Ilya Golosov: Zuev Workers’ Club/Moscow

Giuseppe Terragni’s Casa del Fascio, Como, Italy, has been disassembled to build Ilya Golosov’s Zuev Workers’ Club, Moscow. I can’t decide how much contradiction, even irony, there is in that. Both were built about the same time, early 1930s, late 1920s, a period of intense modernist innovation and debate in which both architects were involved. Both buildings followed and were responses to massive turmoil and social change. Both housed functions meant to serve a broad population, these uses based on political ideology, those ideas hotly debated as well. Most, both are original, striking, and memorable designs, what first drew me to them.

My main interest in both, however, is what we might learn from them and adopt for our current world. The larger our cities grow, the more we spread out, the more we become isolated and culturally diffuse. How can we maintain our common identity and keep our neighborhoods vital? Part of the answer lies in our institutions and the architecture that houses them. My own virtual project suggests a possible solution, explained generally in Centering a Town: St. Johns/First Efforts, with more thoughts and designs here. A modest building, designed well, could do much to serve a neighborhood and visually enhance and anchor it.

Terragni, however, was a Rationalist and Golosov’s Zuev is considered Constructivist—there is much to untangle here that I will put aside.

And both, of course, had in sight different political ideologies.

The club in 1929. The passersby give a sense of a past still present, of the transition the Soviets had to make.

Workers’ Clubs, Type/Plan/Program

Alexander Deyneka/At the local club/1927

The creation of a new Soviet man and the new Soviet woman, what Leon Trotsky referred to as a ‘higher social biological type’ . . . was not about the making of a new individual. It was an integral part of constructing a new ‘we’: a single unified Soviet nation.

Anna Bokov, “Soviet workers’ clubs: lessons from the social condensers.” She cites Trotsky:

It is difficult to predict the extent of self-government which the man of the future may reach or the heights to which he may carry his technique. Social construction and psycho-physical self-education will become two aspects of one and the same process. . . . Man will become immeasurably stronger, wiser and subtler; his body will become more harmonised, his movements more rhythmic, his voice more musical. The forms of life will become dynamically dramatic.

The music of the spheres has come to earth and infused the lives of working men and women and their machines. In place of the regularity and eternal order of the ancient philosophers, however, we get movement, drama, change. What was a Marxist theory of history the Soviets attempted to make reality in a society centered on the proletariat, the synthesis of class struggle, the basis of the revolution, the new world. Trotsky’s words are as attractive as they are open-ended and abstract, yet the people in Deyneka’s illustration are lively and engaged, and his design is informal and fresh. We see a picture that recognizes workers have lives and identities outside the factory, that their health and vitality matter, that they are capable of both action and contemplation. Even those in the auditorium are not mutely absorbing pictures on a screen but watching an athlete in motion, an image they will internalize and take to the volleyball court, to other parts of their lives.

The mills were their owners’ to do with wholly as they pleased, without regard to anything but their own will. . . . The master of the mill had the right to set wages and hours at whatever figure he chose. And if the workman didn’t like them—this was a free country, and it was his right to reject them or to quit. And if that in practice meant his right to starvation for himself and his wife and his children?

W. J. Cash/The Mind of the South

For those who object to collectivist thought it’s worth remembering how workers were once viewed collectively as functional and necessary but passive and anonymous—and potentially a threat when they gathered outside factory walls. Above, workers in a textile factory in Mississippi the early years of the last century.

With the revolution and the new men and women, a new society, a new culture, a new esthetic, and a new type of building—the workers’ club. Moscow still has hundreds of the clubs, put to other uses, in varying states of repair. What Deyneka’s illustration also shows is their function: to provide a place for workers to learn, relax, exercise, and engage in a variety of activities. The clubs hosted performances of varying types in a space that encouraged participation, the removal of barriers. They gave the workers a public life in which they were invited—and expected—to be involved. Because of the severe housing shortage, especially in the early years after the revolution, they also served, in effect, as living rooms for the members. With the death of Lenin in 1924 they also became places to memorialize him. The burgeoning trade unions also became clients and had strong influence.

