Thursday, July 19, 2018

Freedman reflects on constructivist architecture in Yekaterinburg

Drama critic John Freedman offered a personal reflection of his experience in Yekaterinburg in Sunday's edition of the Moscow Times, noting the strong tradition of the city's use of constructivist architecture.

In his essay, Freedman said his admiration of the architectural style was slow to cultivate and that it was almost by mistake that he first noticed the city's central post office on Ulitsa Lenina, The Moscow Times reports.

"The town was empty and the buildings lining Ulitsa Lenina stood out in stark relief thanks to an array of strategically placed spotlights," Freedman said, according to The Moscow Times. "And that's when I saw it: Almost the whole other side of the street -- and much of the side I was walking on, too -- was lined in gorgeous Constructivist style buildings. The central post office was one of the most prominent among them."

Throughout his piece, Freedman refers to Yekaterinburg: The Heritage of Constructivism, a book that guides the reader through the history of Yekaterinburg's 140 constructivist buildings built during the period of 1924 to 1934.

As a genre of architecture, constructivism initially caught on during the early years of the Soviet era. Constructivism is distinguished by the appearance of boxes within boxes, rounded corners, rectangular turrets, bay windows protruding from flat surfaces and an overall mashing of geometric shapes, The Moscow Times reports.

The majority of residences built during the constructivist period had no kitchen or dining room, forcing families to gather in a centralized cafeteria for meals. Rooms in the home were smaller, prompting families to spend more time working to further a socialized agenda.

"Constructivism is one of the most inhumane architectural styles ever devised," Freedman said, according to The Moscow Times. "Its purpose was to deprive the individual of a private life and throw him into a collective existence."

Ultimately, Freedman attempts to reconcile the beauty of constructivist architecture with the period of Russian history from which it evolved.