For most, ‘Soviet’ is still an architectural insult. Repetitive, authoritarian, bland, monolithic, inhuman – we all know what it means. Of course, there are more nuanced views around, but these two books together make one thing very clear: the Modern Movement and the Soviet Union were inextricably, if not always consciously linked from the 1910s to the 1980s, and not only temporally; and moreover, both the 20s and 80s saw wild modernist experiments in the Soviet Union, producing perhaps the most convulsive, explosive, experimental architecture in the Modern Movement’s history. The first period – the era of Constructivism and revolutionary optimism – we (sort of) know about; the second – the grey zone spanning Brezhnev’s dotage and the failed reforms of Perestroika – is shrouded in obscurity, despite being more recent. Yet neither book has much to say about what happened in between, which might be the key to understanding the entire affair.
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