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(re) inhabiting russian avant-garde

featuring: Rem Koolhaas, Natalia Dushkina, Clementine Cecil, Boris Groys, Kiril Asse, Moisei Ginzburg

special archiproba issue 2011

This issue of Archiproba magazine is a part of a research work of Strelka Institute for Media, Architecture and Design. The project was developed in Studio Preservation Next. Research program director - Rem Koolhaas, supervisers - Anastassia Smirnova, Nikita Tokarev.

dedicated to the memory of S.O. Khan - Magomedov

Khan - Magomedov’s Planet

by Natalia Dushkina His name became a legend already during his lifetime. Several generations of people called him “the Khan” behind his back. His terse, aloof, curt locution, his Orientally aristocratic sound and meaning packed an enormous punch, they bespoke his nearly fanatical firmness of purpose and will, his tremendous diligence, love of and commitment to the cause of his entire life - the study of architecture. Without those personal qualities that determined the strength of his talent, the phenomenon that might be rightfully called “Khan-Magomedov’s planet” would never happen. We mean this both literally and metaphorically. His contribution into the humanities and the history of world architecture was so significant, his “knowledge” of man’s physical environment so great, the central subject of his research - Russian avant-garde - so marked by its skyrocketing break with the “traditional” architecture and by its specific vision of the future as to make his whole activity a breakthrough of cosmic dimensions. We might presume that someday a newly discovered heavenly body will bear his name, which would only correspond to his academic magnitude and international importance. This is no exaggeration. S. O. Khan-Magomedov - and, through him, Russian architecture in the contest of our country’s recent history - are known to architects worldwide. His books started a never-ending flow of architectural pilgrimage to Russia.


My house, 1930

Every architect’s dream is to tell the world about the place he lives at. I was lucky to have been born where I was supposed to - or so I think. For nothing happens by chance in this life: people that we meet, events that influence us, places that we come to. I don’t recall when - and in what circumstances - I first heard the story of the apartment block where I live. I could remember neither the time of its construction nor the renowned names of constructivist architects who designed the earliest experimental residential “settlements” in Moscow. This issue of the Archiproba magazine is dedicated to the heritage of the period Konstantine Melnikov referred to as the “Brilliant Decade” - more exactly, to that part of Russian avant-garde which, by a strange twist of fate or because of historical circumstances, ended up in obscurity. Having composed a jigsaw puzzle of the entire live story out of microscopic pieces of available data, I’d like to thank people who helped me in that undertaking, especially those of them who replied to my letters, were willing to be interviewed and shared with me their most intimate, fondest memories. In a sense, I am a pioneer. And I am very glad to be the first to relate my personal account of the Moscow “workers’ settlements” - to be more exact, of my own “Usachevka” neighborhood. I know the place both as its adoring lifelong resident and as an architect acquainted with its inner features. by Tamara Muradova


chapter I

Avant-garde, why again ? 8 - 23

“Utopia and Exchange” by Boris Grois 14

“Mediocrity of the Russian Avant - garde” by Rem Koolhaas 20 chapter II

Amnesia 25 - 77

“Buildings appeal” by М.Krasnostavsky article from “Smena” magazine 34 “1000 people” social survey by Kira Kartashova 72 chapter III

The ‘phantom menace’ 79 - 94

“The main problems of the workers’ settlements” by Kiril Asse 84

“Why constructivism is unpopular in Russia ?” by Clementine Cecil 90 chapter IV

Genius loci 96 - 139 My “Usachevka” 100

Nastya, get home! interior session by Grigory Polyakovsky 114 Epilogue 141 - 144

“Imaginary interview” with Moisei Ginzburg 142

chapter I

Avant-garde, why again ?


academic definitions:


from Wikipedia Avant - garde means “advance guard” or “vanguard” the adjective form is used in English to refer to people or works that are experimental or innovative, particularly with respect to art, culture, and politics


from Oxford Dictionary of Literary Terms the French military and political term for the vanguard of an army or political movement, extended since the late 19’th century to that body of artists and writers who are dedicated to the idea of art as experiment and revolt against tradition


from Poetry Glossary the innovating artists or writers who promote the use of new or experimental concepts or techniques


from American Heritage Dictionary a group active in the invention and application of new techniques in a given field, especially in the arts


from Webster’s Dictionary the most advanced group of people in any field of endeavor, especially in literary and artistic work, usually characterized by new ideas and experimental techniques

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A.Rodchenko ‘Jumping into Water’ 1934 private archive A.Rodchenko amd V.Stepanova

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critical definitions:

“ We are the first men of a Future that has not materialized. We belong to a “great age” that has not “come off.” We moved too quickly for the world. We set too sharp a pace ” Wyndham Lewis

“ Avant - gardism is an addiction that can be appeased only by a revolution in permanence ” Harold Rosenberg

“ Wake up. The avant - garde is dead It’s been marketed ” Will Self

“ Avant - garde is French for bullshit ” John Lennon

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definitions thought:

A.Rodchenko about V.Tatlin (1915 - 1917)

“...Tatlin was a guest of Vesnin, we were got acquainted. I started saying, that I go visiting and can’t get any permission to participate in the Arts World exhibition. Tatlin also grumbled: “I already have my hair grey, but “They” still have not recognized me! Well, okay, we’ll make a futuristic exhibition…”

Rodchenko, Alexander. Articles, Recollections, Autobiographical notes, Letters. Moscow: Soviet Artist Publishing House, 1982. archiproba # 03


heroes, personages, authors, people...

A.Rodchenko about K.Malevich (1941 - 1942)

“…Malevich himself was not pleased me. He looked like somewhat square, with his sloppy eyes looked aside, insincere, vain, simple - minded and lapsided way of thinking. He came to me and said: “ You are unique down here, but don’t you know what you are doing? ” I replied: “ I don’t have any idea! ” “ You know, all they are doing here is obsolete and imitative. All this is finished. Our Russian novelty comes. And I am doing it, come to my place, you have already had it tentatively. It is in the air!...”

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Utopia and Exchange

We publish a chapter from “Utopia and Exchange�, book by Boris Groys, as it is the first text, devoted to the Avant-garde, reviewing it from the philosophical viewpoint.

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( from the Introduction ) by Boris Groys All utopias of the modern world have their source in

It turned out, however, that an art that no one wants,

art. Since the days of old, a work of art was an epitome

no one buys and no one consumes loses its value. This

of the world as it ought to be - complete in its entirety,

lay at the root of economic failure of the Soviet

harmonious, tragic, elevated, free, exquisite. Discard-

society. Its creators believed that subordinating the

ing these traditional ideals, the post - modern art of

entire society to the task of creating a new world is

these days designs a new world of its own: a pluralistic

bound to endow it with incredible dynamism. In

and democratic world in which each language and

reality, society stopped in its development: with

each style has a right to be represented artistically.

consumption gone, production became disoriented.

There is only one thing art doesn’t want to be - a

Excluded from the sphere of consumption and

commodity exchanged for money and other commod-

exchange, art lost its worth, becoming a heap of

ities. In other words, art doesn’t want to recognize the

unwanted trash.

world such as it is, and its actual place in it. This split between art and the world engenders a protest against the world, a desire to remodel it not only in art but in reality itself. Russian avant-garde of the early 20th century was one of the most radical attempts to change life itself. It is for this purpose that it leagued together with Marxism which, as is widely known, also aspired to change the world, not to explain it. While we are on the subject of Marxism - its own source of inspiration was German Romanticism aimed at realizing artistic ideals in real life: every laborer was to become a free creator of things and of his life in general, i.e., an artist. To achieve that goal, the task of subordinating the entire life of society to the aims of free artistic creation was formulated: each and every had to work, to become a creator of the new world - “who works not, eats not.” For the same purpose, the upper classes of society - whose aim in life consisted in consumption rather than production - had to be eliminated. Thereby art and creativity were rid of the parasitic consumer, of his philistine tastes, of the market, of the power of money. Labor, regarded as art, obtained totally unlimited prospects of free development. Soviet avant-garde - like Russian avant-garde whose part it was - believed that art expressed the personality of its creator who imparted value to it. Therefore the creator ought to be placed over the consumer: creative laborers-artists must come in the stead of nobility, as

From: Boris Grois, Utopia and Exchange. Moscow: “Znak”, 1993 [in Russian].

