Iakov Chernikhov’s The Construction of Architectural and Machine Forms (1932)


In publishing this work by architect Iakov G. Chernikhov, the Leningrad Society of Architects considers that the theme treated by the author is extremely interesting and timely, although it is not entirely in agreement with the method and character of his exposition.

The question of designing [oformlenie] any sort of object, i.e. of giving it a form which corresponds to its functional purpose and its material, is a basic component of his creative work for any architect, and has a practical interest as well as a philosophical one.

In a sense the graphic representations which reinforce the author’s thoughts here form the centre of gravity of the whole book.  The illustrational material is its foundation, and from this point of view the Editorial Committee, in assessing the work being published here, ventures to suggest that it will serve as a rich stimulus to creative invention [tvorcheskaia fantaziia] not only in the field of architecture but across the whole technological and industrial field in general.



29 July 1930



To All

This book, The Construction of Architectural and Machine Forms touches only some of the problems of constructive design.  To embrace everything which should be reflected in such a course of study is extremely difficult and the sheer scale of the topic makes it very complicated.  The unification of the analytical and graphic sides of constructivism is an original task which has its own specific complexity.  It is not always easy to devise a task, nor is it simple to give it a graphic form that is demonstrative and explanatory.

In respect of its graphic content The Construction of Architectural and Machine Forms can be divided into designs of an abstract, non-objective order; naturalistic designs based on real and specific subject-matter, and constructive fantasies.  The latter are characterized by the fact that they have the property of demonstrating constructive phenomena in their most visually compelling form, but for all their seeming realism do not have either a specific functional subject-matter or an immediate practical application.  The category I have termed “machine architecture” may be regarded as an example of that type.  Such constructive compositions serve educational purposes and can offer rich demonstrations of constructive phenomena.

Besides the compositions on architectural and mechanical themes there are also the so-called “theatrical constructions.”  These the author has inevitably presented somewhat one-sidedly, for the rules of theatrical composition do not limit it to static solutions.  The stage permits a special class of solutions that can differ from architectural and mechanical constructions because they do not demand a steady base for their foundations on site.  Such cases are not examined here because they would require too high a degree of abstraction and are not entirely appropriate to the topic of the book.

Certain aspects of the representation of constructive principles are manifested well, in my opinion, in reasonably demonstrative design solutions of a general type.  Certain, however, need more detailed expression in some clearer and more original structure.  Who will execute such tasks, and how, it is difficult to predict.  That is the business of future researchers, who will use new, yet more demonstrative forms to illuminate both the analytical and the graphic sides of constructivism to the full.  The author dares to hope that everything which is inadequately defined or unconvincingly formulated by him will subsequently be improved by someone else.  It cannot be pretended that The Construction of Architectural and Machine Forms is an exhaustive treatment of its subject, since preceding literature and researches on the problems of constructive design are too scanty to offer a basis for affirming that the principles enunciated here are unshakeable.

All the same it is necessary to explain why questions of constructive design in architecture and in machines have been brought together.  A discussion of constructivism from the architectural point of view alone would have been wrong because it would have been one-sided, and more than that: It is in the machine-building field, and not the architectural, where the best examples and the most demonstrative cases tend to be concentrated.  The influence of the machine on architecture is great.  Slowly architecture is being permeated by it, as it subordinates everything that enters its sphere.  Shifts are taking place in both architecture and machine-building.  These shifts do not stop — they continue forward on a path that is not yet ended; into what mould this influence will eventually flow, or exactly how the union of such different phenomena will take place, it is difficult to foretell.  Many people have a quite mistaken view of the outbursts of enthusiasm for Contructivism which sporadically embrace this or that branch of the arts.  We can observe these factors, or stages, in architecture and painting and even poetry.  But this is fashion.  It is a phenomenon of purely temporary character.  It is not serious study, not scientifically based investigation.  It is a nonsense to suggest that American skyscrapers influenced European architecture in the direction of the constructive point of view, because the frame principle of American buildings is not manifested as a clear constructive image.  It is a small part that has no great significance.  On the other hand the unification of machines with buildings observed in our era in certain factory buildings; the penetration of the machine into our life; the industrial character of contemporary building operations and the functionally rational solutions of all kinds of construction task — the collective effect of these leads unfailingly towards constructive design.

A building plan that is not solved constructively looses its value, as even the fact that it may be functional cannot rescue it from a certain lack of coordination.  The solution of an architectural plan requires more than a simple juxtaposition of one part to another.  It requires a clear knitting-together and cohesion of all component elements of the plan to create the fundamental structure of the building organism.  It requires the designer to do exactly what is always done in a machine.

Constructivism for the sake of constructivism is a useless aspiration that we can do without.  Constructivism must not serve as a decorative tool for those who seek to mask the essence of things, as a false covering to forms.  The only constructive solution which has any meaning is the one which hides unfailingly functional, rational and purposive principles in its very being.  A constructive feature thought up” merely for the aesthetic expression of an underlying fact of building constitutes a falsification.  Exaggeration and assertion of the construction constitutes an unnecessary parading and vulgarization of it.  Any kind of constructive architectural erection, just like any machine, must possess an organic unity between all component elements, over and above the functional and rational connections which form the individual events in the construction.  Social conditionality also I influences the essence of the solution and even if it is given inadequate attention this does not signify that such social conditionality is absent.

In spite of everything said above, the author has necessarily had to approach the question of explaining the principles, laws and forms of constructivism by those means which can assist in [46] elucidating the subject in a visually demonstrative way is a matter of no significance in this case whether the approach used is subject-matter based or non-objective, since both of them can serve in full measure for any purpose.  Neither of them has any specification social characterization since they are but means and material at the disposal of the architect’s purposes.  The architect can reflect in his works not only a certain historical period, but also the concerns and class structure of his time, it depends upon his preference and the period in which he lives.

Although the question of decorativeness as such is not clean with at all in this work, it has to be said that decoration is characteristic of every class and in no way the property of the bourgeois capitalist strata alone.  Suffice it to say that proletarian decorativeness, or decoration of a proletarian kind, possesses a great logic devoid of indulgent superfluities, but all the same it is equally characteristic of proletarian creative work to possess decorative features.  If a constructive building ends up being an interesting one, then such a phenomenon is to be welcomed.  Only let there not be falsification or an artificial selection of the material.



To My Colleagues

On the occasion of the publication of my book The Construction of Architectural and Machine Forms I consider it my absolute obligation to dedicate a special preface to all those modest workers who played such a vital part in it.  Only through the collaboration of my close assistants have I been able to execute that vast amount of work which The Construction represents.  The following people were my collaborators in working on The Construction of Architectural and Machine Forms:

1.  Evlalia Nikolaevna PAVLOV A-STEVEN

2.  Vasilii Alexsandrovich MINIAEV

3.  Dmitrii Akindinovich KAPANITSYN

4.  Viktor Makarovich OLENEV

5.  Vladimir Stepanovich SHAKHOVNIN

6.  Evgenii Vasil’evich FILIPPOV

7.  Pavel Mikhailovich VAKHRUSHEV

8.  Aleksandr Nikolaevich BORNEMAN

9.  Ida Ivanovna FOMINA

10.  Galina Pavlovna LIAKHOVSKAIA

Only with the help of these people have I been able to create a work which is one of the fundamentals of architecture.  It should be mentioned that not all the material which was executed has ended up in the book since the pursuit of answers did not always produce successful solutions.  All those preliminary studies — both my own and my colleagues’ — which seemed unnecessary at the time, have served in some way as preparation for my book.  Being the ideological leader of my assistants, I sometimes enlisted them not only to present design solutions for problems that I had already formulated, but also for help in developing the tasks themselves.  And though the products were not always a success and not all experiments crystallized into the forms we were seeking, subsequent reworkings and compositions achieved better results and gave material that could be used.  The effort, skill and great patience which my colleagues displayed has resulted in the possibility of representing graphically here all those things which in general only submit to explanation with great difficulty.  There is no shame in admitting that neither my assistants nor myself have yet succeeded in giving a formal solution [obraznyi otvet] to certain of the tasks we set, despite the clarity and precision with which they were posed.  This does not in any degree diminish the merits of my assistants’ work.  To all of them I express my profound thanks for the participation which they so kindly undertook.




Introductory Article by E.F. Gollerbakh

In this epoch of the triumphant development of mechanical engineering and the continuous growth of industrialization a new conception of artistic activity is being born.  New demands are being made of the fine arts.  Old and decrepit forms are being repudiated.  Contemporaneity demands of fine art that it should directly serve the urgent needs of our time.

Bending their ear to the contemporary world’s demands, artists are trying to find new principles forgiving form to their intentions — new principles that will be in keeping with the industrial and technological character of contemporary civilization.  If they proceed from outside and amount to an “adapting” of old forms to new content, these attempts are rarely successful.  Art can be brought onto its true path only through the creation of new forms which are adequate to the forms of life itself, and which answer its concrete requirements.  Instead of seeking every kind of adaptation from the outside, what we need is the equally possible discovery of new values from within, that is, in the field of those phenomena which are characteristic of the contemporary tenor of life, of the contemporary state of technology.  To a certain degree, art may become engineering.  It must move from its previous aimless decorativeness, from its unprincipled aestheticism alienated from life, to an existence of practical utility.  In this process the question of a transformation of artistic forms must not depend exclusively upon ideological content, but must be solved on the basis of a fundamental re-examination of the means of expression.  Industrial and technological “being” cannot fail to Influence the artistic and creative “consciousness.”  Needless to say, diverse other factors can also influence this consciousness.  In the latest Western European art, and on the Left Front of the visual arts in the USSR, one can see the influence of Prehistoric, primitive art, of ancient, archaic cultures, of the art of savages, children folk-cultures and so on.  But when we are told that the artists who soak up these influences are “setting up new traditions,” are “achieving one of the greatest revolutions ever known in the history of the arts,” we are justified in doubting the extent to which these “new” traditions have any genuinely revolutionary content.  Would it not be more correct to regard them as feeble imitation sui generis, as a conscious return to those albeit great, but already incarnate and largely extinct forms of which countless multitudes fill the long history of art — sometimes outreaching their original prototypes created at the dawn of human existence, sometimes endlessly inferior to them.  Do we have to seek artistic models in the cemeteries of dead art, in the depth of history, amongst socially backward strata of contemporary humanity, when the progress of modern life is endlessly generating new forms, is conquering the indifference of the elements and harnessing them in the steel chains of technology.  Instead of imitating the stiffened corpses of dead forms — albeit of beautiful ones — is it not better to seek the basis of a new art in the deep structures of organic and spatial phenomena in the world around us?

Investigation of the principles governing these structures leads to an identification of the primary geometrical laws common to the most diverse phenomena of the external world.  It is precisely investigation, positing the principle of a scientific foundation for art, that will offer the possibility of finding a synthesis of technology with all aspects of the visual arts in a single constructivist art.

We do not yet have one single investigation specifically devoted to the question of constructivism.  More than that, we do not have so much as an essay which elucidates the concept of constructivism, or outlines its course of development.  Most discussion of constructivism is very superficial and unconvincing: people point out that it is based on principles of the mechanical and geometrical [48] inter-relations of materials and their forms.  They mention that constructivism aspires to create practically useful and externally beautiful objects (or in the first place, designs for them).  Finally they underline constructivism’s direct connection with the mechanization of the whole structure of our lives, with the intensive development of industrial production, and so on.  None of these diffuse and foggy definitions give any precise or true understanding of the essence of constructivism.  Indeed, it is difficult to give a precise definition when it has still not fully defined itself.  It is impossible to write an investigation of a subject whose actual nature has still not yet entirely emerged.  This is why constructivism should not now be written about by historians of art or aesthetic critics, but by theoreticians of art or — even better — by practitioners, that is to say by those artists (or engineers) who are themselves constructivists.

The book presented to the reader here by architect-artist Iakov G. Chernikhov constitutes precisely such an experiment in laying out the fundamentals of constructivism.  The author is not an art historian evaluating an artistic phenomenon “from the sidelines,” but a builder-artist pursuing and creating relatively new forms of depiction in his own personal professional work.

Chernikhov’s book The Construction of Architectural and Machine Forms is not a narrowly specialist technical investigation or handbook; if it were the latter there would be no place in it for a preface from an art historian.  This book has an incomparably broader perspective.  It is an investigation of theoretical principles which touch upon certain problems of the philosophy of art.  The questions which the author raises about the meaning of the constructive approach, about its essence, about the nature or “constitution” of that approach, about the laws of construction and about constructive principles of form-generation, all these lead to the boundaries where the theory of art begins.  However the author does not withdraw into the debris of abstract cognition.  He does not get cut off from the real origins of his theoretical debate.  In his role as a practicing artist participating directly in the productive and constructional life of our country, Chernikhov knows all too well the importance and value of concrete tasks in the art of today understanding “art,” as I do, in the very broadest sense of that word.  While taking into account the methodological value of abstract solutions and structures, he also knows that we must not build forms which are beyond the realm of the useful, that we must not prop up the concept of a self-sufficient, “pure” art.  His book rests upon a recognition of the profound commonality of the constructive principles underlying art and technology.  And with that, on a recognition that the creative handling of materials can become a great organizing force, if it is directed towards the creation of useful, utilitarian forms.