The first floor has a foyer, right, a flexible, open space put to a variety of uses, including informal gatherings, rehearsals, and performances.

The foyer extends to the second floor, with a gallery surrounding.

Note the picture of Lenin, right. In the background, the spiral staircase.

On the third floor, a formal auditorium—

with balconies on the fourth.

On all four floors, rooms of varying sizes for various activities. Also note the stairs throughout, many of which are open. The club is designed to facilitate and show procession, inside and out, most notably at the spiral staircase that extends four stories and rises above the roof.

These, I believe, are early, not final plans. And there is more above.

That the education was propaganda, that the memorialization of Lenin approached cult status, that the intent of the clubs was to indoctrinate and reform workers to suit the state—these are questions I want to ask but cannot answer. I have no evidence and it is impossible to see past Stalin era realities or through the haze of suspicions I grew up with during the Cold War. One critical concern suggested by structure itself, however, is about size. The clubs grew larger, with their main feature, the auditorium, meant to hold a large crowd, up to thousands. The Zuev auditorium seated about 900. Size not only congests and puts a strain on program, it is also a challenge to Trotsky’s prediction of self-government. Mass gathering constrains spontaneity, variety, and active participation. Large halls impose. The Zuev’s length, at least, helps spread out traffic and puts the rooms for the smaller gatherings to the side.


Here the machine rhetoric of the great glass cylinder containing the stairs was more overt and less controlled than in the [van der Vlugt] Van Nelle Factory. Compared to the thin, planar surfaces, the intersecting horizontal bands were chunky, even massive in appearance. The architect attempted to exploit violent contrasts of space and form, and to clash together, almost brutally, the different materials of his building, so as to dramatize functional differences and to create emotive mechanistic and revolutionary symbols.

Curtis on the Zuev/Modern Architecture since 1900

Curtis’s distaste reveals a western European modernist bias, which may account for tepid responses to Constructivism in some of the histories. It’s hard not to wonder if the political rift hasn’t played a part as well. That said, the Zuev is rather masonry heavy, in places muddled, and perhaps would benefit from thinning and sharpening. At the time the Soviet Union was strapped financially, materially, and technologically, and architects lacked the means to build their designs as envisioned, if at all. Part of a work’s overall expression is how it makes use of available materials and technologies, but here I’d like to make an exception. I would like to see the club rebuilt with finer, cleaner materials and more advanced structural means at the time available in the west. Golosov, I’m guessing, had to make compromises he would have avoided.

But the Zuev is not violent or brutal but boldly expressive, and mass is part of that expression. Nor does it have the contained, subtle interrelationships of western modernist works—Terragni’s Casa del Fascio, for example, which has enjoyed sustained attention in spite of its political stance. The Zuev reaches beyond itself, inspired by a different esthetic.

Ivan Leonidov, theorist and member of the Constructivist OSA, explains the relationship between form and function in the design of workers’ clubs with a riddle:

Question: If not resorting to aesthetic and formal terms how could one explain the application of the same forms deployed by you for different functions?

Answer: The question reveals that the one asking it is interested first and foremost in external form, in superficial savouring rather than in organisation. Such a question is appropriate where one is occupied with idealistic architecture ‘as art.’ For us, however, form is a result of oganisation and functional relations of working and constructive moments. It is necessary to look at it and critique it not as form, but as an approach to cultural organisation.

Cited in Bokov. In part he reacts against the esthetic delicacy and refinement of the west. Expression, rather, should be direct and clear, and can be accomplished with basic geometric forms. Most, design is determined by what a building does, and what a building does is one part of a larger reality, the new social order. In a sense Constructivism is in the eye of the beholder and depends on the behavior of use and an understanding of society. The workers’ club functions not only for members and their activities but also physically and expressively serves the proletarian society. It speaks to and conditions the areas surrounding, and to do this it needs to leave itself open.

Non-estheticism, of course, is another kind of esthetic, with its own demands and terms.

