Constructivism of Ekaterinburg

From 1928 until 1934 Moscow architects worked extensively in Sverdlovsk (the name of Ekaterinburg in Soviet times). High buildings started emerging in the city, they were built from the newest materials. In the well-lit apartments there were bathrooms, toilets, built-in closets; in big living neighborhoods, which were called commune houses – there were baths, kindergartens, canteens, pharmacies and shops. During 8 years in Sverdlovsk nearly 140 avant-garde buildings were constructed. Many of them still exist – a big collection of constructivism buildings may be seen in the Russian capitals – Moscow and Saint Petersburg.

The Medical Village in the centre of Ekaterinburg comprises the complexes of the Institutes of Physical Therapy and Professional Diseases, the Medical Institute, and some other buildings. All the of them were built based on the project of the talented Georgiy Golubev, who in 1936 became the first in the history Ekaterinburg's principal architect.

The building of the Medical Institute (Ulitsa Repina, 3) – currently the Ural State Medical University – was built in 1930. The four-floor asymmetric building at first had a T-shape but later another unit was built up, which was decorated with columns and a porch. That is why the building seems to have no constructivism harmony.

The maternity hospital (Ulitsa Repina, 1) is one of the biggest buildings in the Medical Village. It consists of four units, which are located at right angles to each other. There are rectangular and circle windows, oval corbels on the abutting end, glassed-in stairways, and unique stained-glass windows.

The architect Sergey Zakharov lived in Sverdlovsk for only 5 years but managed to give the city a building complex, which is usually called the Justice Village. The complex includes the House of Justice (Ulitsa Malysheva, 2B), a residential block of apartments (Ulitsa Malysheva, 2Zh) and a kindergarten (Ulitsa Malysheva, 2Ye).

The complex was built in 1932. The six-storey building, which is located on the intersection of Ulitsa Malysheva (Malysheva Street) and Ulitsa Repina (Repina Street), is situated as a big half-cylinder over the main entrance and the window bands. Today the regional court is located there.

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The construction of the complex began in the 1930s and lasted for three years. Alexander Pasternak developed the project under the guidance of one of the leading theorists of constructivism Moisey Ginzburg. According to his conception, the experimental house was supposed to become a new residential community – economical, modern, very comfortable.

The complex comprises five buildings: one is an eight-storey building, the rest are six-storeys. All the objects are of geometrical nature, window bands, half-cylindrical corner windows.

The first house commune was built in Sverdlovsk in 1928 based on the project of Vladimir Dubrovin. On the first floor there were sales and public premises, a bit higher were located the communal premises, while the regular apartments were located on the last two floors. In the house, there was a kindergarten, a post office, and some shops. Dubrovin made a project of a sports hall, but it was not built.

Very few balconies, big windows and glassed-in stair case decorate the ascetic facade of the building. Currently this house, located on Ulitsa Veinera (Veinera Street), has the status of an object of cultural heritage.

The All-Russian Society of Old Bolsheviks was created in 1922. Party members, who had an employment history of 18 years and more could participate in it. For such officials in 1933 in Sverdlovsk a special residential complex was built.

The building amazes by its unusual form: Avant corps, different number of floors, cascade staircases, simple corner balconies. The first two floors are occupied by offices, the rest are reserved for residential apartments.

Evgeny Kurskov /TASS

In the early 1930s in Sverdlovsk Dynamo sports community appeared. When the issue of creating a sports base was raised, the youth union, which was supported by the local authorities, proposed a place near the city pond, where were located the mansion buildings and a picturesque garden.

If you have a look at the white and blue building from the side of the pond, you can take it by mistake for a real ship. The centre of the facade with vertical overhanging elements resembles a keel, the side balconies resembles a rescue boat, the round windows look as portholes, while a sightseeing platform takes the role of a deck bridge.

Evgeny Kurskov/ТАSS

A contest among Soviet architects was announced in the middle of the 1920s for a best project of a building of the Ural State Executive Committee of the Communist Party (Oblispolkom) – the managing body. The construction of the building on Ploschad Truda (Truda Square) started in the beginning of the 1930s, according to a plan, which was developed by Sergey Zakharov.

The building is specific because of its strict geometrical forms and glassed-in stair cases, horizontal ribbon windows, ascetic balconies. In the left part of the building, on the side of Ulitsa Pushkina (Pushkina Street) you can see arch windows, which remained there from the old house, which was built on the second floor.

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The Communication House was built in 1934 on the place, where two merchant mansions were situated. The author of the project was the Moscow architect Konstantin Solomonov.

Thanks to the automatic phone station for 10,000 numbers in 1934 connection emerged in the biggest organizations in Sverdlovsk and the houses of the city, which were located in the city centre. The building as other historical monuments of avant-garde architecture, is characterized with strict lines, ribbon glass windows, ascetism.

Today in the Communication House the Central Post Office is located, while nearby there is the zero kilometre – the point of reference, which shows the distance from Ekaterinburg to other cities. For the visitors during the day the first two floors are available, you can send a postcard or a parcel.

The construction of the Press House started in 1929 based on the project of the architect Vladimir Sigalov. This was a contemporary administrative and production complex, where different print publications could be produced. The work was finished within a year, during the opening in 1930s the building was equipped up to date.

The facades of the four-storey building are quite ascetic. The only decorations are the ribbon windows, which are 150 metres (492 feet) long, a half-oval staircase, which is highlighted by a different colour.

