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Beauty as a Route to 'the Radiant Future': Responses of Soviet Architecture

Catherine Cooke
Journal of Design History
Vol. 10, No. 2, Design, Stalin and the Thaw (1997), pp. 137-160
Published by: Oxford University Press on behalf of Design History Society
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1316129
Page Count: 24
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Beauty as a Route to 'the Radiant Future': Responses of Soviet Architecture
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Abstract

This article seeks to probe behind the verbal criteria in which the brief for a Socialist Realist architecture was defined under Stalin in order to identify specific design features that were considered successfully to embody them. In particular, it examines the Communist Party's demand that Soviet buildings and urban forms should be svetloe (radiant), and hence materialize the svetloe budushchee (radiant future) which the Party was promising its citizens. In defending the Soviet profession of the time against superficial and dismissive judgements by certain recent historians, the article shows the importance of getting closer to the real design oeuvre of Soviet architects at that date (the early 1930s to Stalin's death and the early 1950s) through their more ephemeral (hence now rare) periodicals, and of evaluating these design propositions in relation to the actual theoretical and critical criteria which were shaping them at the time, rather than by later external assumptions about those criteria. It examines the role of monumental artists in creating the fully expressive architectural work which Socialist Realism demanded, and the role of architectural and planning historians in establishing what it meant to be 'national in form' in the Russian context.

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