Posts tagged with "Soviet Architecture":

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Chernobyl's aging sarcophagus will be torn down, replaced soon

The historic sarcophagus at Chernobyl is slated to be partially dismantled to make way for a safer structure very soon. The Ukranian company that manages the formerly-radioactive site—home of the world’s most famous nuclear disaster—is taking it down preemptively before the 30-year-old structure falls.  According to Popular Mechanics, the concrete-and-steel, half-domed architecture, also known as the Shelter, was built in just 206 days after the 1986 explosion in Soviet-era Ukraine. As the Russian-occupied state was trying to sort through the mess, the government hired “liquidators,” or clean up agents, to construct the sarcophagus atop the deadly site. Though many died because of the work, it successfully kept radioactive chemicals such as corium, uranium, and plutonium from exposing the surrounding city—and the world—all these years.  Despite its remarkably quick construction and decades of decent performance, the sarcophagus was actually built quite poorly, without any welded or bolted joints due to the inexperience of the workers. It became clear that after just over a decade, the sarcophagus would need to be replaced. Popular Mechanics noted how in a 2017 interview with BBC, an expert on nuclear safety recounted that the Soviets lowered the beams for the building and built the roof structure using helicopters. Nothing was made to be very sturdy.  The SSE Chernobyl NPP, which oversees the site today, said it will start taking the insecure architecture apart after the New Shelter Containment (NCS), a building plan that was pieced together two decades ago, is up and running. The build-out of the NCS is currently in progress by a French consortium of construction groups called Novarka and, according to World Nuclear News, it’s the “largest moveable land-based structure ever built.” BBC identified the “vast new tomb for dangerous waste” as larger than Wembly Stadium and taller than the Statue of Liberty. The NCS is expected to make the site safe for up to 100 years and will help it withstand dangerously high temperatures, a class-three tornado, and a 6.0 earthquake—all things that the sarcophagus is prone to crumbling because of now. Officials are also testing the equipment and technological systems used on the NCS ahead of its soon-to-be full operation. 
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Outpost Office explores the state of architectural education in post-revolution Ukraine

