism11.
Its purpose was to remove the layers of information which
were seen as distorting the vision of the artist. The essence of a
thing was to be discovered and in this endeavor the very being of
the subject could once again be interpreted12. These experiments
led to the reinterpretation of the form of all objects. Based on a
new understanding of space and how it is developed, the Avant
Garde began to influence several other facets of the artisan
community, most notably that of architecture. The period around
the Revolution was by far the most active to date. With the
occurrence of this reorganization, expatriated artists were
returning to their homeland to once again explore their chosen
path. By the time Lenin had taken command, many new avenues
of experimentation were embarked upon. The merger of
architecture and art allowed many of the emerging architects to
adopt and work within this new framework. Classicism was losing
10Leonard-Hutton Hutschnecker, The Russian Avant Gardei New York:
Leonard Hutton Galleries).
the battle to the emerging vision of what would become known as
The pieces of the Avant Garde movement which were most
influential to the Constructivist period were the adoption of new
structural methods as well as the materials which were used to
accomplish these ends.14 There were no reinterpretations of
previous styles. This was to be a clean break with the past.
Through painting, the discovery of new methods of connection
between the elemental forms was expedited.
The influential members of the intelligentsia who were
pressing these concepts were men of great vision. Vladimir
Mayakovsky understood the potential of the new art in society. It
could be used not only as a step toward realigning expression but
also to help propagate the communist spirit within Lenin's reform.
His name can be associated with many of the trends during this
period, yet most radically, the Futurists provided the impetus for
the split with the old guard. Its method of destructive forms was
seen as a negative approach to the coming era yet the Futurists felt
them necessary to establish their position. As Mayakovsky stated,
"We regard the first part of our programme-destruction as
completed. And do not be surprised if you next see in our hands a
builders sketch rather than a jester's rattle."15
13Selim O. Khan-Magomedov, Pioneers of Soviet Architecturef New York:
13Selim O. Khan-Magomedov, Pioneers of Soviet Architecture^ New York:
This cultural approach to the arts and architecture had wide
spread effect throughout the many facets of life. The use of
language highly interested the Futurists. Its interpretation became
a playground for the minds of these intellectuals as the meaning
and syntax of their formal vocabulary was constantly questioned
.16 This language fetish transcended the verbiage of the arts and
produced an entirely new vision of geometric forms and the way
'Airplane Flying' Kasimir Malevich 1924
^Selim O. Khan-Magomedov, Pioneers of Soviet Architecture^ New York:
Many of the artist/architects were experimenting with the
effect these forms had upon the sensual perceptions of people.
The many ways in which color and the placement of objects within
the captured arena of view were tested to produce useful
information in the field of human reaction. These experiments
would later be transferred to a physical scale of inhabitation.
Vasily Kandinsky used these methods in order to create mutually
interchangeable means of expression capable of conveying a
variety of moods within a single individual."11
Malevich launched into exploration of geometric form in
multi- dimensional space. His several periods of experimentation
with form and color proved highly influential for many architects.
The use of floating planes with dynamically opposed colors later
transformed itself to basic black and white compositions all
intended to better understand the human reaction.
El Lissitsky was one who saw the potential of Malevichs
work and its application toward architecture. His artistic work,
under the title 'Prouns' (Projects for the Affirmation of the New),
used many of the principles which Malevich produced.18 These
paintings were to directly influence many of his forthcoming
^Selim O. Khan-Magomedov, Pioneers of Soviet Architecture!- New York:
18Selim O. Khan-Magomedov, Pioneers of Soviet Architecture!- New York:
Proun 24' El Lissitsky
Although there are many avenues upon which individuals
and groups embarked, its seems there was a strong sense of
destiny within this period. This desire to produce an all
encompassing work of art, one which dealt with every facet
imaginable of a modern life, consumed these travelers. This
sought after work of art termed the Gesamptkunstwerk applied
all new materials and all new methods of presentation.