Technology is not glorified in itself but is the engine of transformation for this world. Reference in Constructivist work is not metaphorical but analogical. Buildings are not social machines, rather should perform in effective ways like a machine. The people who use them are not robots but vital members of a collective society. What technology can do for production, buildings can do for society. And what matters most, for the society, for architecture, are movement and transformation.

Moisei Ginzburg, architect and theorist, Style and Epoch (1924):

Thus, for example, any locomotive, motor, or locomobile derives its meaning and fulfillment in relation to the direction of its movement. The very composition of the locomotive, the distribution of its individual elements—the smokestacks, wheels, furnaces, and tenders—are all functions not only of a particular movement, but also of a particular direction of this movement. For us a locomotive at rest is imbued with this same expressiveness precisely because its compositional solution is complete and conclusively establishes its dynamic purpose.

The design of machines is determined by what they do, how the parts work together to accomplish that purpose, and by implied direction—forward.

New York Central’s J1 class Hudson, built the same time as the Zuev, shows its parts, their functions and relationships, down to the brass bell on top and the side railings and narrow walks along the boiler for service access. It is designed for distribution of weight to enhance performance. The four-wheel truck at the rear supports the extended firebox, the boiler rests on the six large driving wheels, giving them added traction, and the four-wheel pilot at the front guides the locomotive and keeps it on the track at high speeds. Exposed, the machinery of engagement—the cylinders, the valve train, the interlocking connecting rods. The Hudson looks forward and expresses power and motion, even when standing still. When steam is released into the cylinders, the wheels and links come to life in coordinated thrust and the energy of motion is released visibly, ethereally in steam and smoke. One esthetic note: this is a handsome machine, well designed, one which sends an emphatic message that might have larger implications.

Thus the machine naturally gives rise to a conception of entirely new and modern organisms possessing the distinctly expressed characteristics of movement—its tension and intensity, as well as its keenly expressed direction. Both of these characteristics give rise to concepts of new forms, whereby the tension and concentration inherent in this movement will unwittingly—irrespective of the author’s own desires—become one of the fundamental moments or artistic conception.

Ginzburg projects what he sees as the spirit of the times, where architects as well as their designs are subsumed in the larger order. But buildings are not machines and have different design considerations. Function and movement have to be executed and expressed differently.

Hence, we come to the final conclusion imposed upon us by the machine—namely, that it is possible and natural for the modern architect’s conceptions to yield a form that is asymmetrical or that, at best, has no more than a single axis of symmetry, which is subordinated to the main axis of movement and does not coincide with it.

The Zuev resembles a locomotive superficially because of its length. Analogically, it resembles one in many ways, most in the exposure of its parts and the exhibition of their functions. The Zuev’s prominent feature, the spiral staircase, does not resemble a cylinder or any other part of a machine. It resembles what it is, a spiral staircase. It is not a symbol of anything. It is a structure that shows its function and, from the spiral, through the glass cylinder, reveals, inside and out, the movement of visitors as they ascend.

Overall dimensions of the model are close, with many departures of varying degrees within. My main goal was to keep window patterns and relationships. Many articulations are exaggerated for emphasis—my other option was to ignore them. There are many subtle indentations I could not capture.

The Zuev is a long, narrow building, about 200 x 70 feet, and one simple design issue is to keep it from looking like a static warehouse. One reason I built the model is because I wanted to see this length head-on—I couldn’t find any pictures. There aren’t many pictures of the Zuev as originally built at all, and in several places I had to make my best guesses.

The vertical axis might best be defined by the protruding staircase, red, left, well off center, though it is challenged by the masses of the isolated blocks on top that push forward. Against this axis, crossing, the horizontal band of windows on the fourth floor that extends across both facades and interrupts and holds the glass cylinder of the stairs. There are other isolated horizontal elements, blue, of varying lengths and presence, that, through their spacing and implied interlocking, propel the design, not unlike, in fact, the action of the connecting rods of a locomotive.

