One might think that Soviet architecture would be depressed

Detail from the cover of “Eastern Blocs”. (DR)

Undoubtedly, Soviet architects had talent. Fanatics of infinite repetitions, geniuses of urban stuttering, interested in fractal geometry, invented Lego cities and connected Russia with cities where Sarcelles and Charleroi are Eden parks. In “Eastern Blocs” subtitled “Concrete Landscapes of the Former Eastern Bloc”, the Polish collective “Zupagrafika” has gathered together the best examples of Lenin-Stalinist creativity, indicating a slight change in the vocabulary: “The Iron Curtain was actually a Concrete Curtain: behind it everything was gray”. For the Soviets, the idea of ​​glamor was the Technical Institute of Robotics and Cybernetics, a monstrous tower planted like a bubo around St. Petersburg. From Halle-Neustadt to the Palace of Culture in Warsaw, through Novi Beograd and Skopje, brutal architecture triumphed, the ideal product of the mind of the little father of nations and his successors, the sweet dreamers of Moscow Marxism. Because frankly, these sets, these HLM, these halls, these modern districts that should shelter the triumphant proletariat, are magnificent in their abomination.

The book begins with the Ernst-Thalmann park in Berlin-Pankov: the district is destined for a moment of depression. Undoubtedly, the apartment rental agreement is offered with a mega order of psychological support. The cultural center of Berlin-Marza is as cheerful as the cultural organizer in the Gulag with its Kino-Sojus cinema, a kind of cube inspired by an atomic bomb shelter: here works like “Electrification” can be seen. (an animated film!) or “Ode to the tractor” (a visual poem highly appreciated by Khrushchev). In Moscow, there is a “House on Chicken Legs”, built in 1968 on Mira Avenue, right next to the famous sculpture “Worker and Collective Farmer Woman” (24 meters high, 80 tons) by the architect Boris Iofan. Church of the Holy Redeemer, was awarded the Stalin Prize and the Order of the Red Banner of Labor. Chicken legs, where are they? The building is an endless variation of reinforced concrete balconies, almost imposing against the “Titanic” block, an apartment building on Bolchaia Tulskaya street (imagine a giant tooth that has rotted well). I have a particular preference for the Lenin Automobile Museum, south of Moscow: it’s an asphalt slab set in the middle of a mud field, generously illuminated at night (I wonder why). Seeing something from a distance makes a person want to run back. Considering such car brands as Lada, Volga, Pobieda, Aurus, Mosvitch, Marussia, Zil, perhaps this was the intention of the designers. Mochissims.

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Taras-Shevchenko Faculty of Physics in Holosiiv district (district) in the south of Kyiv.
Taras-Shevchenko Faculty of Physics in Holosiiv district (district) in the south of Kyiv. (DR)

Soviet architecture is so ugly it’s beautiful


Kyiv in Ukraine is a special case: architects tried to incorporate popular motifs into the buildings of this Socialist Republic using prefabricated panels ( “panels”). The result: terrible. The huge mosaic wall decorating the HLM of Peremohy Prospekt (a ten-lane street, 13 kilometers long) depicts a blue sickle and a purple hammer against a background of palms of glory (eight meters high). plan of the orange highway (if any). The medal for most hideous construction goes to the Tarass-Shevchenko Faculty of Physics in the Holosiiv district (district) south of Kyiv: a massive extruded concrete delirium in the style of the Great Works applied Atlantic Wall. France in 1943 (pictured above). Word “aesthetic” (word aesthetics in ancient Greek, that is “Who Has Sense”) does not apply here. All we feel is Ouch ouch.

Founded in 2012 by David Navarro and Martina Sobecka in Poznan, Poland, the photo collective Zupagrafika dedicates its publications to postmodernist architecture: from “Brutal London” to “Soviet playgrounds”, not forgetting “Paris Brut” and “The Constructivist”. , the titles summarize the cubic world, truly intended to depress. On an album like Eastern Blocks, it’s so ugly it’s beautiful. Actually, on the other hand, only one solution: work with Valium-Temesta-vodka. FF

When the Soviets envisioned crazy bus stopsEastern blocs, concrete views of the former Eastern blocZupagrafika, 144 p., 2019. €20.87 on Amazon.

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