Architecture and Revolution: Contemporary Perspectives on Central and Eastern Europe

By Neil Leach | Go to book overview

14

Architecture in a post-totalitarian society

Round-table discussion conducted by Bart Goldhoorn

Architecture and society

Do architects in contemporary Russia still serve some kind of public interest or are they only fulfilling the demands of the private client? What role could urban design, the most public aspect of the architectural discipline play in the development of the Russian city? How will the Russian city change over the next twenty years?

SELIM KHAN-MAGOMEDOV: In the twentieth century architects have been concerned with the problems of the general population's living conditions. In our country this was especially evident in the 1920s and 1930s, and, to some extent remains so to this day. Today, everything in the past is being criticized. The denial of that which preceded is characteristic for the Russian mentality-this was the case in the time of Prince Vladimir Krasnoe Solnyshko, and in the time of Peter the Great and later, in the classical epoch, when the majority of traditional boyars' palaces were disfigured in attempts to mimic European styles. Nevertheless, architecture is basically a positive form of art always reacting in a positive way to any assignment, even if it is an imperial one. We must realize that in architecture, unlike literature or painting, there can be no such thing as 'critical realism'.

It is difficult to discuss the contemporary role of urban design in the development of the Russian city. We have rejected the old rigid regulations, and yet there is still no real new legislation on urban planning, just as there is no real land market. All this is only in the making, and it is hardly possible to say in advance how the results of this process will be reflected in future architecture.

Discussing what the image of the Russian city will be in 20 years is more meaningful from a structural than from an aesthetic point of view. From the 1930s onward we have undergone a process of urbanization that has no European precedent, in which urban populations increased to four or, perhaps, five times their previous levels. As a result the ratio of population density between cities and domesticated non-urban territories has changed sharply. This is a terrible situation.

-163-

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