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Le Corbusier, Andrei Burov, and Alexander Vesnin in Moscow in 1928, © Le Corbusier Foundation Paris.

The Russian Avant-Garde between East and West
Jean-Louis Cohen
Nov 15, 2012 (6pm)

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The extraordinary explosion that reshaped Russian culture between the October 1917 revolution and the Stalinist freeze of 1930 induced extreme effects on architecture. Rationalist and constructivist designers imagined a new urban environment in which striking monumental structures conveyed the dynamics of the revolution, while several dozen edifices responded to emerging, innovative practices in the realm of housing and leisure.

In permanent contact with Western scenes such as Germany, France, and North America, albeit indirectly, the architects of the competing Avant-Garde groups saw their dreams crushed by the dire reality of rudimentary building technologies and the conservatism of the emerging ruling class. Yet this pattern of explicit, and sometimes veiled, exchange continued to characterize the production of architecture until the final victory of Modernism in the mid-1950s.

Jean-Louis Cohen was born in 1949 in Paris. Trained as an architect, he received a PhD in history. Since 1993, he has held the Sheldon H. Solow Chair for the History of Architecture at New York University's Institute of Fine Arts. His research activity focuses on twentieth-century architecture and urban design. From 1997 to 2003, he imagined and developed the Cité de l'architecture for the French Minister of Culture, a museum, research, and exhibition center that opened in 2007. In 2012, he received a Graham Foundation grant for his upcoming publication Modern Architectures in History: France (Reaktion Books). A curator of numerous exhibitions in Europe and North America, his books include Le Corbusier and the Mystique of the USSR (1992), Scenes of the World to Come (1995), Casablanca, Colonial Myths, and Architectural Ventures (2002, with Monique Eleb), Mies van der Rohe (2007), Architecture in Uniform (2011), and The Future of Architecture. Since 1889. (2012).

Related Links
Modern Architectures in History: France

Architecture in Uniform: Designing and Building for the Second World War