With every decade, the gulf which has recently divided art from the concerns of engineering is becoming narrower.  In our own period, the mutual incomprehension, and frequently even antagonism which have come to separate the artist and the engineer are beginning to give way to the idea of a friendly working collaboration.  This is leading to a new division of labor; but it is leading also to a pursuit at the level of principle, of the fullest possible reconstruction of the close relationship which did once exist, historically, between art and technology.  Elements of the creative process which are common to both fields at the most profound level are being manifested and affirmed.  This new approach to understanding the creative process in art was reflected clearly in Chernikhov’s preceding book, The Fundamentals of Contemporary Architecture, but here it is reflected even more prominently.  This book, by its very essence, constitutes a complete rejection of out-dated canons, historical prototypes and that idealistic, contemplative aestheticism which is an end in itself, cut off from the seething current of real life and the powerful concerns of the contemporary world.

The development of techniques of reinforced concrete, the titanic growth of metallurgy, the intensive progress of mechanical engineering have not up till now exerted that radical effect upon art which they could do, if their significance as reformative factors was understood by artists in its full profundity.  A demonstration of the technological might of capitalist Europe such as the Eiffel Tower appears an empty and pointless enterprise today.  Its restaurants, its advertisements for Citroën cars, and even its radio station represent no more than insignificant “appendages” to this grandiose but absurd structure, and certainly do not to any extent “legitimize” it.  In this case technology had no desire to be art, and art did not come to technology’s aid.  The art of building in Western Europe continues to oscillate between tasteless stylization, bourgeois decadence, modernistic novelties and a barrack-like standardization that shuts urban life up in masonry boxes separated by monotonous corridors-creating identically depressing skyscrapers on one hand and identical suburban cottage settlements on the other.  And only very occasionally are buildings created which to some degree express the essence of our epoch and thereby do something towards creating a new style.  A new architecture is being born, whose beauty resides in its appropriateness to purpose, in its superlative use of material, in a rational constructiveness.  A broad highway must be opened up for this architecture in the Land of the Soviets where socialist culture is being built, where powerful new industrial plants are being created, as well as grandiose electrical power-stations, gigantic state farms, citadels of industry within agriculture; where the entire economic base is being rebuilt upon socialist principles; where the whole way of life of society is being reconstructed; where the cultural requirements of the masses are growing continuously.

In this connection the works of the advanced architects take on a special significance.  We speak here of those architects who are trying to find the fundamental forms appropriate to the new building effort, to discover what the logical line of development should be for the building industry, and to put it onto firm rails underpinned by scientific research and artistic and technological experiment.

Chernikhov’s merit lies in the fact that he has brought the “technological” forms of architecture and mechanical engineering into the graphic field, and has done so not as was done previously, at the level of decorative vignette or ornament, but as an absolutely legitimate theme of art.  The graphic representations which he has created are not just “technical” but also artistic.  This is no lifeless juxtaposition of “illustrations” to text of the sort that peppers books on technology.  The whole is a richly original piece of artistic work in its own right.  In this sense Chernikhov is a pioneer, a trail-blazer of new themes in graphic art, and also, in part, of new modes of graphic design.  In themselves mechanical forms are not new in [49] graphics; during the last decade the art of graphics in book design has demonstrated numerous examples which use technological and industrial subjects more or less successfully.  In decorative graphics for example one meets hammers-and-sickles, anvils, cogwheels, conveyor belts, all sorts of machine components, but in virtually all cases these objects have no independent significance as a result of their subject-matter.  They are no more than one element amongst others in a composition — and are often highly stylized to boot.  In these cases the object as such does not play a large part, does not interest the book designer particularly, and perhaps rightly so.

Chernikhov has a quite different attitude to the objects, figures or built structures which he depicts.  In his work a very special kind of architecture is unfolded in front of us; machine architecture, which submits to special principles and its own canons.  The possibilities for machine architecture were first shown in all their full potential as art.  Dryly drawn depictions of a machine can have interest and importance only for the specialist, for the engineer.  They say nothing to the “broad public.”  The same is true for photographs of machines.  Even the machines themselves cannot directly produce that impression on a spectator which a skillful graphic image can create.  Chernikhov’s graphics thus bring the viewer closer to understanding the essence of the machine than the object itself can do.  They reveal its “spirit,” its essential “idea,” and a beauty which only the initiated would perceive from the object itself.

The author of The Construction is interested precisely in the object as such; in its organization, its construction as a form, its spatial character and sometimes also its fractural properties of surface treatment.  He is interested in its purpose and function; in its weight, even in the nature and properties of the material, all of which are expressed very convincingly in certain of his drawings.  His approach to the depiction of the subject-matter is entirely devoid of all decorativeness, of aesthetic “flourishes,” of extraneous “stuffing,” background or frame.  He approaches the objects simply and soberly, concerned above all to manifest what is constructive about them.  He forces us to feast our eyes upon objects that we normally pass by indifferently.  Quite unexpectedly we then discover for ourselves a very special beauty and truth in some stepped cube or fractured quadrilateral; in a combination of cylinders; in nuts and bolts or the coupling of machine components.  Thus aspects of constructivism which normally remain unnoticed are opened up to us through the medium of graphic art.

Already in his first book, The Art of Graphic Representation, Chernikhov evoked these principles of graphic drawing and representation which he advocated in his own teaching work.  However the reproductions in that book failed to communicate a correct understanding of the author’s approach and its success, through the fault of the publishers they were much too small.  The exhibition of his graphic works presented in 1927 on the walls of the Leningrad Academy of Arts, however, unfolded before us the vast diversity of his modes and the range of his achievements.  It demonstrated the complex and fantastic paths which graphic representation may take, and the original effects which “abstract” graphic exercises may produce.

In his book The Fundamentals of Contemporary Architecture, Chernikhov gave a series of extremely interesting models of abstract compositional work in the field of architectural forms, work which, when turned into concrete projects for various building types, expressed sometimes highly specific ideological aspirations and very exactly formulated concepts.  Already here it was difficult to describe the work as graphics in a conventional sense.  The tasks which the author had set, and the mode in which they had been responded to, clearly burst the boundaries of representational genres, sometimes becoming painterly works of great sophistication in their own right as for example in certain of his colored works; at other times becoming sculpture, as for example in the case of many volumetric models.

When constructive images become incarnated in graphic depictions such as those produced by Chernikhov, or by the group of pupils and assistants whom he leads, they acquire unusual conviction and comprehensibility, and begin “to tell us about themselves” with exceptional eloquence.  Looking through the drawings which depict various constructive joints and their possible forms, one at times experiences an almost purely physical feeling of the “clamping,” the “coupling” or the “embracing” involved. In many of his compositions one feels very fully the massiveness, the weight, the staticness — or alternatively the lightness, the aerial freedom, the dynamism.  One feels the stiff dead rigor of a rhythm of lines — or their elasticity; one feels them restrained and held back, or running forwards.  Quite involuntarily the rhythm of the composition communicates itself to the viewer.  All this is achieved without any deliberate “tricks.”  The forms of the real objects are preserved, and never abstracted willfully or arbitrarily but only in accordance with the compositional intention.  The wealth of inventive fantasy and the inexhaustible diversify of combinations are the very essence of Chemikhov’s great originality in both graphic work and full-scale architectural design.  It ranges from the simplest to the most complex, with simplicity sometimes concealing an inner complexity and vice versa.  The range of his imagination is exceptionally broad.  His thinking is not confined in any one mould of the sort that is sometimes erroneously termed a “style.”  In all his works Chernikhov consistently executes convincing images by strict and laconic graphic techniques.

Leaving aside here questions of the significance of Chernikhov’s “theory” of constructivism from the scientific or technical point of view, this being an area outside our competence, let us note what is for us the unquestionable formal importance of his graphic works and the thematic enrichment they bring to the art of drawing.

There is very little in common between Chernikhov’s creative research and the “constructive” efforts of the Leftist artists.  Chernikhov is also in a certain sense “leftist” in architecture, but he has mastered those preparatory fundamentals which were lacking amongst the artists of the “Left Front” with their attempts at engineering.

Having noted the innateness of the “feeling for constructiveness,” and facing up to the necessity for human beings to exercise this instinct, Chernikhov explains the essence of constructive principles in a series of visually compelling examples, these being principles which people otherwise apply in their activities unconsciously, but rarely recognize properly.  Had the author of this book on construction been a natural scientist as well as an architect, he would very likely have reinforced many of his [50] propositions with examples from the plant and animal worlds, from the field of organic form-generation.  Cytology and histology, for example, would have offered him some very apposite comparisons and conclusions.

For the engineer as much as the artist, a familiarity with The Construction of Architectural and Machine Forms will prove rewarding.  Even the questionable and rather confused aspects of this book are valuable for the fact that they will promote thinking and stimulate some consideration of constructive problems.  Herein lies the book’s educational importance.  It shifts away conservative conceptions of “artistic values” and introduces us to the world of constructive design.  It represents an overture to the systematic and planned study of those constructive principles to which people here are usually attracted transiently, in the absence of any proper, profound research into the problems of constructive art.

In all his investigations Chernikhov shows himself to be a persistent and uncompromising fighter for new forms, and the enemy of all forms of routinism or conservatism.  The works he has executed manifest to the freshness of his thinking and the flexibility and diversity of his experimentation, always moving step-by-step with contemporaneity and at times in advance of it.

His works convince us that even the most talented pretensions to “constructivism” amongst the leftist artists were essentially child’s play.  The “contre-reliefs” and other “constructions” of the leftist painters hardly have any kind of meaning, unless one considers there is meaning in the shock qualities of mere daring and novelty.

There is no denying that the graphic oeuvre of Chernikhov represents as a whole a remarkable and hopeful phenomenon.  In these depictions on architectural and engineering themes there is vast scale, great tension and clear basis in principle.  All this does not exclude artistic quality, though it does not of itself provide it.  Most important is something else: in Chernikhov’s graphic work the subject-related elements, the constructive and the rhythmic elements are inseparable.  This guarantees it great vitality and an unquestioned place in that circle of phenomena to which it is related.

The first thing that attracts attention in the whole organization of Chernikhov’s book is his concern with the precise classification of the phenomena he is examining.  This characteristic was also evident in The Fundamentals of Contemporary Architecture, and manifests itself particularly in his inclination towards systems and methods.  He is innately an analyst and a creator of nomenclatures he is interested above all in questions of morphology and systematics.

In this book as in his previous ones, certain factors can be shown to be questionable, but it is impossible to deny the importance of the questions he is tackling.  The mode of presentation and the book’s style may call forth certain objections, as may the formulation of [51] certain of his propositions.  An example here is his chapter on “The Melody of Constructive Forms.”  All this fades into the background, however, before that charge of creative enthusiasm which penetrates the whole of Chernikhov’s work.  It is necessary to see his graphic experiments, his volumetric models or his architectural projects — the majority of which remain unpublished — in order to feel the vast labor which has been expended in giving real form to the principles he has laid down.  Only then can one feel the energy and ebullient love for the work which hide behind the author’s externally dry and abstract discussions.  A fanatical devotion to ideas always was and will be the best guarantee of their successful development and realization.

At the same time it has to be noted that with Chernikhov this devotion to his special interests is not accompanied by that nihilistic abnegation of cultural traditions which is characteristic of extreme innovators.  He does not deny, for example, that elements of constructivism have existed throughout history in some form or another, he merely underlines that these principles have acquired particular importance in our own period and therefore deserve special attention.

The works of Chernikhov possess one quality which is particularly essential in our times, when we face the central question of a change-over in architecture requiring the education of new professional cadres.  They are didactic.  The author does not merely present a general exposition of his subject; he introduces his reader to its richer profundities.  He not only recounts his own material; he outlines paths of independent investigative work for those who wish to study this area further.  He addresses himself to an imaginary group of listeners; he gives them advice and warnings.  He shows them ways and means of mastering the material.

Nor is it only the text which is didactic in character.  So too is the graphic material, and perhaps even more so, because it convincingly and visually enters the whole environment of constructive forms and brings us closer to an understanding of the constructivistic view of the world.  We are convinced by the consistency and decisiveness with which the author of these constructive compositions sweeps aside everything superfluous to the functional legitimacy, everything that could impede the clear manifestation of its meaning.  His experiments may seem incomprehensible to many people.  They may evoke protest even from adherents of “the new direction.”  But the topicality of the questions he is examining cannot be denied.

In due course there may emerge other formulations of the principles which Chernikhov is defending, but the fundamental ideas which reside in those principles will unquestionably remain fruitful.  The estrangement of art and engineering that has hitherto existed plainly can be overcome on precisely the level envisaged in Iakov Chernikhov’s book.

