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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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  • 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

Thursday, Aug. 21


Time is running out to see the fantastic creations on display at the 2014 Sand Castle Festival on the beach at the Peter and Paul Fortress. Adhering to the theme of Treasure Island, visitors can wander amongst larger-than-life interpretations of pirate life or attend one of the workshops held to educate a future generation of sand artists. The castles will remain on the beach until Aug. 31.



Friday, Aug. 22


Get ready to pledge allegiance to the flag during National Flag Day, paying tribute to when, 23 years ago today, the iconic hammer-and-sickle was replaced with the tricolor that now flutters in the wind. Petersburgers will be treated to a free concert on Palace Square, a military parade and a culminating air show featuring Russias Russian Knights stunt pilots.



Saturday, Aug. 23


Uppsala Park plays host to Fairy Noon today, a performance of five separate fairy tales ranging from folk classics to more haunting selections. There will be three different renditions of the tales throughout the day and tickets start at 500 rubles ($13.80) for adults and 300 rubles ($8.30) for children.


Classic Finnish cartoon characters the Moomins expect to receive a warm welcome from Russian fans during todays Moomin Festival at the Pearl Plaza Shopping Center at 51 Petergofskoye Shosse. Become a kid again or introduce a new generation to the beloved creation of Finnish writer Tove Jansson.



Sunday, Aug. 24


The tortured genius of Dutch master Vincent van Gogh gets his day in the centers Konnushnaya Ploschad during Make Art Like Van Gogh, a daylong celebration of the artist that will allow amateur artists to try and replicate the work that made the famed painter world-renowned.


Experience a variety of dances highlighting the diversity of the world around as at the final day of the Ethno-Dance International Dance Festival that has been at the St. Petersburg Humanitarian University of Trade Unions this past week. Tonights performance will feature Egyptian dancers accompanied by local orchestras.



Monday, Aug. 25


Today kicks off the Elena Obraztsovoy International Competition for Young Vocalists in the large hall of the Shostakovich Philharmonic. Talented youngsters will showcase their range over the next six days before a winner is chosen on Aug. 30.



Tuesday, Aug. 26


Love movies but hate all those words? Then check out Rodina Cinema Centers Factor of Consensus film forum this evening. Silent movie classics from the beginning of the 20th century will be screened and accompanied by a pianist, who will provide the soundtrack for the ongoing action. The screenings begin at 7 p.m. Check Rodinas website for more details.



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