Stalinist Architecture - Background (1900–1931)

Background (1900–1931)

Before 1917, the Russian architectural scene was divided between Russky Modern (a local interpretation of Art Nouveau, stronger in Moscow), and Neoclassical Revival (stronger in Saint Petersburg). The Neoclassical school produced mature architects like Alexey Shchusev, Ivan Zholtovsky, Ivan Fomin, Vladimir Shchuko and Alexander Tamanian; by the time of the Revolution they were established professionals, with their own companies, schools and followers. These people would eventually become Stalinism's architectural elders and produce the best examples of the period.

Another school that began after the Revolution is now known as Constructivism. Some of the Constructivists (like the Vesnin brothers) were young professionals who had established themselves before 1917, while others had just completed their professional education (like Konstantin Melnikov) or didn't have any. They associated themselves with groups of modern artists, compensating for lack of experience with public exposure. When the New Economic Policy began, their publicity resulted in architectural commissions. Experience was not gained quickly, and many constructivist buildings were justly criticized for irrational floorplans, cost overruns and low quality.

For a brief time in the mid-1920s, the architectural profession operated the old-fashioned manner, with private companies, international contests, competitive bidding and disputes in professional magazines. Foreign architects were welcomed, especially towards the end of this period, when the Great Depression reduced their jobs at home. Among theses were Ernst May, Albert Kahn, Le Corbusier, Bruno Taut and Mart Stam. The difference between traditionalists and constructivists was not well defined. Zholtovsky and Shchusev hired modernists as junior partners for their projects, and at the same time incorporated constructivist novelties in their own designs. During 1930 Gosproekstroi was established as part of the Building Commission of Vesenkha with the help of Albert Kahn Inc. It employed 3,000 designers with a budget of 417 million rubles.

Urban planning developed separately. Housing crises in big cities and the industrialization of remote areas required mass housing construction, development of new territories and reconstruction of old cities. Theorists devised a variety of strategies that created politicized discussions without much practical result; State intervention was imminent.

Read more about this topic:  Stalinist Architecture

Famous quotes containing the word background:

    I had many problems in my conduct of the office being contrasted with President Kennedy’s conduct in the office, with my manner of dealing with things and his manner, with my accent and his accent, with my background and his background. He was a great public hero, and anything I did that someone didn’t approve of, they would always feel that President Kennedy wouldn’t have done that.
    Lyndon Baines Johnson (1908–1973)