Back to All Events

Dwelling and Rhythm in Architecture: an evening dedicated to Constructivist architect Moisei Ginzburg

the rear facade of Narkomfin in Moscow, shortly after completion in 1930. 

the rear facade of Narkomfin in Moscow, shortly after completion in 1930. 

Please join us to celebrate the publication, for the first time in English, of Moisei Ginzburg's Rhythm in Architecture (1922) and Dwelling: Five Years’ Work on the Problem of the Habitation (1934). Alexei Ginzburg, grandson of the architect, will talk about the books, his grandfather's theory, and the ongoing restoration of seminal Constructivist building - Narkomfin - of which Alexei is chief architect.

Dwelling was the third of four groundbreaking works written by the Soviet Constructivist architect Moisei Ginzburg (1892-1946). Originally published in 1934, this new facsimile edition, published by Ginzburg Design and Fontanka Publishing, is a fascinating account of the ideas and philosophy behind Soviet architecture at the high point of Constructivism

2017-08-23-Dwelling_MS_fin1-jacket.jpg

Starting with a broad survey of habitation in different cultures and traditions, Ginzburg, a leading member of the Constructivist movement, describes the ways in which he and his colleagues tried to adapt and apply architectural solutions to the demands of a new society. This includes a detailed analysis of his famous Narkomfin building in Moscow where many experimental socialist ideas of the early Soviet state were manifested; a description of his work on the commune house (dom kommuna); and the theories behind two major housing projects: Magnitogorsk and Zeleny Gorod.

Ginzburg's theory and practice was read and evaluated by leading architects of his time, including Le Corbusier, who used Ginzburg's ideas in his Unitè d'Habitation.

Also being presented is an English translation of Ginzburg's Rhythm in Architecture (1922).  Ginzburg writes in his introduction: 'In the Parthenon and the Palazzo Pitti, the Cathedral of Reims, and the Dormition Cathedral in Vladimir, and all other monuments which differ in terms of their formal qualities, we see the eternally effective principle of rhythm. The present book is an attempt to bring to light this true essence of architecture."

Both English translations, published as facsimiles, were commissioned by Ginzburg Design Ltd. They plan to translate and publish Ginzburg's two remaining books, Style and Epoch and The Sanitorium in the coming year. 

Alexei Ginzburg will give a short talk about the architectural theory expressed in Dwelling and Rhythm in Architecture, and go on to bring the audience up to date with the ongoing restoration of Narkomfin, of which Alexei is chief architect. 

Copies of both books will be available to purchase.

About Narkomfin
Narkomfin was constructed between 1928 and 1930 as semi-communal housing for the workers of the Soviet Union’s first Commissariat of Finances. It was commissioned by the then Commissar of Finance, Nikolai Milyutin, a trained town planner with radical and experimental ideas. To realise his ideas he turned to leading Constructivist architect Moisei Ginzburg with the project, who worked with young architect Ignati Milinis and structural engineer Sergei Prokhorov. In line with Le Corbusier's five rules, the building stands on pilotis, has a free internal plan unconstrained by load-bearing walls, a free facade that does not necessarily reflect the internal functions or layout, ribbon windows stretching across the entire facade, and a flat roof terrace that provides a garden for the building’s inhabitants. Concrete bricks were made on site and traditional materials were used in experimental ways. Milyutin moved into a penthouse on the roof. 
The building fell out of favour in 1932 and fell into disrepair although it was always lived in. It came into new ownership in the summer of 2016.

Now, Alexei Ginzburg is overseeing a thorough restoration of the building, following many years of research of methods for working with modernist buildings. It is hoped that this will be an exemplary restoration, that will serve as a positive precedent for repairing other buildings of the same period that are languishing in disrepair and abandonment all over Russia. 

an apartment pre 'restoration'/ 'remont' photograph by Richard Pare

an apartment pre 'restoration'/ 'remont' photograph by Richard Pare