Vladimir Tatlin gained highly regarded status within the
Avant Garde for his ability to compile the new vision of
composition. He took this much sought after idea of the
Gesamptkunstwerk and escalated it to new heights in the field of
sculpture. The 'Tatlin Tower' is often refered to as the most
influential and controversial piece of work during this time.19 The
inspirational monument used many of the spatial concepts being
formulated by the painters and also considered the materiality and
inhabitability of this method of representation. His process of
construction became the stepping stone which many of the
architects needed to allow them to produce the forms which were
developing in their imagination. Art had firmly established itself
in the world of the intellects and was playing the lead role in the
development of the expression of the growing culture.
As the disciplines continued to intermingle and provide
impetus and influence for one another, the bonds which were
created began manifesting themselves in the form of organizations.
These different groups began assembling along the avenues of
experimentation which were being pursued. These venues of
thought began organizing as schools and taught the following
generation the directions which they were embarking upon. The
gatherings were used to further stimulate the lines of
interpretation the organization was following and to give stage to
19Anatoly Strigalyov, Art and Revolution (Vienna: Austrian Museum of
Applied Arts 1988)69.
the many talented individuals who aligned themselves with one
group or another.
Within the field of built architecture, there remained a
resolute strength in the traditional methods of building.
Innovative architects attempted to gather strength by combining
with the universities and the legion of new architects which were
being exposed to the current possibilities in the field.20 The
universities were reorganized during this period of societal
resettlement and opened to a wide variety of teaching methods.
20Selim O. Khan-Magomedov, Pioneers of Soviet Architecture! New York:
By the time the Leftist studios were offered, Classicism had
suffered serious blows to its presence as the architecture for the
new Soviet Republic. These bands of Leftist rebel architects
combined to form Vkhutemas- the Higher State Artistic Technical
Studios and Vkheutein which would survive from 1920-26 and
1926-30 respectively. This institute provided the breeding ground
for the discovery of new forms of representation as it combined
architecture, production and art.21 The studios which gave
opposition to the classical methods of architecture, run by
Ladovsky, Krinsky, Dokuchaev, Golosov and Melnikov, gained rapid
popularity amongst the students. Ladovsky, as the head of Obmas,
regarded space as 'the basic material of architecture and
subordinated questions of volume to the organization of space'
while Golosov 'gave priority in form-generation to elements of
volume'.22 It became quite obvious that there was a need and
desire for the continuation of the questioning process which had
produced this new beginning. The choosing of sides continued to
produce a series of alliances within the school. Several new
avenues were explored and the manifestos that governed them
divided the student population. The two groups which emerged for
the intellectual battle were the Rationalists and the Constructivists,
led by Ladovsky and Alexander Vesnin respectively.23 These
studios became responsible for shaping the future of architecture
21 Selim O. Khan-Magomedov, Pioneers of Soviet Architecture! New York:
for this generation of Soviets as well as having an overwhelming
effect upon the world and its perception of building.24
24Selim O. Khan-Magomedov, Pioneers of Soviet Architecturef New York:
Directly after the October Revolution, as one of his public
reform moves, Lenin placed the homes of the petit-bourgeois in
the hands of the working class. They were given ownership to
these dwellings on a provisional basis. No rent was to be paid yet
they became solely responsible for the upkeep and taxes assessed
to the property. Most importantly, these homes were to be
established as communal areas of living. Several families would
inhabit one of these mansions and take part in its successful
growth. The establishment of this new use of housing was seen to
be in concert with the new founded government.
Lenin saw in this society, the liberation of woman from the
domestic dungeon. He wrote in March 1917,
"...without drawing women into social service...and
political life, without drawing them out of their
stultifying domestic and kitchen situation, it is
impossible to ensure genuine freedom, it is impossible to
build even democracy, let alone socialism."25
The communal home was seen as the method to free the woman
from her previous societal role. The success of these homes was
widespread yet conflict arose between the needs of the communal
home and the buildings which they were occupying. Not only did
the space not successfully accommodate several families, it was
25V.I. Lenin, Works. Vol. 30, 395-97.
also a harsh reminder of their previous system of subjugation. A
new form was necessary to precipitate this method of dwelling if it
was to be a truly viable force.
