Monday, May 21, 2007
Cool Soviet Era Architecture
"Yet the ministry building’s design also debunks many of the standard clichés we hold about late Soviet architecture. Rising on an incline between two highways, the building’s heavy cantilevered forms reflect the Soviet-era penchant for heroic scale. Yet they also relate sensitively to their context, celebrating the natural landscape that flows directly underneath the building.
The composition of interlocking forms, conceived as a series of bridges, brings to mind the work of the Japanese Metabolists of the late ’60s and early ’70s, proof that Soviet architects weren’t working in an intellectual vacuum.
Similarly, the Druzhba (Friendship) Sanitarium in Yalta, Ukraine, designed by Igor Vasilevsky and completed in 1986, is an object lesson in bold architectural strokes. The resort building’s cylindrical form stands on a hill overlooking a beach in what was then an exclusive resort town. To enter, visitors cross a bridge encased in a glass tube and then descend into the complex, which is supported on massive legs housing the elevators and stairs. Conceived as a “social condenser,” the building’s core is occupied by a cinema, dance hall, swimming pool and cafe. Circling this core are the guest rooms, arrayed in a dazzling saw-tooth facade orienting each room toward the water and sunlight, while giving the structure an eerie science-fiction quality. (Think Stanley Kubrick’s “2001: A Space Odyssey.”)
But what’s refreshing about this exhibition is its lack of an ideological agenda: it is open to all sorts of possibilities. The Gaudiesque romanticism of a sanitarium in Druskininkai, Lithuania, for example, spins the aesthetic off in yet another direction. Built as a series of interlocking cylinders, its forms are lifted slightly off the ground to create the illusion of lightness. Decorative concrete ribbons spill out over the facade; columns for draining rainwater splay open at the bottom. The building looks as though it’s unraveling, a blend of creativity and madness spilling out into full view.
In another project, a sports complex and opera house in the Armenian capital, Yerevan, an open-air terrace steps down into the earth, flanked by a pair of immense concrete walls and narrow staircases that evoke the excavation of some forgotten futurist city — not a bad metaphor for the entire show."
Soviet Architects and Their Edifice Complex
NYT, May 16, 2007
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