Dobat Sorokin/ТАSS

In mid-1920s several important for the state industrial enterprises worked in Sverdlovsk. The control over them was taken by the National commissariat for internal affairs (NKVD). A comfortable residential complex was built for them in the city downtown area.

The complex of buildings is characterized by architecture unity, which is created by the great number of colors, the similar corner windows and staircases, windows and balconies. The KGC servicemen village is an embodiment of the idea of architects to create a new city environment, where the residents could be provided with everything needed – the Soviet professionals in their own way tried to use the concept of a home as a “living machine”.

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Iset Hotel, built in 1931, is the central building of the KGB servicemen Village. The 11-storey building, which resembles a horse shoe, was built as a dormitory for NKVD officers with small families. In the small rooms there were no kitchens. The canteen, lecture halls, the library and the premises for different affinity groups were in the next club, where you could come from the dormitory using a passage, which is currently blocked. In the 1930s the building was one of the most magnificent, beautiful and imposing in Sverdlovsk. Postcards with its photos were produced, and in 1937 in Spain a post stamp with the image of the main building of the NKVD residential complex appeared.

Several years ago the hotel was closed for a reconstruction, and in 2015 it was opened once again for the Ural Industrial Biennial of Contemporary Art. During three months the building showed works of contemporary artists from all over the world. Now Iset is closed again, its further faith of the constructivism monument is still unknown.

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The club named after one of the founders of the All-Russian Emergency Commission for Combating Counter-Revolution and Sabotage Felix Dzerzhinsky is another unit of the NKVD residential complex.

The four-storey building, constructed in 1932, consists of several parts, which are situated under a right angle to one another. The main detail, which makes this building unique, is the cylinder of the staircase with vertical glassed-in windows. The astonishing spiral staircase, which fans of avant-garde architecture like to take photos of, is twisted counter-clockwise. If you look up while climbing the staircase, you will see a five-pointed star.

For the engineers living in Sverdlovsk a big residential complex was built in the centre of the city based on the project of Grigory Valenkov and Yevgeny Korotkov.

All the buildings are in a district, which is surrounded by Prospekt Lenina (Lenina Avenue), Pereulok Reshetnikova (Reshetnikova Lane), Ulitsa Michyurina (Michyurina Street) and Ulitsa Bazhova (Bazhova Street). Along with the residential apartments in the complex there used to be other facilities: a shop, a kindergarten, a bath-house, a club and a clinic – everything that was needed to ensure a comfortable living for people.

During war times the residential premises were transformed into small communal apartments. Today Ekaterinburg residents live in the complex. The courtyard may be accessed at any time.

Opposite to the Iset Hotel there is another constructivism monument – the Construction Worker's Club Building. It was built in 1933. The author of the project was the famous Moscow architect and critic Yakov Kornfeld – he managed to win the All-Soviet contest for the creation of a new building in Sverdlovsk.

The building consists of three parts: the entertainment unit, the club unit and the sports unit. The latter is situated at the back of the courtyard and is connected with the previous one with a big passage.

The Construction Worker's Club Building is decorated by ribbon windows and glassed-in openings, as well as open terraces, where you can do open air sports exercises and take sunbaths. Previously in the club there was a cafeteria and an auditorium for 800 seats, a library, and a room for different project teams, children's and sports studios.

The first reconstruction of the interiors took place during the Great Patriotic War, when in 1943 the building housed the Sverdlovsk cinema studio. In 1999 the CITY CENTRE Shopping Mall was opened. Its owners saved only the facades and the staircases of the unique building.

The building located on Ploschad Pervoy Pyatiletki (Pervoy Pyatiletki Square) was built in 1932 based on the project of architect Pyotr Oransky. Initially it was planned that the building would be a residential one, but eventually it was given to the management of a factory. There the human resources department and the department for technical training for workers were housed. In the House for Technical Training there were several branches of different universities and technical schools, labs and rooms, where the factory workers could have classes.

The building has a reinforced skeleton framework and walls from light artificial stones, ribbon windows, which is a specific feature for constructivism, isolated balconies, and a nice corner window, glassed-in from top to bottom.

Currently in the House of Technical Training there are numerous offices and stores.

In the 1930s in the Soviet Union there were attempts to change radically the every day life of the Soviet people. One of the goals, which the state proclaimed, related to liberating women from housework. For this purpose, in the whole country factory kitchens were constructed, which could provide ready-made food for the people in the city. In 1935 in the socialist town Uralmash a new public catering service emerged, which was constructed based on the project by the architects Vladimir Paramonov, Moisey Reisher and the graduate of the famous architecture and design school Bauhaus Bella Shefler.

The building turned out to be ascetic, with expressive facades, while the interior amazed people by a great number of passages, big windows, which made the in-doors space well-lit.

The building was listed as a cultural heritage object only in 2014. At the moment there are exhibitions, concerts, workshops, one of the divisions of the Ekaterinburg Academy of Contemporary Art is based there.

Donat Sorokin/TASS

The white tower is one of the many sights in the region of Uralmash and the symbol of Soviet avant-garde in Ekaterinburg. It was built based on the project of the architect Moisey Reisher. The work began in 1928 and lasted for three years. A special place was selected for the tower: first of all, it is situated on the highest point of the Uralmash. Secondly, in the 1930s the tower could be seen from Ploschad Pervoy Pyatiletki (Pervoy Pyatiletki Square) – the heart of the socialist city.