Thursday, November 24, 2011


Wed 23 November 2011 – 7.30pm
Were the Constructivists Really Communists?
Language: In English

Architects of the Russian avant-garde are often presented as either ‘western’ aesthetes or unworldly and out of their depth when it comes to politics, but was this really the case?

Writer and journalist Owen Hatherley argues that they were complicit in the ideology under which they were working, and that their buildings and theories make most sense when seen as part of a Marxist project.

Lecture 1: : Wed 2 November 2011, 7.30pm He who works, eats: Samara’s Factory Canteen and other masterpieces of Russian Provincial Constructivism
Lecture 2: Thu 10 November 2011, 7.30pm Building the Revolution: Destroying the Past
Lecture 3: Wed 16 November 2011, 7.30pm Russian Architectural Models of the 1920’s from VKhUTEMAS
Lecture 4: Wed 23 November 2011, 7.30pm Were the Constructivists really Communists?
Lecture 5: Wed 30 November 2011, 7.30pm Constructivism: what are we trying to save?

is organised by Pushkin House and the Moscow Architecture Preservation Society

The CONSTRUCTIVISM TODAY LECTURE SERIES at Pushkin House is run in connection with the Building the Revolution: Soviet Art and Architecture 1915-1935 exhibition at the Royal Academy of Arts.

30th November: DISCUSSION: Constructivism: What are We Trying to Save?
Constructivist buildings are seen by many to be the white elephants of Russian cities. Finding new functions for these radical, experimental buildings is extremely challenging, despite their outstanding designs. They bear the negative associations of times of upheaval, poverty and experiments by the state on the ordinary citizen, as well as mass demolitions in Moscow in the early 1920s, and so are unpopular with most Russians. How should they be treated in the 21st Century?
Discussion to be chaired by architectural historian and theorist Fred Scott, with participation from photographer Richard Pare, writer Owen Hatherley and MAPS co-founder Clementine Cecil, others to be confirmed.

A comprehensive reconstruction is being planned of Moscow’s famous Stalinist-era All Russian Exhibition Centre (AREC), better known by its historic name of VSKhV-VDNKh (All-Union Agricultural Exhibition).
This architectural ensemble was mostly built between 1939 and 1954, with some post-war modernist additions. The entire area is a conservation zone, and contains areas of protected landscapes, within which, according to law, all major new construction is illegal.
The administration of AREC, however, is preparing to reduce the size of the conservation zone and commence the construction of new buildings, which will destroy the integrity of this unusual and important ensemble.
Campaigners are urging the Centre’s administration to rethink the development project and to limit it to a much-needed restoration of its existing architectural monuments.

An outline of this alarming situation, has been published in
The Moscow Times.
More about the history of the site, is on pages 162-163
of the MAPS/SAVE Europe’s Heritage report.

An excerpt from that 2009 report says:
“This complex is a unique open-air museum designed and built by the best architects, sculptors and craftsmen from throughout the Soviet Union... The pavilions of 1939 to 1954 abound in hand-crafted ornament and need careful restoration, yet some of them have already suffered in recent years because of unsympathetic renovation work... Out of a total of 36 original pavilions, only 28 appear on Moskomnaslediye’s register, including the Fur Farming and Forestry pavilion that burned down a few years ago. As for the pavilions of the 1960s, some of which are most remarkable, these appear not to be thought worthy of preservation.”

The Moscow Architecture Preservation Society (MAPS) has been set up in May 2004 by a group of international journalists and architects.
They work in close cooperation with preservationists, architects and historians within Russia and abroad to raise awareness about the present destruction of the city's historical buildings.

Through these contacts, MAPS is working to give Russian preservationists and Muscovites a greater international voice.
MAPS believes that every effort should be made to preserve certain buildings.
Its representatives invite experts to advise on more sustainable approaches to the historic built environment.
Through such work MAPS hopes to convince the Moscow Government, developers and architects that the unchecked demolition of old Moscow is not in the city’s long-term interest.

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