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Ruins of Socialism - The Present State of Constructivist Architecture of Nizhniy Novgorod

Part 2 Dissertation 2010
Kira Ariskira
London South Bank University, UK
Ruins of Socialism - Architecture of Nizhniy Novgorod

Soviet avant-garde architecture of 1920s actively rejected any historical continuity: the evolution or adaptation of the past architectural forms was not possible in the newly emerged socialist society. Revolution, which swept away the Tsarist regime, required a radical change of the nations petit-bourgeois consciousness. The challenge for the architects was not only to rebuild decaying urban environments but also to shape socialist society with new building typologies (such as Dom-kommunas, Palaces of Labor or Workers' Clubs).

The concept of 'heritage' in the 1920s ceased to exist. Ironically a few decades later Constructivist buildings themselves became objects of heritage. Unfortunately, many are being destroyed by the same continuous motion of rejection of the past, which made these buildings possible. With the attention of experts, Russian and international, being almost solely concentrated on Moscow's Constructivist monuments, avant-garde architecture of Russian regions is usually neglected. Meanwhile, the system of architectural competitions widely practiced during 1920s meant that the theoretical ideas, generated in the capital, were more than likely to be materialized across Russia.

In this dissertation I explore the Constructivist's legacy of Nizhniy Novgorod, the third largest city of the European Russia and also my native city. Unique projects built here are valuable not only on the scale of the country, but also internationally. Having a social agenda as its integral part Constructivist's monuments highly depend on political regime and people's mentality. Unfortunately, Soviet heritage is neglected in capitalist Russia. Nizhniy Novgorod has not escaped this trend: authentic architectural stratum of the city is slowly crumbling away, unrecorded and unappreciated. Still associated with the failures of the socialist regime, Soviet avant-garde architecture is not desired by public. Unavailability of vital information about the buildings and weak legal base for the objects of cultural heritage of the 20th century mean that even the pioneer Constructivist projects of Nizhniy are not celebrated and often destroyed.

For me this work became the first step towards promoting and recording Constructivist architecture of Russian province. Time is crucial: it is highly possible that by the time attention will be turned to the Russian regions, only few authentic Constructivist buildings will

Kira Ariskira

Tutor A
'This is and exxcellent dissertation both well researched and well written with accurate referencing throught. This students personal engagement with the topic is clear and the arguement is concise and coherent . The structure is clear and the primary research is excellent. She analyses the material to a high level'

Turtor B

' This is an exemplary piece of work, both in its research,structure,content,presentation and development in terms of the student cultivating her theoretical position.The subject area seems critical and relevant beyond the site of Nizhnig Novgorod itself,since underlying the specifics of the study lies a wider tragedy.
However that is of secondary benefit to the reader. Theauthor's focus and determination allow he to avoid the trappings of a merely formalist ,dry,monograph. Since she infuses the dissertation with the personal,it could come alive even as a novel. The writing could be tweaked,even extended ,but even as it stands, I can very easily imagine a film or at least a television documentary coming out of this endeavour.@

Paul Davies
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