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E. Kirichenko . Russian architecture in the 1830s-1910s / Русская архитектура 1830-1910-х годов
The book is about Russian architecture of the 1830s—1910s, the period immediately following the epoch of Classicism in Russian architecture and preceding the advent of Soviet architecture of the 1920s. The author makes an attempt to bring out its original distinctive features and ascertain the place of Russian architecture of the 19th and the early 20th century in the overall picture.
The evolution and styles of architecture of the 19th and the early 20th centuries are analyzed against the Russian cultural background of the time, in the context of the clashing artistic, literary, social, political and aesthetic trends, presented in their theoretical and practical aspects.
Such an approach to the object of research and its tasks has determined the structure of the book, the range of the questions discussed and the method of dealing with them.
The book consists of two relatively self-contained parts. The first one is about Russian architecture of the 1830s—1890s. The phenomenon is referred to as Eclecticism, a term well-established in this country. The second part tells of architecture of the late 19th—early 20th century in Russia —Modern and Retro-spectivism. Each part comprises three chapters on the following subjects: 1) Architecture of each of the said periods as a specific compositional system; 2) The main ideas and concepts modelled and embodied in architecture as the crucial ones for understanding the world outlook of a definite historical period; 3) Realization of the compositional and connotational system in practical architecture, the main trends in architecture and their most typical representatives.
A system of concepts stemming from the very nature of the art of architecture as a specific product of man's creative endeavour which apply to any architectural phenomenon without exception is offered by the author as a working method to draw the correct comparison among the artistic styles analyzed in the book. The author finds such matching of whole structures more fruitful than traditional comparisons of architectures of individual periods or styles carried out at a merely formal level. The latter approach is inevitably superficial as it disregards the essential specifics and laws of each style. This new method seemed especially suitable as applied to Modern and Eclecticism which do not fit into the established notion of style as a visual homogeneity of forms.
Two types of system-forming relations are singled out. The first one approaches a work of architecture as a unity of the utilitarian and the aesthetic, implying the interconnection between structural and artistic elements, the physical volume and the interior layout. The second group of relations, not directly connected with the first one, lies in the sphere of perception (the artistic impression made by individual buildings and ensembles on man, the design features and the methods of combining them into a harmonious entity to be viewed under
certain conditions or from a certain angle). In other words, the first group of relations has to do with stress features of a definite architectural system, while the second one—with time and space parameters.
The above-mentioned system of relations shows convincingly enough the historical distinctiveness of Eclecticism, the last stage of the New Time architecture, which began in Europe with the Renaissance, and in Russia with the reforms of Peter I, and Modern, initiating a new epoch in the history of architecture, and belonging to another category of architectural styles. They largely differ from the post-Renaissance styles and are similar to the Medieval architectural idiom (for all the uniqueness of both).
The first chapter of the first part is devoted to Russian architecture of the 1830s—1890s. On the example of Russian architecture the compositional principles of Eclecticism are described. The principle of equivalence is taken to be the basic and system-forming one (the equivalence of style elements, accents, ensemble components, the balance of the eye-appealing and functional aspects). This principle seems absolutely alien to the hierarchical and monistic, so to speak, style idiom of Classicism. At the same time, fundamental affinity between Classicism and Eclecticism is shown at a higher level, in the general context of the New Time architecture of which they are varieties. Two trends in Eclecticism—Eclecticism proper and Stylization—are described in the chapter. These are two equally significant expressive media of the New Time architectural Eclecticism. The block of flats, its classical example, is a specific case and embodiment of the principle of equivalence, of the relationship between the style and design features of structures at the time.
Some aspects of the 19th-century world outlook, which found their expression in architecture, are the subject of the second chapter. They are historism, the civil involvement of artists, subordination of arts to the aims and tasks of education, the expression of social and political ideals in terms of art, the democratization of the arts and the society, the critical mode of thinking at the time, which revealed itself in architecture in the form of revolt against traditions.
The third chapter shows how the general social, philosophical and aesthetic theories materialized in architectural doctrines and building practice, in various architectural trends and in the work of individual masters. Much emphasis is placed on the anti-academic tendency in the 19th-century architecture. Romanticism and the national character of architecture, its folk roots as seen by the proponents of the "Russian style" of various shades are considered in the chapter. In this connection the author dwells on specific architectural symbols, just as he does in the second part devoted to Modern, on Rationalism's concept of historical peculiarity, on the "rational architecture" theory and on the "brick style." Special mention is made of the acuteness of the "style" problem at the turn of the 19th century which was discussed at the First, Second and Third Congresses of Russian Architects in 1892, 1895 and 1900. The author discusses at length the work and views of typical representatives of various trends in Russian architecture of the middle and the second half of the last century (K. Thon, M. Bykovsky, A. Stackenschneider, V. Stasov, V. Gartman, I. Ropet, N. Sultanov , among others).
The second part is devoted primarily to Modern and its development in Russia . The stylistic principles of Modern as a historical and artistic whole is the subject of the first chapter. Modern is represented as a merger of the utilitarian and the aesthetic. The way of achieving this merger, the main sources of Modern's architectural forms, its principal feature being the stylization of natural shapes, the role and distribution of decor in the building, the texture and colour contrasts and rhythm—all these general characteristics of Modern clearly show what Eclecticism and Modern have in common and what sets them apart.
The next chapter is about the idea content and the artistic programme of Modern in its Russian variant with its democracy (A. Uspensky) and its aristocratism. It lays bare the social and philosophical sources of its illusions
as to transforming life by means of art and explains the resultant orientation in Russia on the heritage of the close and remote forerunners (Slavophiles, Philosophers, P. Chaadayev, F. Dostoyevsky, V. Solovyov). The internal controversy of Modern's concepts and the unity of opposites, deliberately established by its ideologists as its programme, are also viewed by the author. Certain parallels are drawn between Modern and Symbolism in literature.
The last chapter tells of the national sources and main trends of Russian Modern, traces their development against the background of European Modern and compares Russian Modern with its European analogue—Art Nouveau—in its better known national varieties. Special emphasis is laid on the Neo-Russian Style, the inner sources of Modern in Russia and on late Modern. Retrospectiv-ism, with its artistic principles and idea content current in the 1910s, is expounded in correlation with Modern. The most outstanding personalities in Russian architecture in the period between the 1830s and the 1910s—the architects F. Shekhtel, L. Kekushev, N. Vasilyev, I. Kuznetsov, V. Pokrovsky, I. Bonda-renko, etc., as well as the artists V. Vasnetsov, Ye. Polenova, S. Malyutin, who contributed to Russian architecture, are given their due, and the geographical pattern of the main artistic trends is outlined.
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© Е.И. Кириченко "Русская архитектура 1830-1910-х годов" — Москва 'Искусство' 1978
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