Khlebnikov wrote. archiproba # 03


Supervisor Panteleimon Golosov was a Russian Constructivist architect and brother of Ilya Golosov

russian avant-garde depicted through the prism of the students wo

M. Barkhin

Club in the Town of Perov. Competition project. 2nd prize. 1926

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Supervisor Nikolai Ladovsky

was a Russian avant-garde architect and educator, leader of the rationalist movement in 1920s

orks of Vkhutemas, led by the distinguished masters of their epoch


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Tourist Center in the Mountains. 3rd year 1928


Supervisor Alexander Vesnin was a leading light of Constructivist architecture

russian avant-garde depicted through the prism of the students wo

M. Zhirov

“Shops - Bank - Hotels�. 4th year 1927

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Supervisor Gustav Klutsis

was a pioneering photographer and major member of the Constructivist avant-garde in the early 20th century

orks of Vkhutemas, led by the distinguished masters of their epoch

N. Kolpakova

Analysis of Archomatic Levels of Four Materials; Indian Ink, Gouache, Black Chalk and Graphite. 1st year 1927 / 1928 archiproba # 03

Mediocrity of the Russian Avant - garde

by Rem Koolhaas special for Archiproba


9 june 2011, Strelka

Interview with Rem Koolhaas whose creative work has been rather influenced by the Russian Avant - garde. This was the conversation about that part of the unknown avant - garde, which as fate has willed, always stood in the shade.

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What is your personal definition of the “Avant - garde” ? “ Almost unconceivable/thinkable in the current condition, an avant - garde is a collection of individuals who work together to achieve a greater prominence and credibility for all ”. On the postcard from 1930, there is a photograph of the first worker settlement in Moscow - “Usachevka”. How do you think, why exactly is this place represented on the postcards ? What role does mediocre architecture play in this case ?

“Usachevkа” settlement, 1930

“ Postcards proved to be essential when I started documenting New York in the 70’s. We went to fairs where there were huge collections of postcards with more or less non - descript buildings, buildings which never made it to the ‘official’ section of history writing, and some of them now only existed as post cards. Without the post - cards the understanding of the bulk of New York’s explosion of creativity, would have been impossible to trace back. What probably makes them different is that their production is triggered by gut feelings rather than formal constraints ”. archiproba # 03


Mediocre VS Unique. Actually, mediocre architecture seems to be better preserved and more sustainable than the unique. How do you think, what is the reason of that state ? “ Paradoxically mediocrity is a indeed heritage advantage. In Syria, but also in many other places in the world, the schism of preservation, - to ‘touch’ buildings - has inevitably effected lead to a scraping of patina, in the process also the functioning of buildings, their meaning for a city. The adagium for preserving ‘masterpieces’ to make the same but better -, is a question hardly ever asked to mediocrity, which is a blessing in disguise ”. “Avant - garde” literally means going forward. Mediocrity may mean a step backward. What would than be the meaning of the definition “Mediocre Avant - garde”? “ We live in a time of acute cronocaos with an avant - garde which has been largely compromised by junkspace. I don’t see a real way out of it - in our office we use the term ‘generics’ - looking for an architectural recipes - like generic drugs - which could create valuable architecture in a more effective way at a larger scale ”.

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Special thanks to Janna Bystrykh Stephan Petermann


chapter II


from Wikipedia is a condition in which memory is disturbed or lost

I find it hard to call to mind a more brilliant epoch in the history of Russian architecture than that of Russian avant-garde. That epoch, with its uncontainably future - oriented vector that foreshadowed many phenomena and discoveries, proved very special. There are things that are always “the talk of the town,� that are widely known and much discussed; there are other things that recede into the background, get eroded by the stream of time which carries them away out of focus. Cultural amnesia is conducive to the partial disappearance of some historic objects from the cultural map of Moscow. Technically, they continue to exist on certain maps; actually, they are now blank spaces in history. The emergence of this amnesia, with regard to a certain kind of avant-garde architecture and its typically Russian flavor, has a number of reasons. A major portion of architectural heritage was forgotten in Russia due to political situation and to the fiction-centric nature of Russian culture - literature was always in fashion, avidly read and discussed. What were the properties of cultural memory that forced certain parts of avant-garde architecture to leave the present field of vision? Why have they been forgotten, partially erased from professional memory and - above all - completely erased from the mind of the general public? by Tamara Muradova


“Mnemosyne� greek goddess of memory

Dante Gabriel Rossetti XIX century

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visible The Russian Avant-garde is one of the most popular issues during the talk about the architecture of the XX century in Russia. If we imagine the architecture of the Soviet avant-garde period as an iceberg, we can see that its pick is occupied by the all - known names. Their projects has been perfectly illustrated in S.O. Khan - Magomedov’s books “ 100 master - pieces of the soviet architectural avant-garde ” and in numerous foreign publications.

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Vesniny brothers










Avant-garde iceberg:

invisible At the same time, the main part of the “ avant-garde iceberg ” is still under the water surface and is absolutely invisible. It is replaced by the “workers’ settlements”, housing for the workers of the nearby factories, erected in the middle of 20’s.

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The gap: 1935

1935 magazine “Academy of Architecture” # 1 article “Architecture of the housing estates in Moscow”

The workers’ settlements architecture appeared to be so forgotten and unpopular, that even after 80 years after their construction there was no single full value publication, devoted to them.

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2009 Project Russia # 52 article “Residential districts in Moscow from the 1920’s and 1930’s”

The first reference is dated by 1935 in the article “Architecture of the housing estates in Moscow” in the “The Architecture Academy” magazine, and further on the cultural amnesia was finished only in 2009, in the “ Project Russia” magazine article. archiproba # 03


The origins:

Residents of the barracks

In far 1924 the factories’ workers lived in the hutments, fully messed up shacks. Then they were moved in the spacious white houses with the developed social infrastructure, huge green yards and apartments with full conveniences.

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Residents of the ‘Usatchevka’ settlement

It might be interesting to sense and understand the feeling the first dwellers of the worker’s settlements had when they found themselves in such paradise ? The answer to this question could be found in “Buildings appeal” article which we publish from “Smena” magazine # 133 (1929). It tells the life of the first dwellers of Khavsko - Shabolovsky settlement in Moscow. archiproba # 03



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cover of the 133 issue 1929

“Buildings appeal� by M. Krasnostavsky

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New buildings appeared on the wasteland. The

lovsky lane are far away from the high rank of the communist fortress. The educations of the habitants,

Revolution declared war to Rasteryaev Street and

the fight for the new way of life and against the domi-

empty spaces overgrown with grass, erecting new

nance of belongings have been the unplanned things

“appealing buildings”. The Khavsko - Shabolovsky

here. The houses are huge, the buildings - bright and

lane’s appearance changed beyond recognition. The

spacious, but there is no order in them. The raid of

buildings gave one of the Moscow suburbs a whole

a “light cavalry” proved that there are peace, quiet

new appearance. The radio tower, surrounded by the

and the Oblomov’s bliss in the houses at Khavsko-

hovels and poor stalls of Danilovsky market, looked

Shabolovsky lane. Only a small number of people

like a grim reminder for wooden and timber houses

out of ten thousand living there have been covered

and chaotic and busy market before; now the tower

by the houses’ organizers, the others have been left

with its light decorative design and residential area

alone. The yards were poorly lit by rare street lamps.

with numerous buildings are elements of the new

And only along the walls, under the windows tenants

landscape. The wasteland area is subordinated to the

were sitting and whispering to each other. Somebody

Provincial engineer, who permitted to build five -

was playing an accordion, somebody laughed out loud

storied buildings here. About ten thousand people live

and fell silent, because his own laughter sacrilegiously

in the houses, situated in the Khavsko - Shabolovsky

broke the darkness. People here were obsessed with

lane. People moved in the new apartments according

boredom, gossip and absurd rumor.

to residential standards.

