The Value of Design as Landmarks, Construction Performances and Budget

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Chapter 3

The value of design as landmarks, construction performances and budget

The following chapter will assess the value of the designs as landmarks, construction performances and budget. Soviet buildings and monuments were not just an expression of innovative ideas, but also symbolic superstructures designed to remind people about the birth of a new era (i.e. socialistic regime) and also to emphasize the power and authority of the government (McCauley, 1983). In the center of the biggest socialist project was Moscow, whose glory was soon about to initiate a construction boomacross the whole Soviet Union. The general plan for the soviet capital included broad avenues, solid skyscrapers, and numerous monuments celebrating the achievements of the soviet regime(Tarkhanov, Kavtaradze&Anikst, 1992) .However, even not fully implemented, the new master plan quickly buried ancient Moscow in the dust leaving many to wonder whether the idea worth it or not (Crowley, 1993). For instance, there were few big projects about the demolition of historic buildings such as The Cathedral of Christ the Saviour (figure 6), which was the biggest Orthodox Church in the world. The construction contained more than 20 tons of high quality gold, and it took one year to clear the ruins and build a soviet palace on its place. Nonetheless, for a number of reasons the palace was never built and the church was reconstructed again in August 2000 (Surhone, Timpledon&Marseken, 2010).

Beside the landmark value of the soviet designs, there was a reasonable skepticism regarding their resistance and stability. It took decades to establish whether Soviet architects were prepared for the megaprojects or they simply took the chance. Nowadays it has become evident that Stalinism designs might be grey and ponderous but so far they are successfully resisting time(Tarkhanov, Kavtaradze, and Anikst, 1992).However, in 2005 the restoration of The BolshoiTheatre(figure 7) raised again some doubts. After assessing the construction, engineers concluded that 75% of the construction is unstable. Even though, the initial cost was $610 million, the amount increased to $850 million (Gelder, 2008). A good reason for it might be the regulations accepted back in 1935, when the Moscow’s Master plan was officially accepted. There were two very important conditions in terms of public safety and construction stability: a) the use of all low-cost materials should be forbidden; b) to follow new precautions, proposed by the seismic institute. As a result, the designs after 1935 are consider as more resistant, but still by that time a lot of projects were already accomplished such as The BolshoiTheatre (, 2015). The socialistic realism was a costly style, due to its standards of size, materials and stability. The budget for the buildings was not as important as their main purpose, which was to symbolisethe beginning of a new era, and stand out from anything else seen by that time.

‘I don’t care a spit for tons of bronze; I don’t care a spit for slimy marble … let out common monument be socialism built in battle ‘,(Mayakovsky, n.d.).

Still, today it is worth asking how practical were these buildings and how thin is the line between symbolism and grandiosity? One of the biggest architectural achievements of Stalin's architects is considered to be the so-called “seven sisters” (figure 1), which represent seven skyscrapers placed in the center of Moscow. The biggest among them was the Moscow State University, 240 meters tall, built by approximately 9000 Russians. Even though some of the other skyscrapers were constructed by thousands of prisoners from the Gulag and Germany projects were still very expensive (Kyuntsel, 2011). Only university’s construction worth 2.6 billion rubles (£415 million), and approximately additional 2billionrubles were spent for the completion of the other six buildings. Also, it should be noted that these skyscrapers became notorious with their inner construction, which included unnecessarily broad spaces such as halls and hallways. In present days, the only shortcomings found in the construction of the seven sisters were the constant troubles with the elevators.

In general, the era of the architectural social realism is well known for its colossal constructs, requiring not just a lot of material, but also a big number of manpower. Everything from massive grey or red brick walls with narrow windows, impassable corridors and large halls can be considered as characteristic of the Stalinist’s style, where main purpose was to tell the story about the unprecedented power of one dictator.

Chapter four

Identification and comparison of the most controversial design projects during Stalinism

An objective of this chapter is whether or not the biggest successes and failures of Stalinist architecture can be identified. Socialism can be associated with various abstract thoughts. Some are identifying the period between 1944 and 1989 as golden one, others associate it with the period of injustice and privatisation. Soulless uniform panel houses, simple geometric shapes, minimalism and the absence of decorative surpluses (Ref). To a large extent such belief is fair, although at the time of the USSR were created projects desperately bold images that look bizarre. It is very difficult to give a definitive and complete answer of whether Socialism wasa time of success or not.

