Russian into things

Wiggin Properties has made a proposal for development of the old Mercy Hospital site on the edge of Midtown, which at least one detractor described as “Eastern bloc” architecture.

Not that there’s necessarily anything wrong with that, suggests Nick Roberts:

Stalin may have been the most evil man to walk the planet, but at least he hired some impressive architects.

Here’s 13 Mokhovaya Street, Moscow, by Ivan Zholtovsky:

Russian block by Ivan Zholtovsky

(Photo source.) Apparently this building, its façade recently restored — God knows what happened to the back of it — housed the US Embassy until 1950. Doesn’t look half bad, if you ask me. Your mileage, of course, may vary.


  1. fillyjonk »

    20 April 2011 · 3:04 pm

    Lots less ugly than some modern campus buildings I’ve seen at various universities…

  2. Tatyana »

    20 April 2011 · 5:51 pm

    But the renderings of the proposal don’t look remotely like Zholtovsky’s style, not even, broader, as so called Stalin Empire (which in itself was a conglomerate of American Skyscraper of 1900s, Italian Futurism and German Classical Monumentalism). What it looks like is standard American Midwest fare of the early 90s, boring red-brick prisms accentuated with half arches and pseudo-classical friese on top.
    It has something of sober and dull East Germany, true, but nothing of Russian suburbs – not its good intentions that got transformed into disillusionment and depression, both in architectural thought and implementation, nor does it look like hideous and ostentatious “suburbs” (a term disconnected from Russian reality) that have grown up like mushrooms in selected locales.

    It is amusing, to read Nick Roberts @your link first stating he only spent a week in Moscow and Piter, and then explaining how the typical Russian city is organized, urban planning-wise. Has he ever been anywhere else, besides these two capitals? What a brave man, putting his pronouncements out there, to easy ridicule.
    Like this one, f.i.:”Brezhnev was a conservative who presided over the USSR at a time with terrible inflation”. How cute.

  3. McGehee »

    20 April 2011 · 6:05 pm

    I’m with Tatyana, that artist’s rendering doesn’t look at all like what comes to my mind as “Eastern Bloc” architecture. I think the epithet is snark, cheap and uninformed even by the normal standards of snark — and I do know from normal standards of snark!

  4. Tatyana »

    20 April 2011 · 6:11 pm

    If oyu want to know what “East German blocks” really mean, I recommend this not-so-recent essay by an architect friend from Dallas.

  5. CGHill »

    20 April 2011 · 9:03 pm

    I heartily endorse the idea of “nodes of disorder”: there are times when I think we’ll plan ourselves into the grave.

  6. Tatyana »

    20 April 2011 · 9:18 pm

    I’m sure of it – just like the Soviet economy did. Luckily, various do-gooders in planning commissions often fight for diametrically opposing things, so we do stand a chance, after all.

    [Looks like this tried to save halfway through; I killed the duplicate.]

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