Thursday, October 14, 2010


Fifty million apartments were built between 1955 and 1985 in Soviet cities. The Soviet citizen became an urban dweller and the standard Soviet city was born. In this situation the location was not significant, most Soviet citizens lived in more or less the same type of neighborhoods and housing blocks, shared more or less the same kind of hallways, and had more or less the same type of apartments.
The microrayons that constitute the Soviet city have a standard layout. They consist of a number of large urban blocks or kvartaly separated by main roads. The center of the kvartaly is formed by schools and kindergartens. Around the schools are the housing blocks with the entrance located inside of the court and are served by small secondary roads.

Although the rigid rules based on calculation the structure leaves space for a certain freedom in distributing functions within a microrayon. Consequently there are configurations in which all educational and commercial facilities are concentrated tigether, while there are other examples in which they are distributed equally thrughout the whole area. (On left Krasnogvareisky district typology)

Capitalism has destroyed the internal logic of Soviet urbanism in which people were allocated in accordance with were they work and a basic set services would be located close by. Under capitalism the transport system has changed from collective to private. Since 1990 car ownership in Russia has increased five times. This means that public space in the microrayon has been invaded by cars and temporary garages.

The very neutrality and the scale of new residential areas and the anonimity of the people in their separate apartments put a natural ends to the neighborhood watch which reduced the sense of safety but allowed various subculture to flourish.

In recent years when building constructed in late 60s and the 70s have been renovated, the surrounding outdoor areas are left open and private initiatives fill the niches left empty by central planning. In this moment many microrayons became more confortables place to live.
The idea of the potentiality of the microrayon has been summarized by Dmitry Prigov that captures the attachment new residents feel for seemingly nondescript mass housing:
“I remember that after living about 15 years in mellow and non-violent Belyevo, built up with nine-story concrete monsters, I decided to acquaint my five year-old son with the real beauties of urban construction and architecture. That is, with the historical center of holy Moscow. Well, we came. Walked around. Looked around. Then the foolish child said to me: Let’s go back our Belyaevo. It is so cramped and scary here. And where we live there is plenty of light and space.
Here it is, architecture with all its pretensions and ambitions.”

Reference: Volume n.21, 2009, "The Block"

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