April 1930




A.  The Imperative to Constructive Design

It is by no means in the nature of every human being to be able to elucidate and demonstrate the constructive imperative amongst humanity’s many and various types of need.  M any who lack that capacity lack even any feeling for constructive principles, and that feeling, for many reasons is very difficult to develop.

The general lack of interest in the constructive approach is itself the first cause of that difficulty.  The number of people motivated to investigate or learn about constructive principles has been extremely limited, with the result that the fundamentals of a constructive

approach remain to this day quite inadequately researched.  Those who do have the necessary inclination are almost too few to form the cadre of researchers required.

The second cause of difficulty lies in the youthfulness of the constructive approach as a conscious creative undertaking.  Constructive qualities can be shown [53] present in numerous examples of building and technology from ancient or medieval periods.  Constructive principles have existed throughout time — to deny that would be to deny the gradualism and continuity with which building and technology have developed.  Like everything else in ancient times, they were still in undeveloped and embryonic state — but they existed.  Today though, “construction,” as such, is attracting our attention and engaging our intellect to a significantly greater extent than in previous eras.  We are focusing special attention on the fundamentals of this approach; we are trying to give clarity and precision to our understanding of constructive principles, laws, rules and so on,  and to the essential concepts underlying them.  We have to conclude that “the age of a genuine constructivism” has dawned.

The third cause of difficulty is the widespread indifference to this field even amongst those who ought to recognize its value.  Thanks to the complexity of the concept, and the complexities involved in presenting constructive principles in intelligible form, many people try to resolve the problems of a constructive approach through recourse to mere intuition or experience.

One must acknowledge that the fourth reason for the unpopularity of constructive principles is the fact that people who are ready to devote the necessary attention to this field have no very illuminating material available to them.  There is no source from which anyone wanting to acquaint himself with the field of “constructions” could derive exhaustive information.  Anyone interested in the fundamentals, the logic, the essence of a constructive approach has to select material for himself from a mass of unrelated bits of experience and fact and build his own personal logic and system on the basis of that.

Despite all these factors which make it difficult to satisfy the external imperative for “constructive” design solutions, that imperative constantly asserts itself.  The quest for constructive principles lies within the substance of every live being, but in the activity of humans it is particularly sharply expressed.  Man is innately a builder in all aspects of his life, and this makes itself felt from the very first moments of his existence.  Without any external promptings a baby will often solve quite complex constructive tasks during his play.  Any sort of knot made in thread or string, or any sort of fastening between elements like sticks, is in essence a construction.  The principle can thus be found in the most primitive of children’s pastimes.  With little sticks a baby will produce entirely rational solutions to the problem of structural support by jamming one element in another.  Other principles will be explored when he comes to sew clothes for his dolls, and so on.  Man cannot help building and creating — hence the necessity to concern himself with an object’s construction.  This occurs spontaneously and involuntarily.  The child’s early love of smashing things is an equally significant trait, for almost any creative process is usually preceded by demolition.  Anyone, in discovering something new, destroys something that had previously been devised or established, but this does not all mean that he is by character destructive.  The nature of man is plainly so organized that he treats destruction as the cue to start creation.  Even though it may be unsystematic, that instinctive imperative to be constructive, which lies within every human being, must ultimately find its proper foundation in future.  That foundation must be formulated in a way that is intelligible and clear, and must embrace the whole complex system which is the constructive approach to design.

One should not fail to underline certain characteristic features that accompany the pursuit of constructive principles amongst those individuals inclined to this field.  They constitute an imperative that is quite marked in much work of experimental kind and can be summed up as inventiveness.  No one will deny that any inventor in a technological field is endowed by nature with a disposition towards constructive principles.  We are not prejudging here the question of how the capacity to represent structure expresses itself in each individual — be that visually, by spatial and volumetric devices, or graphically.  We are only asserting the fact that many people possess an inborn capacity to design constructively.  Man’s need to construct objects as a living environment dictates that he seek rational and healthy ways out of a vague and indeterminate situation.  The powerful building programs and grandiose technology of our time are rushing forward so fast that any man in this environment must recognize, understand and study all the characteristics, the stages and the laws of constructive approach.  It is no longer a question of wanting to know these fundamental principles, but of having to know them.  In other words: the imperative to master the principles of constructive design has become the central imperative of our time.

The pursuit of a constructive approach has manifested itself most persistently of late in Holland and Germany, but has also been observable in the USSR.  It has to be noted though that neither here nor in the West has there been any attempt to systematize the basic ideas concerned, or to enumerate with precision its laws and possibilities.  Constructivism, as an artistic movement, aspires to create a synthesis of technology and all kinds of fine art into a unified form of constructivist creativity.  As Matsa defines it in his book “The Art of Contemporary Europe,” that synthesis “is built in accordance with the principles of mechanical, geometrical and aesthetic inter-relationship between the material of construction — be it paint, cloth, iron, glass — and its forms.”  It is a feature of our age that so many individuals are infected with this striving for the constructive, and the phenomenon has deeper roots than one might suppose.  Amongst people of diverse specialisms the imperative is finding an outlet It is creating a situation in which the necessity to manifest constructive concepts is constantly evoked.  People are searching.  By that very act they are predetermining the future of what they seek.  When humanity sets out on a quest, it generally achieves if not a complete answer, at least partial success.  The emergence of these numerous attempts to formulate constructive principles is itself an indicator that the question of constructivism has matured and genuinely constitutes “an imperative.”

Not being a science of the higher order, the study of constructive principles will undoubtedly soon take on accessible and intelligible forms and become approachable by all who are interested.  As Boris Arvatov rightly remarks in his “Art and Classes,” constructivism is not a form but a method.  “In so far as this method is capable of being collectivized, in so far as it takes as its basis the principle of a social and technological use of materials, in so tar, finally, as it sets itself the task of organizing not just people and ideas, but also things, to this extent constructivism is a historic movement, a stage of transition from the art of stagnant, impenitent forms standing apart from life, to an art that is socially alive, that is part of the evolutionary dynamic, in short, to an art that is proletarian.”


B.  The Meaning of Constructivism

The meaning of the constructive approach lies within the concrete principles that it serves.  A construction can exist in its own right without being legitimated by any practical application, but then its value is relatively slight.

When we perceive before us not just a closely wrought union of volume and structure, but a rational purpose, a rational reason why those elements have been brought together in that way, then the situation is very different.  Does it not “open our eyes” when we discover constructive characteristics in a single fragmentary body, such as that depicted in figure 85? The fragment is of the simplest: it is in such simplicity that we can really feel the presence of “construction,” as such.  It is the quality of constructiveness which enables this simple body to “mean something,” to embody a piece of somebody’s intelligence.  In any design problem, we can discover a definite meaning in the connection between one body and another.  For any given part of the building we can propose many different solutions.  For all their differences, though, the solutions we propose will always be “constructive.”  In building design we shall always approach problem solving by the constructive path.

A machine always speaks for itself, wherever it appears.  A machine cannot fail to be constructive, since it is the very embodiment of all aspects and principles of constructivism.  In the machine and its parts we observe the very finest examples of constructive principles.  But these compact objects are not the only field in which those principles may be applied.  Construction exists equally amongst soft bodies and surfaces, and here clothing provides many examples.  The meaning of such constructions is founded in the actual structure of human dressing, and the need for it.  If at present human clothing has not reached perfection, this should be explained by the imperfection of people’s lives, and by the many economic and domestic shortages.  In the future man will surround himself with such sophisticated items of domestic and everyday equipment that he will automatically focus his attention on devising forms of clothing of perfect design for their various purposes.  Gradually progress is being made in this direction, though so far it has only involved sports clothes.

In all cases, constructivism’s very meaning resides in the fact that it creates the impression that the link between one element and another is founded in necessity.  In observing the functional interdependence between a series of objects, and in justifying this interdependence, we are thereby affirming the constructive rationalism to which we aspire.

Constructivism’s meaning resides also in the fact that it convinces us of the aspiration to embrace which certain objects possess.  In the prehensile assemblage and cohesion of separate elements there is legitimation of the principle of coupling.  When one body penetrates another, and by that act creates some interdependent relationship between them, the totality of their interactions results in a new finished product.  Herein we find an important idea, namely that the collective unions of a series of elements may add up to a single, clearly identifiable whole.  Whilst an individual element is something lost without individual personality in the overall mass, a group of constructively assembled elements is a designed and formally organized unit.  It becomes an integral and coherent entity.

We are even better persuaded of the meaning of constructivism when we come up against problems of a practical kind which can only be solved through the constructive approach.  Within the structure of machines for movement such as the steam-engine or the steam-ship, the airplane or the motor vehicle, the larger meaning of the totality of constructively amalgamated parts testifies to a special, vigorously calculated combination of all their individual components.  To the extent that everything in such machines is meaningful, they are logical.

Its rationality is the most interesting feature of the constructive approach; without that characteristic it is inconceivable.  The extraordinary meaning of the whole subject we are examining is indicated by the fact that it brings together two principles so vitally significant as these: the constructive principle and the principle of rationality.

Finally, from a simple examination of constructive objects and structures, it is clear that the constructive approach is a necessary imperative and permanent appurtenance of our whole tenor of life today, and that without constructive principles a resolution of the majority of questions in technology and in art is inconceivable.

C.  The forms and fundamentals of constructivism

The forms employed in constructive design are so various that it is hardly possible to explain them fully in the present preliminary work.  We must first of all agree what we mean by constructive “forms.” Constructivism is not itself a “concrete” subject.  As a concept and phenomenon it therefore needs to be associated with real objects when it is demonstrated or explained (and for the purpose of future definitions).  Constructive design in technology is inconceivable without such objects, since it is necessary to present the concept through the medium of some form which can be physically demonstrated.  Only by having the concrete and the relevant abstract structure alongside each other an we show the significant features visually.


A constructive form is a union of elements that demonstrates a constructive principle, and it is named according to that principle.  The examples within any one class of forms will vary greatly in shape according to the field from which each concrete example derives.  I shall enumerate the main types of constructive form in order of their increasing diversity.

The first type represents the simplest combination of bodies: the situation where one is inserted into another.  Figure 106 shows an example.  These cases of insertion give us an object of such simple type that the constructive characteristics are relatively slight here, except in those instances where the parts being inserted are themselves objects with constructive predispositions.  The example quoted suffices to establish this first type in our series; the form created through “penetration.”

The second type occurs when one body “embraces” another Figures 93 and 150 show examples.  As a category this type is more complex, since we have a whole sequence from the simplest rectilinear forms exemplified by figure 90, to complex curvilinear ones as in figure 94, all in different ways conforming to the principle that one body embraces another.  It is of no consequence whether some parts of the bodies interpenetrate; what interests us is the “embracing” behavior, and constructive principles are far more evident in this whole genre than in forms created by insertion.  It is often complicated to convey this second kind of constructive union by graphic means: it can require some practice in draughtsmanship and design.


The third type introduces us to the constructive principle we call “mounting”; here figure 117 offers an example.  This occurs where a number of bodies are united by a single, crowning body which is planted upon the rest.  In this instance we have an example of so-called “formal affirmation.”  A group of several objects in relative proximity is “completed” when some new body unites them by mounting all the component elements.  This mounting can be designed to take place from above, from below, or even from the side of the group.

The fourth type of constructive form occurs when a single “integral” body is given a shape which demonstrates the principles and condition of constructiveness in the most visually graphic way possible — see here figure 84.  This rare phenomenon, which is very useful for the demonstration of constructive principles, deserves the particular attention of anyone seriously interested in this field.  The following essential fact should be underlined here: that in all instances of an integral object which has constructive properties we are dealing with a continuous mass that possesses weight, that is relatively heavy.  It is self-evident that the presence of weight in any specific configuration of itself imparts constructiveness to that form.

The fifth type of constructive form may be termed “dynamic.”  Here figure 98 offers an example.  It has been observed that a form with the characteristic of dynamism can serve a constructive function.  In bringing together the two concepts of constructiveness and dynamism we get one of the most interesting of all the constructive forms.  A particular feature of constructions that possess dynamism is their strong visual or psychological impact upon the beholder.  Dynamism by itself makes an impression, but in conjunction with constructiveness it really does give us some very interesting items for scrutiny and interpretation.

Constructions of this type have to be divided into two categories.  The first concerns uncomplicated bodies, where both constructiveness and dynamism are inherent in the actual movement of the masses Here figure 88 provides an illustration.  The second category comprises those objects which represent a more complex system of many elements, such as in figure 89.  One subset of the first category are those elements which incorporate the “intertwining curve.”  The role of such curving movements is very substantial in engendering both dynamic and constructive properties in a body.  The curve is therefore a powerful tool in our hands, and by varying it we can obtain objects which exert an exceptionally forceful influence on our perception.  Sometimes the slightest deviation from the necessary device, or an incomprehension of its nature, will prevent us achieving the effect we are trying to obtain.  Flair on its own is not enough.  Knowledge and skill are also essential if we are to achieve what we seek in every case.

We shall apply the epithet “interlacing” to constructive forms of this type.

