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Palace of the Soviets

Moscow, Russia
1 of 11

The Palace of the Soviets was to be a major congress hall and administrative centre in Moscow, near the Kremlin. The project was never realised but the winning neoclassical design was by Boris Iofan. The site was to be where the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour had been demolished. If the structure had been built it would have been the world's tallest at the time after Vladimir Shchuko and Vladimir Gelfreikh revised Iofan's original design into a tall skyscraper.

Although construction began in 1937, the building was interrupted when the German's invaded Russia in 1941. During World War II the steel frame already installed was disassembled to be used for much needed infrastructure and bridges, never again being rebuilt.

In 1958 the remaining foundations were converted into an open-air swimming pool, later between 1995-2000 the Cathedral was reconstructed.

The Competition

In 1931 the Soviet Union announced the first competition for the design of the Palace of the Soviets with a combination of 15 avant-garde and traditional architects however even after the competition closed in May 1931, no winner was selected.

Shortly after on June 2nd the political Party identified the site and rallied for the demolition of the Cathedral which was formally backed up on July 16 by the Supreme Soviet of the Soviet Union commission. Two days later the second competition was announced, opening it up to international architects. Demolition of the Cathedral began on 18th August and by December 5th was reduced to rubble.

The second, public, international contest received a total of 272 concepts with 160 architectural designs, 136 by Soviets and 24 foreigners. Some of those international architects included Le Corbusier, Joseph Irban, Walter Gropius, Erich Mendelsohn and Albert Kahn. Boris Iofan's Italian teacher, Armando Brasini expressed the idea of 'Lenin atop the skyscraper'.

The project received international interest and was broadcast, reported and reviewed all over the world. However still no clear winner was announced, in early 1932 three proposals were selected including Boris Iofan, Ivan Zholtovsky and a British architect Hector Hamilton.

As there was no winner, a third round of the competition was announced in the form of a state intervention. All three runners-up turned their backs on the avant-garde and leaned towards neoclassicism. This "reactionary" decision caused an uproar among European avant-garde artists. Particularly Le Corbusier and Sigfried Giedion, leader of the CIAM.

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alicelee, December 16th, 2013
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