Nikolai Dokuchaev’s “The competition for the planning of Magnitogorsk” (1930)

From Stroitel’stvo Moskvy, 1930 (no. 4/April, pg. 28)

The ‘linear planning’ projects by the OSA group and Stroikom (whose authors are also OSA members), are a repetition of the well known idea of linear distribution of a town along the communication routes, with houses of an individual or semi-individual type (as in the OSA project here, under team-leader I. Leonidov).  The OSA group as a whole has recently been advancing this idea of Disurbanization at every appropriate opportunity.  Its underlying principles and arguments, at least as presented by comrade Okhitovich, are familiar to the majority of our specialists.  In the Stroikom project, the authors have again tried in their explanatory notes to prove by all possible means that the ‘industrial’ pastorale which they propose in the form of direct communion with nature, little houses on stilts for each individual, with a car underneath it awaiting the owner, constitutes a socialist town.  The individual houses with private motor cars are the authors’ answer to the Leninist concept that it is necessary to create ‘a new form of human settlement which eliminates rural backwardness and isolation from the world, and the anti-human concentration of vast masses of people into large cities.’  And here we are: the little cottage cuts itself off from the urban concentrations; the motor car abolishes the rural isolation.  A solution of true ‘genius’ for this problem!

The OSA project also offers small two-storey houses, these designed for sixteen people, lightweight in construction, heated by stoves, and with the area of service space larger than that of the living area.  These too are ‘high convenience’ housing, favoring the development of individualistic habits and private acquisitiveness.  Combining housing of this type into a skyscraper does not alter its organization in the very least.  The chosen system of distributing the houses and communal buildings within the town is principally dictated by the desire for certain graphic effects on the drawing and the base-board of the model, rather than by considerations of convenience and rationality, about which the authors speak so confidently in their explanatory notes.  Where should one search here for the ‘new organization of labor, life-style and culture, etc.’ which are ostensibly present in this project ‘based on the new social structure, advanced science and technology and the most economic utilization of available resources’? By what means is this ‘new social structure,’ which is not visible to the ‘uninitiated’ viewer, expressed in the design of the city? Why, in the fortuitous and chaotic distribution of the housing and communal buildings, which is interesting only as a picture, should we be supposed to see a novel solution to the socialist town, rather than just another colony of some self-build dacha association.  Apparently the answer lies in some public debate, but not in working up a practical project.  In these situations we have the right to demand such things as a serious attitude, and some detailed practical solutions for the problems posed and executed by these architectural societies.

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~ by Ross Wolfe on June 23, 2011.

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