The communal home provided a great arena for debate
within the architectural community. Not only its usefulness but
the extent to which it was implemented were points of discussion.
It was theorized by Nikolai Kuzmin that for the communal method
to work it must be carried to an extreme. No longer was the
family a viable division in society. Instead people were divided by
age and occupation and placed accordingly. Group spaces would be
provided where individuals may reconvene for meals and
conversation. 26 Many levels of development and proposition for
the formulation of society were prescribed. The greatest difficulty
encountered was the separation from the past; there was such a
great wealth of history and tradition which had to be dealt with.
Developing new forms and wholly new approaches to societal
organization called for the recognition of the current condition.
Eventually the ground was established for the expression of this
evolving culture, but not without its historical influences.
A most important step in the realization of the needs of
worker dwellings occurred in 1922. A design competition was
held to produce a housing complex in the heart of Moscow. The
program included different types of housing, family and individual
units, as well as the amenities needed to satisfy an urban
2^Selim O. Khan-Magomedov, Pioneers of Soviet Architecture! New York:
existence; communal kitchen, baths, a laundry and garage space.
The bulk of architects involved in societal reform participated with
responses ranging from three story cottage type houses to old
multi apartment style buildings to communal prototypes.27 These
different approaches all dealt with the complexity of urban living
and the needs specific to it. The garden-city, a pre revolutionary
urban planning theory, with its more suburban approach could not
satisfy these requirements. The space which they consumed and
the attitude they portrayed were not in line with the direction
society had taken.
Melnikov's proposal for Com m unal Housing
27Selim O. Khan-Magomedov, Pioneers of Soviet Architecture! New York:
Melnikov's proposal for the dwelling complex was by far the
most innovative in terms of organization. The form which
emerged for the communal housing of groups was his assembly of
rectangular solids placed flat or on end and interconnected with
gangways. The separate volumes contained either housing or
space for communal activities.28
During this period of exploration an emphasis was placed
upon urban planning and the need to satisfy an ever increasing
demand for housing within the urban context. Within the First
Five year plan, a provision was made for the construction of 200
new industrial towns and 1000 agricultural towns.29 This spurred
the discussion over the most appropriate method of planning for
these different types. The society was extremely unstable at this
point as major swings in the location of the population. Directly
before the war a mass exodus to the country had occurred. This
unanticipated migration suddenly reversed itself as the industrial
age gripped the nation. Between 1926 and 1939 the urban
population of the Soviet Union doubled, leaving the housing
problem at the head of discussion.30 With the influx of a great
portion of the population into the city after the war, dwelling
needs jumped and the method of how to produce effectively
usable civic plans became a major topic for debate. This
28Selim O. Khan-Magomedov, Pioneers of Soviet Architecture^ New York:
29Selim O. Khan-Magomedov, Pioneers of Soviet Architecture^ New York:
opportunity to redefine the relationship between city and country
led to several probing approaches to the problem. The need for
collective dwellings which accommodated further needs of the
masses were considered responsive to the future demands of
society.31 Housing projects were placed in empty sites to build the
urban edge, provide much needed dwelling, and ease the division
between suburban dwelling areas and the city core.
Horizontal Skyscraper' El Lissitsky
31 Selim O. Khan-Magomedov, Pioneers of Soviet Architecture! New York:
Several investigative approaches toward planning led to a
far reaching range of proposals. Vertical zoning within the city
provided varied looks at the skyscraper and how the pedestrian
would encounter the building. Lavinsky proposed a City on
Springs to separate the radial city vibrations from the dwelling
units, while Lissitsky envisioned the Horizontal Skyscraper located
directly over and linked to the main traffic arteries.32 Several
artists continued to propose architectural applications to their
work encompassing both building and urban planning. All were
useful in the extent to which they maintained the question as a
crucial part of the answer.