Supplementary, will be looking at several case studies like Seven sisters, The Moskva Hotel, House of Soviets and critique will be given.

Seven sisters

Russia, Moscow

(1947 -1953)

In honor of the 800th anniversary of Moscow, on 12th September are laid the foundations of eight skyscrapers in Moscow. Their location is anything but accidental and this is ensured by Stalin. In one of the constructions he amended the direction of the riverflow, in order to recreate different perspective over the building. In other case he flattened a loved legacy region to the ground. Even Notwithstanding, Stalin shattered the most sacrosanct place in Moscow the Cathedral of Christ the Savior(figure 8), in order to raise the Palace of Soviets, which was never built(, 2011).

During this time of period there was a need of a lot of building material, which reflects over the urban development. For instance between the periods of 1947-1949, the built-up area in Moscow varies within 100,000 to 405,000 sq. meters of residential units, while the area used for the skyscrapers exceeds 500,000 sq. meters

Another important aspect that has influenced on the development of architecture during communism is the labor.Behind the development of the Seven Sisters, stand more than 14,000 German prisoners from Gulag(Ri︠a︡bushin&Smolina, 1992). Another bizarre example is Buzludzha(figure 9), Bulgaria, with its 6000 workers(, n.d.).

The Moskva Hotel

Moscow, RussiaA.

Schusev, L.Savalev, O.Stapran, 1936

In 1930, concurrently are constructed two new buildings on OkhotnyRyad in Moscow(figure 10), the State Committee for Labour and the Moskva hotel.The soviet architect Arkady Langman, compose the design of State Committee, which after its completion, becomes a classic monument for the period. On the other hand, behind the development of hotel Moscow there is another historical perception(, n.d.).In 1932, the soviet architects Leonid Savelev and Oleg Stapran won the contest for the design of Moskva Hotel, the plans were reflection of clear geometrical forms in the vitality of constructivism. During the construction of Moskva hotel it became clear that appearance of the structure doesn’t belong for its environment and site, subsequently received a sharp comments from professionals, but unconditional recognition from community(Ri︠a︡bushin&Smolina, 1992). However, there are gaps in terms of its inert composition and details, as well as many unfinished elements. The hotel was built as large a separate block closed, but with well-ventilated area, it consist of seventeen stories in its highest parts .The north side of the building inhered ten stories facing the Marx Prospect, while the western area towards Manezh Square, reveals from fourteen to seventeen stories with approximately 400,000 square meters in total. The prominent symmetry reinforces the idea for the development of different turrets (Ri︠a︡bushin&Smolina, 1992).There is a myth which spreads the reason why this building plan is as it is.There were two design proposals from Savelev and Stapran, drawn on the same sheet of paper. Stalin in other hand gave his approval by signing in between of the two concepts, which leads to confusion among the builders. Details are poorly displayed and linked to each other, with the idea to represent classical elements with Eastern motifs(, n.d.). .Although, as seen on (figure 10) Alexei Shchusev entirely redesigned and finalised the project.

The first picture (figure10)was taken between the periods of 1970 -1980, and shows the differences in the faced between the 1970 and 2010. After the review of the pictures, it can be made the following conclusion; in 1970 the left wing of the building had more ornate(figure 11) than the right side, as well the right side(figure 10) had smaller windows (, n.d.).

However, in 2004 the hotel was demolished in order to be raised a modern reproduction with underground parking .The second photo was taken in 2010, and shows less unnecessary details. It is a failure in terms of proportions and details, but yet is considered as a benchmark(Huber, 2003).

Lev Misozhnikov and Galina Kucher

Construction of the building began in 1970 over a site of the castle Königsberg.It isfamous with its long period of construction. The severity of the structure on top of the ruins has led to structural problems, because it was built on swampy ground(Castle, n.d.).The plan was to build a 28-storey building, but the foundations were insufficient for its implementation and only 21 floors were completed. Construction was held in 1985 because the Regional Party Committee considered that there is no more potential for further development, so they have stopped funding. In 1992an attempt was made to complete the project, but due to financial difficulties, was unsuccessful(Castle, n.d.). The building was abandoned and incomplete for many years(Rush, 2014). There was an opinion of the German consultant that this project should be destroyed, in order to be raised a cheaper and safer construction for the people. The building could be one of the worst examples of post-war Soviet architecture. The site serves as a symbol of the totalitarian past for many people.