Architecture has faced many challenges in modern Ukraine: shifting narratives around cultural heritage and the legacy of Soviet architecture, predatory developers who willfully ignore planning regulations, a struggling economy, and widespread corruption to name a few. Ukraine’s state institutions of higher education often grapple with badly needed reforms, bloated by outdated bureaucracy and limited resources. But today, only five years after a peaceful revolution came to a tragic end and with war waging at its eastern border, Ukraine’s first independent school of architecture has just completed the inaugural year of its bachelor program in architecture. The newly established Kharkiv School of Architecture (KhSA) and its dedicated community of educators and students are hopeful signs of the bottom-up reforms possible in post-revolution Ukraine. In spite of the frustrating global tug-of-war over its lands, and the sobering societal struggles, a new generation of leaders are being trained to construct Ukraine’s future.  Reformation Calls for reform in post-Soviet Ukraine have been steadily building for many years but became a global focus in 2014 during the “Maidan” movement (now termed the Revolution of Dignity). Although it began in Kyiv as backlash to the former President Yanukovych's decision to reverse an EU agreement, the movement rapidly grew to multi-city protests. The protestors’ grievances grew to include Ukraine’s systematic and widespread corruption, which affects many aspects of daily life, including in higher education. As Lviv-based historian Yaroslav Hrytsak told the Kyiv Post at the time, the revolution was characterized particularly by, “young people who are very educated, people who are active in social media, who are mobile and 90 percent of whom have university degrees, but who don't have futures.” Today, the legacy of the Revolution of Dignity is a young generation that continues to work towards political, social, economic, and educational reforms. For the leaders of the KhSA, the question is how the architects they are training can be not only become responsible practitioners but the reformers Ukraine needs. One of the many positive societal shifts in post-revolution Ukraine is a growing engagement in the built environment. Young activists are leading a charge to save Ukraine’s remaining Soviet modernist architecture from destructive forces, including decommunization laws and aggressive development. Additionally, many architects are returning to Ukraine after training or working abroad and leveraging their experiences to bring visitors and new ideas into the Ukranian architectural community through workshops, forums, and other public programming. A New Model Kharkiv is an industrial city in the northeast corner of Ukraine. The country’s second largest city, Kharkiv was the first capital of the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic before the capital was moved to Kyiv in 1934. In architecture circles, Kharkiv is perhaps best known as the site of Derzhprom, a Metropolis-like complex of constructivist towers interlinked by iconic skyways that made it the largest single structure in the world when completed in 1928.  The KhSA fronts a small square near the confluence of the Lopan and Kharkiv Rivers. Behind its sparkling white Beaux-Arts facade, the activity of the school is intense and frenetic. The lower level galleries are filled with studio spaces and exhibitions. Upstairs, the “big hall” hosts lectures and symposiums on an almost nightly basis. The basement workshop is filled with mock-ups, models, and countless meters of wood. The school rents various lab spaces to a coding academy, a VR company, and other start-ups. The greatest hub of activity is the small office on the lower floor. Inside, the young tutors and directors that run the school day-to-day meet constantly, often planning events and the school’s schedule on a weekly or daily basis. The conversation is intense, vigorous, and constant. No one in the room is over 40.  The KhSA serves a unique population—of its first class of eleven students, ten are women. The students range in age from 18-to-44, many with families and children. Everyone in the first year class is Ukrainian, but the school is in the planning stages of an international master’s program, which they hope to introduce in the coming years to attract students from around the world to study in Ukraine. The KhSA is a new type of architectural education in Ukraine. The school’s statement of purpose is to “prepare a future generation of professional responsible architects and urbanists who will implement spatial changes in Ukraine and will create a quality environment with an emphasis on modern technology solutions, community challenges, and new ideas.” A workshop earlier this summer at the school focused on rehousing some of the nearly 1.5 million internally displaced Ukrainians who have fled the Eastern conflict zone near the Russian border. The school’s founder, Oleg Drozdov, sees training architects to tackle the real-world problems of the Ukrainian context as his young institution’s mandate. Drozdov leverages relationships from his successful practice to identify organizations, municipalities, and projects that could benefit from a relationship with the school.   Open/Work To celebrate the first year of their newly established bachelor's program, program director Kuba Snopek and his colleagues decided to hold a public exhibition and architectural education symposium. Our practice, Outpost Office, was invited to lead a seminar that would work with students to curate, design, and fabricate the exhibition, Open/Work. We quickly discovered that KhSA’s first class was a prolific one. We began by asking the students to collect every single piece of work they had produced and arrange them on the floor of the big hall. Over the next few hours, our students assembled an immense landscape of work, including compositional studies, material experiments, construction details, and modest houses that concluded their studio studies. After a conversation about the work, we asked the students to sweep through the school again, gathering tools, books, posters and any other ephemera that was significant to them. We explained that we were seeking answers to a deceptively simple question: What makes an architecture school?  In many ways, our approach to this seminar and exhibition draws inspiration from previous research work on organizational and material systems of open-air markets and bazaars. Starting in 2014 as a Fulbright Fellow in Ukraine, Ashley became fascinated with architectural logic of organization, tectonics, and display methods found in Ukrainian markets. In 2016 she led “Bizarre Bazaar,” a travel seminar with students from the University of Michigan’s Taubman College to study these environments and make legible their design modalities of organization, governance, and logistics. Like all start-ups, the KhSA works with limited resources. In this spirit, the exhibition utilizes inexpensive materials typical of bazaars and markets in Ukraine—white metal grating, glossy white tiles, and generic LED lights—along with the bazaars’ highly curated organizational approach to display. The white metal grating used as the exhibition’s primary material is also erected by bazaar vendors to densely suspend their goods. Students worked collaboratively to explore organizational methods and detailing more often associated with museum storage than acts of display. Objects in the floating archive are arrayed to produce micro-narratives that celebrated significant accomplishments of their first year. The exhibition not only included student work, but items borrowed from around the school including lecture posters, books, pencils, ✖️ 's (for Ха́рків), pillows, hard hats, woodworking tools, and at least one concrete whale. Ultimately, the exhibition is a moment to reflect on a remarkable milestone before another important "first" arrives... second year.  This project would not have been possible without the supporting institutions that funded our research in Ukraine the last five years, including the Knowlton School of Architecture at the Ohio State University, University of Michigan’s Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning, the Fulbright Program, the Center for Urban History of East Central Europe, and the KhSA. 
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Top architecture reads for the October Revolution's 100th anniversary

