Frederic Chaubin: CCCP – Cosmic Communist Constructions Photographed

January 6, 2015

downloadI love Taschen books, and this tome on Soviet architecture has long been on my list; this Christmas  it finally came my way. It’s a book to look at, to marvel at, and to get one thinking.

The Soviet Union lasted over seventy years: there was time to think of, and build for, the future. Obviously, no churches or cathedrals were required, but other types of public buildings were: palaces for weddings, and places for remembrance and funerals, sports centres, arts and cultural centres, theatres, and an awful lot of circuses, apparently. And then there were the public monuments…  I always found it touching how newly-weds would go to take flowers and pay their respects at the monument to those who fell in the Great Patriotic War, even in the midst of joy and celebration; this is a duty which I don’t think we in the West can even begin to understand.

There is a lot of grim and horrid stuff, just as there is anywhere else, but also much effort was put in to designing uplifting public buildings; certainly there was a Soviet ‘style’, and this is well explored and documented in this collection of photographs. There are detailed and interesting analytical essays, too.

Rather too much use seems to have been made of concrete – a symbol of modernity, perhaps, which the country strove for – cheap, easily available, and very perishable, as we know from some of our own post-war and industrial architecture… even more likely to crumble in the Russian climate. I felt that much of it was no uglier than our banal shopping centres, and a good deal of the buildings pictured aspire to, and achieve, a curious kind of beauty or elegance.

Since the end of the Soviet Union, many of the buildings have been abandoned, some vandalised and some demolished. The neglect means that they are unlikely to last very long…

How long should they last? How long will anything we build today last? Do we build anything with the ability to stand the test of time, such as the churches, cathedrals and castles that have dotted our English landscape for centuries? Here we have English Heritage and similar organisations to preserve our past. This book records how a nation that strove (and ultimately failed, it seems) to do things differently, tried physically to build itself. I’m not sure that it should all just be allowed to crumble into oblivion.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: