THE MEGASTRUCTURE PROJECT
Bill Levitt, the father of mass-produced US suburban homes, stated that no man who owns his own house can be a communist. From the looks of it, the Soviets agreed. In the ideological climate of the day, capitalist cities were regarded as products of the chaotic development of exploitative societies, and the qualitative differences between center and periphery as expressive of social inequality. Consequently, socialist architects were tasked with the development of a new form for the city; one structurally tuned to the new, socialist lifestyle.
This new city type would be instrumental in the substitution of individualism and privatism with collectivism, and would eliminate social segregation. Large volumes of studies, norms and standards were dedicated to the design of typified projects for dwellings with matching furniture, household equipment and much more. Today, Russian urban space consists almost entirely of concrete panel houses of but a few types spread across the entire nation, making most cities - and interiors - look alike.
Cities have expanded outwards from the center in planned construction thrusts. And with technological progress allowing for ever higher structures to be erected, the tallest buildings stand at the very edge of the city, such that the built environment closes with a show of force. There is no gradual transition; there is no suburban state to the socialist city, where in absence of free enterprise sprawling was impossible. At the urban zone's outer limits, the landscape alters abruptly and radically.
I went out to investigate that Zone where concrete rips into the earth, and from thereon wandered back through the micro-districts causing this pattern of earthy scar tissue. I finally became truly conscious of this city I live in, and came under its spell of monotony of shape and color, of stark revoke of individualism, and of Modernistic street-phobia - that denial of the social value of the street as fundamental element of the urban structure. I was by turns puzzled and thrilled by the bizarre rhythms of the randomly dispersed housing blocks that fail to create streets and boulevards in any clear urban idea. The whole suddenly seemed to result from a creative system embracing at once controlled chance and even failure. I finally fell for the Soviet city's disturbed minimalism.
Bee Flowers is a Dutch artist residing in Moscow since 1989. His Megastructure project can be seen in full on his website
In June '05 a selection of 15 works will be on display in Moscow as part of the Silver Camera Awards exhibition.