32Selim 0. Khan-Magomedov, Pioneers of Soviet Architecturef New York:
The Transformation of Communism:
Upon the death of Lenin in 1924, the country was once again
left without a powerful figurehead. The next four years were
spent in a political struggle as different factions vied for control of
the communist nation. During this period, the artisan and
architectural community continued to probe the boundaries of the
playing field. As no one individual had yet established a new set
of governmental rules by which the intelligentsia would play, they
continued on their path of discovery. By 1928, Stalin empowered
himself as the next commander of the Soviet machine. This
marked the beginning of the end of this experimental period in
Russian history. Stalin quickly implemented new policies
governing the dispersal of land, the publication of materials and
the artistic responses which may be undertaken. It soon came to
pass that the discussions about town planning, communal housing
and worker's clubs which had been so prevalent during this period
were brought to a halt. VOPRA, the All-Russian Association of
Proletarian Architects, was founded in 1929 as a response to the
'extremist' group of revolutionary architects. This society believed
in the proletarian basis of socialist architecture and attempted to
apply the dialects of Marxism-Leninism to the planning of
industrial estates and the future development of Moscow.33 This
33Kathleen Berton, Moscow: An Architectural HistorvlNew York: St.
Martin's Press 1977)219.
period under Stalin rule would see the abolishment of any
experimental or rational method of architecture, and the return to
a more classical architectural form ensued. The style was termed
socialist realism' which called for revolutionary enthusiasm and an
objective view of reality...like the buildings at Pompeii, like the
harmony of classical architecture, the complete answer to the
questions of the time'.34 There was once again a return to the
megalomaniacal need for buildings to be of an overwhelmingly
34Kathleen Berton, Moscow: An Architectural HistorvCNew York: St.
Martin's Press 1977)226.
Many of the buildings sponsored by the government were to
dwarf the Kremlin, once seen as the centerpiece of Moscow. A
competition for the Palace of the Soviets was won by an entry
which was to have a statue of Lenin atop it standing seventy five
It was never built due to unforeseen foundation
complications and the desperate need of materials upon the
beginning of the second World War. These competitions and the
heavy handed style of Stalin produced a series of buildings which
flourished under this policy of 'socialist realism'. A 'classic'
example of Stalin's policy at work was the Moskva Hotel. The
architect presented the plans to the ruler showing the two
separate options for the wings within one set of drawings. Stalin
approved the building and no one had the courage to explain the
intent of the prospectus. The Hotel was built as drawn.36
During this period many historical monuments, including
thousands of churches were destroyed to make way for the new
architecture. There was no tolerance for religion within Stalins
Soviet Union. The persecution of any individual or group found
practicing in the ways of the cloth became the normative response
of Stalin's secret police. The well known reign of terror widely
inflicted by this man left the country with little knowledge of its
35Kathleen Berton, Moscow: An Architectural Historv(New York: St.
Martin's Press 1977)223.
36Kathleen Berton, Moscow: An Architectural HistorvCNew York: St.
Martin's Press 1977)228.
'Moskva Hotel' A. Schushev
In 1957, Kruschev acquired power after Stalin's recent death.
The short period of political uncertainty between these two rulers
allowed for a resurgence of historical renovation. Many buildings
were placed on a protected list to assure a sense of historical
continuation in this rapidly changing city. Kruschev's acquisition
of power once again put the nation under the thumb of a powerful
ruler. He reinstigated the purge of historical monuments for his
own vision of the future of Moscow. He brought with him the
resurgence of Modernism and struck out to abolish any ties with
Micro-Rayons' Outlying Moscow 1969
Though showing little respect for the history of his nation,
Kruschev did prove to be quite pervasive in the provision of
housing. The construction of micro-rayons', satellite communities
around Moscow, provided the much needed housing people so
Unfortunately with these developments came the problems
of poor construction quality, sub-par transportation and
inadequate services. Although the intention to provide for the
Soviet peoples needs was noble the lack of planning on the larger
37Kathleen Berton, Moscow: An Architectural Historv(New York: St.
Martin's Press 1977)246..
scale left these newly built behemoths without the essential
support systems to make them effective. Moscow would continue
to grow at a rampant pace and these needs continued as the
forefront of political and architectural concern.
