Frédéric Chaubin's USSR
Frédéric Chaubin documents 90 soviet-era buildings in a new book, Cosmic Communist Constructions Photographed (CCCP- get it?). Some of the images are on the Guardian website, with the introduction:
'They reveal an unexpected rebirth of imagination, a burgeoning that took place from 1970 until 1990 and in which, contrary to the 20s and 30s, no school or main trend emerges. These building represent a chaotic impulse brought about by a decaying system. Their diversity announces the end of the Soviet Union.'
I find this commentary both spurious and confused. 1970 was a long way from 1989, must we continue to believe that Stalinism reigned implacable and as solid as concrete until the wall fell, and any sign of architectural exploration was necessarily aberrant and subversive? The relationship of architecture to political systems is rarely thought of outside the use of buildings as deliberately partisan symbols which, as most architects in practice know, is the least of a building's form.
In that architecture is a cultural product and as such comprises an archive of cultural systems, yes, one can point to the transparency of the International Style of the 1950s and 1960s as part of the USA's optimistic demonstration of its 'openness' in comparison to Soviet 'closedness', but the architects of such projects were not building political manifestos, they were absorbed in the exploration of curtain wall technology.
And since when is diversity seen as chaotic? The language used when speaking of the Soviet Union is still so slanted it makes one wonder if the Cold War is actually over.