Another vertical column, wider, projects itself on the front, just off center—

—where other horizontal elements come into play. The narrow facade is dominated by a cross, slightly off center, to announce entry, but it is qualified by and integrated into the overall dynamics. The entry itself is offset and downplayed, subordinated to the collective invitation of entry by the whole building itself. This building in this society does not stand on formal ceremony.

All elements pull away from an expected x/y symmetrical axis, up and out. Most, all stand in some relationship to the glass cylinder on the corner—not complete but implied—promote it, and highlight the action of spiral ascent, where their energies gather.

More can be traced that counterpoints and complements this movement. Window patterns don’t so much exhibit the function of the rooms within—the side windows of the auditorium especially. They rather open up the building and show many different sizes and groupings, representative of a building with a variety of uses. In their varying, interlocking arrangements they also distribute and balance mass and action.

The whole building was meant to be used, or suggest that all of it might be put to service. There’s a door and small platform at the top and side of the window column on the left where one might address an assemblage on the roof? Railings throughout would contain gatherings, though some of these, it has to be conceded, are only decorative. The scaffold-like elements holding the roof of the cylinder have an open, industrial cast, allowing its horizontal plane to float.

In back, a glassed-in area with a pitched roof, also glass, that complements the cylinder. I don’t think it lasted long.

The forms at the top, the greenhouse-like structure and the two masses, are unusual. They don’t conclude or cap the building nor are they are integrated in any way, but rather stand apart and open the building up to the sky, to possibilities not yet realized. Visually, however, they are complementary and, once more, push forward. Then again, the two blocks, because of their closed mass, sit on the roof and hold the building down, stabilizing the overall openness and action.

The left mass must hold theater necessities. I have no idea how the mass above the cylinder might have been used, but formally it offsets the plane above its roof while at the front continues it, as well as thrusts forward and up. The two masses also map out an outdoor theater, framing gatherings on the roof, if these happened. At the very least, outdoor assembly is suggested, an open-air stage set. And at the top the Zuev opens itself up to the elements, to sky and sunlight, outside in fresh air, inside, in the greenhouse, allowing such exposure year round. The horizontal glassed-in area at the third floor is especially mysterious, and I’m not sure how it functions in relationship to the auditorium. It does, however, serve a design purpose, as it provides a middle element in a glass procession, from the greenhouse to the cylinder.

The building also talks to workers and to Moscow. There is signage throughout, and at the corner, at street level suspended, a message board. In an early version a scrolling display is set above the front entrance for quick updates, a representation of change, adaptability, and progression. I don’t think it was ever installed.

My great regret is that I couldn’t find more on how the various parts were used, how much, and how well. I would love to read some oral histories. Workers clubs, however, have long passed. But Golosov’s building has survived and today serves as a cultural center. There have been changes and concessions throughout that close and weigh it at the expense of the openness and dynamics of the original design. Pitched roofs have been added, the greenhouse room removed, and windows walled in. The horizontal glassed-in area on the side, third floor, along with its platforms, has also been removed, as well as the signage and the L signage structure. Still, note how the spiral staircase brings focus to the corner, promotes ascent, and commands intersection. The building, in its remaining lines, reaches out into the streets, to the buildings now rising above, surrounding it, fitting in but contesting their homogeneity, their repetition, energizing the grid. Something vital can still happen here.


The asset-management team BlackRock signed up to spend $1.25 billion in rent over 20 years. The retail complex will have at least six places where you can spend five figures on a wristwatch (Patek Philippe, Rolex, Cartier, Watches of Switzerland, Piaget, Tiffany).

Justin Davidson on Hudson Yards

Developers are demolishing sound, habitable, affordable housing and replacing it with housing priced at the very top of the market. The result is to push low- and moderate-income families and communities of color out to the edges of the metro area, away from jobs, schools, public events, parks, mass transit and walkable neighborhoods.

