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Svoboda Club

Moscow, Russia
1 of 2

The Svoboda Factory Club, conceived as the Chemists Trade Union Club and also known as the Maxim Gorky Palace of Culture, is a listed memorial Constructivist building in Moscow, Russia, designed by Konstantin Melnikov in 1927 and completed in 1929.

The initial concept for the Svoboda Club was a flat elliptical tube raised above ground floor pilotis. The main hall inside the tube could be used as a single arena, or partitioned into two independent halls (500 seats each). Each end of the tube terminated in a cubical block housing stage mechanisms and smaller halls. A perfectly symmetrical structure was visually centred with two curvilinear staircases connecting the raised main hall to the ground. These were actually fire escapes, never intended for regular use: building code required very wide internal evacuation staircases, and Melnikov bypassed the code by adding exterior escape staircases.

In the age of total steel rationing, the tubular concept was immediately blocked. Melnikov had to minimize the use of steel to the bare minimum (main span girders). Thus, the tube was replaced with a conventional rectangular masonry block; the staircase was built straight, not curved. In fact, the only curvilinear element is the central rostrum column, balancing left and right halves of the structure. They are not identical: north side end block is considerably higher than the opposite one; central rostrum hides this discrepancy. Melnikov also had to omit the swimming pool that he planned for the basement level.

Inside, the main hall is quite close to the original concept: the ceiling, formed by angled roofing, indeed looks like a flat tube.

As of March, 2007, Svoboda Club is in quite good exterior condition. The building is painted according to its original white-red colour scheme. The only difference with 1920s photographs is the lack of colour accent around end block windows (originally, there was a third colour - a paler shade of red). However, the street has been widened considerably; trees, lawns and pedestrian walkways of 1920s were replaced with street asphalt.

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archibald, June 8th, 2012
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