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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)



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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

Saturday, Nov. 1


The men and women who dedicate their lives to fitness get their chance to compete for the title of best body in Russia at todays Grand Prix Fitness House PRO, the nations premier bodybuilding competition. Not only will men and women be competing for thousands of dollars in prizes and a trip to represent their nation at Mr. Olympia but sporting goods and nutritional supplements will also be available for sale. Learn more about the culture of the Indian subcontinent during Diwali, the annual festival of lights that will be celebrated in St. Petersburg this weekend at the Culture Palace on Tambovskaya Ul. For 100 rubles ($2.40), festival-goers listen to Indian music, try on traditional Indian outfits and sample dishes highlighting the culinary diversity of the billion-plus people in the South Asian superpower.



Sunday, Nov. 2


Check out the latest video and interactive games at the Gaming Festival at the Mayakovsky Library ending today. Meet with the developers of the popular and learn more about their work, or learn how to play one of their creations with the opportunity to ask the creators themselves about the exact rules.



Monday, Nov. 3


Non-athletes can get feed their need for competition without breaking a sweat at the Rock-Paper-Scissors tournament this evening at the Cube Bar at Lomonosova 1. Referees will judge the validity of each matchup award points to winners while the citys elite fight for the chance to be called the best of the best. Those hoping to play must arrange a team beforehand and pay 200 rubles ($4.80) to enter.



Tuesday, Nov. 4


Attend the premiere of Canadian director Xavier Dolans latest film Mommy at the Avrora theater this evening. The fifth picture from the 25-year-old, it is the story of an unruly teenager but the most alluring (or unappealing) aspect is the way the film was shot: in a 1:1 format that is more reminiscent of Instagram videos than cinematic art. Tickets cost 400 rubles ($9.60) and snacks and drinks will be available.



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