Mary King/
Wall Street speculators and the loss of affordable housing

Literally, physically, we are divided and distanced by income and economic forces, and, since by income, by race. The political implications of the separation are serious, as we have seen. We are being stretched out and diluted on the grid.

from my post On the Grid

If workers gathered at the Zuev in numbers large and small, engaged in actives formal and informal, planned and spontaneous, harbored doubts, found new confidence, talked among themselves about work, about food shortages, about the government, the factory, about the heating in their apartments, about anything, argued with each other, laughed, complained, let off steam, met people they didn’t know, made friends, played out rivalries, just played, relaxed, watched performances, listened to union leaders and party presentations, participated to some, to any extent in anything, were exposed to ideas they did not know that made them think about themselves, beyond themselves, felt they belonged to their society, to something larger, just belonged—the clubs were a success and we can learn from them.

The ideological debate has become moot. The Iron Curtain fell decades ago and no state today practices anything that approaches what Marx envisioned. The open spirit and inventiveness of Constructivism itself did not last long, falling into disfavor under Stalin. Communism largely survives in academic circles—and circular arguments. Outside the academy the popular perception that “freedom” triumphed over the tyranny of communism, the conviction that “freedom” must be protected at all costs are not only blind and meaningless, they are deadly—literally, as we discovered this past year. Anything communal is considered by many in the U.S. as communistic. We live in a country that cannot say “we” or think about a common good, our overall well being, even our health. Our embrace of “freedom” has left us fractured and dysfunctional. We take sides, find enemies or make them, fight senseless battles. Racial division has widened and flared. All this heat may be a way to counter the emptiness in our lives. Or maybe we have simply gone mad. Nor has the change brought a transformation of ideas. What is preciously called neoliberalism is not an ideology at all but a practice unchecked that cannot think about or see past itself.

The result of misplaced faith in the market has led to the channeling of money, resources, and construction to the few at the top who know how to float debt, massage risk, and have the clout to force city planning to their own ends. This we call freedom and somehow believe we all participate in their marvels, have a place in them, somehow, that these somehow define us. Hudson Yards, above, is a $25 billion complex built on top of a train yard, lower West Side New York, a collection of glass boxes designed by the architects who have made a name for themselves and caught developers’ attention, their buildings sleek, stylish—and monotonous. The complex holds office space, luxury apartments, high-end retail stores, and upscale restaurants for the few who can afford them. It is a protected enclave for global capitalism that ignores the rest of the city. Hudson Yards even has its own spiral staircase, an upside-down construction upside-down for the sake of being upside-down, for no other reason, that stands alone before the buildings, Heatherwick’s $200 million Vessel. You are given a time slot, you walk up, you walk down, you end up where you started, you go nowhere. From bottom to top, top to bottom, as you enter and leave, the main view is of the glass boxes. It is a symbol that promotes itself as a symbol that is not a symbol of anything. It is extravagantly pointless.

Meanwhile so many of us have to negotiate meaner speculation.

In 2017, 187,000 new housing units were completed in buildings of 50 units or more in the U.S., the most since the Census Bureau started keeping track in 1972. By my informal massaging of the data, well over half of those were in blocky mid-rises. These structures’ proliferation is one of the most dramatic changes to the country’s built environment in decades.

The trend is most apparent in rapidly growing urban and suburban areas. Growth, however, is only part of the determination of their design.

These buildings wouldn’t be going up if no one wanted to move in, of course. Growing demand, brought on by demographic shifts, job-growth patterns, and a renewed taste among affluent Americans for city (or city-like) living, has shaped the mid-rise boom. So have the whims of capital. Most multifamily developers build to sell—to a real estate investment trust, an insurance company, a pension fund, or some other institutional investor. These owners aren’t interested in small projects, and their bottom-line focus determines not only materials but also appearance and layout.

Justin Fox, “Why America’s New Apartment Buildings All Look the Same”

Mid-rise solutions bring the anonymity of compacted closeness and exposure to crowded streets that create barriers and lead to seclusion. High rent and the economics of scale make individual enterprise difficult, leaving us to chain stores, which come and go. The monotony of extravagance has been matched with the tedium of the bottom line.