… The old worker and I were going round the numer-

…People who got used to dusty and little windows,

ous yards of the large house and he dreamed up wisely:

moved in the houses with the large windows open for sun and fresh air. This removal makes many people live a different life, cheerful, beautiful and elevated. The

- Here I’d rather stand the poles for volley - ball, allot the ground for the skittles and crocket. And in this yard it would be better to make several bowers for reading. It would be nice

wide stairways, gas kitchen stoves, water tabs made of

to read, play chess and draught and to puff a cigarette in the

light copper, wardrobes and the most important - spacious and large rooms - all these make them absolutely change their way of life. But not all residents feel like

open air. I would set up a loud - speaker in the third yard. Let the worthy people listen reports, music and songs over the radio.

this: some of them make up their mind with the old-

My fellow traveler dreamed within reasonable limits,

fashioned way of life, they were too tired to struggle

but the tenants themselves may turn these dreams

for a new life; they thought that the new apartment

into reality if they’ d like it. This man, who has expe-

had the following benefits: large living space, freedom of movement and water supply. They not accepted the obligation to master their life, to live a different way.

rienced the horrors of the workmen barracks, who has known much sorrow, talked about the work in the houses with a pain and sadness of a lonely enthusiast.

They gave up a fight to make the dream of better life

He showed me to the gate, shook my hand tightly and

into reality. They fell behind, focused on their apart-

explained the shortest way to the tram stop. The radio

ments and everyday life objects, which have a great

tower was dominating the houses in the dark sky. The

influence on people. The furniture and home utensils

lane was getting asleep, and only the noise of trams

in the most apartments are cumbrous, odd and vulgar.

and rings of the tram drivers disturbed the rest of the

The things prevail over people; they are like monu-

workmen outskirt like talking in the sleep.

ments to the past. Many years ago it was stated, that every house shall be a communist fortress. The houses of Khavsko - Shabo-

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Network: Soviet Union

Saint - Petersburg

Ivanovo - Voznesensk Nizny - Novgorod Moscow Ekaterinburg




In the middle of 20’s there was a great industrial boom in the Soviet Union; the incredible number of factories was built in various industrial cities. The total number of workers has grown from 9 to 23 million, and the problem of resettlement of the population became pressing ever more. archiproba # 03


Komsomolsk - on - Amur Khabarovsk Irkutsk

The Soviet Government ventured on a very bold step and started campaign for the creation of the mass housing for workers. Thus, the workers’ settlements appeared in all large industrial cities of the USSR. archiproba # 03


Moscow: 25 workers’ settlements

Timiryazev academy

Pistsovaya Sokol - Madi Palikha

Preobrazhenskoye Izmailovsky Val Matrosskaya Tishina Rusakovskaya Budennovsky Campus of the IPE Dangauerovka


Nizhnyaya Presnya Studencheskaya Pogodinskaya

Abelmanovskaya Zastava Dubrovka Novoostapovskaya Mytnaya Velozavodskaya Vostochnaya


Usachevka Khavsko- Shabolovsky

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Moscow , air photography made in 1941 World War II

ring of factories

More than 4 million square meters of housing were built in Moscow from the middle of 20’s. The factories emerged on the former city outskirts and the worker’s settlements appeared in their vicinity. Nowadays, when the city borders have spread out, the major part of the settlements appeared to be in the central part of the contemporary Moscow. archiproba # 03


“ The romance of the revolution could be perceived not only in the immense projects of the workers’ palaces with amphitheatres for thousands people, revival of the thermae as mass sporting arenas, in the monuments for heroes and victims of the bloody events full of severe emotions, but also in the first projects of houses bearing the day - to - day names: “proletarian house, “single worker’s family house”. In housing projects of 1918 - 1921 the ascetic facades, the power of walls and piers seemed romantic for us are, that is all included in the habitat concept of the architectural art image. Then, however, in the housing projects of 19221925, the housing functionality became the main feature. The development of the housing architecture of the first post - revolution years came seemingly form the romance of the projects, made in first three of Soviet power, to the projects of the end of the recovery time, where the main feature was saving and sanitary requirements demands. From the contest for the “proletarian house” projects - to the development of Usachevka, Traktornaya Street and Palevsky Massive...”

V.E. Khazanova, Soviet architecture of the first years of October 1917 - 1925. Moscow: “Nauka Publishing House”, 1970. archiproba # 03


inhabitant: “...I relieved my room. Down with the flock - dot and roses and birds “tapestry” wall - papers… The wall is pained in white color. The “fine” furniture curtails are cut off… Instead of chairs with hacks I put two pieces of furniture made by my friends from Vkhutemas, the samples of standard furniture…” wrote the author of the propaganda leaflet “A new man house model” 1925

apartment interior 1926

government: “...The worker does not need a number of spacious rooms with the excessive decoration…For the convenience of the inhabitants it is necessary to have a separate bedroom, the second room where worker could spend his available free time, and the third space must be a kitchen. The minimum floor area of the apartment will be 50 square meters and the volume 120 m 3...” “Saratovskije Izvestia” newspaper wrote in March 1925

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The project: winner First typical residential unit Mossoviet, 1925

In the ideology of mass housing of the middle of 1920’s there was an idea to create the architecture simple and life convenient. So, in 1925 the Mossoviet announced the contest for the development of the first standard living section. The contest organizers were limited by the most general condition: “the project must esthetically satisfy the healthy proletarian taste”. In the competition 6 countries and 105 projects took part. The winner of the contest became the section developed by N. Ladovsky and L. Lisitsky: it was an apartment, including separated rooms, bathroom and a kitchen. At the end of 1925 the architects began developing the various types of the living sections integration.

“Usachevka” first workers’ settlement based on the first typical residential unit Mossoviet archiproba # 03


The “workers’ settlements” present the earliest sample of mass housing construction in the mid-1920s. That was, in a manner of speaking, an experiment - an attempt to create, in a shortest possible space of time and at a minimum expense, a perfect residential milieu for workers. The blocks whose architecture formed snug inner courtyards magnificently illustrated a sensory approach to design based on the social aspect and on the role of man placed within such architecture. Careful attention was paid to each detail - and to the entire daily routine of residents, ranging from awakening to late night, from weekdays to weekends. The residents - who had just moved from their dusty barracks - could not express their joy adequately at the sight of their new comfortable and spacious domiciles. The advent of the “workers’ settlements” in a way foreshadowed the Khrushchev epoch. However, unlike the housing of the latter period, the settlements of the epoch of constructivism were designed and build on a high level. They furnish a rare example of a project superbly implemented and adapted to the needs of real life. I focused my research on the nine “workers’ settlements” situated in the Central Administrative Precinct of Moscow. This is a “hot zone” of many diverse complications and dangers which draws heightened public attention. The settlements in question have therefore their own specific problems that differ from those experienced by the uptown settlements. Troubles notwithstanding, the architecture of the Moscow “workers’ settlements” envelops their residents in an amazing, singular ambience to this day, creating an oasis of the long-forgotten feeling - the feeling of the bona-fide old Moscow. by Tamara Muradova

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The catalog: 9 settlements 7


Nizhnyaya Presnya




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Budenovsky Posiolok





Abelmanovskaya Zastava


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Rusakovskaya late of 20’s

architect: V. Motylev address: Rusakovsaya street, Gavrikova street

photography by Nikolai Vassiliev


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photography by Nikolai Vassiliev


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Budenovsky Posiolok

photography by Nikolai Vassiliev

1926 - 29

architect: M.Motylev address: Bolshaya Pochtovaya street archiproba # 03


Budenovsky settlement is interested most of all by its lay - out. “ This is one of only two Moscow settlements that saved their initial planning design and facades, - points out the constructivism architecture researcher Denis Romodin.

The innovation of the architect Mikhail Motylev is most of all the building of the inner arciform

passage. It was designed taking into account not the transportation demands solely, but the optimal insolation of all settlement �.

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photography by Nikolai Vassiliev


Fairly speaking, some buildings were exposed to serious re - construction in 1970 -2000s, notes the

student of local territory. The wooden ceilings were replaced by the concrete, the walls and basements were enforced, a part of window openings were closed up and the new were made. Though the value of

this housing complex is in its architectural scale which is rather comfortable for the inhabitants. Many of the living buildings are adapted to the corner position, though they have the standard flat section, approved by the Mossoviet.

