Building the Communist dream: Imagine Moscow, an exhibition at London’s Design Museum, captures an architectural future that never was

[From Spiked]

In revolutionary climates, literally anything seems possible. Not only can streets, cities and states be renamed, even the calendar can be reorganised. Everything can be engineered towards the goal of reforming and reformulating existence.

The Bolshevik-led October Revolution ushered in a new era in what would become the USSR. Not only would political and economic systems be abolished and replaced by Communism, there would be a project to create ‘Soviet Man’, which would entail re-education of men and women previously shackled by the bourgeois capitalism that existed under Russia’s monarchical tyranny. The individual was no longer considered a private person with concealed (and potentially suspect) beliefs and selfish interests; Soviet Man would control the means of production and govern the state as part of a collective. But in return he must forgo his private self-interest.

Architecture was to play a crucial role in the revolutionary intention to create Soviet Man. This is captured by Imagine Moscow, a new exhibition of art, textiles, posters and architectural plans at London’s Design Museum, which examines six Soviet architectural projects for Moscow, dating from the 1920s and 1930s.

The USSR of 1917 to 1926 was a land where the most radical of ideas were taken seriously and even encouraged by the new regime. It was also a largely rural economy with an impoverished, under-educated population. In its early years it was also fighting a bitter civil war. The imagination of urban intellectuals and city planners far outstripped the resources, knowledge and funds available for many projects, even those that were relatively modest. And the most ambitious plans were those most likely to be shelved.

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