The sixth type of constructive form can be called the “clamp.”  An example appears in figure 130.  Its characteristic feature is that a given body (or bodies) seems to be seized by another body (or bodies) which grips it.  All the power of the clamp is concentrated within the construction concerned.  The clamp as such is extremely characteristic of machines and their parts, indeed this is the field where the “clamping” principle finds widest application, and it can be observed in a whole range of objects in mechanical engineering.  By their very nature clamps come in a variety of different forms.  Their heterogeneity requires that may be classified by type, but we shall not broach this question now.


The seventh type of constructive form is that produced by the “coupling” of elements, of which figure 152 provides an illustration.  Coupling can be of various kinds according to its characteristics, so it is important to be clear what we mean by the term.  The coupling differs from other types of constructive solution in allowing a freely moving combination without any tight or direct junction between the parts.  A good example would be the linkage formed between two or more hooks when each catches into another.  In such a case each component body remains essentially an isolated element, but because they are interconnected in a defined way, such totalities are examples of a constructive union.

Another type of coupling arises when elements or parts are linked to each other more definitely, and even “compulsorily.”  This case is very frequently encountered in mechanical engineering when it is required that separately operating parts do not merely catch on to each other, but are constrained by some encompassing element, or by a piercing bolt or dowel.  Figure 126 depicts an example.  Here the coupling is reinforced by some more rigid construction which inescapably constrains the parts into a constant relationship.

There is also the instance of coupling when one or several elements in the environment of other parts create a cohesive constructive organization of specific rationality for a special purpose.  This kind of grouping has special importance in mechanical engineering, and indeed is one of its essential techniques.  Such “linkage” is typified by the machine in figure 179.

All the types of constructive jointing indicated above embrace factually real forms arrived at by the constructive combination of bodies, planes, surfaces and lines.  Each of the types examined legitimizes that motive which is creating the construction.  The overwhelming majority of bodies that go to make up a construction fire themselves of a simple and non-constructive character.

Apart from these real forms, however, there are others of a different kind.  We must identify those characteristics of constructions that enable us to organize existing ones according to their different features.  Thus we can establish that the characteristic constructive combinations of form in machines differ from the characteristic combinations in civil buildings.  This difference derives from the fact that a machine requires there to be a certain cohesion and careful adjustment of parts to fit in with each other.  In a machine we can feel how its “integrity and monolithic quality” is achieved by the perfect adjustment of one detail to fit another.  Despite this, we have to clamp, bolt and screw all the parts together, since otherwise they would never be transformed into a complete and identifiable machine that justifies its purpose, i.e. that precisely fulfils its function.  In buildings the exact and meticulous adjustment of metal components is not required.  We are satisfied with the constructive interconnection of the building’s different parts and overall masses.

No machine is a machine without functional movement; the very nature of a machine demands that movement of some sort take place.  A civil building on the other hand is static, it is monolithic, and though it can include “movement” in its form in the sense of some kind of dynamic, this is a movement that has been “frozen.”  These are the characteristic features which essentially distinguish constructive combinations of forms in machines from those in buildings.


Besides the machine and the building there is another category, the constructive theatrical set, which employs constructive forms peculiar to itself.  Their distinctiveness is explained by the fact that in theater we rarely demand the precise representation of real objects, as such, but can apply the principles of non-objectivity, i.e. of abstraction, to create a series of constructive erections that may be only suggestive.  Figures 208, 224, 234, and 237 contain several examples amongst many illustrated here.  The composition has only to include lines, planes, volume, color, and light in order for us to achieve the most powerful expression of constructive principles.

Nowhere, save in a theatrical production, can we allow ourselves such scope to indulge our feelings, our impulses and our capacity for fantasy.  The theatre of the future will involve powerful sensations and experiences, and it will be a constructive theatre.  In its constructions we shall find both dynamics and statics.  Built upon the principles of abstract combinations of the simplest shapes, the constructive theatre naturally differs radically in its typical combinations of form from other constructive genres.  It should be pointed out to reinforce what I have said above, that this assertion about a constructive theatre of the future is no Utopia.  In a whole series of new productions we can observe how constructive principles have begun to penetrate into theatrical practice.  As a result of the influence they have on the audience — even in their present, still primitive state — the new methods of staging theatrical spectacles are attracting widespread attention.  In future these new techniques will doubtless develop and spread much further.

In all the instances of constructive invention adduced here, we have been concerned with a body, with an object, i.e. with something real and visible.  Constructivism is equally conceivable in poetry, in music, in recitation and the like, but in this study we shall not examine constructive work of that kind.

D.  The ideas of constructivism

The fundamental notion of constructivism is that we unite objects or bodies with each other in such a way that they constitute a complete, harmonious form which conveys a quite specific and defined impression to our brain.  The strength of that impression is an orchestrated result of those maximal “blows” delivered to our perception by the combination of forms under observation.  All those who come into close contact with the problem of coordinating elements to each other become infected with constructive ideas.  Work on the creation of new building structures, new machines, new stage set designs and so on is continuing steadily, and those participating in it are drawn into the creative process by impulses emerging from their own individual characters.  But people’s ideas are as varied as their physiques.  In response to the different demands and concerns he encounters in solving a specific problem, each person expresses the constructive idea which has arisen in his mind in a unique way.  Since even an identical thought will be conveyed differently by different people, the constructive ideas that arise in people’s minds will also assume very diverse profiles.  It is this which gives such value to the results.

What general classes of constructive idea are conceivable, and how can they be realized in “real” life? An exhaustive answer to this complex question can only be given after repeated investigation and research, but it is possible to indicate certain areas where the constructive solution may naturally arise.  The following are examples.

1) The idea of a constructive design for a domestic room with a genuinely rational coordination of all objects in the environment.  At present many people are working on just such designs, and one or two have achieved good results.

2) The idea of a constructively designed building, meaning one where the general structure reflects the building’s, function and purpose and the spatial organization is not some appendage like a decorative ornament in the old-style architecture, but an integral part of the edifice.  Figure 306 offers an example.


3) The idea of a constructive theatrical production, where form relates to the specific content as in figure 235.  A reservation must be inserted here: that not all themes permit of a constructive staging.  However, if theatrical authors can allow in advance for the possibility of properly designing their eventual productions constructively, then a union of concept and its expression can be achieved that gives superlative theatrical results.

4) The idea of the constructive decorative scheme for public festivals-for the ceremonial arches, the tribunes and platforms for our celebratory parades, as in figures 278 and 274.  Given the great scope of the constructive concept and the freedom with which it can be applied in this sphere, amazingly striking effects are possible.

5) The idea of a constructive poster or advertisement, using an abstract non-objective composition, colored in unison with the underlying design principles.

6) The idea of the constructive organization, or “assembly,” of moving apparatuses, which must be depicted in the “fantasy” as a form or image relevant to the apparatuses” underlying function, as in figure 198.

7) The idea of the constructive redesign of some machine component, which will alter and simplify the machine’s operation so that it works more effectively.  See figure 135.

8 ) The idea of the constructive redesign of a whole machine installation with all its possible functions, as exemplified in figure 181.

9) The idea of a constructive town with all its diverse movement functions.

10) The idea of the constructive reorganization of a factory or industrial plant with its powerful conveyors, lifts and engines, as in figure 308.

11) The idea of a constructive assembly of vast hoists, levers and cranes, as in figure 322.

12) The idea of a constructive memorial to a famous public figure.

13) The idea of a constructive imaginary engine; a giant with powerful wheels and gears.  The relatively few constructive ideas that I have enumerated here are far from encompassing everything that our brains can conceive.  We all experience many “seemingly” unfeasible ideas which subsequently are actually put into practice-sooner or later — by someone else.  One thing is certain: that we conceive constructive ideas, and sometimes do so quite unconsciously.  At times they arise quite suddenly, as does every kind of creative invention or fantasy.  Their importance lies in the fact that unlike ordinary kinds of fantasy, they conceal within themselves something definitive, which has the rigor of a law.  The constructive idea will present itself as a complete and perfect image of powerful presence and extreme formal refinement.  Thanks to the presence of logic, the constructive object seems to us integral and legitimate.  Our mental image is of something complete.


E.  The Melody of Constructivism

The consonance and accord between forms creates “melody” in their harmonic combination.  In unifying a number of separate bodies a construction creates a particular form of its own, which acts upon us not only through its visible masses, but also through the inter-relationships which our eyes perceive between those interconnected bodies.  The feeling we experience from successfully resolved constructions is equal in its force and value to that which we obtain from contemplating high-quality works of art.  It is through the direct effect of objects created by the hands of man that we become conscious of the beauty which hides in perfect constructions.  This applies to buildings and machines to an identical degree.  What affects us is the total aggregate of elements chosen and assembled within a certain “scale.”  The nature of the pleasure we experience on contemplating a constructive creation, i.e. the precise impression that we receive, depends upon the characteristics which the object in question possesses.  Certain inner qualities introduce this distinction.  It is extremely difficult to establish with any precision the limits and boundaries of the various factors through which constructive forms affect us.  We can however identify the following categories amongst the resulting constructive melodies:

a) assemblages of bodies that are peaceful and confident,

b) assemblages of bodies that communicate majestic aspiration,

c) combination of bodies that are heavy, that weigh us down,

d) combination of bodies that are light and dynamic,

e) assemblages of bodies that are self-contained and assertive.

a) The melody of peaceful, confident, constructive assemblages usually occurs when we have masses in a strongly horizontal combination.  The psychological effect of such forms derives from the specific characteristics of the building or machine that our eye perceives.  It is notable that in general, if an object is resting upon a horizontal plane, and is thus in a horizontal position, it is always perceived by us visually and psychologically as a body of tranquil, passive state.  From this one should not conclude, of course, that other forms in a different orientation cannot convey the feeling of tranquility.

b) The majestic, aspiring melody is generally something we feel when all elements of the overall mass are compactly grouped into a constructive combination of close inter-linkages.  This effect was long ago a notable characteristic of Gothic buildings, with their highly refined and complex constructional system.  This same melody of aspiration characterizes all kinds of flying apparatus.  It can be felt in the whole look of any airplane.  Certain engines and machine installations stagger us by the powerful sense of aspiration they convey; this, response is conditioned by our confidence in the rationality of their, underlying constructive organization.  Not for nothing do many people hear in the din of machines, as they work and interact, the special “music of our age.”  The interactions between constructive principles and movement in the machine itself creates a powerful sensation that involuntarily grips each one of us.  This “mechanical animation” subjugates us and we involuntarily celebrate it.  A very specific type of constructive melody is produced, distinct from all others, when genuine majesty and aspiration are combined in some human creation in the presence of a functional movement.

c) As a result of its distinctive features and properties the melody of heavy, oppressive constructive combinations “sounds” like something set apart.  Many monolithic religious buildings of the past made an appropriate impression on their users precisely by their particular constructive combinations of masses.  By certain combinations of volume we can achieve a volumetric image that gives us the appropriate impression of weight.  The melody of somber places, oppressive in their heaviness, is familiar to many of us.  When we encounter such objects they often make a very powerful impression on us.  One must add the reservation, however, that paint and illumination, i.e. color and light, play no small part in creating this impression.  The full melody of heavy constructive combinations of masses is obtained through the totality of all these factors operating together.

d) The melody of light, dynamic combinations is so called because in the majority of cases constructive dynamics impart an impression of lightness to those monoliths, buildings and machines that possess those combinations- This lightness is acquired exclusively through the dynamics.  We must be clear that a construction of bodies, volumes and so on imparts a sense of the weight of its component elements.  We see and recognize though that a construction with dynamic tendencies produces a clear impression of lightness.  The melody which wafts at us from objects of this constructive kind depends entirely on the presence in them of such dynamics.  The psychological effect produced by buildings of this type is quite different from that discussed in the previous paragraph.  As we experience those melodies wafted from light, dynamic constructions we feel at ease.  Things seem pleasant.  The impulses they transmit are bracing and invigorating.

e) The melody of self-contained, assertive constructive assemblages is encountered quite often in buildings and machines.  Successfully resolved constructions of this type have the particular characteristic of conveying to us an impression of wholeness from the first moment of perception.  This wholeness impinges itself upon our consciousness as a body of a specific mass which possesses functions as yet unknown to us.  In other words, we immediately recognize in the constructively self-contained product that some kind of work and purpose is involved.  Regardless of our will or desires, there arises in us a feeling of confidence in the object we are seeing and studying.  Experiencing the overall harmony of the constructively self-contained elements, we also get a feeling of affirmation which is transmitted to us by these constructive relationships themselves.  In each constructive assemblage of this type, the identifying characteristics of a law-based rationality are undoubtedly present in latent form.  This rationality is accessible to us without reference to its analytical basis, and we initially perceive it intuitively.  This is why all the subtle perceptual overtones of self-contained constructive combinations can be described by the term “assertion.”  The melody of assertion is given sanction by our consciousness of a constructive correctness in the way the bodies are assembled.  Apart from the above facts that legitimate certain features of assertion, we need to establish other features that contribute to creating this assertive characteristic in self-contained constructive forms.  It is observable that the majority of such objects are assembled on static principles.  We can thus firmly conclude that a statically composed work with the other appropriate characteristics will undoubtedly create a harmony of assertion.  Typical examples can be found amongst monuments and monolithic machine installations.