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Abelmanovkaya zastava 1926 - 27

architect: G.Vegman address: Abel’manovskaya street archiproba # 03

photography by Nikolai Vassiliev



The housing block, in which there was used the standard Mossoviet section (4 - storied), but

reconstructed and superstructed in the second half of 1930’s. The block occupies the area of the irregular shape between Abelmanovskaya Street, Myasnaya Street (Talalikhin street) and Broshevsky lane.

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photography by Nikolai Vassiliev


Nizhnyaya Presnya

architects: I. Antonov, V. Bibikov, B. Blokhin, N.Volkov, P. Grushin, I. Zvezdin, N. Malinin, O. Stapran, B. Ulinich address: Shmitovsky proezd, Mantulinskaya street, Kostikova street, Severianovoy street, Makeeva street, Jivova street archiproba # 03

photography by Nikolai Vassiliev

1926 - 1928


Housing complex for workers and servants of the factories nearby, unique in its variety ( Trekhgornaya manufactura and others ). The general architectural scale, cozy yards and numerous domestic services elements are attractive in this project.

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Nizhnyaya Presnya 1926 - 1928 architects I. Antonov, V. Bibikov, B. Blokhin, N.Volkov, P. Grushin, I. Zvezdin, N. Malinin, O. Stapran, B. Ulinich address Shmitovsky proezd, Mantulinskaya street, Kostikova street, Severianovoy street, Makeeva street, Jivova street

A house with the trading center at Schmitovsky Proezd is notable for its unusual design. The tower

silhouette of its corner center. One should also note the buildings developed by O. Stapran, with the surface pattern walls, laid out boldly (at Schmitovsky Proezd and inside the block). archiproba # 03

photography by Nikolai Vassiliev



Dubrovka 1926 - 30

architects: V.Bibikov, E.Shervinsky, N.Molokov, A.Mostakov, A.Vegman, A.Panin, I. Antonov address: Mel’nikova street

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A large housing complex with the buildings composed of standard apartment section of Mossoviet.

In this project this section was adopted to the actual siting of the streets and lanes. For the sake of it

M.Motylev and others developed special corner sections. There were at least 10 non - standard sections ( sharp angle, flat angle, angles with various stanza and balconies of complicated shape ). archiproba # 03

photo by Nikolai Vassiliev



Usachevka 1925 - 28

architects: A. Meshkov, N.Molokov, N. Sherbakov engineers: G.Maslennikov, A.Volkov address: Usatcheva street, Dovatora street

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photography by Nikolai Vassiliev


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The housing complex was built at the place of former Usachevsky marketplace for “ old bolshevics � in

commemoration of the October 10 anniversary. It comprises of the thin brick wall buildings with a majority of 3 - 4 roomed apartments which are rather spacious and have large kitchens and entrance halls, the minor part of 2 - roomed apartments has floor space of 50 square meters. One of the advantages of

the Usachevka apartments is the entire rooms ventilation, the cold boxes and through venting - the flats occupy all width of the building and their windows compulsory look at both sides. archiproba # 03

photo by Nikolai Vassiliev


In certain times all Usachevka area was surrounded by the fence with the wicket gates. Up to now the

initially planned shops (in semi-basement story) still work (bank, Post office and telegraph, laundries, kindergarten). There was a skating ring in one of the yards, and the central yard made up a public park with Lenin’s monument, fountain and the benches.

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Pogodinskaya 1927-29

architects: N.Volkov, V.Bibikov address: 2nd Trujennikov pereulok, Pogodinskaya street, Plushikha street archiproba # 03

photography by Nikolai Vassiliev


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photography by Nikolai Vassiliev


Palikha late of 20’s

The houses, created on the basis of the Mossoviet standard sectio

architect: is not known archiproba # 03

address: Tikhvinsky pereulok, Palikha street


Serpukhovskaya 1928 - 30

ons. The buildings are typical for the time, forming the cozy yards

architect: is not known address: Lousinivskaya street, Mythaya street archiproba # 03


The numbers:

213 757 200 m2 total residential area in Moscow


total constructivist workers’ settlements residential area in Moscow

2 000 000 m2 diagram

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95 000 people total population of the workers’ settlements in Moscow


96 168 people from Wikipedia

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total population of Delft ( NL)

72 “Usatchevka� inhabitants

Social survey by Kira Kartashova

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The research polled a sample of appoximately 1 000 people living in residential neighbourhoods from the 1920’s and communal houses in 2008

Kira Kartashova sociologist Member of the Elders’ Quorum under Moscow Mayor PhD in Architecture, Professor Distinguished architect of RF archiproba # 03

honorary Member of RAABS



Social demographic chart of the survey Male 43% Female 52% No answer 5% Age category of intervieweers Retirees 20% Adults 68% Students 12% Employment State Employees 18% Labourers 4% Service Workers 35% Managers 12% Business Owners 12% Students 13% Retirees 11% Other 10% No Answer 7% Family structure Couples with children 67% Couples without children 33% How many people are in your family ? 1 13% 2 28% 3 25% 4 21% 5 2% 6 1% No Answer 7%

How long have you been living in this apartment ? Not long 17% A long time 27% Various generations 53% No Answer 3% Period of stay of local residents ? Not long 20% A long time 80% How did your family obtain the apartment ? From work 16% Inheritance 29% From the public administration 7% Exchange 22% Purchase 21% No Answer 5% Did you know that your home is an architectural monument from the 1920s/30s ? Yes 50% No 46% No Answer 4% Did you know that your home was designed according to the style of the Constructivist ? Yes 34% No 62% No Answer 4% How many rooms are there in your apartment ? 1 room 10%

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2 rooms 40% 3 rooms 32% 4 rooms 10% No Answer 8% How would you describe the condition of your apartment ? Good, recently renovated 41% Requires simple renovation works 33% Requires a total renovation 21% No Answer 5% Did you believe your apartment is in good condition ? Yes 20% No, requires simple renovation works 41% No, it requires a total renovation 35% No Answer 4% What is your feeling about the shops and offices on the ground floor of your buildings ? Positive 34% Neutral 43% Negative 17% No Answer 6% What type of extra services would you like to have ? Services for residents 27% Shops 32% Public services and banks 26% Sport and fitness 3% Food stores 11%

Are you aware of the importance of your building to our culture ? Yes 37% No 59% No Answer 4% Knowledge of retirees regarding the cultural importance of their homes ? Architectural monument from the 1920s/1930s 58% Constructivism 42% Building of artistic value 40% Knowledge of adults regarding the cultural importance of their homes ? Architectural monument from the 1920s/1930s 40% Constructivism 30% Building of artistic value 30% Knowledge of students regarding the cultural importance of their homes ? Architectural monument from the 1920s/1930s 40% Constructivism 30% Building of artistic value 35% In what type of apartment do you live? Cohousing 8% Autonomous 88% No Answer 4%

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Reputation chart: This is a reputation chart, about typologies of the mass residential development in Russia in XX century.


1920 - 30

1930 - 50

before Stalin’s era


Stalinskie houses




Each epoch has more or less clear picture, with its advantages and shortcomings in the people mass perception. But when we turn to the 1920 - 1930 period we can see the dark spot or the white sheet. People have no any idea of that epoch objects.

