Influences of Constructivism in the Deconstructivist Process of Contemporary Architecture.

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The influences of the USRR constructivism in the deconstructivist process of contemporary architecture.

What is the purpose of Architecture?

This is a question that permeates our minds since we started to think the architecture into a social, cultural and historical context.

In the beginning of the XX Century, an avant-guard chain inspired in a search for a new society showed a politic and social critic through the artistic experimentalism and formal innovation.

The constructivism started a communication process through the geometry exploration to present ideology and aesthetics in a community basis able to establish a new architectural language based on the objective, rationalists principles exemplified by engineering structures, breaking with the current structure adopted in the traditional architecture.

At that moment, the purpose of architecture were clearly defined as a tool to serve the society in a search for a new political structure; and, the compaction of forms created an unit in the design that put in evidence the tensions and ambiguities of the period.

The dynamic of objects and empty space creating visual tension by Malevich and the URSS Pavillion by Melnikov. A Representation of elements that cannot be read individually.

Defined as ‘poets in steel and glass’ by Le Corbusier, the constructivists found in the abstraction and new configuration of the simple geometry the way to destabilize poetically the order of the structure mimetizes the social sphere experienced.

Therefore, inevitably, when the deconstructivism was presented at the ‘Deconstructivists Architects’ exposition on MOMA in 1988; Philip Johnson e Mark Wigley, curators of the event, put in evidence the parallel existent between this new movement and the formal basis of constructivism.

Deconstruction is the term that first appears in a text by E. Husser and, comes as decomposition, dismantling of the elements of writing in order to discover parts of a text that are disguised.

From the term, the concept of deconstruction is elaborated by Jacques Derrida, the philosopher, says that words do not have the ability to express everything you want to express by them, so that words and concepts do not communicate what they promise and thus are capable of being modified in thought. Therefore, what we see, hear and say just might be in fact an immutable fact, if we accept to deconstruct, to find the essence, take the ambiguous and awaken the senses.

In other words, would be like say that to feel what a text, a work of art, or in this case, what architecture really want to convey to you, it was necessary that the excesses were removed and the key elements cause a disturbance, perturbation or inconvenience.

In architecture, not only based on the philosophy of Derrida, the parallel found between constructivism and the new current concerns not only in the essential use of pure geometric forms, to the dismantling, deconstruction, transformation, use of elaborate plans, the poetic overprint in a diagonal of rectangular and trapezoidal shapes; but mostly the nature of the architectural object.

‘Deconstruction is that which is necessary to structure but evades structural analysis (and analysis is invariably structural). It is the breakdown of structure that is the very possibility of structure’

If constructivism mimetizes the lived social experiences, would be possible to say that deconstruction mimetizes a virtual reality comprised by the not logical, by breaking the hierarchy defined in constructivism and thus, deconstructivism applies perfectly to the aesthetic created because, although taking, appropriating the constructivist concepts, they are completely bypass the established initial purpose and although exploited by deconstructivist, the way was shown by constructivist.

"The question is that were the Russians who discovered the geometrical configurations that can be used to destabilize the structure." - Mark Wigley

Peter Eisenman was involved with the deconstructivism since the conception, recognizing the fundamental connection between philosophy and architecture in relation to ideological structuring and, in his work with Jacques Derrida, The Chora (L) Works, is established the search for the materialization of this connection in a creative activity: the deconstruction of architecture.

Quoting Derrida, Eisenman said that “architecture is a locus of the metaphysics of presence.” Then providing a more tangible explanation, he explained that Deconstructivist architecture seeks to remove all rules and systems from architecture, stripping it of all the codified methods of the past in a game between presence and absence, ideology and aesthetics providing a physical and spatial experience .

So, is possible to affirm that deconstructivism and constructivism have been concerned with the tectonics of making an abstract assemblage and, in this process, as said by Medina, Esteban in ‘Forma y composición en la Arquitectura deconstructivista’, the fragmentation, superposition, torsion, twinning, fold and crosslinking of the geometry can be appointed as common points.

