Mart Stam’s “Makeyekvka” (1932)

Translated from the Dutch by C. v. Amerongen.

From Mart Stam: A Documentation of His Work, 1920-1965.

(Royal Institute of British Architects.  London: 1970).

• • •

New planning and reconstruction

Together with some other large towns, the town of Makeyevka, located in the southern part of the great Donets coalfield (Donbass), forms the centre of the coal mining and metallurgical industry.  In 1923 the town had 17,000 inhabitants, in 1928 there were 65,000, and by 1933 the number had risen to 189,000.  In all probability the town construction program will be completed by 1937.  The redevelopment of the old part of the town should achieve completion by 1942 or 1945, when the number of inhabitants is likely to be around 250,000.  No further substantial increase in population is expected after that time, unless development of light industry occurs, which is something that cannot at this stage possibly be foreseen.

Siting of industrial installations and its effect upon environment

The industry is grouped on a long strip 800 m in width, extending from south to north, the intention being that further industrial installations will be added in the northward direction.  The total length of this area is 8 km.  At its southern extremity it is bounded by a region comprising a number of important mines and extending 8 km to the southeast.  The industry and the mines pollute the atmosphere with gases and soot particles.  The following industrial activities are most harmful to the population in this respect:

(a) the old and the new coking plant;

(b) the blastfurnace plants;

(c) an agglomerating plant located in the direct vicinity of a coking plant;

(d) a small carbide factory (of minor importance);

(e) the slag heaps and waste tips of the various mines, which in some cases give oft harmful I sulphureous fumes.

The fumes and gases spread throughout the neighborhood.  That part of the site which is situated nearest an industrial plant suffers most severely in this respect, but other areas, to which the gases are carried by wind, are also affected.  For this reason the prevailing wind directions are of great importance: in this region the winds blow mainly from the north and from the east.  About 70-80% of the gases are carried in southerly and westerly directions and thus render these regions unsuitable for housing the workers of the metallurgical industry.  The residential settlements which already exist here will not only not be-further extended but should, in the interests of the workers’ health, be removed in due course.  The same applies to those residential areas which are situated in the vicinity of the various mines.

Siting of the new town

The terrain features of the region, the geological structure of the soil and the air pollution by gases constituted the deciding factors in choosing the site for the new town that has been designed.

The scheme for the town can be subdivided into:

(a) the rebuilt old town, serving as the administrative and cultural centre;

(b) the northern part of the town, where the number of inhabitants can potentially be increased from 150,000 to 180,000;

(c) the southern part of the town, where the number of inhabitants can be potentially be increased from 90,000 to 120,000;

(d) the “service sector” of the town, located centrally between the northern and the southern part.

The old town is in the immediate vicinity of the industrial area.  The existing residential accommodation consists of small timber or partly stone-built houses of one storey; the streets, the water supply and the sanitary facilities are very primitive; there is no main drainage.  As regards sanitation and hygiene this town compares unfavorably with other towns, and the effect of the air pollution by deleterious gases is very pronounced.  The design team considers it inadmissible to plan a residential area at less than 2 km distance from the industrial areas, so long as technology has not devised ways and means of suppressing or utilizing the gases discharged.  The old town is being rebuilt on the principle that, in addition to the buildings for the administrative centre, it will also contain the central institutions for popular education as well as the buildings accommodating the economic and cultural services.  In the south-to-north direction the old town will thus consist of a series of “centers”: the educational centre, the public services centre, the administrative centre and the cultural centre.  These buildings are situated along the main street of the town and together form the central feature of its architectural conception.  All this culminates in the House of the Soviets and the central theatre, which are planned to occupy the highest point of the site, from where these buildings will dominate the general skyline of the town.  The northern part of the town extends parallel to the northern part of the industrial area, at a distance of 2 km from it.  As yet this site has not been built on.  With regard to its terrain features, the possibility of mining coal, and the location of the mines, it is to be regarded as suitable for its intended purpose.  Here the coal seams are located at a depth of 150-200 m, so that there is very little danger of subsidence in the event of mining operations.  For these reasons the design team recommend using this site for the first stage of construction, i.e., [27] already in 1933.  From the viewpoint of air pollution, too, the proposed site is to be regarded as suitable, even in the years immediately ahead, before suppression or utilization of waste gases becomes practicable.  The eastern section of the northern site is located behind the second ravine, which is suitable for laying out as a wooded park.  This region is situated at a distance of 4 km from the industrial area.