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1960 - 80

1970 - 00


Prefabricated houses



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www. theoryandpractice. ru

chapter II

The ‘phantom menace’

photography by Nikolai Vassiliev


“Dangauerovka� settlement Moscow 2008 archiproba # 03


The “workers’ settlements” of the constructivist era were not, for a long time, counted among worthy samples of architecture: unlike certain unique buildings, they were merely standard projects whose goal was to provide the working class with housing. To put it differently, they were not masterpieces in the normal sense of the word. It must be noted, however, that the services of first-class experts of Soviet constructivism were enlisted for designing the settlements, and the experts masterly performed the tasks they were entrusted with, coming up with revolutionary and unconventional design solutions that are in many respects up-to-date even now. As of now, society still lacks a definite opinion as to the actual value of the settlements in question. The extremely few relevant publications in the press demonstrate the absence of a common opinion. Some think this episode in the history of architecture unworthy of attention; others see some worth in it. However, despite the fact that professional architects tend to defend the “workers’ settlements,” their value is seriously called into question. by Tamara Muradova

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image by Anke Zalivako


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“ The Head of Moskomnasledie doubts in the appropriateness to save all workers’ settlements of the constructivism period located in Moscow ” 26.06.2008 /

“ Farewell, the worker’s settlement...” # 30 (757) 10 september 2009 г /

“ Prefect of CAD appealed to demolish the capital city worker’s settlements...” 26.03.2009 /

“ The Usachevka hermits ” Izvestiya newspaper , 13.03.2009

“ The capital city settlements of the constructivism period: demolishing or re - construction? ” 18.06.09 /

“ The constructivism Atlantis ”

Expert newspaper №23 (661), 15.06.2009 /

“ The constructivism: to save is unprofitable, to demolish is shameful ” Izvestiya newspaper от 06.02.09

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photography by Nikolai Vassiliev

Kiril Asse an architect, permanent author of portal, “Project Russia” and “Project Baltia” magazines

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The main Problems of the modernistic workers’ settlements by Kiril Asse special for Archiproba In my view, the main problems of the modernistic workmen settlements lie in two different, not interconnected planes. The first problem is that they were created as the ideal towns. As any ideal town they became the visual implementation of the theoretic concepts, which appeared to be to certain extent their art and historical value from one side, and which became a reason of their low adaptability for the living, from the other. The second problem is that these projects served as the answer to the demands not existing any longer – there is no industrialization, nor masses of liberated proletariat, forming the alliance with the countryside, and the life quality standard, which became conventional since that time among the main part of the native population, is far deviated from the standard the designers have been based on. On the assumption that in our days the role of cheap labor force, that the proletariat and the outskirts is occupied by the guest workers from the Middle Asia, who live in the non-human conditions of the hostels as well as proletariat and joined lumpen - proletariat, one could expect that in the nearest future this slavery standard will be replaced by the standard of the workmen settlement. But there is a risk that the settlements themselves will not survive till these bright times. One should note the lack of diversity as well, relevant for any massive project, but I think, that it goes without saying. Though, if the certain efforts will be made to preserve these settlements and the diversification of their usage will be promoted, we could hope that they could revive being inhabited by the Middle - Asian people or students.

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tangible danger In February 2008, the Head Office of the Scientific Design Institute of the General Planning Agency of Moscow, by order of the Moscow Committee of Architecture, developed the “Concept of Preservation, Reconstruction and Development of the Housing Areas of the 1920s - 1930s.” The “Concept” included data of historical and cultural research as well as recommendations for the techniques of rehabilitation of the areas in question. The Institute’s “Concept” suggested three regimes of rehabilitation of the “workers’ settlements”: (1) the “scientific restoration”; (2) the “reconstruction”; (3) the “renovation.” The 25 “workers’ settlements” located in Moscow as a result of our research were protected by the state since 2002. However, in compliance with Instruction #1556-RP ( 2009 ) of the

Moscow Government, it was decided to deny them the status of objects of cultural heritage (regional importance) which entitled them to state protection.

Thereby nine “workers’ settlements” situated in the Central Administrative Precinct of Moscow were deprived of state protection: 1. The “Rusakovskaya” housing complex, block 998; 2. The “Serpukhovskaya” housing complex, block 1269; 3. The “Nizhnyaya Presnya” housing complex, blocks 781, 777, 778, 780, 785, 503, 2421, 2423; 4. The “Pogodinskaya” housing complex, blocks 540, 537; 5. The “Palikha” housing complex, block 715; 6. The “Budenovsky poselok” housing complex; 7. The “Usachevka” housing complex, blocks 474, 475, 476, 477, 479; 8. The “Dubrovka” housing complex, blocks 1194, 1199, 2017; 9. The “Abelmanovskaya zastava” housing complex, block 1966. Later things got worse. In 2010, the Department of Urban Construction of the City of Moscow, in accordance with Decree #772-PP (August 11, 2009) of the Moscow Government, “Detailed Long - Term Urban Program of Demolishing Uncomfortable Housing for the Period till 2025,” all settlements having wooden ceilings are to be condemned.

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(in) tangible danger All these events - the discussion at the Moscow Committee of Architecture, the termination of protected status, the inclusion in the program of demolition of “uncomfortable housing” - transpired behind the backs of the unsuspecting residents of the settlements under consideration. On the one hand, the supposed health hazard presented by these blocks and the former prefect’s campaign for their demolition are easy to explain: the high cost of a square meter in the Central Administrative Precinct of the capital. On the other hand, we have the story of a memory loss, a total oblivion and a lack of information which created a “zone of amnesia” around these blocks. Whereas it is very hard to protect oneself from life hazards (since we have no actual knowledge of their sources and no common opinion regarding it), it is nearly impossible to protect oneself from a danger one can’t place. Cultural amnesia results in a situation when the place has no one to protect it; there is no professional community that would take the impending demolition to heart and alert the public, there is no sufficient knowledge, no systematized data, no community opposition, no expert evaluation. So it is now my task to assemble the pieces of the scattered jigsaw puzzle, to focus public attention on the problem, to form a transparent data cloud around the “workers’ settlements” - a cloud accessible to anyone wishing to see and realize that vital thing which became obscured during the long time of oblivion. by Tamara Muradova

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The classified materials: To the chairman of Moskomnasledie

The decisions to give the remaining 6 complexes, located on the territory of CAD (Rusakovskaya, Buddenovsky settlement, Usachevka, Nizhnaya Presnya. Serpukhovskaya and Dubrovka) the status of guarded historic-cultural territories have been made before.

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To the chairman of Moskomnasledie

Totally on the territory of Moscow there are 25 complexes of the housing building of 1920-1930s, including 9 on the territory of CAD

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Why Constructivism is unpopular in Russia ? by Clementine Cecil special for Archiproba

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Buildings of the Constructivist period are unpopular

the patina of time well. If a building is unmaintained,

in Russia thanks to a combination of negative associa-

a vicious cycle begins by which its inhabitants begin to

tions on the part of Muscovites, compounded by a

perceive their home negatively, and maintenance/repair

series of official rejections by the authorities. In order

becomes increasingly unlikely.

to understand the source of the negative associations, it is necessary to go back to their original construction. Today, it is easy to forget the instability and poverty of the 1920s when many of these buildings were constructed. It was a time of stress and upheaval and mass population migration into the cities. Housing was cramped, the new factories were often dangerous, and there was not enough food to go round. This

“When a building is rejected by its own inhabitants, it inevitable suffers in appearance, becoming less attractive, and less remarkable”

instability was reflected in huge changes in the urban

Examples of this are the Hammer and Sickle Factory

environment. In some cases, in order to make way for

Canteen in Samara, and Narkomfin in Moscow. It is

new constructivist - era buildings, churches, monaster-

very difficult to reverse this cycle, without

ies and cemeteries were destroyed. This meant that

‘re-branding’ the building. Such a re-branding

many people perceived the new structures negatively, as

operation has happened at Garazh (Konstantin Mel-

usurpers of sites previously occupied by much - loved

nikov, Vladimir Shukhov, 1926). This is a happy example

and familiar buildings.

of a building that has found an owner who saw its potential and understood how to use it.

Constructivism was officially rejected in 1932 when Socialist Realism was called for in all the arts. It was

Other buildings, such as the apartment block at 8

condemned as being a foreign import, and not

Gogolevsky Boulevard (M. Barshch, I. Milinis,

sufficiently able to reflect the great achievement of

1929-1933) have enjoyed far more peaceful lives, and

Soviet Russia. The neo-classical buildings constructed

have been loved and well-maintained by their

in the second half of the 1930s up to the 1950s, were of

inhabitants from the beginning. It is often the more

a larger scale than that of the Constructivist buildings,

ambitious projects, like the Nikolaev Hostel and

which lost their dominance in the urban environment.

Narkomfin, that have suffered more.