In generalizing questions of melody in constructivism we have to recognize as a special characteristic of all constructive compositions the constant presence of factors creating those melodies.  Constructive images that we perceive produce certain moods in us.  Experiencing these moods immediately, or after contemplating such objects, we find ourselves submitting to their influence or [61] fascination.  As a result of the fact that constructive principles are gradually permeating our lives and are beginning to occupy their appropriate place, the harmony of constructive forms is increasingly involving our attention, our moods and our experience.  An imperative need for constructive designs is arising.

From here of course there naturally emerge those melodies of constructivism which crown the complex and interesting problem of designing constructively.

F.  The Laws of Construction

Up till now, all who interested themselves in questions of constructivism came up against a series of unresolved problems as to what rules, norms or laws existed, or should exist, to govern the constructive interconnecting of bodies.  It is observable that people have at all times “constructed,” and continue to do so, despite the lack of these rules and laws.  However such laws undoubtedly exist and will be deciphered, just as the fundamental laws of all forms of music have been.  Today, the strength of a beat, the force of a sound the very subtle changes in musical vibrations have all been explained.  Over the course of centuries we have accumulated methods and knowledge for creating highly complex machines and buildings, both as graphic representations and as real, visible forms.  For creating constructions we have at our disposal both very simple objects, in the form of lines, planes, surfaces and volumes — be they graphic or material — and certain very complex objects that are also capable of contributing to constructive designs.  But in order to get these various elements into a state of constructive interconnection at all, there have to be reasons for doing it.  Thus it stands to reason that, in the first place, there arise here some very basic laws which govern the construction as a whole.

The first law: The things that can be unified on the basis of constructive principles may be both material and non-material, but they are always subject to the recording action of our brain by means of sights hearing and touch.

The second law: Every construction is a construction only when the unification of those elements in a way can be rationally justified.

The third law: A fully constructive combination is obtained when elements are grouped together in a way that creates harmonic relationships between them.

The fourth law: Elements amalgamated into a new entity form a construction when they penetrate or embrace each other, are coupled or bedded together, that is when they demonstrate their active participation in the movement of union.

The fifth law: Every constructive amalgamation consists of the sum total of those trusts and movements which in varying degree contribute to the integral quality of the impression conveyed by the whole.

The sixth law: Every new construction is the result of a human being’s investigations, and of his requirement to be inventive and creative.

The seventh law: Everything that is really constructive is beautiful.  Everything that is beautiful is completely perfected.  Everything that is completely perfected is a contribution to the culture of the future.

The eighth law: In every constructive amalgamation lies the idea of humanity’s collectivism.  In the close cohesion of the diverse elements is reflected the concord of all man’s finest aspirations.

The ninth law: Every constructive solution must have a motive on the basis of which the construction is made.

The tenth law: In order to create a constructive image it is necessary to have absolute knowledge not only of the fundamentals of constructivism, but equally of the processes by which that image will be reproduced in reality.

The eleventh law: Before taking final form, either as representation or reality, a constructive object must go through all the stages of building up and development that are necessary and; possible.

Legitimacy in all constructive structures depends upon our being able simultaneously to prove the truth and the correctness of the chosen solution by analytical means.  The form we have devised is legitimate to the extent that it is justifiable.

In all design we face the necessity of giving foundations to, and thereby as it were legitimizing, the construction that we have finally adopted.  We must prove that the construction which we are proposing is correct and fits the case concerned.



1.  Constructivism as a Concept

Constructivism as a concept relates to any compact combination of different objects capable of being brought together into a single unified entity.  The concept of construction [konstruktsiia], as such, embraces the various principles whereby forms are brought together in visible and tangible images of our real experience.  If certain bodies are brought into conjunction with others in such a way as to form something whole and harmonious, and this whole is identifiable as a coherent composition, we have a constructive solution to a problem.  The community, the interdependence, between all the participating elements manifests to the fact that this combination of them creates a phenomenon that we call “a construction.”

2.  The Inception of Constructive Principles

The act of conceiving principles takes place only when there exists a genuine necessity and imperative for it At the same time, the act of conception can only [63] occur where a certain level of training and knowledge pre-exists.  It is hard to imagine any individual possessing the attributes necessary for generating constructive ideas if he has not had the appropriate training.  We therefore face the necessity for constructive education.  The more developed in us the practice of building up constructive structures, the greater the wealth upon which our capacity for invention [nasha fantaziia] may draw, and the more often and the more easily, will we give give birth to constructive> propositions.  Then it is necessary to create those conditions which will enable us to turn any kind of constructive concept into the appropriate images and forms.

3.  The Fundamentals of Constructive Design

The fundamentals of constructivism consist of all the various possible kinds of unions by which elements can be combined into a structure, and the principle ones are as follows: a) penetration b) clamping c) enveloping d) embracing e) mounting f) interlacing g) coupling h) piercing.  (Respectively: vnedrenie, zazhim, obvertyvanie, obkhvatyvanie, nasadka, izgib, stseplenie, pronizovanie] There are also others.  Each kind of union is in essence simple, but especially when supplemented by dynamics, they can create complex combinations which amaze us with the refinement and richness of their forms.  Knowledge of the basics of constructive design significantly helps to explain the essence of the process, but this is not enough if one is to create constructive forms.  For this a detailed acquaintanceship with these fundamentals is essential.  One must study thoroughly the insertion of one element into another with all the possible individual variations.  Repeated practice, skill and flair play no small part in this.  Exactly the same approach must be applied to all the above fundamentals.

4.  The Elements of Constructions

The elements that make up constructions are extremely diverse.  In this book we shall only deal with those elements which can have form [obraznye], that is, elements which can be represented, graphically or in reality, by corresponding visible objects.  The monolithic body has to be acknowledged as the most accessible, comprehensible and best element, for with such a body it is possible to produce the most varied combinations through appropriate excisions, additions, interfacings and so on.  Solid bodies also create a stronger impression than do bodies built up from surfaces.

Whilst discussing the surface it should be noted that such an element does not generally have a significance in its own right, but plays a secondary, service role defined by the attributes of a solid body.  Every surface is, first and foremost, the boundary of a volume and the limit of our tactile and visual act.  In this sense a surface is inseparable from that three-dimensional material reality of which it is the enclosing shroud.

In his work “Surface and plane” (published in the Papers of the Art Section of the Institute of Archaeology and Art, Moscow, 1928, volume II) Professor A.G.  Gabrichevskii observes that The surface, like any boundary, can be conceived and interpreted in two ways- negative and positive: either from the point of view of an individual’s creative impulse to execute a transformation upon a given mass, or from the point of view of a three-dimensional mass of reality that possesses firm, unyielding limits.  Thus, surface is nothing other than the function of two continua, as the more or less stable result of their collision, or the product of their interaction.  In other words, surface is the function of a creative act and matter, and possesses no independent characteristics.

As constructive formal elements we have, successively, the surface of a plane, the surfaces of movement of a body, and complex| bodies.  Each of these basic, very simple elements require thorough study of their own characteristics, and if one wishes to unite them, one must also acquire appropriate knowledge of the essential methods of constructive design.  Exceptional attention must be devoted to this studying of elements, with detailed evaluation of all the special characteristics of each.

5.  The Rules and Norms of Constructivism

Constructivism’s rules and norms are in embryo, and much still remains to be done before it can be said they have been fully explored.  Certain of those which have been formulated demand attention however, in order to avoid incompatibilities and incongruities in our constructive compositions as far as possible.  The following rules, for example, must be considered indispensible.

a) Openwork wire constructions should never be combined with monolithic bodies.

b) A volume should not be combined with a large number of planes and surfaces.

c’) When one body embraces another, the inter-relationship must be such that neither crushes the construction by its mass.

c”) When small volumes are used to emphasize features of a constructive composition, they may be very small in size relative to the main masses.

d) The principal mass should not be made so large or powerful that it reduces to insignificance any smaller volume which is constructively connected to it.

e) In graphic design, the construction must be shown in such a way that its elements are felt to be in the greatest possible harmony.

f) Volumes are best assembled either along their common direction of movement, or in perpendicular relationship to each other.


g) The best combinations of elements are those in which neither forms nor dimensions keep repeating themselves.

h) If the bearing on which a static assembled group rests is too weak, the construction becomes of little worth.

i) An unstable inclined construction may appear non-constructive

if the laws of equilibrium have not been observed in it.

k) Be it two dimensional or three, a construction that has been executed ungrammatically is the greatest of all evils in the study of constructive principles.

l) In order to obtain the best possible effect in producing a constructive item it is desirable to use all the means available.  That is to say; color, texture, illumination, material, angle of view must all be taken into account.

m) Every constructive composition must fulfill its ideology and reflect the totality of the idea underlying it.

n) A successful constructive solution is ideally one where the actual fastening together of the parts is not perceptible.

o) If it is necessary to show the elements that hold a construction together, this should be done in such a way that these visible components will reinforce the impression which the construction produces.

p) In compositions of a constructive type it is essential to try to

manifest dynamic principles.

q) In any construction, its stable solidity and cohesion should always be felt.

r) No constructive work should ever be produced in which the assembled parts feel ponderous or forced.

s) Any constructive object must reflect by its appearance alone the correctness of the construction chosen for the task.

t) The more a construction has simplicity and clarity the greater its value and relative gravity.

u) To understand a construction means to know it; in knowing a construction it becomes easier for us to reflect its essence in visual forms.

v) The greater the rationality in a construction, the more valuable it is; in other words, the significance of constructivism lies in its rationality.

w) A construction must reflect its functional affiliations by its appearance.

x) Any construction that we devise must be depicted in all those views which are necessary to illustrate the essence of the constructive solution being proposed.

y) The more extensively and carefully constructive principles are studied, the better the solution obtained in the final design.

z) The rationally and functionally constructed solution is the highest form of construction.

6.  Types of Construction

The wealth of forms in general and the diversity of possible combinations of different elements make the range of possible constructive solutions infinitely great.  This does not at all ease the task of classifying constructions by types, given the lack of precision pervading this whole issue.  However, we can classify constructive solutions according to their generally dominating properties.  On this basis, we can distinguish the following general types:

I. The amalgamation [ob’edinenie]

II. The combination [soedinenie]

III. The assemblage [sochlenenie]

IV. The conjugation [sopriazhenie]

These differ from each other as follows:

I. A material “amalgamation” of forms can occur by bringing together either identical elements (as in figure 47), or different variants of the same element (as in figure 212).  We must note the possibility of a partial case, where one of these kinds of “amalgamation” exists without there being any genuinely constructive interconnections between the elements concerned.  Thus “amalgamation” also includes the case when we create the impression of a constructive solution simply by “putting together” components without making any real constructive connections.  Despite lacking the essential attribute of a construction, such an amalgamation remains characteristic for its general look which conveys this specific visual impression.

Although we can, as it were, amalgamate everything we fancy, such amalgamation does have certain limits, which are regulated by appropriate norms, rules and relationships; by rational requirements and other such factors.

II. The concept of a combination” speaks for itself, in that it usually comprises elements which can come together according to normal rules of assembly, i.e. without violating each other.  In combining one body with another we study the particular [65] characteristics of each, and if there are factors impeding their combination, these will represent a serious obstacle to executing the combination at all.  The form and configuration of the elements themselves may provide obstacles.  So too may their positions in relation to the surrounding space.  In combining one element with another we are pursuing an accord; we are seeking to produce something new and perfectly harmonious.  The very unity of the composition depends upon the fact that there is no antipathy between the elements present, either in relation to their internally interconnecting structure, or as a result-of external crudeness or clumsiness in the resultant forms.  The principle of “combination” is also characterized by the fact that in the majority of cases it requires so-called “third parties,” which perform a service role in unifying all the other elements.

III. “Assemblage” can be characterized by that constructive look which finds particular reflection in the machine.  The elements maintain their separate identities whilst being grouped into one whole.  The principle of “assemblage” also implies that only a certain combination of specific parts is capable of creating the required solution; the absence of any one part may prevent the task being solved.  As a result, the structure of the composition is often visually evident.  Each component part in such an “assemblage” requires careful attention since only the absolute fit of parts is capable of producing the required effect.  Sometimes an individual part has interest and prominence in its own right.  One thing is essential in creating this type of construction, however: the designer has to give formal coherence to the parts of an assemblage as well as functional cohesion.

IV. “Conjugation” is the phenomenon which permits a transition from one condition of a form to another (as in figure 242); or from one variant of a form to another (figure 240).  When the forms are straight and curved lines, the task is fairly simple, though still interesting.  When we conjugate complex objects (as in figure 241), the task is both richer and more complicated.  We must not let the greater complexity of the task frighten us; on the contrary, it must encourage us, since it offers the chance for applying inventive skills of a different kind to the solution of any given problem.

