September 01, 2021

Moscow's Modernist Marvel

Moscow's Modernist Marvel

Anyone heading down Moscow’s Myasnitskaya Street toward the Garden Ring would have a hard time overlooking No. 39, an unusual building of glass and reddish-brown stone with one side fronting Myasnitskaya and the other Sakharov Prospect. For most passersby, it probably gives off a modern business center vibe. Only Moscow history buffs will know that this is the Tsentrosoyuz building – a unique example of European modernism and the only building in Moscow designed by the great architect Charles-Édouard Jeanneret-Gris, better known as Le Corbusier.

In the early years following the revolution, dozens of creative people from Western Europe and the United States were drawn to the capital of the young socialist state. They wanted to see life in history’s first land of workers and peasants, and to experience how communist ideas were pervading the atmosphere there. At various times, the Soviet Union hosted H.G. Wells, George Bernard Shaw, Theodore Dreiser, and Romain Rolland.

At the turn of the 1920s, Moscow was also visited three times by the Swiss-French architect Le Corbusier. That committed promoter of the “Modern City” was already a front-runner in the European architectural avant-garde, having made a name for himself building private villas in and around Paris. But whereas the celebrated writers mostly came to the Soviet Union to look and learn, Le Corbusier was also pursuing some specifically practical goals.

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