Due to official rejection, many of the buildings were unmaintained, for example Narkomfin (Moisei Ginzburg 1930), and additions were made to the structures, detracting from their visual impact. Stalin was the first of a series of rulers with anti modernist tastes in 20th century Russia: Krushchev and former Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov both spoke out against modernism, contributing to continuing negative perceptions. Many buildings, like Narkomfin, and the Nikolaev Hostel (Ivan Nikolaev 1930) were made from experimental materials, some of which aged badly, becom-

Clementine Cecil co - founder (with Kevin O’Flynn and Guy Archer) and trustee of MAPS, The Moscow Architecture Preservation Society

ing unsightly. Modernist buildings do not always bear archiproba # 03


Western Expert Michael Turner Vice - Chairman of the worldwide UNESCO and Chairman of the Israel World Heritage Committee

The conversation with Michael Turner, who took part in the expert commission on the inclusion of the German settlements under UNESCO guard. He told about the criteria which were hard to estimate, in particular the issue of the authenticity and integrity of the settlements of the avant-garde period. archiproba # 03


The book devoted to the German workers’ settlements included into UNESCO supervision, which comprises the detailed story of this long but successful process

Strelka 18.04.2011 archiproba # 03


German example: In 2008 UNESCO included into the list of the world heritage 6 workmen settlements in Berlin, built in the first decades of 20th century by the well - known German architects Gropius, Taut and Sharoun. Such a decision was accepted on the 32th Session of the World Heritage Commission of the organization in the Canadian Quebec. Germany filed the application in January, 2006. “These settlements correspond a new type of the social housing of the beginning of 20th century. Further they greatly influenced the architecture and urban planning”, says the UNESCO support. The list includes “A garden - city Falkenberg” of the Berlin district Treptov - Kupenik, “Hufaisen” settlement in Britz, the Karl Legina in the Prenzlauerberg region, so called “White city” in Reinikendorf, Schille park in Wedding and Siemens schtadt in Shpandau. They have been built within 1913 - 1934 by the initiatives of the city authorities and based on the projects of German architects Bruno Taut, Martin Gropius and Hans Scharoun.

Großsiedlung Siemensstadt, 2008

Could we employ the German example of conservation ? Will the re-construction in Russian sense, demolish the verity and integrity of the objects ? archiproba # 03


Tourist guide Moscow 1920 - 1930 Krasnaya Kniga

This Summer

www.avangard -

photography by Grigory Polyakovsky


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chapter VI

Genious Loci: Usachevka

academic definitions:


from Wikipedia the protective spirit of a place location’s distinctive atmosphere, or a “spirit of place”


from American Heritage Dictionary the distinctive atmosphere or pervading spirit of a place the guardian deity of a place


from Oxford Dictionary of Architecture & Landscaping every place has its own unique qualities, not only in terms of its physical makeup, but of how it is perceived, so it ought to be (but far too often is not) the responsibilities of the architect or landscape-designer to be sensitive to those unique qualities, to enhance them rather than to destroy them.


from Webster’s Dictionary the pervading spirit of a place; a tutelary deity of a place


“Genius Loci” Gayley 1893

Source: Charles Mills Gayley, The Classic Myths in English Literature and in Art (Boston: Ginn and Company, 1893) 62

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My “Usachevka”

This chapter deals with the history of the unique neighborhood - Usachevka, one of the nine blocks. The place that holds my most treasured, intimate memories. My family lived there since 1970s, and many interesting neighbors live there to this day. Their destinies and their histories are inseparably connected with Usachevka. The expression “genius loci” always stirred my imagination, I always tried to perceive its true meaning. The genius loci of Usachevka is a box in which I placed the most incomprehensible and lovely moments and images which, combined, form the unforgettable feeling of the “Place”. This is the stooping old lady who lives in an apartment accessible from the corner entrance who walks her two dogs every evening. This is the opera singer on the top floor with a balcony, rehearsing his operatic arias every night, the entire courtyard resounding with his voice in the nocturnal silence. This is the lilac blossoming outside our window which Mom always picks to make huge bouquets; she says it’s good for the lilac - it would grow the lusher next year. These are my childhood buddies living next door to this day. These are summer barbeque parties in the yard with our neighbors, right under the windows. This is my record time on foot to the nearest subway station, early in the morning and being late for classes: less than 1 minute. This is the whispered “See you” to the boy who saw me to my door late in the evening - whispered on account of the excellent acoustics of the yard and a neighbor might overhear us… These are myriad of other things which make this place special for me. The stories of old residents, who lived in Usachevka their entire lives, run all through the chapter lending to it a feeling of veracity… by Tamara Muradova

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Это глава посвящена истории уникального места, места которое для меня ассоциируется с самым дорогим и родным. В этих местах жила моя семья с 70-х годов, здесь выросла и я. Глава содержит историческую справку о месте и рекомендации по реабилитации среды, с минимальным вторжением в ее физическую субстанцию. Я постаралась разобраться из каких же компонентов состоит гений места – Усачевки, что составляет ее ценность и уникальность, если отвлечься от традиционного понятия архитектуры. Будучи архитектором и особенно жителем, человеком с особой чувcтвительностью к своей среде – я поняла, что предметом охраны никак не может являтьcя здание, им является - дух места, задачей которой является и

photography by Grigory Polyakovsky

вся проделланная мною работа.

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Usachevka 1928

The housing complex Usachevka appeared as an ultra - modern massive at the Moscow outskirt. In 1925, when the construction works of the first blocks began, the area near the Novodevichy monastery and Kauchuk plant was the waste ground crossed by the private structures, the hutments of the Civil War times, converging to the swamp area of Luzhniki. The landscape transformed by the constructivism approach and the ideology of the “bright future” was implanted with the prototype of the urbanity mass building works. By the ergonomic ratio the result overcomes most of the built later on. Two blocks of the four - storied buildings on Kooperative Street and the block of five-storied buildings between Usachevka Street and Dovator Street after more than eighty years after its erection look like the reservation zone with its own character not disturbed nowadays. Not disturbed historic aura and spirit of the “human architecture”, introduces by the authors, and makes the region attractive for the dwellers and tourists. by Vladimir Sorokin

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Usachevka during the WWII

Usachevka alley 1928 archiproba # 03

image source ЦАНТДМ, ф. 2, оп. 1, д. 2077, л. 32.


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original masterplan 1928

The block “2530” build up project by architect V.I. Bibikov, approved for further development. The plan shows well the main feature of the workers’ settlements notably the structure of the green yards overflowing into each other and creation of comfortable closed spaces.

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photography by Grigory Polyakovsky


“...The connection of a man and his place of inhabitance is mysterious but obvious. Or this way: It’s absolute but mysterious. It is led by known to our ancient genius loci, the place genius, connecting the intellectual, spiritual, emotional aspects with their material environment...”

Vail, Peter. Genious Loci. Moscow: Kolibri, 2008. archiproba # 03


Old inhabitants:

...Nobody would know the past times history, they keep the romance of old Moscow life. The old women talk sweetly on the benches, while their grand children are busy in the sandpits and play with the old good yard dog. They always know everything about every person and the place of its living, as well as they know the persons they could apply for the good advice or help... Vadim Efremovich lives at Usachevka since 1940, his wife‘s family lived here, he moved to her after his marriage.

The Aunt Lena lives at Usachevka since she was born (1941).

Marina Maslennikova is a daughter of the Chief Engineer of Usachevka - Georgy Maslennikov, she was born in 1927 at Usachevka, and right after the complex building was completed. archiproba # 03


Vadim Efremovich “In early 30-s my wife’s father worked at lacy factory in Bolshaya Savvinskaya embankment. As he was a factory worker, he was granted a flat in Usachevka…” The Aunt Lena “We first saw negroes during 2-d World Festival of Youth and Students that took place in Moscow in 1957… That was a great holiday, youngsters rode in ZIS cars (Stalin Car - Making Plant) along Sadovoe ring - this was a state of delighted euphoria…”

Marina Vladimirovna “Our district was entirely outskirts. We walked along Bolshaya Pirogovka as far as to Kropotkinskaya. This was our promenade - avenue…” The Aunt Lena “We had the best bakery here on the corner, where produced delicious black and white bread. When we were school pupils we all attended practice at Khlebzavod (Bread Factory) in Dovatora street…” During our private conversation Marina Maslennikova told, that her father worked with K. Melnikov and she remembers their visits to Melnikov’s house at Krivoarbatsky pereulok.