It is an indispensible rule of “conjugation” that the integrity and constructive properties of the composition must be preserved in the transition from one form or variant to another.  Conjugation of elements is one of the most powerful tools the designer possesses, since it permits him to achieve those complex transformations which his inventive capacity [fantaziia] dictates.  By conjugation we can move freely from a configuration of one kind to a new configuration of quite another type, moving not only painlessly, but also rationally and meaningfully.  The conjugation of elements occupies a large place in the life of every individual in his various forms of creativity, and we must therefore pay it the maximum of attention.  Only by faithful execution of conjugations however shall we obtain the results we seek and desire.  Attention should also be focused on the fact that a composition successfully derived by conjugation acquires dynamic properties from the fluency of the transitions themselves.  This factor needs to be studied, and consciously used in the constructing of conjugated compositions.

7.  The Presence of Constructive Principles

Everything that we create or investigate produces a corresponding impression upon those around it, regardless of whether the objects concerned incorporate constructive principles or not.  From this follows the important fact that those many objects which are not by their nature constructive are not thereby made negative or of lesser value.

It is not always possible to identify constructive features within a problem, and not everyone anyway is capable of doing so.  Certain [66] constructive solutions are so obvious as to be immediately grasped by anyone generally acquainted with such ideas.  But the fact that not everyone is capable of perceiving when constructive features are present indicates that a certain prior education is necessary in this field of composition and problem solving.  Only the appropriate knowledge and practice enable us to solve problems in this way, or to identify the constructive features of preexisting objects.

The indicators which help manifest an object’s construction are diverse in their character and depend entirely upon the nature of the constructive solutions we are examining.  Having stipulated that we shall only study constructive principles in objects that are capable of being represented by formal means, we have to say something about the manner in which that visual manifestation of the principles takes place.

The deciphering of pre-existing constructive solutions is a necessary exercise as it provides us with explanation and interpretation of all those conventions which will operate in most of our own constructions.  To identify the relevant features we have to discover the conventions that are operating.  Some of these we have encountered already, in examining the forms, types and ideas of constructivism.  Conventions of a constructive type reside mainly in our recognition of some structure in any definite linkage of elements comprising a construction.  This cohesion, which takes various names such as “combination,” “assemblage,” “conjugation” and so on, does not completely correspond to the usual concept of “constructing” [konstruirovanie]. The accepted meaning of the word konstruktsiia is generally “building up” [postroenie], and of konstruirovanie, the drawing up, composition and representation in whatever form.  Such a concept cannot satisfy us, however, because it embraces only a certain section of constructive phenomena.  Having made the actual meaning of konstruirovanie more profound, we are obligated to lay out analytically the most subtle preconditions of such complex concepts.

Thus we shall consider the first indicator of constructiveness in volumetric and spatial constructions to be an efficient linkage and precise cohesion between the parts.  The second indication of the presence of constructiveness is some functionally necessary basis for this constructive interdependence of the component elements.  The third criterion is the presence of a bearing or support, since the constructions which we are examining cannot exist independently in space.  They must have a base and be capable of existing in a state of stability and rest.  This condition of rest is an inherent characteristic which makes it possible to identify by whatever means, the presence of constructivism.  This definition does not mean that a moving system of linked elements is not a construction, only that a state of rest is the necessary condition for analysis of its conformity to constructive principles.

In summary our aims must be: 1) a cohesion and coherent linkage of parts; 2) the interdependence of the elements amongst themselves; 3) a bearing and condition of rest.  The whole taken together comprises and represents a unified aggregate.

8.  The Origins and Stages of Construction

As soon as we begin to assemble or create some kind of object or product we enter into “intercourse” with construction by that very act Constructions are very diverse, but one extremely important phenomenon must be recognized: that not every process of creative and inventive activity leads to a constructive solution even when a constructive approach has been adopted.  A series of later operations may smooth over the constructive features and sometimes even eliminate them entirely.  Then we can only vouch for the presence of constructive principles “in the embryo.”  The extent to which constructive forms are actually achieved as a result of applying constructive principles is a measure of the correctness of the principles adopted, and also of the legitimacy of our ultimate solution.

In saying that any creative process is accompanied by the revelation of constructiveness, we are not thereby categorizing every human product as a constructive solution.  This would be a great mistake, since we are only interested in questions of pure, visible constructivism, manifested in the full presence of its characteristic forms.  We had to take such an approach in order to establish the nature of constructiveness at its most rudimentary level, concealed as it usually is by other factors.  The thorough elucidation of this fundamental basis is extremely difficult, except in those cases where we assemble some kind of construction directly.  Having set out on the path of constructing [konstruirovanie], we must proceed, whether we like it or not, through all those stages which create the unity of solutions that we seek.  The stages of that process can be divided according to specific properties of a motor character.  Here we will include properties relating to:

a) the desire to have constructive links between component parts,

b) the pursuit of consistency in the combining of elements,

c) the demand for meaningfulness in the combination,

d) the logical generation of form,

e) cogency and persuasiveness,

f) a reaction of influence on the viewer.

a) Our desire to link parts together constructively is rooted in our inner imperative to executive operations of this kind, and serves as the driving force behind all constructive design [konstruirovanie].

b) A constructive consistency in the overall amalgamation of elements is a natural consequence of rational links between individual parts, and is the indispensible condition for a smooth fitting of all parts in the whole.

c) An external meaning or significance for the overall combination is the essence of all our creative works, and this is the criterion of any real legitimacy for that combination of elements arranged in the pattern which has been selected.

d) The construction must be the product of a logical process of form-generation, whereby the object of one order undergoes [67] consistent transformation into another state, which is either more highly developed, or corresponds more closely to our new formal conception.

e) Cogency of the constructive expression, whether presented graphically or spatially, is the highest proof of the correctness of our solution.

f) The reaction of influence which constructive forms have upon our psyche is caused by what we experience visually and tactilely.  The presence of all the above-mentioned factors of a motor character, consistently executed, can be regarded as a direct expression of our imperative for a constructive order.  The inner details of this design process will probably be solved differently by each constructive designer, or “composer.”  However, the factors at the beginning and the end are unquestionably identical for everyone: they begin by the desire for constructive linkage and end with a reaction of influence.  Each stage in the construction process may be performed and put into practice either independently or in close connection with the previous stage.  When even one of these motor-order factors is disregarded, we get a product which does not completely satisfy us.  Sometimes we may observe how a certain constructive solution creates a not entirely favorable impression on us, and it is difficult to determine what has produced this situation.  In reality the question will always reduce to a disregard of one or more stages of the composition process.

9.  The Feeling for Constructiveness

We noted earlier that every person is endowed with the feeling for the constructive.  But even when possessing that sensitivity and presented with constructive requirements, we are not all endowed to an identical degree with the capacity to think in this way, to understand and create constructively.  In developing that feeling for the constructive, a large role is played not only by education and by the attitude of that education towards the creation of objects, but also by the character of the particular specialism to which the individual has devoted himself.

In developing ourselves in a specific direction we educate ourselves to a particular orientation, and by that process acquire a specific set of images and ideas.  Under the pressure of established or inculcated concepts the feeling for constructiveness expresses itself in the most diverse ways and different intensities.  Under the influence of the objects we are studying or creating there can be sudden moments of constructive inspiration when new solutions and new ideas follow extremely rapidly in our work.  The force of the energy in these valuable moments can be measured only by the real results that follow from them.

In contrast to these we observe the “depressive” moments, when we lack any feeling for construction, and all desire to resolve a problem constructively has atrophied.  This state can also arise not negatively, but positively, as a conscious desire to solve a problem in some non-constructive way.  Then we desire to create more peaceful compositions, compositions that are less demanding to formulate than constructive ones.  In such cases we enter into the stream of, as it were, “minimum consumption1 of constructive principles, and we ignore the constructive possibilities.  This is accompanied by a lowering of creative energy.

It is necessary therefore to recognize the unarguable fact that the act of construction must be regarded as a complex and powerful experience.  On the basis of all this we can propose the following hierarchy of feelings for the constructive.

1) Higher moments of individual inspiration with its maximum tension.

2) Commonplace, everyday experiences, at a level appropriate to the requirements and solutions concerned.

3) The depressive condition, as a result of which other approaches to designing one’s object will be pursued.

4) An indifferent attitude to questions of constructivism and a resultant atrophying of the whole feeling for constructiveness.

5) Absolute non-comprehension of the very nature of constructive principles and, as a result, a complete ignoring of this approach to design in all situations regardless of their characteristics.

What I have said above may be summarized as follows:

a) the perceiving and experiencing of a constructive solution is not a feeling accessible to everyone,

b) we do not react identically to the manifestation and perception of constructive images and forms at all moments of our existence,

c) we do not always have to feel that a constructive solution is the right one to apply,

d) not every task can be solved constructively and we must never artificially design our creations in a constructive way,

e) every experience of constructiveness is conditioned by a specific education, specific habits and surrounding conditions.

10.  Force and Construction

The two concepts of force and construction are inseparably connected.  Construction is inconceivable without the presence of force.  Cohesion, coupling, binding together and all forms of interconnection between parts of itself powerfully determines the force which is obtained from the combining of these elements.  If force was not present in constructive structures, they would not possess that supreme expressiveness which we observe in the best of our compositions.  Construction and force are indispensably united because they complement each other functionally.  They are complex and interesting phenomena.

In respect of the physical force of jointing, we exert the lowest level of force in the “coupling” of parts.  The “penetration” of one element into another requires a second level of force to be applied.  In “embracing” and the “clamping” of one part by another we see the third level of force.

All these types of joint between elements demand the presence of [68] force and cannot be conceived by us in any other way.  If any one of them is to occur amongst elements of a construction, the question of force is raised automatically, since none of them can take place without it.

Force is also present in constructive compositions when we observe the action of weight or heaviness.  Weight and force represent essentially identical concepts, to the extent that we regard the action of weight as a force applied in a specific part of the whole assembled object.

We must also mention the force of influence.  This force is measured by the strength of the impression which the constructive product makes upon the psyche of each one of us.  The longer that impression remains in our consciousness after the experience, the stronger is the force of influence.

The force of that movement which we observe in constructive compositions, and call constructive dynamics, produces a very specific effect upon us, since it combines simultaneously construction, force and movement.  This dynamics manifested as movement in a constructive composition is a subtle but powerful union of complex phenomena.  Operating in a coordinated way upon our psyche it gives us the possibility to feel a higher form of emotional sensation.

Thus we can establish that in the general organization of constructive solutions, force not only plays an important role itself as a participant, but is also very closely linked to certain formal phenomena.  The presence of force in constructions raises their “specific gravity” and creates that extraordinarily powerful impression which is the characteristic of most constructive objects.  It is therefore perfectly rational and natural that questions of how force and construction are inter-related should be accorded an appropriate place in the study of constructive design.  What is needed in future is more profound research that will demonstrate these relationships in detail.

11.  Constructive Fantasies

An individual’s fantasies are enormously diverse in character, and in their limitlessness may lead to all manner of unexpected notions.  To think constructively, and as a result to fantasize constructively, is not something “unusual” or “out of the ordinary.”  Constructive fantasies can also arise in the absence of any arbitrary initiatives: we may merely be responsible for creating conditions which will beget these fantasies.  These conditions consist in our setting ourselves a series of tasks in which certain constructive principles must be implemented.  The particular characteristic of these compositional tasks is that they can be executed without reference to any real images or models we may know; that they are based only on the combination of elements of a spatial nature.  Such elements are commonly called “non-objective” [bespredmetnyi], in juxtaposition to those we describe as “having subject matter” [predmetnyi], which we understand to mean objects having a direct application in real life.  These concepts are purely conventions.  In order, that we may elucidate everything we classify as [69] “non-objective” more precisely in this context, we shall agree to classify the following in that way:

a) the line — be it straight or curved,

b) the plane,

c) the surface,

d) the body or volume.

By means of a whole series of different modes of assembly we can combine these elements positively, and this permits us to achieve the constructive composition we desire.

In order to develop the capacity for constructive fantasy, it is extremely beneficial to execute a series of disciplined exercises which will enrich our imaginations.  Using only lines, for example, we try to assemble a depiction (or a spatial object) which possesses constructive properties.  This means trying to embody constructive principles in compositions of lines, which experiments demonstrate to be possible.  The compositions in figures 57 and 58 illustrate the idea.  We can then move on to stipulate that a series of planes, surfaces and volumes be brought together according to certain particular principles of constructive combination.  Here figures 208 and 209 offer examples.  Through setting ourselves tasks in the building up of all manner of constructive solutions we do not just develop our capacity to depict the fantasies we conceive; we develop our capacity to think constructively.