For these and so many other reasons, we have lost what Eric Klinenberg in Palaces for the People calls social infrastructure, buildings that once brought us together in useful and meaningful ways.

People forge bonds in places that have healthy social infrastructures—not because they set out to build community, but because when people engage in sustained, recurrent interaction, particularly while doing things they enjoy, relationships inevitably grow.

The lodges, union halls, libraries, parks, playgrounds, churches, and even schools that once thrived as social centers have disappeared or are stretched and imperiled, with little taking their place.

Across America, people complain that their communities feel weaker, that they spend more time on their devices and less time with one another, that schools and sports teams and workplaces have become unbearably competitive, that insecurity is rampant, that the future is uncertain and in some places bleak.

The result is an unraveling of the social fabric, of our faith in ourselves individually and collectively—and deterioration of our world.

. . . when the social infrastructure gets degraded, the consequences are unmistakable. People reduce the time they spend in public settings and hunker down in their safe houses. Social networks weaken. Crime rises. Older and sick people grow isolated. Younger people get addicted to drugs and become more vulnerable to lethal overdoses. Distrust rises and civic participation wanes.

Given the size and impersonality of our cities and suburbs, of our institutions, the degree of our separation and dispersion, we need to think local and have places that bring us together, face to face. I am assuming, of course, that the virus will eventually pass and such interaction will be safe again.

Social infrastructure is not just a matter of building structures, however, but also finding ways to ensure they are used. I live in a sizable neighborhood in Portland, Oregon—St. Johns—lower middle, working class, service class, and below, which in so many ways is ideal. It has a tree-lined commercial center along a two-lane street, not congested, as well as a community center, a library, and several parks, all accessible, the whole area quite walkable. People are friendly and have a strong sense of neighborhood identity. Yet the center and parks are underused, the downtown area is stagnant, its establishments struggling, and much commercial space lies vacant—this the case before the virus hit. Two cultural centers, for music, art, and dance, were lightly used and had only a brief existence. Crime remains a problem. St. Johns can’t be alone. My sense is that here, as elsewhere, we are in the grips of a downward spiraling inertia.

Solutions won’t be easy and will require much study, experimentation—and failure. Given the reluctance of popular acceptance and the demands of economics we may need a push and institutional help. My proposal is for a satellite branch of Portland State University in the downtown area, a small building in a central place where students could take core courses for their first years at the school and get tutoring. The classes would be in a familiar, smaller, and more personal environment that might help students get a footing in higher education. Night classes would serve working students and those with children, saving them a ten-mile commute. The school might be able to host other services and activities that reached out to and involved the neighborhood. If there were demand for the school—and I have no idea if there is—it would work. It would provide a needed service and bring people to the downtown area, who would frequent the nearby cafes and restaurants. There are daycare centers close by for their children. And it would give St. Johns new life, fresh energy, and meaningful interaction and discussion. Demand aside, however, I can think of several reasons it would never be built, these worth study as well.

We also need to find new ways to think about ourselves and our relationship to our world, or rediscover the old ones and make them work for us now. Or maybe we need to stop thinking that the best, the only solutions have to be new, an attitude that has built-in obsolescence. Looking at the world and reading Zeitgeist, the spirit of a time, of its people, then theorizing and acting on the theory has always been a dubious study. It selects partial evidence, ignores other, forces readings, and chooses one alternative when alternative possibilities might exist. That doesn’t mean, however, that the world doesn’t change, that we should stop looking, reading, thinking, asking questions, looking for answers. But we need to concede there is much we don’t understand, learn to live with uncertainty, and leave ourselves open to alternatives. Now we believe whatever happens is right and good, or at least inevitable, not worth investigation or debate. Somehow many believe we have moved past ideology itself. Or we lock ourselves into opposing camps, competing ideologies—or postures that pose as ideas—left and right, with no hope of synthesis, of consensus, of solution.

Most, we need to cross lines and restore contact with others of all persuasions, from all walks of life.

