The “father” of this modernist style is the Frenchman Le Corbusier. But the young Soviet Russia in the 20-30s. Twentieth century. contributed so much to the development of this avant-garde, innovative, experimental architecture!
There is even a point of view that it is our country with its left, revolutionary art of those years, its homeland.
Penthouse for Commissar
In any case, the first penthouse in the world appeared in the Soviet building – the 8-storey Narkomfin House (Novinsky Blvd., 25) (one).
This house-commune – again the first one both in the country and in the world – was designed for the workers of the People’s Commissariat of Finance. Moses Ginsburg, one of the founders of the style, and Ignatius Milinis, his student. The house as a monument of architecture – under the protection of UNESCO. But at the same time he is in the list of the 100 best buildings in the world that are facing destruction. Until recently, the house for decades was in a state of disrepair, without a major overhaul. Plans for large-scale reconstruction and adaptation of the unique building under modernity in the 1990s – 2000s were never implemented. Today, the House of People’s Commissariat of Finance is again in the process of repairing – new owners are already engaged in this. The task is to preserve the architecture of the house-ship. Both internal and external. But what is its originality?
Constructivism in architecture is immediately recognizable – clear geometric forms, protruding, like hinged, details, no decorations, a lot of glass … The project of House Narkomfin also had a clear ideological, social platform: enough to live with individual families – it’s time to live as a commune. Apartments (and there were 10 types, they differed in size of the so-called “living cells”) – with high ceilings. Windows, stairs, galleries, balconies. Common room – dining room for sharing meals (Down with burgher kitchens!). It’s funny, but one of the fan architects was “redesigned” in those years (down with the bourgeois bedrooms!) To dormitories and “cabins for overnight stays” – for privacy (according to the schedule) of family and free couples! The idea of free love and socialization of women was then popular.
For the then Commissar of Finance Nikolay Milutin under his personal supervision was built penthouse – a two-level housing right under the flat roof and with access to it in a winter garden with a marvelous view of the city. Milyutin was a revolutionary in biography and a constructivist at heart, who even wrote the book “Social City”. Sports and reading rooms, laundry, garage, kindergarten – all in the name of free labor and man! “The house of transitional type” – so it was called as a step from bourgeois to socialist in everyday life, ideology, architecture – did not succeed either among the professionals or the tenants. By the way, the creator of the innovative house Ginsburg himself refused to live in it, preferring the banal “old-regime” apartment.
House Narkomfin settled in the 30s, at the same time with another sad and majestic monument of the constructivism era – the Government House Boris Iofana, also conceived as a house commune. By the end of the 30s, most of the residents in both houses were arrested or shot. The utopia of the semi-fantastic project – the house-ships – was wrecked.
“Nowhere except …”
Constructivist projects had to be practical, functional. About three dozens of residential complexes have survived – Khavsko-Shabolovsky (1927-1930), Preobrazhenskoye, a complex of hostels of the “Red Professorship” on B. Pirogovskaya Street 51, office 2-8 (2), housing estate on Rusakovskaya street, 4-8 (3), complex of buildings in Khamovniki on Pogodinskaya St., 2/3, p. 1-4 (four) , for workers, including the plant “rubber”. This ensemble crowns the monument of constructivism of the great Konstantin Melnikova – club factory “Kauchuk” (st. Plyushikha, d. 64/6, p. 1 (five)).
Constructivist “socialist cities” were created in the 20-30s. Twentieth century. for the “new man” with the new organization of his daily life. Mobile wiring “on the rollers”, “street refrigerators” under the windowsills, special lighting, built-in wardrobes … Residents united the workplace, social status, as well as the “through” aisles inside between the entrances, courtyards, sports grounds, kindergartens and nurseries.
In addition to housing, the “new person” needed much more – to buy groceries and clothes somewhere and spend free time, to move somehow. Constructivism and here offered a lot of ideas – bridge, clubs, cinemas, garages, bus, trolleybus, tram parks, kitchen factories (where they were manufactured by conveyor, Yuri Olesha, in unbelievable quantities, “Oceans of Glory, mounds of porridge” for the workers), bakeries, food factories and warehouses … By the way, and the planetarium (Sadovaya-Kudrinskaya St., 5 (6)) – a monument of constructivism 1927-1928!
As among the houses there is a true temple of constructivism – the legendary round Melnikov House in Krivoarbatsky Lane, 10, and among the industrial buildings of this style there is a temple – the building of Mosselprom from 1923-1925. (Kalashny Lane, 2/10 (7)).
“Nowhere except in Mosselprom!” – who doesn’t know this slogan? Its author is the left poet, Futurist Mayakovsky. The authors of the panel on the building are avant-garde classics, artists Rodchenko and Stepanova. This 7-storey building with a 6-coal tower with battlements (a profitable house before the revolution), rebuilt in the 20s as warehouses and offices of the food trust of the Moscow Council of National Economy, became a symbol of this very economy. The trust united flour-grinding, confectionery, chocolate, brewing (there was such a beer – “Friend of the stomach”) and tobacco enterprises. Another landmark house, which you can admire now, is the building of the Ministry of Agriculture of the Russian Federation, designed by the architect Alexey Shchusev in the early 1930s (Sadovaya-Spasskaya St., 11/1 (eight)).
And the Jewish Museum and Tolerance Center (11 Obraztsova St., p. 1a) is located in the building of the world-significant architectural monument of constructivism – Bakhmetyevskiy garage, designed by the same genius Melnikov. This building of about 8,500 m² was built by him in 1927 with the participation of no less great Vladimir Shukhov (his last work), whose famous TV tower on Shabolovka can also be considered a monument of constructivism. In the garage for a long time located the 3rd bus depot, the building was in poor condition. But since 2012, here is one of the important cultural, educational, exhibition centers of the city.