New York Architecture Images-Seaport and Civic Center

Unrealised Stalinist Moscow

Moscow architecture from the 1930s to the early 1950s undoubtedly occupies a central place in domestic construction of the socialist epoch. Its specific nature and scope is the most outstanding illustration of the socialist Utopia in architecture. This period saw the work of the greatest Soviet architects; B. Icfan, A. Schusev, I. Zholtovsky, the Vesnin brothers, I. Fomin, L. Rudnev, I. Golosov, V. Schuko. Among the far-reaching projections of the first stalinist "five year plans", the 1935 General plan for the reconstruction of Moscow overshadowed all others. According to this plan, Moscow was to become, in the shortest possible time, the showpiece capital of the world's first socialist state. The General plan envisaged the development of the city as a unified system of highways, squares and embankments with unique buildings, embodying the ideas and achievements of socialism. This plan contained a number of major flaws, especially in connection with the preservation of the historical heritage of the city. The specific nature of the architectural process of this period was determined wholly by ambitious government schemes. In order to realize them, extensive architectural contests were held and architects of diverse orientations and schools of thought were invited to tender their projects. The competitions for the projects of the Palace of Soviets (1931-1933) and for the building of the People's Commissariat of Heavy Industry (1934) were particularly noteworthy in scope and results. Although, ultimately, neither of these projects was realised, the plans submitted by the participants had a noticeable influence on the development of Moscow, and many of the entries have earned a place in this century's repository of project planning. At the time, this style of architecture, like its contemporary literature and Soviet depictive art, were proclaimed to be an exemplary implementation of the "most progressive" artistic method of "socialist realism",. Considered today, it is clear that the best examples of this architecture, most of which never got beyond the drawing board, are more profound and interesting than the ideological norms within the constraints of which they were devised. Behind many grandiose projects one may often discern the desires of those endowed with power to affirm the greatness of this or that historical epoch. May the unrealised plans of these monumental buildings serve as a reminder that it is right and proper to build innovatively without destroying the historically valuable past. 
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