Constructivism, the main style in the architecture of the Soviet avant-garde of the 1920s and early 1930s. Leningrad ‘ s architectural avant-garde is a substantial contribution and part of it.
St. Petersburg this so called “cultural capital of Russia” most of all well known for its classical architecture. But in 1920-1930’s dominant position in architecture and town-planning hold by Constructivism. Constructivism is the original and Soviet version of the pan-currents European functionalism. It was international architectural trend but the Soviets were in the vanguard of it.
There are more than 150 objects of Constructivist architecture in St. Petersburg nowadays. In times of its creation they were the incarnation of enthusiasm for revolutionary rearrangement for whole the world in general and urbanism rearrangement in particular, general refusal from individual in favor of collective. New architecture and town-planning forms had to be in general agreement to the spirit of new society: “garden city”, “living cell”, large-scale mechanized canteen, palace of culture, “proletarian thermae”(bath-house) and so on. Exactly in Leningrad appeared one of the first workshops of experimental construction organized by Kazimir Malevich and his “VHUTEMAS”. The Constructivists fight with typical symmetry tried to set free architectural design from established stereotypes. From this comes so called “plan skewness” – the main feature of such kind of buildings which shows functional purpose of construction (e.g. “case” for some mechanism and device). That’s why Constructivist architecture is so efficient and functional with its extreme simplicity: laconic shapes, lack of decorations, combination of primary geometrical sizes.
The best place to start your “Constructivist sightseeing” in St. Petersburg is “Narvskya” metro station area or “Narvskaya Zastava” in previous days. There you can see such objects as Gorky palace of culture (1925-1927, arch. Gegello, Krichevsky), School of 10th anniversary of October (1925-1927, arch. Nikolsky), House of Technical studies (1930-1932, arch. Gegello, Krichevsky), Department store and large-scale mechanized canteen of Moskovsky-Narvsky district (1929-1931, arch. Batruchev, Gilter), Housing estate on Traktornaya street (1925-1927, arch. Gegello, Nikholsky), Kirovsky District Soviet (1930-1935, arch. Trotsky) and many others.
At Petrogradskya Storona (“Petrogradskya” or “Chkalovskaya” metro station area) you’ll find Leningrad’s Red Flag Textile Factory building designed by Eric Mendelsohn in 1926 (standing on the corner of Pionerskaya Ulitsa and Korpusnaya Ulitsa near Metro “Chkalovskya”), First Residental Building of Leningrad Sovietl (1931-1935, arch. Levinson, Fomin), Lensoveta House of Culture (1931-1938, arch. Levinson, Mynts).
At Vasyl’evsky Island “Vasyleostrovskaya” metro station area (to tell the truth I was born there…) is situated the most unusual constructivism building on my taste – water tower of “Krasny Gvozdil’shik” plant (1929-1931, arch. Chernihov).
There are a lot of Constructivist buildings in other districts of St. Petersburg (Nevsky, Moskovsky, Frunzenskiy, Vyborgsky and other) and it’ll take time to mentioned and describe all of them. If you’re interested check for as an example this link http://www.citywalls.ru/search-archstyle300.html (sorry, only in Russian) or read an excellent guide-book “Leningrad avant-garde architecture” by Boris Kirikov and M. Shtiglitz (some English text for maps).