Friday, February 05, 2010

Radio Free Constructivism



There are ironies aplenty in Radio Free Europe defending a monument of constructivist, socialist architecture against the neoliberal hordes who would destroy it. Strange alliances... (see also Clementine Cecil in Blueprint.)

15 Comments:

Blogger Giovanni said...

I liked one of the comments: "It along with the Stalinist bunker could boost tourism efforts in Samara". Mussolini's birthplace has always claimed its right to hawk fascist relics on those grounds, and the forest that was planted to spell out DVX was likewise restored so it could become an attraction. So probably the leap of ideology is not so great here either.

A hammer and sickle shaped building, though... genius.

9:11 pm  
Blogger Lang Rabbie said...

That has to be one of the most astonishing recladding jobs in history. I already had Clementine Cecil's lecture on 17th Feb at Pushkin House as a possible in my diary - now seems to be have become a must.

10:20 pm  
Anonymous crappy building said...

Uh... I understand we shouldn't pretend nothing happened during the XXth century and pulling a Stadtschloss is a prime exemple, but this building is rather silly and not representative of Constructivism...

7:43 am  
Anonymous SEOリンク said...

The design of the building is very outstanding and attractive.

9:27 am  
Blogger avvakum said...

Thanks, Owen.

The "alliance" between RFE and Soviet constructivism is less ironic if you know how RFE (Radio Svoboda) operates within Russia. Its brief on the home front is to cover the "opposition", in (almost) whatever form that opposition takes. And in the past several years that opposition has increasingly taken the form of protests against reckless urban redevelopment.

When Svoboda turns its gaze to international affairs, it remains as reactionary as you could hope for. A few days ago, the comrades and I were marveling at their report on recent events in Venezuela (the protests against TV station closures), in which Svoboda's journalist referred to Cuba as a "communist hell" whose inhabitants desire nothing so much as to escape to the US.

In this case it's also relevant that the journalist who wrote this article for RFE (Kevin O'Flynn) is one of the co-founders of MAPS (Moscow Architecture Preservation Society), along with Clementine Cecil, whose article you also refer to.

And thank goodness they founded it - in 2004, well ahead of any other more concerted efforts in Moscow, which should have had something like this at least a decade ago. It is only in the past year that the Muscovites have begun to get their act together, forming Arkhnadzor (Architecture Watch), an analogue to Petersburg's Living City movement (which has been on the scene for over three years now):

http://www.archnadzor.ru/

I would strongly encourage anyone who can to attend the Feb. 17 lecture at Pushkin House. I'd be especially interested to hear your take on it, Owen.

I don't understand crappy building's comment. The Samara kitchen factory might not be representative of some kind of idealized Constructivism, but it is quite representative of Constructivism on the ground in the Soviet Union in the late twenties and early thirties.

Finally, it's not quite true that the Samara building is the only hammer and sickle building in Russia. There are least two building complexes in Leningrad that directly allude to the shape, although they didn't quite go for broke like their Samara cousin.

9:12 am  
Blogger owen hatherley said...

Yeah, sorry if that sounded sniffy - MAPS are a very good thing and all power to them. I suppose I was slightly defensive about my occasional preservationism because someone had just described me as a 'conservative marxist'...

1:41 pm  
Blogger jannon said...

A personal irony:

The reason I speak German is this: my dad worked for RFE/RL in Munich from 1990–95.

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