With the help of so-called non-objective elements we have the possibility of creating a series of the most fantastic formal constructions which are not initially constrained by any direct practical application, but which in return possess properties that make them available for real and direct application in the future.  Figures 230 and 234 offer examples here.  Having been trained through the development of multiple series of constructive structures and through designing multiple diverse combinations, we shall be fully equipped for the moment when a completely new and original formal solution is required of us in the future.  By this [70] training in the free generation of logically constructed fantasies, our inventive capacities will be developed to their full potential.  All the modes of form-making used in fantasies can be utilized for tasks of practical design.  Herein lies the positive value of these abstract exercises Moreover that transition to constructive fantasizing in real-life utilitarian situations will take place reasonably easily and directly One may go so far as to say with full certainty that all abstract fantasies do, in the last analysis, flow naturally into practical solutions.  They become transformed into constructive objects that are absolutely real.

12.  Rhythm in Construction

Rhythm is one of the difficult factors in constructive compositions, both when we are creating such structures and when we are analyzing them.  Many perceptual aspects of constructive rhythm do not submit to speculative analysis, but have to be solved by empirical understanding.  Our main task is to elucidate as far as possible those factors which permit us to engender and manipulate rhythm in our constructions.  For this purpose we shall agree to consider constructive compositions of the following types to be rhythmic:

First group.

Compositions in which the constructive elements are distributed in a defined, alternating, percussive order.

Second group.

Compositions in which the constructive elements go in a descending, or rising, or distancing series without there being any precise repetition of forms.

Third group.

Compositions having the property of unifying their parts, by their joint action, by consistent and constructive combination, so that in aggregate they produce an impression of stability.  These are compositions which generate static overall structures.

Fourth group.

Compositions in which the whole combination of constructively unified parts produces an impression of weight and heaviness.

Fifth group.

Compositions of stratified elements assembled on some regular principle, and with a uniform combination in both the vertical and the horizontal.

Sixth group.

Compositions in which a progressive movement of curved or complexly bending rigid forms creates an overall impression of curvilinear movement.

Seventh group.

Compositions where the load-bearing supports create the constructive rhythm, acting on our psyche to convince us of their importance to the structure.

All the conditions described create their own specific rhythm of constructive forms; each kind of rhythm is quite distinct and has its own particular value.  Any further examination of these examples requires us to differentiate them further.

Thus the first group, for example, has to be divided into two parts.  In one case, constructive gestures are repeated in both form and rhythm, as in figure 313.  In the other, regular gestures involve different forms, configurations or displacements, as in figure 283.  The first is a rhythm of identical forms; the second is a rhythm of gestures created by differing forms.

The second group comprises consistent and harmonious compositions generated through the rhythm of transitions between non-identical, variously spaced elements.  These have to be divided into two types of transition:

a) ascending and descending, as in figures 281 and 323, which creates rhythm in the vertical direction, and,

b) advancing and distancing, as in figures 284 and 304, where the rhythm is in the horizontal direction.


The third group concerns rhythm in stable linkages.  This depends upon our creating a fixed and stable base or bearing for the whole construction.  Rhythm is created by the linkage of symmetrically or asymmetrically distributed parts moving in coordination relative to that stable base.  Here figure 182 offers an example.

Transmission of rhythm in the fourth group occurs through piling up constructively combined masses so that the totality of “carried” parts overwhelms the “bearing” ones, as in figure 171.  Here the bearing elements may be stable or unstable.  Logic makes the former more appropriate, since stability gives the psychological impression of their resistance to loading which enhances the sense of weight.  The capacity of these compositions to convey monumentality and be imposing is one of their most important expressive properties.  Figure 245 illustrates this.

Stratification is, the fifth group.  This can be a non-constructive means of combining elements but we are only concerned with the constructive cases, which will involve partial penetration of elements.  However, this only gives an impression of stratification when it occurs repetitively in a consistent direction.

Two such types of rhythm may occur — through assembly of horizontally recumbent elements, as in figure 260, or of vertically standing ones, as in figure 266.  In either case the relationships of height and width are critical as these rhythms depend upon elongated forms being clearly expressed.

The identifying feature of rhythms in the sixth group is their aspirational quality in space.  This effect of the whole is created by appropriate choice of curvature in the individual elements and through the choice of constructive connections.  Simple curvilinearity itself contributes much: we all know the sense of movement created by bending a twig.  Curvilinear excisions from a curved body often embody the dynamic principle so fully in their very configuration that these alone can create this effect very successfully.  The rhythm of movement depends on the coordination of these individually aspirational movements into a larger one involving the whole construction.  Examples here are figures 299, 312 and 324.

The rhythms of load-bearing that characterize the seventh group are further illustrated by figures 188 and 306.  Constructive supports can be repetitive, and therefore rhythmic, in respect of their general configuration, their mass, their volumes or the forces they exert and they need not be uniform in these respects.  The rhythm of these primary supports generates another repetition of slightly different kind, through the necessity to create further conditions of bearing or support at the places where they act upon the main masses themselves.

The rhythmical constructions which we have examined here do not exhaust the question: we have only enumerated a selection of the possibilities.  Moreover, constructive rhythms have aesthetic value quite apart from any intention of the designer which they may express.  They do not hide falsity, but present to us visually what is, and what is necessary, in reality.  Their aesthetic effects are quite specific in their action upon us.



1.  Abstract Solutions of Constructions

In examining constructive fantasies we come up against the necessity to utilize non objective elements.  At an educational level, abstract designs have colossal importance for the elucidation and development of constructive principles.  Constructive forms can be built up from appropriate combinations of the simplest non-objective elements; imperceptibly, a feeling for the constructive assembly of parts will be inculcated into the student.

The sort of compositional exercises I have in mind may be divided according to their character and formal content into the following categories:

a) the constructive combination of straight lines,

b) the constructive combination of curved lines,

c) the constructive planar combination of planar elements,

d) the constructive spatial combination of rectilinear and curvilinear planes,

e) the constructive combination of surfaces of rotation,

f) the constructive combination of the simplest rectilinear bodies, |

g) the constructive combination of solids of rotationl

h) the constructive combination of complex curvilinear bodies.


We shall examine the characteristics of each category to evaluate the potential of each as raw material both for purely constructive solutions and for aesthetic educational purposes.

2.  Subject-Matter Based Solutions of Constructions

Human psychology is so diverse that no single approach can satisfy everyone to an identical degree.  Those who believe that form and formal construction should be studied through visible and tangible objects with real subject-matter cannot support the proposition that such study should make use of so-called abstract solutions.  They consider that to be a pointless waste of time.  They believe that the whole thrust of study, the whole force of one’s knowledge and abilities, should be concentrated on activity which can find a direct application in real life.  Many other arguments are adduced in defense of a training in the questions of constructivism that is concretely rooted in subject-matter, and in rejection of any utility in the abstract approach.

Here as elsewhere in this book I shall not attempt a critique of any particular approach, but will try to present the content and essential ideas, as well as some examples, of the teaching of constructive design through “real” problems.  At our disposal is the whole panorama of examples from everyday experience in the past, which may be supplemented with possible solutions from the future.  In order to recognize, study and understand our examples more easily we need to classify them.  Just as with the abstract tasks, we need to divide them as follows:

1) planar solutions,

2) spatial solutions comprising light, openwork combinations,

3) spatial solutions involving solid volumes.

Let us examine each of these categories and assemble as many types of concrete design problems as possible which would characteristically involve the use of constructive principles.

1) Planar constructive solutions are encountered in practice very rarely and in small numbers.  The following though represent examples of this type of problem:

a) the decorations [inkrustatsiia] of a wall, a floor or a ceiling,

b) the design of windows or doors for exhibitions,

c) the constructional plan for a building, a group of buildings or a district,

d) the design of elements of a theatrical stage-set,

e) the treatment of planar surfaces in machine installations, according to their productive or manufacturing function,


f) the treatment of planar surfaces in furniture, in relation to their general mode of construction, …

h)the layout of books: their overall typographical structure, deluding the setting, margins, impositions and overall composition of the pages etc.,

i) the decoration of books: the handling of graphic elements including the jacket, title page, end-papers, headpieces, tailpieces etc.,

j) the layout of posters, flysheets, hoardings or slogans,

k) the layout of periodical publications like newspapers and magazines,

l) the layout of wall-newspapers.

2) Light, openwork combinations in space are encountered very frequently in real life.  Indeed there are many environments in which objects of this type predominate.  Constructive compositions of this sort are exceptionally interesting and valuable for developing the ability to think spatially.  We shall enumerate all possible examples of this category and then examine in greater detail those cases which merit further attention or explanation.

1 Timber girders

2 Timber bridges

3 Timber arches

4 Timber towers

5 Timber barriers and fences

6 Timber piers

7 Metal girders

8 Metal bridges

9 Tresselwork piers and elevated roadways of metal or timber

10 Supporting piers of metal or timber

11 Mobile and static cranes

12 Moving roadways; monorails

13 Continuous transport belts and worm-gear conveyors

14 Mobile lifts

15 Elevated pedestrian bridges

16 Supporting constructions

17 Metal masts

18 Superstructure elements of ships

19 Nets, cages and basket structures

20 Theatrical sets

21 Cowls

22 Scaffolding for building works

23 Diverse types of furniture

24 Gymnastic apparatus,

25 Pavilions and open-air stages I

26 Laboratory apparatus

27 Diverse kinds of instrumentation

3) Solid volumes have the most widespread practical application of all.  Thanks to the inexhaustible wealth of constructive solutions in this field, and the unusual diversity and sophistication of them, we have here the most extensive material for studying how elements may be combined.  The areas in which constructive structures of this type occur are so diverse that further classification is necessary before we can utilize these objects educationally.  The first division we have to introduce is between 1) construction having absolutely direct application in real life, and 2) constructive fantasies, which are similar to objects in real life but are for some reason modified.  The latter category is of very profound interest, for a number of reasons.

The following are situations in which we might create such constructive fantasies:

a) when we desire to depict an impression of the object concerned without reference to its function,

b) when we want to show a solution of more advanced type than presently exists,

c) when the necessity arises for artistic exaggeration, tor throwing reality into high relief for the purposes of indicating its characteristics most advantageously,


d) when it is necessary to represent an object by the most visually compelling means possible to someone interested in questions of constructive design,

e) when the purposes of education demand that we apply some special approach in order to reveal particular constructive structures with maximum clarity,

f) when we need to unify two or more constructive forms to create a more advanced or sophisticated one,

g) when we want to depict some form in the real world in either simplified, or more complex, variants,

h) when we are trying to reveal those aspects of a constructive structure which are most characteristic.


We also need to make a subdivision of constructive solutions in the other category — those which in their very conception appearance and essence belong in the practical world of reality.  Classifications here will generally be defined by a very basic underlying principle or “root.”  Thus the following would be typical:

a) constructions which combine timber elements,

b) constructions comprising assemblies of metal rods,

c) constructions comprising solid structures of metal,

d) constructions consisting entirely of solid stone elements,

e) constructions of bodies that are not solid masses,

f) constructions of interlacing curvilinear bodies,

g) constructions comprising mixed combinations of bodies, planes and rods.

The whole appearance and look of compositions in any of these categories will be very varied.  This diversity is explained by the fact that human life generates very defined requirements creating very diverse briefs as the subject-matter of our designs.  From our own living and working environments we all know that these briefs are not always rationally or conveniently solved.  Man is constantly seeking more appropriate, better fitting, solutions, and in his latest investigations is finding them.  The great diversity of the constructive solutions that emerge is explained principally by the fact that any task will be solved slightly differently according to the very specific demands being made in that case.  And at the same time, differing formal solutions can be found to one and the same brief.  We see immediately that each of the above classes of object can be differentiated further according to the objects” characteristic features and purpose.  Thus, for example, we can take them in order as follows.

a) Timber combinations contribute to numerous built structures, from girders and bridges to tunnels, and also occur in furniture.  In one case it will be the intimate details of construction technique that interest us — the timber junctions at a complex node for example.  In another what attracts us is the constructive solution as a whole: the total bridge, the elevated roadway structure the tresselwork piers and so on.  In both cases the external aspect and the internal essence offer equally valuable subject matter for exercises in representation.  This field offers innumerable opportunities or concocting tasks that will generate design solutions which are interesting in their own right, as well as being totally suitable for the practical job.

b) Combinations of metal rods have even more widespread application in real life.  Again it is both the individual links and specific structural regions as well as the total construction that attract our attention here.  At the same time there are unquestionably enormous differences between these structures and timber ones.  In some kinds of metal constructions, like bridges, cranes, machines, we have constructive elements that are cast or molded.  In other types of girders, transporters, conveyors and so on, we have elements assembled by jointing in large numbers.  Compositions of this kind can be boundless in their spatial extent.  The whole field of girder-based civil construction, from electricity pylons to moving roadways and elevators, offers us unlimited scope for applying our ideas of constructive design, both at the level of structural detail and in whole complexes of structure.  Crucially important to the success of such work in our terms is the genuinely artistic, aesthetic expression of the constructive structural reality.