October 25th, 2017 marks the 100th anniversary of the beginning of the October Revolution, when a group of socialist revolutionaries stormed the Winter Palace in Petrograd (today's St Petersburg), an event that would echo through the 20th century and beyond by starting Soviet communism. While the dream of the revolution did not come to pass as originally envisioned, these influences were felt not only in politics, but also through the establishment of avant-garde architecture and art, which fueled modernism internationally. We asked some critics and historians to choose a few books that might be good to read in celebration and reflection on the events of October 1917, and learn about their impacts on the built environment today. Owen Hatherley, author of Militant Modernism and Landscapes of Communism:   Russian Avant-Garde: Theories of Art, Architecture and the City by Catherine Cooke If you need to read one book about the revolution and its effects on architecture, make it this one - comprehensive, sweeping, richly illustrated and with extracts from theorists and designers of the time. Russia: Architecture for World Revolution by El Lissitzky This slim volume features the great designer's 1929 book The Reconstruction of Architecture in the Soviet Union and many early texts on the ideas of early Soviet urbanism, and the international debates they provoked. Melnikov: Solo Architect in a Mass Society by Frederick S. Starr An appropriately heroic biography of the most famous post-revolutionary architect, a mercurial and individualistic figure who somehow managed to build his own house in the center of Moscow in a city where land was nationalized and most lived in communal flats. Town and Revolution by Anatole Kopp Still the best book on the sheer scope and drama of the revolution's effects on ideas about the city, and its failure to translate that into lasting effects.  An Archaeology of Socialism by Victor Buchli An anthropologist's history of the famous Narkomfin communal house in Moscow, its ups and downs and its eventual slide towards its current near-dereliction.

Michael Sorkin, architect, urbanist and critic:   All That’s Solid Melts Into Air by Marshall Berman Marxian spectacles used to wonderful effect in an analysis of both the traumas and communal possibilities of life in New York. Spaces of Hope by David Harvey Our leading exponent of a Marxist critique of space offers an optimistic vision of the city in which the right to it is realized by its inhabitants. The Grand Domestic Revolution by Dolores Hayden The interaction of spatial and and architectural transformation in women’s struggles for liberation in anticipation (and fulfillment) of the revolution’s arrival. City of Quartz by Mike Davis A mighty critique of the city of capital at one of its most extreme and surreal sites: Los Angeles. Dreaming the Rational City: The Myth of American City Planning by Christine Boyer A classic history of the way in which the modern city has been shaped - both literally and conceptually - by ideas of Enlightenment that had one of their culminations in the October Revolution. Diez Anos De Arquitectura En Cuba Revolucionario by Roberto Segre A now poignant account of the remarkable efflorescence of architectural creativity in the decade that followed the Cuban Revolution. Leo Hollis, editor at Verso Books:   Belyayevo Forever by Kuba Snopek A short essay on Moscow's mass housing experiments, the microrayon, and the possibilities of creativity within the mass industrial construction of dwellings. In particular, it tells the story of how the Moscow Conceptualism School emerged from this particular situation and neighborhood. Hidden Urbanism: Architecture and Design of the Moscow Metro 1930-2015 by Sergey Kuznetsov, Alexander Zmeul, Erkan Kagarov The first thing that Owen Hatherley told me to visit when I first went to Moscow was the metro stations. They offer an extraordinary insight into the city. This book is a history of the development of the underground city and the central role of infrastructure in Soviet urban planning. Constructivist Moscow Map by Blue Crow Media, Natalia Melikova, and Nikolai Vassiliev Blue Crow put together an excellent series of guide maps – from Brutalist London to Concrete New York and Modernist Belgrade. Their Moscow edition – developed by Natalia Melikova and Nikolai Vassiliev – is an essential for any visitor to the city to see the remnants of the former urban vision. It is also a beautiful object for those without plans to walk alongside the Moskva anytime soon. Ajay Chaudhary, Executive Director of the Brooklyn Institute for Social Research:    Dreamworld and Catastrophe: The Passing of Mass Utopia in East and West by Susan Buck-Morss One of the greatest comparative works looking at everything from politics and city life to architecture, art, and design from the Russian Revolution to the fall of the Soviet Union. What makes Buck-Morss' book powerful is that it is a story told through many of the commonalities between Soviet society and our own. For those looking for a deeper dive into her Benjaminian-inflected understandings of urban life, I would further recommend her book The Dialectics of Seeing–perhaps the best single volume on Walter Benjamin's unfinished magnum opus and simultaneous paean and critique of modern Parisian life in the late 19th century. October: The Story of the Russian Revolution by China Mieville Regardless of discipline, everyone needs to know the historical twists and turns of 1917. This recent retelling of the story of the Russian Revolution stands easily alongside past greats like Jack Reed's Ten Days That Shook the World and Leon Trotsky's History of the Russian Revolution. But Mieville writes the story with the pen of a fabulist and eye to our current world. Another world was possible, then and now. Red Plenty by Francis Spufford What would it have taken to make the dreams of the Revolution a reality? Spufford's tragicomic docu-novel, tells the story of a grand attempt after the death of Stalin during the "Kruschev thaw" when people across the Soviet Union - from everyday workers to mathematicians to designers to newly burgeoning computer scientists - tried to do just that. The book speaks not only to the experience of planners of all kinds but also gives a momentary glance (and perhaps a shove) about another way things could work.
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Moscow's Shukhov Tower Will Be Dismantled, But Opposition Mounting [Updated]