The Present Day Dilemma:
1985 marked the beginning of a new era for the Soviet
Union. Mikhail Gorbachev was now the ruler of what was
considered to be one of the two great superpowers of the world.
The nation had been left in a state of stagnation during the last
several years as power was passed from elder to elder of the
ruling party. Gorbachev was elected as one of the youngest
candidates to be empowered in the past decade. It was with him
that the Soviet Communist Party was placing their trust and their
In 1985, Gorbachev implemented his vision for the future.
It fell under the title of Perestroika, a word of many meanings
which include restructuring, refashioning, reshaping and
reorganizing.38 This refered most specifically to the economic
situation which the Soviet Union was having to come to terms with,
yet it also encompassed other aspects of Russian life. The Soviets
had reached a crossroads in history. Gorbachev felt that without
drastic measures his nation would surely loose any claim it held as
a player in the game of world politics. He also envisioned his
nation slowly crumbling apart from within. The time had come for
the implementation of a far reaching program which would allow
greater freedom for all Soviet citizens. A crucial notion which is
associated with Perestroika is Glasnost or 'making accessible for
38Yegorov, Alexander, The Posters of Glasnost and Perestroika(London:
Penguin Group 1989).
public discussion'.39 This term carries with it the implication of
free speech which for so long has been lacking in the society of
proud yet quiet individuals. The ability to express concerns and
dissatisfactions with the current system provided a breeding
ground for change in the near future. An important portion of this
program was the rewriting of historical events. So many years of
deceit and adjusted history had left this nation without a sense of
reality; as if they were living in a surrealist condition. The attempt
to provide verified facts about past atrocities is much like the first
prescribed step in any psychiatric treatment. Even so, many of the
citizens of the Soviet Union seem quite skeptical of the new policy.
After so many years of subjugation and lies, they were not willing
to quickly gather around a new slogan. The effectiveness of this
program would have to stand the test of time before acceptance
permeated all classes of individuals.
The basis for Perestroika, which was formulated by the
central governing committee of the Soviet people, placed its faith
and foothold in the realm of socialism. It used the Marxist-
Leninist documents on this subject as a place from which to gather
strength. Gorbachev put forth that socialism is not the crux of the
problems which have developed for this nation but instead it is the
under utilization of this program which has brought them to this
point.40 As inspiration, Gorbachev looked to the period of
39Yegorov, Alexander, The Posters of Glasnost and Perestroika(London:
Penguin Group 1989).
40Mikhail Gorbachev, PerestroikafNew York: Harper & Row 1987)10.
Revolution which had created the method of control under which
the Soviet Union was now living. He returned to the writings of
Lenin and Marx for clues as to what had gone wrong and what
might be useful in the re-establishment of the national pride.
Most important to this process were Lenin's belief in lofty moral
strength, all-around spiritual culture and selfless devotion to the
cause of the people and to socialism.41 The words held strong
connotation yet their implementation would be the difficult part of
The Soviet Union had an economy which was rapidly losing
pace with the rest of the global powers. The position they had
strove so hard to define was now disintegrating. The technological
base was no longer producing worthwhile innovations, the
agricultural industry was struggling to provide the country with
the needed amounts of food, and the raw materials which
normally provided the needed income on the world market no
longer covered the deficit. The ruble was quickly losing value on
the international scale and the morale of the people was declining.
Within this faltering economy, the daily needs of the citizens were
no longer being met. There was not adequate food nor clothing and
the housing situation, which for once was seen as stable and
improved was now slipping into the unlivable.42 Perestroika, seen
41 Mikhail Gorbachev, PerestroikalNew York: Harper & Row 1987)25.
42Mikhail Gorbachev, PerestroikaCNew York: Harper & Row 1987)14.
by many politicians as a somewhat radical solution, was agreed
upon as the hope of the future.
Implementation was the key. Since its arrival in 1985,
Perestroika with all its good intentions has done little to resurrect
the economy. According to many of the citizens the situation has
continued to decline and the situation has left the people with little
hope. Action has been slow in coming but reactions have stirred.
