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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.
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  • St. Petersburgs Red Dawn labs.
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  • The Sports and Music Complex in Yerevan, Armenia, looks more likely to contain alien lifeforms than violinists.
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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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ALL ABOUT TOWN

Wednesday, July 23


SPIBAs Legislation & Lobbying Committee invites everyone interested in the practical aspects of courts and procedural law to todays Legal Debating Club at 9:30 a.m. at the Mertens House, 21 Nevsky Prospekt, office 506. Visit spiba.ru for more details.


Take advantage of the sunny summer days and participate in Beach Games 2014, which runs through July 27 in Sestroretsks Dubki Park.



Thursday, July 24


Liliana Modiliani, a well-known Russian stylist, will talk about choosing clothes that fit during her lecture at 7 p.m. at the Pryamoy Efir art club, 13 Viborgskoe Shosse.



Friday, July 25


Discuss Russias economic and political prospects for 2014 during a Business Breakfast organized by SPIBA at 9.30 a.m. in the Bank Saint-Petersburg office at 64


Malookhtinsky Prospekt.


Start your weekend with adorable miniature pigs at the Squealing Pig festival at 7 p.m. this evening in the Karl & Friedrich restaurant, 15 Iozhnaya doroga, on Krestovsky Island.



Saturday, July 26


Hundreds of brand-new and retro cars, drag and drift shows, test drives and karting are planned for the Avtobum-2014 festival, which will take place in front of the RIO shopping center at 2 Fuchika Ulitsa.


Participants in todays SaniDay Summer competition will impress visitors with their hand-made, unusual and hilarious boats, which will race at the Igora Resort near the 54th kilometer on Priozerskoe Shosse.


Metro Family Day will include both serious lectures for adults and master-classes for children, making the event interesting for the whole family. To participate, come to Kirov Park on Yelagin Island.


Photography will be the focus of todays Photosubbota, which features lectures by famous photographers, meetings with photo schools and studio representatives, and participation in a photography competition. The event starts at noon at Petrokongress, 5 Lodeynopolskaya Ulitsa.


If you like cycling, make sure to visit the Za Velogorod Festival with its retro bike exhibition, market and live music. The second round of the Leningrad Criterium race will also take place during the event at Petrovsky Arsenal in Sestroretsk.



Sunday, July 27


Navy Day will be celebrated with a weapon and military transportation exhibition, self-defense master classes and concerts. The event starts at 1 p.m. in the 300th Anniversary Park of St. Petersburg.



Monday, July 28


Dont miss a chance to see the latest achievements in robotics during the RoboDom interactive show, exhibiting more than 150 robots. The show will be at BUM center, 22/2 Gzhatskaya Ulitsa, until Aug. 3. The entrance ticket costs 350 rubles ($10).



Tuesday, July 29


A video of a Queen concert from 1986 will be shown today at 8 p.m. in Yaschik, 50/13 Ligovsky Prospekt.



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