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Soviet Architectural Avant-Gardes: Architecture and Stalin’s Revolution from Above, 1928-1938 Hardcover – May 28, 2020

5.0 out of 5 stars 3 ratings

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Editorial Reviews


“After years of research, Danilo Udovicki-Selb has masterfully mapped one of the major episodes in the history of 20th-century architecture: the backlash against modernism in Stalin's USSR. Considered with subtlety, biographies, discourse and designs are intertwined in a path-breaking, fascinating chronicle.” ―Jean-Louis Chen, Sheldon H. Solow Professor in the History of Architecture, New York University, USA

“Danilo Udovicki-Selb's new book makes an important contribution to the history of Soviet architecture. It brings attention to the dramatic story of VOPRA, the All-Union Society of Proletarian Architects, long neglected by historians as a political rather than creative movement. Working in the Russian archives, Udovicki-Selb discovered the real story of the movement, created by Lazar Kaganovich. The book convincingly shows, that once-popular idea “Stalin ordered architects to return to classical architecture,” is a gross oversimplification. “The 23 April 1932 Central Committee decree,” Udovicki-Selb writes, “did not impose any stylistic direction,” and the party even “favored architectural plurality.” This is well illustrated by juxtaposing Malevich's Arkhitekton with Boris Iofan's version of the Palace of the Soviets, clearly influenced by Malevich as well as by the Rockefeller Center in New York (which may have been influenced by Malevich as well).” ―
Vladimir Paperny, Adjunct Professor, Slavic Languages & Literatures Department, UCLA

“An important contribution to the narrative initiated by Clement Greenberg, Reyner Banham, and Manfredo Tafurri, this book offers a trove of previously unknown documents and discusses a number of projects that until now have escaped the scrutiny of architectural historians. It adds many new nuances to the story of the clash between the revolutionary architecture of the Russian Avant-garde and the Stalinist cultural revolution “from above.” This nuanced approach does not make Danilo Udovicki-Selb's account of Kaganovich's intervention that eventually ended the vibrant experiments of the 1920s any less tragic. And yet, his analysis escapes the trap of a melodrama with clear heroes and villains; Udovicki-Selb's most important accomplishment is of highlighting the talent of survivors such as Boris Iofan, Aleksej Dushkin, and the Moisej Ginzburg of the 1930s. Their attempts to preserve the legacy of the avant-garde-even if delivered in a form, acceptable to the soviet dictator-produced several truly remarkable pieces of modernist architecture.” ―
Alexander Ortenburg, Professor, Architecture, California State Polytechnic University, USA

“Soviet Architectural Avant-Gardes is an important, engaging book . One of the most original contribution in this specific field of History of architecture and the XX century History of Architecture at large, which marks a significant step forward.

Danilo Udovicki-Selb deserves a lot of credit for the essential contribution given to the questioning of what has long been undisputed. The author has succeded in breaking down long-standing historiographical narratives, revealing the complexity and ambiguity of the relationships between the Verkhushka, the Stalinist political power and the multifaceted sphere of professional culture, and how the architectural avant-garde has been in able to persist and develop in in original, sometimes unexpected, and geographically articulated forms, within the unstable and nuanced rhetoric frame of the “Socialist Realism”.” ―
Alessandro De Magistris, Professor, Department of Architecture and Urban Studies, Politecnico di Milano, Italy

About the Author

Danilo Udovicki-Selb holds a PhD from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and is Professor of Architecture at the University of Texas at Austin, USA.

Product details

  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Bloomsbury Visual Arts (May 28, 2020)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Hardcover ‏ : ‎ 264 pages
  • ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 1474299865
  • ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1474299862
  • Item Weight ‏ : ‎ 1.56 pounds
  • Dimensions ‏ : ‎ 6.6 x 0.77 x 9.44 inches
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Reviewed in the United States on August 25, 2021