Also, both adopted the structuralism as a start point to start the composition and decomposition of forms in a way that is impossible to understand the piece of architecture in the individual parts, but only in a context of unit. Each piece of the architectonic composition has a different function and a limit, properties to be deformed inside of a system. But the understanding of that only can be made in cooperation with the other elements, like music and each note: only makes sense in a context.

This principles can be seen in the Houses I to XI by Peter Eisenman and, the Guardíola House, that was developed by the deconstruction of a Cube and the interposition of plans in the shape of an ‘L’ and clearly has a similarity with the composition by Federovich Krinsky.

Structural composition analysis between Images from Medina, Vicente Esteban. Forma y composición en la Arquitectura deconstructivista Experimental Methodology by Fedorovich Krinsky and House X by Peter Eisenman.

Experimental Methodology by Fedorovich Krinsky and House X by Peter Eisenman.

Guardiola House by Peter Eisenman.

Notwithstanding, the influences of the russian constructivism in the spacial deconstruction process can be seen in the architecture of important contemporary icons like Zaha Hadid, Coop Himmelblau, Frank Gehry, Daniel Libeskind and Rem Koolhaas and, the reactions evoked by this architecture, maybe can be explained by the philosophy behind the process.

The architecture, as it all, was ‘born’ inside logical patterns, racional, geometric and based, primarily in the coordinated and orthogonal axes of the Cartesian plane (x,y,z). Almost 350 year later, still is rare to walk around the city and find a building that hat does not bear this orthogonality referenced in Enlightenment projects.

The descriptive geometry, using the Cartesian plane and the Mongian trihedral, made ​​possible the industrialization of construction and consequently the contemporary buildings in a way, became 'predictable'. If designed within the overall geometrical orthogonal planes; the cubes, cylinders, pyramids and solids become common as structural figures of thought and design practice.

The Cartesian Plane and its representation in the Mondrian Composition. The Mongian trihedral and Van Doesburg’s illustration for the House Schröeder, 1924.

However, man is not purely rational being often taken completely by emotions, so to disrupt the orthogonal planes, playing with shapes and create a perceptual instability caused by the dialectic between solids and voids, presence and absence, the deconstructivist shall deal with human emotion and, as Derrida would say, cause restlessness necessary for questioning and understanding of the work presented , even in a paradoxical way.

Daniel Liebeskind deconstruction of the Mongian trihedral at The Wohl Centre Project in Israel, 2005 and at the Jewish Museum in Berlin, 1999. Images from

Also, Zaha Hadid explored this interruption, transformation and deconstruction of the orthogonal planes sorely as showed in the images below.

Zaha Hadid’s deconstruction of the Cartesian Plane at IBA Housing in Berlin, 1987-94. Images from:

The subversion of values ​​presented in the controlled chaos causes the questioning regarding the shape and spatial function and so, even if using elementary geometry, causes different reactions when dealing with an abstract perception of what can be understood as a structural harmony .

Is not anymore an architecture for the society and their political transformations, but an architecture for the human perception in the real space.



  • DERRIDA, Jacques & EISENMAN, Peter (1997). Chora l Works. Monacelli Press. ISBN 1-885254-40-7.
  • MEDINA, Vicente Esteban (2003) Forma y composición en la Arquitectura deconstructivista (Chapter 3). Universidad Politécnica de Madrid. Madrid Intellectual Registration Nº 16/2005/3967. Link to download the pdf:
  • RICKEY, George (1995). Constructivism: Origins and Evolution. George Braziller; Revised edition. ISBN 0-8076-1381-9
  • VENTURI, Robert. Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture. New Tork: Museum of
  • Modern Art, 1966.
  • ZYGAS, Kestutis Paul (1981). Forms Follows Form. UMI Research Press. ISBN 0-8357-1177-3