This winter the Royal Academy of Arts
will present Building the Revolution: Soviet Art and Architecture 19151935. The exhibition will examine Russian avant-garde architecture made during a brief but intense period of design and construction that took place from c.1922 to 1935. Fired by the Constructivist art that emerged in Russia from c.1915, architects transformed this radical artistic language into three dimensions, creating structures whose innovative style embodied the energy and optimism of the new Soviet Socialist state. The exhibition will juxtapose large-scale photographs of extant buildings with relevant Constructivist drawings and paintings, vintage photographs and periodicals. Many of the works have never been shown in the UK before.
The drive to forge a new Socialist society in Russia encouraged synthesis between radical art and architecture. This creative reciprocity was reflected in the engagement with architectural ideas and projects of such artists as Kazimir Malevich, Vladimir Tatlin, Liubov Popova, El Lizzitsky, Ivan Kluin and Gustav Klucis, and in designs by such architects as Konstantin Melnikov, Moisei Ginsburg, Ilia Golosov and the Vesnin brothers, as well as Le Corbusier and Erich Mendelsohn, European architects who were draughted in to help shape the new utopia. Their novel buildings - streamlined, flat-roofed, white-walled and with experimental fenestration - appeared alien among the surrounding traditional low-built wooden structures and densely developed nineteenth century commercial and residential blocks. They left a distinctive mark not only on the two most prominent cities in what was then the USSR, Moscow and St. Petersburg, but also on other urban centres such as Kiev, Ekaterinburg, Baku, Sochi and Nishni Novogorod.
As part of a campaign to preserve these iconic buildings, many of which have either fallen into disrepair, undergone inappropriate transformations or been threatened with demolition, the renowned photographer Richard Pare has documented them in a series of sympathetic and timely images made over the past two decades.
The historical, political, social and cultural context in which these modernist structures were created will be communicated through vintage archival photographs from the Schusev State Museum of Architecture, Moscow (MUAR), showing the buildings under construction or soon after completion. These photographs which have never been exhibited before either, in or outside Russia will be complemented with paintings and works on paper from the George Costakis Collection of Constructivist Art, currently housed at the State Museum of Contemporary Art, Thessaloniki. The inclusion of these pieces will demonstrate the vital experimentation of Russian avant-garde artists from c.1915 to 1935, as well as the intense dialogue that developed between them and radical architects, contributing to a new, revolutionary language of architecture.
Although Russian modernist architecture has long been recognised as a distinctive and significant moment in the history of architecture, it has been rarely published in recent years and hence remains little known. Since the 1990s important and pertinent material relating to the movement has surfaced in Russia and it has become easier to access the buildings themselves. Together these factors have encouraged new research into and a greater understanding of this unique period.
The exhibition will be arranged thematically, with sections focusing on residential buildings, factories, health facilities, communications and transport. Each section in turn will explore advancements and nuances within the different building types. The architecture will be brought to life with a mixture of contemporary and vintage photographs.