After racking up a winning medal score at the Sochi Olympics, the host country is set to lose one of its most iconic pieces of architecture. It’s not an Olympic stadium, but the Shukhov Radio and Television Tower in Moscow, which dates back to the 1920’s. The engineer behind the project, Vladimir Shukhov, is credited with creating the world’s first hyperboloid steel structures, an invention that would influence the world of architecture for generations.
According to the Shukhov Tower Foundation, this structure’s 500-feet of latticed steel served as a communications tower for over 80 years in Russia. And it was the first major structure built after the Russian Revolution. But this piece of Soviet history has fallen into disrepair and could disappear entirely.
The Moscow Times reports that plans are in place to dismantle the building this year. The Communications and Press Ministry claims that the structure must come down to prevent the risk of it collapsing; they also contend that disassembling the tower might be the best way to protect its future. The Communications Minister told a local Russian paper, “the only possible option for a solution to the problem is a two stage reconstruction and renovation of the radio tower, which stipulates in the first stage its dismantling for the conservation and preservation of elements for later restoration.” These claims, though, are being challenged by preservationists, including Vladimir Shukhov, the great-grandson of the tower’s engineer, who also runs the Shukhov Tower Foundation. He has said the structure is in bad condition, but that it is stable. He also tells AN that the tower is a “unique and very important object of cultural, architectural, and engineering heritage.” He believes that if the tower is dismantled and reassembled elsewhere, “it will no longer be a monument of cultural heritage; it will become an art object, which will look similar to the Shukhov Tower.” [Update: On February 25th, the Russian State Committee for Television and Radio Broadcasting announced that they had agreed to dismantle the tower. While its demolition seems almost certain, The New York Times reports that Russian officials are expected to make a final decision on the tower’s fate on March 24th.  In a last-ditch effort to save the icon, leading architects including Rem Koolhaas, Tadao Ando, Elizabeth Diller and Thom Mayne have signed-on to a petition that urges Russian President Vladimir Putin to save the tower. “Respected President Putin, we are urging you to take immediate steps to assure the preservation of this essential part of Moscow’s heritage, a unique contribution of Russian engineering genius to world culture,” reads the petition, which was written by Jean-Louis Cohen and Richard Pare, and signed by many arts leaders, engineers and historians.]
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On View> "Irreversible" Exhibition by Los Carpinteros Explores Soviet-Era Architecture

Irreversible Sean Kelly Gallery New York Through June 22 There is a renewed interest in the west of Soviet modern architecture from the Cold War and its strong and determined sculptural form. Much of the work was barely known in the west—at least in this country—and has come as a revelation to scholars and critics. A recent exhibition Soviet Modernism 1955-1991 at the Architekturzentrum in Vienna and a fascinating exhibit Cold War Cool Digital at Pratt Institute featured Soviet designed pre-fabricated and globally distributed Cold War Era housing systems. Both of these exhibits featured the ambitious and determined socialist realism that one would expect from work of this period, but now an exhibition, Irreversible, at the Sean Kelly Gallery by the Havana- and Madrid-based group Los Carpinteros features work that expresses what it felt like to be the receiver of these Soviet-inspired architectural and sculptural forms and their realist messages. The artists are showing large, brightly colored objects inspired by Russian and Yugoslavian sculptures that simultaneously revel in their dramatic form but also the feeling of unease they evoked for Cubans. In order to obfuscate the potentially fraught political connotations of the work. Los Carpenters made them of their own versions of LEGO children's blocks. The results are convincing and powerful in their own right and monuments of a new generation of Cuban artists. The show is on at Sean Kelly through June 22 and features other work by the young Carpinteros.