c) Solid metal structures are in general peculiar to machines and mechanical sub-assemblies.  Only in very rare cases do we find constructive solutions involving massive metal elements in buildings or other static structures.  Compositions on the theme of the machine and its parts are the most fruitful of all topics for studying the fundamentals of constructive design.  The machine has penetrated very deep into our life and work.  For that reason it demands the maximum attention from us — even more so since mechanical constructions sometimes conceal the primary principles that we are seeking.  Every one of the forms of constructive jointing between bodies that I mentioned earlier can be found here.  Constructive compositions can be the basis not just of machine design, but of the decorative embellishment of other objects like monuments, entrances, ceremonial arches and so on.  For their profound, if concealed, embodiment of constructive principles, machines and their details must be a primary focus of study for students in this field.


d) Solid stone masses are a very limited field of activity in comparison to the preceding ones.  But stone masses possess the property of being peculiarly monolithic in character, and this property determines what we can do in composing solid masses.  In our era stone does not occupy a dominating role in building activity — at present its role is a modest one.  To find interesting examples of constructive compositions of stone we have to look to coastal defenses, dams, river embankments, the piers of bridges and so on.

e) Constructions of bodies not having solid mass occupy a very large place in our lives.  All structures of a civil or industrial character are essentially of this kind, and provide material for our investigations.  Architects are the people who solve these design problems best of all.  Through many centuries of producing innumerable diverse and interesting solutions they have enriched the entire world with the results of their art.  This manifests to the fact that creating a built structure, whatever its kind, comes quite naturally to human beings.  At any given time, no small role is played here by the environment itself, which surrounds every individual with built structures that quite involuntarily nurture these creative capacities in him and inspire him to yet further acts of building.  For the study of constructions in this category we have our whole heritage of buildings at our disposal, with the multiple models of inventive design that they represent.  And not just buildings: many domestic objects of constructive form offer equally valuable models.  If we add those types of mechanical device made from non-massive elements, the possibilities here are vast.

f) Curved bodies can certainly give us material for constructive structures, and here too the mechanical field offers many examples — in whole machine installations and apparatuses as well as in individual components.  Curved bodies play almost no part, on the other hand, in civil buildings.  If we look to various kinds of bridge construction (in particular those using cast components), to lifting cranes, cantilevered brackets, various kinds of pipe work apparatuses, to free-moving structures like ships and airplanes, and to numerous domestic objects, here too we find that constructive combinations of curved bodies are widespread.  Both in three-dimensional design and in two-dimensional graphics, curved bodies present a complex problem, and attempts at employing them can often produce negative results.  On the other hand, one of the positive and interesting aspects of designing with curved bodies is their capacity to introduce dynamism into a mass through the sense of movement in the curve, and dynamics of this kind certainly enhances the value of compositions in this category.  Careful inter-linking and coordination between these curved bodies is necessary if the result is to achieve genuine finality.  This is the difficult factor in this area of design, and all too often the result can be that an object interesting in conception is made valueless by an ill-resolved formal composition.

g) Mixed combinations of bodies, surfaces and rods undoubtedly constitute one of the most important, most interesting and richest fields of practical design.  A very large proportion of the industrial objects that surround us are, at their best, rationally linked and well-coordinated combinations of these classes of elements.  In civil architecture, in mechanical installations, in coordinated groups of moving vehicles, in objects for domestic purposes and in art objects, we have rich possibilities for applying our ideas on the constructive combination of volumes, surfaces and rods.  As appropriate examples from real life we can quote:


1.  Diverse industrial and factory apparatuses.

2 Factory accommodation designed for mechanical installations and assembly line apparatuses.

3.  Industrial furnaces, tanks, boilers, turbines, bunkers.

4.  All forms of electrical apparatus and electrical conductors.

5.  Airplanes, steamships, automobile vehicles for goods and passengers, naval ships, conveyors and lifts.

6.  Diverse types of industrial building and everyday civil building.

7.  Monuments, pavilions, entrances, transport stops and interchanges.

8.  Furniture, utensils, household equipment such as irons, mincers, mills and the like.

9.  Laboratory apparatus, instruments and lab equipment of all sorts.

3.  The Tactics of Constructive Design with Real Subject-Matter

The examples given above show cases when the application of constructively linked elements will lead, on completion, to a compactly unified product.  One thing is beyond doubt: if practical examples from real life are carefully chosen, the educational result can, in certain circumstances, be good.  Such study has the merit of educating us, to a certain degree, in the designing of specific types of object whose general solution has already been established, but it can be one-sided.  We shall develop fully and properly as constructive designers only when we investigate thoroughly all aspects of designing.  For this it is necessary to throw out everything which impedes us, and to give full rein to our capacity for fantasy.  Even those means that clearly break the established rules and procedures must be used when they offer the possibility to create something new and interesting.  At times disregarding the existing concepts and rules and laws, cutting across expectations and approaches that have grown deep roots, each of us must attempt to create an expression of constructive principles, albeit only one, that is our own.  The obstructions we encounter on the path of studying, researching and finding expression for constructive compositions will differ in their underlying structure, but all difficulties and doubts must be overcome by the concerted, unremitting effort of the creator and composer himself.  We approach each new constructive task by a carefully thought out and entirely conscious path.  The stereotype, the absolute imitation, copyism, must be avoided by all possible means.  We shall resort to the latter only when absolutely necessary.  In all constructive design tasks we achieve greater verity of solution by a process of progressive refinement, through rational inter-relationship and coordination.  In parallel it is observable that when utilitarian tasks are intelligently solved from a constructive point of view, they do possess certain aesthetic merit.  Our eye responds readily and pleasurably to constructively conceived objects which manifest a well-coordinated relationship of parts.

There can be no argument that the very best constructive design solutions are those in which elements have been constructively coordinated in response to the special requirements concerned, and an appropriate reflection of the whole has been found on an aesthetic level.

In studying constructivism the most effective work results from a union of abstract, non-objective aspects with those which are subject-matter based.  The question of how these two approaches are to be united is a methodological one.  If no more, we can identify those factors which offer a starting point.  As demonstration tasks we have many examples of cases where a subject-matter based solution is made far more interesting and subtle by augmentation with non-objective elements.  We frequently observe that a constructive solution which is subject-matter based lacks conviction [79] despite being a logical solution to the problem at that level.  The forward movement of technology and thought offers solutions of constantly increasing sophistication, and convinces us that any properly thought out union of elements which is rationally coordinated in all its parts has some use and value.  This principle of using the two different starting points in design must undoubtedly give positive results.

4.  The Sources of Constructive Principle

As was said earlier, construction as such, has always, in all periods, been an inalienable part of those products of humanity which required principles for bringing different elements together.  Embryonic as humanity’s first achievements in the field of industry were, they demanded the constructive union of parts.  In the course of technology’s natural development, aspects of constructive solutions were being studied further, developed and perfected.  We have therefore to acknowledge industrial technology and the gradual perfection of all humanity’s engineering and building solutions as one of the root sources of constructive design.  Nothing in those fundamentals has been changed by the progress of further achievement in each of the specialized areas I have mentioned.  Right up till now, the basis of constructive form has remained immutable, although the process of evolution has generated multitudes of differing solutions to essentially identical problems.  In each case we have interesting and original solutions amongst the diverse things we make.  One fact is established irrefutably when we study the problems of constructive research.  The highest proportion of the most complex constructive principles is found in the machine, which imperiously demands the application of these principles at exceptionally high levels of concentration.  Our age is characterized by the dominating presence of the machine, and this undoubtedly influences the whole tenor of our lives.  From this derives the permeation of constructive thinking into all the situations around us.  We are being fed with constructive principles in a continuous flow, and everything susceptible to such a solution becomes enveloped by the torrent.  This is why we cannot stand aside from the problems of constructive design, from constructive problem-solving and from the study of this whole question.  The time has come when we have to devote the most serious attention to this field and to investigate its fundamental bases from every possible point of view.  These studies are the path to the further evolution and perfection of forms.

5.  Conclusions and Inferences

We have examined all possible types of form-making in constructions.  The fundamental principles of constructivism outlined above enable us to make a general characterization of constructivism as a Weltanschauung.  The abundance, diversity and multi-facetted nature of constructive phenomena manifest to the fact that this is not some abstract method of limited application.  On the contrary, we are convinced that constructivism embraces and permeates the widest range of products of human creativity.  That is why we may speak of it as a Weltanschauung, as a world-view.

What then are the characteristic features of this world-view? The mechanization of movement and our lifestyle, the advances of industrial production and of technology in general-all of these are inherent features of the contemporary world; they have radically changed the whole tenor of our life and thrown up new needs, new habits and new tastes.  One of the most powerful forces of our era is the imperative to organize things rationally, to justify things functionally.  In the latter process everything superfluous is swept away, everything without direct relationship to the object’s aim and purpose has to go.  In this sense we may say that despite extreme increases in the complexity of our life and the diversification of its structure, it has become simpler in certain respects thanks to technical progress.  Many processes that were formerly complex and time-consuming have now become fast and efficient.  Thus the principles of economy of means, of speed, and of fitness for purpose are the constant attributes of a constructivist worldview.

It is a characteristic of constructivism that it creates a new conception of objects and a new approach to the creative process: without denying the value of such motive factors as inspiration, intuition, fantasy and so on, it puts the materialist point of view firmly in the foreground.  That materialist view unifies phenomena which were formerly considered alien and irreconcilable; namely the phenomena of an engineering and technological order, and the phenomena of art.  It is true, as we know, that in former times these phenomena often came into contact with each other and might even be found in a harmonious combination-as for example in the best works of architecture, which satisfied both constructive requirements and the demands of taste and aesthetics.  However there was not that solid, steadfast and logical link between these phenomena which constructivism envisages.  Only by the absence of this link can we explain the widespread development of decorative motifs devoid of all functional justification that is characteristic, for example, of the Baroque and the Moderne.

In former times machinery was regarded as something profoundly anti-artistic; the forms used in mechanical engineering were excluded from the province of beauty, as such; one did not discuss them in the same terms as one discussed the forms resulting from artistic endeavor.  Now though we know and see, thanks to the development of the constructive understanding of the world, that far from lying beyond the boundaries of our aesthetic understanding, machinery possesses aesthetic norms and canons of its own which are entirely cogent and unquestionable.  These norms and canons represent the very fundamentals of constructivism, which for the first time in the history of humanity has been able to unify the principles of mechanical production with the stimuli of artistic work.  Constructivism should not be considered something absolutely new, unheard of and unprecedented.  In its fundamental principles it is as ancient as the art of building itself, as the capacity of human beings to make things.  Primitive man, in building his dolmens, triliths, crypts and other erections was unconsciously operating with exactly these principles.  Over the centuries, the forms generated by those principles have merely become more [80] complex and highly differentiated, in proportion to the differentiation of cultures over that period.

The alienation of artistic and technological forms of which we spoke earlier is gradually becoming a single and integral aspiration towards rational construction.  Put another way, we are gradually unifying artistic construction and the construction of machines.  The boundaries which so sharply separated them are being smoothed out of existence.  A new conception of the beautiful is being born.  A new kind of beauty emerges: the aesthetic of industrial constructivism.  Whilst it may be very ancient in its fundamentals, it is indebted mainly to the worldwide artistic and technical investigations of the last few decades for the concrete definition of its principles.

We have to recognize that not the least role here has been played by the achievements of the so-called “leftist” artists, the revolutionaries of art, who have so often been rejected and ridiculed.  There is no question that constructive design has to a certain extent utilized the formal and methodological achievements of these new movements.  They have done much for our understanding of the new architecture and of mechanical forms.  They have indicated the usefulness of laboratory research and the value of study and analysis of form in connection with modern industrial technology.  Some people take the view that constructivism has significance only as a means for overcoming eclecticism and getting out of a technological rut.  In fact its role is far wider it is not just destructive to the old ways, it is positively creative in relation to the new.  Furthermore, the constructive approach in no way rejects art or supplants it by technology or engineering.  It absolutely does not ignore artistic content or the means of artistic expression, as certain contemporary art critics assert.  Formal and technical functionalism, as a method of work and analysis in architecture, does not exclude the possibility for harmonious interaction of principles of form and content It does not exclude the possibility of achieving a coordination between practical and useful aspects of a task and aesthetic attractiveness.  Constructivism does not renounce the critical use of experience: it does not try to solve individual aspects of any given problem in isolation, but aims for the very best utilization of all possibilities, from the formal and compositional fields as well as the technological and engineering ones, linking these together in a process of creative synthesis.

We are convinced that the correct solution of the problems of constructive forms has equal importance for all branches of human creative activity; for architecture, for mechanical engineering, for applied art, for printing work and all the rest Constructivism must and can, take account of all the concrete requirements of contemporary life.  It must fully satisfy the needs of the mass consumer, the collective “customer”: the people.


~ by Ross Wolfe on November 17, 2010.

2 Responses to “Iakov Chernikhov’s The Construction of Architectural and Machine Forms (1932)”

  1. […] (1933) [The Construction of Machine and Architectural Forms, of which I have recently posted an excellent full-text translation by the late Catherine […]

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