• Russia's Architecture 1861–1991: Poetics and Politics
    Jean-Louis Cohen
    MIT Press, 2024
    Jean-Louis Cohen

Mark Felger, Samuil Kravets, and Sergei Serafimov, Gosprom building, Kharkiv, 1928. Photo: Jean-Louis Cohen

A comprehensive, informative, theoretically grounded volume on the history of Russia’s architecture in the age of early capitalism and socialism is long overdue. The large production of designs and buildings which took place during a period of traumatic economic, political and cultural changes is mapped and seen at the light of a renewed interpretation. The book documents the transformation of architecture in the expanded Russian field—the Czarist empire, including its “peripheries,” before 1917, and the Soviet Union in its largest colonial geography, after 1945. Far from being secluded in its alleged exceptionalism, Russia never ceased to be permeated by ideas and forms imported from the West, even during the most xenophobic episodes of Stalinism. This dense matrix of interactions is observed in every historical phase considered. New photographs of buildings extant in many cities and hitherto unpublished original drawings provide an unprecedented, refreshing view of 130 years of production.

Jean-Louis Cohen is an architect, an historian, and a curator, with a long track record in research on modern architecture and city planning, partly centered on Russia. Since 1994, he holds the Sheldon H. Solow Chair for the History of Architecture at New York University's Institute of Fine Arts. He has been a curator for numerous exhibitions at the Museum of Modern Art, the Canadian Centre for Architecture, the Centre Georges Pompidou, the Cité de l’architecture et du patrimoine, and MAXXI. Among the forty books he has published are: Building a New New World: Amerikanizm in Russian Architecture (CCA/Yale, 2020); Frank Gehry; Catalogue Raisonné of the Drawings; Volume One, 1954–1978 (Editions Cahiers d’Art, 2020); Le Corbusier: an Atlas of Modern Landscapes (MoMA, 2013); The Future of Architecture. Since 1889 (Phaidon, 2012); Architecture in Uniform; Designing and Building for the Second World War (CCA/Hazan, 2011); Casablanca, Colonial Myths and Architectural Ventures (with Monique Eleb) (Monacelli, 2002); Le Corbusier and the Mystique of the USSR (Princeton, 1992).