Recommendations: The creation of the social support program for the old dwellers of the block, renovation and technical modernization of buildings for the old dwellers and invalids.

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Greenery: A cool summer day, you are sitting on the bench... There is nobody around... The dense leafage closes the alley, and it is hardly seen who is walking to you... Only the birds singing and the leaves noise are heard, deafening the sounds of rarely passing automobiles... You are sitting in the inner park of your yard... It seems you have to go home, it’s getting dark... The Aunt Lena “I couldn’t remember much playing in the yard, but I remember winter time when we on ice skates went all the way from the yard to the stadium and skated there till we fell, so we came home on all fours by the evening only…” Marina Maslennikova “In early 50-s there was an arbor in the middle of the yard; usually grannies were sitting there, sometimes inhabitants brought radios or phonographs and set up some dances…” The Aunt Lena “There still is an old lamp is hanging in our yard: it enlightened the yard with red light before and were always on duty beside it. Our yard was the less dangerous, no matter at what time I came there when I was a teenaged girl, I did not feel fear of anybody.” Vadim Efremovich In mid 70-s a first white Volga appeared in our yard, and we were all terribly jealous of that… The Aunt Lena “In the turn (of the Moskva river) people planted carrots and potatoes, but in 1937 all kolkhozes (communal farms) were kicked out. And now at the area of the former Khimik stadium and a beach, where we’ve got our sunburn, there is the Luzhniki stadium.”

Recommendations: Reconstruction of the initial trees species in the yards, alleys and boulevards. Improvement and saving of the original planned structure of the yards, saving and careful recreation of the environment elements: fountains, benches, bowers, playgrounds. archiproba # 03




alleys +


lawns +


sport +


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photography by Grigory Polyakovsky


photography by Nikolai Vassiliev


Time patina:

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The peeling plaster, uncovering the old brick masonry... Rubbed away by time stairway, which you walk up and down every day... Crunching old oak parquet, which makes you walk tiptoe to the kitchen at night not to disturb someone’s sleep... The old double window frames which need to repaint from time to time... Shabby stairway ministers, my grandfather always held... The Aunt Lena “All houses were initially colored red brick or dim - gray, base dressing and house painting appeared in late 70-s…”

Examples for the paving textures

PANTONE colors for facades

Recommendations: The careful renovation of the existing original elements, façade plaster, window frames and doorways. Recreation of the original yard paving, the curbstone, pipes and the yard fences. archiproba # 03

Interior session:

“Nastya, get home!�

photography by Grigory Polyakovsky special for Archiproba


Anastasia and Fyodor Maksutiny

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Anastasia lives at Usachevka since she was born, with her parents, a well - known Russian artists: Korsakova Irina, Maksutin Sergey. The Maksutin family moved here in 1976, when Anastasia grand father moved in after the complete overhaul. The apartments saved the time spirit, the window frames of 1927 are still there, and the things from the past move us time back, creating the feeling of mystery and awe.

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Anastasia Maksutina, Fyodor Maksutin

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“ We appear at the place we ought to. I can’t imagine I could be born in any other Moscow region. For instance at the place, where houses were not built from the old bricks, and the entrances in summer time don’t breathe cool, or there, where the road noise deafens the birds, and where the porches do not exist at all. In such places shouldn’t the linen is dried. The moms do not permit their kids to play with children all along the cowboys and Indians and don’t cry trough the window: “ Nastya, get home! ” - it is not customary there. And here… we live with windows open wide, with the door keys forgotten in the door lock or hidden under the door mat. And it’s not scaring. And if some stranger comes, the neighbor is always at home and asks the unbidden stranger a couple of questions to repel his interest to the wrong property. And she will come at night and ask for salt, and bring the fresh pancakes. I have an apartment in other district - also near the center, the same bricks, the green trees are around… but I don’t really know what will make me to move in, or somewhere else...” by Anastasia Maksutina

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Special thanks to Anastasia Maksutina


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photography by Grigory Polyakovsky



Someone has the corner balcony on the last floor with the astonishing view of the boulevard... Someone could not imagine his life without the bathroom with the window with the view of the Novodevichy monastery belfry... Someone lives on the attic sixth floor with the exit to the roof... Someone has the cooler box where the raspberry jam jars are kept... archiproba # 03

Facade. Usacheva street, 29

Vadim Efremovich “This was outskirts, a swampy area. Along Efremova street there was a railroad to Kauchuk factory…” The Aunt Lena “During the war no missiles fell on our houses, thanks God, but I remember, how we, kids, ran on the roofs of houses discarding a high - explosive projectile…” “I remember we lived in almost elite houses, we had all the blessings of civilization for that time, and everybody treated us as if we were cool…” Vadim Efremovich “Apartments were heated by potbelly stoves; every inhabitant had a utility room in the underground floor where they kept firewood…” “Elevators appeared in some houses in late 70-s, after basic repair. They were initially planned only in corner sections of six – storied buildings …” Marina Maslennikova “When Sportivnaya metro station was being build, the hall of which was situated under our houses, buildings 2,3,8 and 7 have been cracked. They were initially tightened by timber angle braces, which later were substituted for by metal ones…”

Plan. Usacheva street, 29

Recommendations: To maintain the strict control of the accessory buildings, to control the shop windows style, entrances and glazing of the first stories, given to the social needs: to ban self-making of the window frames and balcony fences. archiproba # 03

image source ЦАНТДМ, ф. 2, оп. 1, д. 2077, л. 35,36.



Environment: If you want to go sports, you can reach in 10 minutes by slow walk the biggest stadium in Russia; 6 minutes are needed to reach Novodevichy Monastery and enjoy its buity; 12 minutes are needed to go to the legendary Usachevsky bath house; to enjoy the distinguished masterpiece of Russian

Novodevichy Convent is probably the best-known cloister of Moscow In 2004, it was proclaimed a UNESCO World Heritage Site

Usachevskie Baths Was built for factorie worker’s in 1934

Luzhniki Stadium opened july 31, 1956 is the biggest sports stadium in Russia

Recommendations: To include the Usachevka settlement into the city tourist map. archiproba # 03


constructivism it requires 20 minutes of the sashayed walk; to see the Leo Tolstoy mansion – 25 minutes, to look the city panorama from the highest Moscow point – 27 minutes...

Lev Tolstoy Memorial Estate in Khamovniki The house where Tolstoy and his family lived after leaving his family estate and moving to Moscow in the 1881

Kauchuk Club (1927-1929) is a constructivist public building designed by Konstantin Melnikov Sparrow Hills, Vorobyovy Gory


is a hill on the right bank of the Moskva River and one of highest points in Moscow

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Mythology: The stories covering the places by the mystery veil... People made the places mysterious... Places attracting by their vagueness... Vadim Efremovich “On the opposing bank of the Moskva river, behind Novodevichy monastery there was a chemical plant of paint and coatings, producing perfumes. It would be impossible to go down to ponds as the smell was so sweet that it made us dizzy…” Marina Maslennikova “We prepared for exams in Novodevichye cemetery as it was quiet and silent there.”

Mikhail Bulgakov (1891 - 1940) Lived in Usachevka from 1927 to 1934, exactly in these times he wrote his legendary novel “The Master and Margarite”. We could only imagine, what influenced the appearance of the mysterious and magic work, may be the Usachevka spirit ?

Gai Dmitrievich Gai (1887 - 1937) From 1927 - 1935 one of the soviet armed forces leaders, the hero with the mysterious name Gai Dmirievjch Gai lived in the corner entrance at the last 6th floor, with a view to the entire spacious green yard.

Bulat Shalvovich Okudzhava (1924 – 1997) Mentioned Usachevka in his poem “The greeting”. one of the city portraits, the meeting with Lermontov’s spirit also appeared in Usachevka

In 1984 Usachevka appeared in the movie: “The House for Everybody” Director: Komarova. O The story about history of mass housing construction in Moscow - from the first houses, built for the workers in the 20’s, to today’s large new neighborhoods.