The southern part of the town is close to the southern group of mines.  It must chiefly provide housing for the miners and will, in its final form, be able to accommodate between 110,000 and 120,000 people.  It will be sited at a sufficient distance from the mines to rule out the hazard of pollution or other harmful effects upon the residential areas.  At the same time the distance from the miners’ homes to their place of work will not exceed about 2-3 km.  The coal seams under the region are at considerable depth, so that no subsidence need be feared.  The terrain slopes in all directions.  There are no deep ravines, no major earthworks will be necessary, and the road alignments have been so planned as to avoid unnecessary steep gradients.

The supply sector of the town comprises, in addition to all the facilities for the food supply organization (“food combinat”), a site for the central goods storage depot, the central repair depot, a central garage for motor vehicles, a furniture manufacturing and repair works, a pharmaceutical works, a vegetable storehouse, and a central fire-station.  At the extreme eastern end, where the area occupied by the food supply organization adjoins the suburban district, a site has been provided for the accommodation of cattle for slaughter This site has been located here because waste material from the food supply organization can be utilized for the fattening of pigs.  This whole sector is so located that a good rail connection with the most important goods railway line (Kharkov-Khartsysk-Rostov) can be provided.  This major railway line and the road system, which has in part already been completed, connect the supply sector to the surrounding districts and enable the produce from the Sovkhozy and Kolkhozy (collective farms) to be delivered to the various departments of the food supply organization.  It should be taken into account that some of the workers are already doing 5-6 hours a day in industry, and it is perhaps now the time to consider whether a proportion of their labor can be utilized to grow fruit and vegetables in the gardens and allotments which may be laid out in the green belt separating the town from the industrial area.  In addition to being of economic importance, this arrangement also has value as a measure of redevelopment, inasmuch as it helps to solve the problem of combining industrial and agricultural output.

For each district of the town a park and sports-grounds will be separately provided.  In addition, for the town as a whole a central park for culture and recreation will be laid out, which will serve as a connecting link between the various urban districts.  This park is situated on an attractive site from the landscape point of view and will, if the natural possibilities are properly utilized, provide a number of picturesque and pleasing spots.  The park will comprise areas which for one reason or another are not suitable as sites for housing developments.  For the most part these are steeply sloped areas on which it would be expensive to build and which are nevertheless ideal for a park.  The central park will extend from the southern to the northern part of the town.  At its southern extremity the park will comprise a zoo.  Adjacent to this will be the various sections of botanical gardens and a children’s play area subdivided into several age groups.  At the very centre of the town will be located the area more particularly intended for cultural and recreational activities.

The architectural design underlying this project has been given careful attention by the design team.  It is not the result of the sum total of all the separate functions; instead, it represents a deliberately chosen form, corresponding more particularly to the interaction of all these functions.  Every problem, every technical design feature has been carefully investigated; not a single difficulty has been dodged or overlooked.  Only when all the requirements had been brought to the fore and taken duly into account was an architectural form chosen which ensured maximum fulfillment of all these requirements.  The structure of the town should clearly express the fact that this is not a town that has grown gradually on the basis of private initiative and private interests, not a capitalist town with its exploitation of building sites and its policy shaped by landowners, but a socialist town planned to serve the workers.  The layout of the connecting roads is the best scheme that the designers could devise in order to provide transport routes for the workers from their homes to their places of work.  The town plan is no mere mechanism based on calculation; it is based on an idea that corresponds to the vital need of the working class.  The plan is aimed at creating healthy and agreeable living conditions for the workers.  In addition, and more particularly in the years immediately ahead, it aims not only at providing the conditions for pleasant recreation and rest, but also at strengthening the workers in their class war for the complete build-up of socialism.

[From Sovetskaia arkhitektura, Moscow 1931]

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~ by Ross Wolfe on October 23, 2010.

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