“We are living in different political universes,” writes the Harvard political scientist and legal scholar Cass Sunstein. “Of course mixed groups are no panacea. . . . But mixed groups have been shown to have two desirable effects. First, exposure to competing positions generally increases political tolerance. . . . Second, mixing increases the likelihood that people will be aware of competing rationales and see that their own arguments might be met with plausible counterarguments.”

Klinenberg again

And we need to revive our visible environment and save it from reductive banality. We should discover new types for our built environment and restore the old ones. Esthetic as well as social solutions should always begin with a conception and images of ourselves that are alive and vital. That is the appeal of Constructivism, that it does this and does so with forms that are basic and recognizable, and assembles them in designs that are engaging and dynamic and readily grasped. Most, it is an architecture that thinks beyond itself, to a vision of society, its possibilities. The movement may have had ideological underpinnings, but the style is not ideologically bound and, like the Rationalism of Terragni’s Casa, is open and flexible enough to serve a variety of functions, other practices, other thought.

Reality—economic, social, political—always intrudes and exacts its demands, drags the spirit, but it should not control us or deplete our vision. We cannot stop looking, thinking, redesigning our world.



A Brief Note on Style

As Selim Khan-Magomedov pointed out, “He created the finest examples of constructivism, yet never became a devoted constructivist. He understood that constructivist theories contradict his own architectonic concepts of early 20s. . . . Golosov accepted constructivism as an exterior decoration trend, not as a wholesome functional style” [Pioneers of Soviet Architecture: The Search for New Solutions in the 1920s and 1930s]. Yet, for a brief period in 1925-1928, fellow architects perceived him as the leader of constructivism, due to his highly publicized completed designs like the 1927-1929 Zuev Workers’ Club and a brilliant streak of contest entries in 1926.

From the Wikipedia entry on Ilya Golosov. Style is a matter for theorists and scholars, and I am neither. For so many reasons, no building is a perfect example of a style, and I doubt such a goal is desirable or even possible. I don’t know if Ginzburg’s Style and Epoch is the definitive statement of constructivism, whether there are variants of the theory more accurate—already we’re getting into problems—or whether Golosov even read the book. But there was a rich discussion among the architects at the time and much was in the air. The interpretation above is mine, but Ginzburg’s notions of asymmetry, dynamics, and function go a long way to explain the Zuev’s expressive qualities. Its open structure recalls other Constructivist work. Program and a sense of larger communal social purpose inform its design as well. Other interpretations of the Zuev are possible, based on other theories, and I’d like to see them.

Terragni’s Rationalism, on the other hand, borders on mysticism and political obsession.


Anna Bokov, “Soviet workers’ clubs: lessons from the social condensers.” This is a succinct and thorough article on the clubs, well illustrated. Theory, history, and practice are given close review.

The Charnel House, “Soviet workers’ clubs in the 1920s,” also has a brief review. Here I found the Deyneka illustration, blue prints, cross section, lobby photograph, and the other black and white photograph of the Zuev. Anatole Kopp, Town and Revolution, is referenced.

Justin Davidson, “I Have a Feeling We’re Not in New York Anymore

Parts of this essay appeared in my post Centering a Town: 7th. Effort/On the Grid, where I engage in extended theoretical discussion.

My post Centering a Town: 4th. Effort/Building to Endure has more thoughts about education and the value of a satellite college.

Zuev today photograph by Denis Esakov. More pictures of the interior and exterior can be found at his site.


Zuev in 1929 photograph via Wikipedia Commons

Textile factory in Mississippi from the National Archives, via Wisconsin Public Radio

Van Nelle Factory photograph by F. Eveleens via Wikipedia Commons

NYC Hudson locomotive photograph via Wikipedia Commons

Hudson Yards photograph by Ajay Suresh, via Wikipedia Commons

Mixed-use building photograph by Laura Buckman via Bloomberg Businessweek, Justin Fox, “Why America’s New Apartment Buildings All Look the Same

Recent photographs of the building, interior and exterior, by Cemal Emden can be found at Divisare

Model, drawings, and photographs by the author

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