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Space Age Modernism

An new photo exhibition looks to outer space to find the inspiration for Russias most unusual buildings.

Published: April 17, 2013 (Issue # 1755)



  • The Novgorod Drama Theater brings to mind imagery more associated with intergalactic travel than with Chekhov.
    Photo: for spt

  • St. Petersburgs Red Dawn labs.
    Photo: for spt

  • The Sports and Music Complex in Yerevan, Armenia, looks more likely to contain alien lifeforms than violinists.
    Photo: for spt

A new exhibition at the Peter and Paul Fortress in honor of Cosmonaut Day, which is celebrated annually on April 12 and marks the anniversary of the countrys first manned space flight, allows visitors to step into the past and look at the Soviet vision of the future through the prism of some of the most ambitious and dynamic architecture of the communist era.

The exhibition consists of a collection of nearly 100 photographs of space-age buildings across Russia, from Vladivostok to Kaliningrad. The buildings have one characteristic in common: Each is a representative of the cosmic architecture that emerged in Russia after WWII and which coincided with the golden age of Russian space exploration, which began in the late 1950s.

The buildings of the post-war period in Russia, when the primary aim was to construct inexpensive residential buildings for the Soviet people rather than aesthetic marvels, are generally believed to be of little architectural interest, being associated with unimaginative housing projects and soulless development.

Yet these are stereotypes that leave in the shadows a whole stratum of Soviet architecture which enjoyed creative freedom and expressed ideas of experiment and innovation, said Vladimir Ivanov, the exhibitions curator. It was the architecture of the so-called cosmic communist style.

The subject of outer space was one of the main cultural references throughout late Soviet culture, with ideas about the universal power of the Soviet Union reflected in literature, movies, music and architecture. It was architecture, however, more than any other discipline, which brought together art, engineering and science, and where societys most forward-looking impulses found their fullest expression.

To find a way to express the idea of new frontiers, Soviet architects looked to the achievements of modern Western architecture, to the traditional architectural art of the multi-national Soviet Union and to the experience of the artists from the 1920s and 1930s.

These buildings still make a great impression and provide a powerful emotional experience, said Ivanov. There are even some constructions made in the form of rockets, for instance, and a pioneer camp built according to plans developed for a projected moon base.

The exhibition is divided into several parts, each of which has its own topic. The most interesting, according to the organizers, is that which examines environments for the new man.

We investigated the Soviet inclination to create ideal conditions for the development of creativity among the youngest members of society from kindergartens in the shape of flying saucers and lunar pioneer camps to the unusual project of building wedding registry offices in this style so as to lure people away from getting married in churches, said Ivanov. It turns out that every important moment in a persons life had to be closely connected to space travel, so as to make this image of the future a reality.

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Times Talk

ALL ABOUT TOWN

Wednesday, Apr. 23


Problems facing the elderly are in the spotlight at Senior Generation 2014, an international forum at LenExpo beginning today that focuses on drawing attention to and providing information about some of societys most vulnerable members. An exhibition combined with a trade fair will help those interested be better equipped to help this demographic.



Thursday, Apr. 24


Learn more about Denmark during the Danish Business Delegations visit to SPIBA this evening starting at 5:30 p.m. at the Danish Culture Institute. Danish Consul general Klaus Sorensen will be in attendance and the buffet following a presentation on Danish companies in Russia will be the perfect opportunity to network with the assembled businessmen.


AmChams Human Resources Committee Meeting is scheduled for 9 a.m. this morning in their St. Petersburg office. Check their website for more details.



Friday, Apr. 25


Light Music presents the main events for their Cultural Kitchen project at Loft-Project Etagi today. A B2B event that focuses on Finnish food, arts, travel, music and design, the evening will conclude with a dinner by chef Jyrki Tsutsunen and dancing to music by Aino Venna. The event, which began yesterday with presentations by tourism and cultural institutions, concludes today with a preview of Finlands Flow festival and other musical events. Invitations are available from www.culturalkitchen.fi.



Saturday, Apr. 26


At 6 p.m. this evening, stylist Liliana Modigliani offers 50 simple ways to up your style quotient with beauty tips at the Galeria shopping center on Ligovsky Prospekt. The event is part of the final day of the shopping malls Fashion Saturday sales event, this week focusing on top brands located on the ground floor as well as presentation from fashion experts on sprucing up your spring look.



Sunday, Apr. 27


Families shouldnt miss Childhood Planet 2014, the trade fair that started yesterday and concludes today at LenExpo. Not only will goods and services be provided for children and families but the event hopes to promote Russian brands and eco-friendly products using the latest technology available in the childcare industry.



Monday, Apr. 28


The Hotel Indigo will be the site of SPIBAs Acting Skills for HR and Other Managers master class this morning starting at 9 a.m. The event will begin with coffee before moving on to the class itself and conclude with a tour of the recently opened hotel. Confirm attendance by Apr. 24.



Tuesday, Apr. 29


Improve your English at the British Book Centers Interactive English Lesson tonight at 6 p.m. Students at pre-intermediate and intermediate levels are welcome discuss topics that are selected to help learners master the more difficult aspects of English grammar and vocabulary.