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The Greeting “ Derisive, feeble and the awkward the only one on this Earth, in Usachevka near the bus stop it was Lermontov who suddenly appeared next to me, and in the middle of the night of the distract and unsteady ( as if I’ ve asked him to reply ) Martynov - what… - he said to me while keeping smiling - he’s innocent, I have forgotten all for him...”

“ The Usachevka always was inhabited by the intellectuals musicians, architects, distinguished medical doctors, professors, military leaders. The name “workers’ settlement” is just a time convention…” from Izvestiya, 13.03.2009

Usachevka, in the courtyard image “Smena” magazine 1935 archiproba # 03


“A letter for you!”

“Usachevka”, 1930 ownership Tamara Muradova

It is 2011 now, and yesterday, on the 6th of May, I got my post card at Usachevka Street Post office, which was reaching me all these long 81 years. I have in my hands the post card of 1930 where Usachevka is shown. The houses look like nowadays, people are strolling, the ice-cream stand is here, and the only time proof is the absence of the trees. And now instead of this naked field there is a tight forest of poplars and oaks...

Recommendations: To recreate new post cards series called “Old new Moscow” including Usachevka. archiproba # 03


In 1930 it was decided to publish a post card series “New houses of Moscow”, including Usachevka, as the most modern housing massive in Moscow for that time (post card circulation was 30 000 copies).

E-bay sells old postcards with “Usachevka” settlement price starts from 100 US $ may 31, 2011

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Moisei Ginzburg

Imaginary Interview

142 Moisei Ginzburg - Ideologist of Constructivism The founder of the OSA Group (Organization of Contemporary Architects), in 1924 he published the book “Style and Epoch” - effective manifesto of Constructivist Architecture

Good afternoon! Thank you for your consent to meet with us. Today let us speak about “style” and in particular about the “époque” that made it. Well, here comes the first question. How does a new style emerge ? What are the preconditions that define it ? “ A new style does not emerge in a day. It starts in different aspects of the human life that often have nothing in common. Outdated things regenerate gradually, and we often have to watch elements of the past remaining due to sustained traditions and surviving the ideas that induced them, and the element of a new daring world stunning with its vandal dew and full of independence of its arrival. But the new element that rubs down increasingly the outlines of the old world until there finally remains nothing capable to stop this process due to its vitality and pure natural rightness …” (Chapter: Preconditions for New Style, page 75).

What historical events force a dramatic change in the conception of an “époque” and its new interpretation ? “ The World War and Russian Revolution acting as an immense catalysts that gave a jolt and upturned the bases of not only our motherland but also the whole world, and being an event that by its spread and mental power distinguished between the old and the new, played a role that might have an effect as dramatic as any other historical move clearing the horizons and contributing to perfection of a brand new and viable culture. All these events like a thundering knock shook many foundations that had seemed to be secure, and turned us free from an abyss of numerous pretenses and habits, substituting for the true power of creation. Indeed, we are now clearly facing a whole number of elements from new life hiding on the other side, nearly skipped by us back, then and now turning into basic factors of the new world. And a whole pantheon of Text from: M.I.Ginzburg, Style and Epoch. Moscow: “Gosudarstvennoe Izdatelstvo”, 1924 [in Russian].

godlings and idols has crumbled to dust like good for nothing junk…” (page 77). archiproba # 03


It is quite natural that with the new culture

You were saying about appearance of a new

new people should emerge. What do they

style called “Constructivism”. Could you

look like up to you ? Is this a new caste ?

dwell upon its ideological sense ? Is this a new notion ?

“ Nearly always a new culture is a result of appearance in the historic arena of a new nation, people or social

“ Architectural monuments, denuded and deprived

group after being withdrawn from lethargical sleep

of their glittering and superficial clothing have come

or babyhood, therefore retaining its creating powers

before us in all their beauty and unexpected and acute

and the ability to galvanize into life the senile body of mankind. But stepping put of the long passive existence and becoming a more active element of creative life this new driving factor brings into power of creation the

and lapidary language of simple, unobstructed architectural forms. Analyzing the history of styles we can easily notice the rule being quite natural for nearly

particularities and features of the environment it had

every big blossom. When a new style language

emerged from…” (page 77).

emerges, when its new elements are created, there certainly is no necessity to temper them with

Let us speak about the problem of labor

something else - the new is normally born as a

housing being now the problem of modern

construction or utilitarian necessity deprived of any

architecture not only in Russia but all round Europe. What will a labor residence be in

ornamental elements, in the raw. ” (Chapter: Construction and Form in Architecture, page 119). “ This is why the ideas of constructivism despite their


destructive promises appear nowadays as natural,

“ The problem of labor residence had been dictated by life conditions long before the War. Thus, nowadays

deeded and life - giving. And it can be explained, of course, not only by economic conditions of the present, but also the outstanding role the machine

there are a lot of workers’ settlements in Europe. We

starts playing in our life… The machine has no ethi-

can judge about how vital the issue is by the fact that

cally “altruistic” elements. There is no so - called “free

the typical workers’ settlement project casting

flight of imagination”. Everything in it has a concrete

organized in 1918 by Association of British Architects under the instructions of the Government gathered 800 competitors and 1838 projects.” (page 81).

and precise purpose. This is not the matter of, according to some constructivists that the esthetic emotion has vanished: fortunately, this is not so, which is best

“ One should admit that the modern worker’s house

proven by works of these constructivists themselves,

in its formal and typical expression is a task still to be ahead. Even in sentimental houses of a garden - city we face a gradual release from formal elements of overage

but it is that with the influence of altered life conditions our esthetics emotions and its nature have also changed” (page 121).

classic system, expansion of logic simplicity of fine

Constructivism as a facet of modern esthetics born by

unhidden constructions and rational space use. Even

uproarious life filled with odor of the street, its mad

with these first steps we stumble into the spirit of

pulse, its pragmatism and routine concerns, esthetics

community, the large scale of architectural projects,

readily assimilating “Labor Center” and an a

prompting to lapidary and enthusiastic expression.

dvertising poster of a folk festival is undoubtedly one

What will the future worker’s house is beyond our explicit visualization, but these are the qualities born by the peculiarities of the worker’s house as such that will constitute the basis of the latter...” (pages 80-81).

artistic asceticism, in all the power of rude barbarian

of the peculiarities within the époque of new style lapping up modernity with all its advantages and disadvantages…” (page 123).

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Daylight was falling. First Street lights kindling outside. Inside the room warm light mildly refracting fell on the floor following the window sashes of Narkomfin Building. For a moment I caught myself thinking that I do not want to leave this room. The pureness of space, harmony of proportions, - all these seemed unusual here. Moisei Ginzburg slowly rose from his armchair and walked me to the exit. We found ourselves in the corridor. The house lived its own life, I could hear children’s laugh, and somebody rattling the dishes, from the very end of the corridor I scarcely heard echoing radio. I felt the house was alive. We said good bye to one another. I went to the staircase and my accompanee left right - about with a sweet smile. I turned around and saw the figure of Moisei Ginzburz leaving quickly - his dark overcoat and bowler - hat have been


slowly disappearing into the corridor as if in the veil of mist‌

Tamara Muradova january 10, 1930

Archiproba magazine moscow summer 2011 3d issue Editor / Creative Director Tamara Muradova Translation Anatoly Kovalev, Olga Sherbakova

Thanks to: Kiril Asse Yura Ananiev Vasilli Bantsekin Boris Bernaskoni Clementine Cecil Natalia Dushkina Bart Goldhoorn Yefim Freidine Ekaterina Karinskaya ( granddaughter of K.Melnikov) Rem Koolhaas Marina Khrustaleva Alexander Lavrentiev ( gradnson of A.Rodchenko) Anastasia Maksutina Marina Maslennikova Mihic-Jeftic Marko Fedor Novikov Polina Nazarenko Ilya Oskolkov-Tsentsiper Vladimir Paperny Olga Polishuk Grigory Polyakovsky Askar Ramazanov Mikhail Smetana Anastassia Smirnova Elena Solovieva Kuba Snopek Tatiana Tsareva Nikita Tokarev Nikolai Vassiliev Anke Zalivako

# 03 | 2011  
# 03 | 2011  

special edition