With his position becoming ever more tenuous, Gorbachev has
been walking a tightrope between the communist hard liners and
the revolutionary factions mounting against their current struggle.
In the spring of 1991, Gorbachev declared his position in favor of
the democratic establishment for the Soviet states. The communist
party was dealt a lethal blow. The breakup of the Soviet Union was
seen as imminent as the central government was no longer able to
provide for its people. Many of the Soviet states declared
independence from the Union. The communist system which had
ruled for so long now was giving way to a democratic form of
government; power for the people by the people.
In an attempt to maintain its hold upon the governing
agencies of the nation, the communist party made a last ditch
effort at preservation. On the eve of the signing of an agreement
which would give governing power to the individual states of the
Union, the communist party staged a coup. The morning of August
19, 1991 was to be the day of resurrection. President Gorbachev,
who had produced the document which would form this
democratic union, was kidnapped. The communists claimed
themselves as the imminent ruling body and immediately, as if
time had returned to the days of Stalin, revoked privileges to any
newspapers or radio stations not directly controlled by them.
Tanks swirled throughout Moscow as a show of power and all
parties not in line with communism were told to disband. With
Gorbachev under house arrest, the only political figurehead
capable of producing resistance was Boris Yeltsin, leader of the
Russian Democratic Republic. Citizens, labor unions and other
nations of the world rallied against the coup attempt and the
communist party was thwarted in a matter of days. Gorbachev
returned to power but not without a severe loss of power to the
new national hero Yeltsin.
It now became the task of both Yeltsin and Gorbachev to
preserve their united nation. States were preparing to secede and
form their own governmental entity. If this became the case, all
the work put into Perestroika would be lost and the individual
states would be forced to fend for themselves. All would have to
establish themselves within a world market while trying to
recuperate from the economic hardship which still plagued them.
It is both Yeltsin and Gorbachev's belief that their only hope for
survival is to remain united. Hope is all they have. The
separatists have agreed to listen but the situation is highly volatile.
These ensuing months will tell the tale of the future of this once
As of December 9, 1991 and the Soviet Union had officially
been declared defunct by Boris Yeltsin. President Gorbachev had
his powers stripped and the individual states are now in the
process of establishing themselves within a world market. The
three states considered most powerful in the Soviet Union; Russia,
Belorussia and Ukraine, have formed an alliance and are currently
reshaping the future for their establishment as independent states
acting together on matters of an open market economy and the
handling of nuclear weaponry.
It becomes readily apparent that each country within the
former Soviet Union will eventually demand its independence. As
these rediscovered factions establish themselves and test their
social and military boundaries, struggle and suffering will occur.
These times of self expression and the establishment of cultural
lines, after the removal of the communist curtain, will produce
hardship. Through the struggle, a new order will form and we can
only hope that the individual will prevail. One thing is certain;
they cannot go back.
Sl)c J\c\u jjork Simcs
GORBACHEV IS OUSTED IN AN APPARENT COUP
BY SOVIET ARMED FORCES AND HARD-LINERS;
ACCUSED OF STEERING INTO A BLIND ALLEY
RESISTANCE TO SOVIET TAKEOVER GROWS
AS DEFIANT CROWDS RALLY FOR YELTSIN
GORBACHEV BACK AS COUP FAILS,
BUT YELTSIN GAINS NEW POWER
YELTSIN IS ROUTING COMMUNIST PARTY
FROM KEY ROLES THROUGHOUT RUSSIA;
HE FORCES VAST GORBACHEV SHAKE- UP
SOVIET CONGRESS YIELDS RULE TO REPUBLICS
TO AVOID POLITICAL AND ECONOMIC COLLAPSE
GORBACHEV QUITS AS PARTY HEAD;
ENDS COMMUNISMS 74-YEAR REIGN
SOVIETS RECOGNIZE BALTIC INDEPENDENCE,
ENDING 51-YEAR OCCUPATION OF 3 NATIONS
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