Constructivist architecture was a form of modern architecture that flourished in the Soviet Union in the 1920s and early 1930s. It combined advanced technology and engineering with an avowedly Communist social purpose. Although it was divided into several competing factions, the movement produced many pioneering projects and finished buildings, before falling out of favour around 1932. It has left marked effects on later developments in architecture.
The first and most famous Constructivist architectural project was the 1919 proposal for the headquarters of the Comintern in St Petersburg by the Futurist Vladimir Tatlin, often called Tatlin’s Tower. Though it remained unbuilt, the materials—glass and steel—and its futuristic ethos and political slant (the movements of its internal volumes were meant to symbolise revolution and the dialectic) set the tone for the projects of the 1920s.
Following the 1917 Russian Revolution, the USSR became economically insecure and unable to embark on major construction projects. Nevertheless, avant-garde design schools began to encourage and inspire ambitious architects and urban planners, in particular the Association of New Architects (ASNOVA) which was established in 1921.
Constructivist architecture was used to build utilitarian projects for the workers, as well as more creative projects such as Flying City, that was intended as a prototype for airborne housing.
The main characteristic of constructivism was the application of 3D cubism to abstract and non-objective elements. The style incorporated straight lines, cylinders, cubes and rectangles; and merged elements of the modern age such as radio antennae, tension cables, concrete frames and steel girders. The possibilities of modern materials were also explored, such as steel frames that supported large areas of glazing, exposed rather than concealed building joints, balconies and sun decks.
The style aimed to explore the opposition between different forms as well as the contrast between different surfaces, predominately between solid walls and windows, which often gave the structures their characteristic sense of scale and presence.
The first and perhaps most famous project was one an unrealised proposal for Tatlin’s Tower, the headquarters of the Comintern in St. Petersburg. Many subsequent, ambitious projects were not actually built, but Russia’s fourth-largest city Yekaterinburg is regarded as a ‘Constructivist museum’ including 140 built examples of the form. Another famous surviving example is the social housing project Dom Narkomfin in Moscow.
Tatlin’s Tower, or the project for the Monument to the Third International (1919–20), was a design for a grand monumental building by the Russian artist and architect Vladimir Tatlin, that was never built. It was planned to be erected in Petrograd (now St. Petersburg) after the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917, as the headquarters and monument of the Comintern (the third international).
Tatlin’s Constructivist tower was to be built from industrial materials: iron, glass and steel. In materials, shape and function, it was envisaged as a towering symbol of modernity. The tower’s main form was a twin helix which spiraled up to 400 m in height, around which visitors would be transported with the aid of various mechanical devices. The main framework would contain four large suspended geometric structures. These structures would rotate at different rates. At the base of the structure was a cube which was designed as a venue for lectures, conferences and legislative meetings, and this would complete a rotation in the span of one year. Above the cube would be a smaller pyramid housing executive activities and completing a rotation once a month. Further up would be a cylinder, which was to house an information center, issuing news bulletins and manifestos via telegraph, radio and loudspeaker, and would complete a rotation once a day.
At the top, there would be a hemisphere for radio equipment. There were also plans to install a gigantic open-air screen on the cylinder, and a further projector which would be able to cast messages across the clouds on any overcast day.
Villa La Rotonda is a Renaissance villa just outside Vicenza in northern Italy, and designed by Andrea Palladio. The proper name is Villa Almerico Capra Valmarana, but it is also known as La Rotonda, Villa Rotonda, Villa Capra and Villa Almerico.
In 1565 a priest, Paolo Almerico, on his retirement from the Vatican , decided to return to his home town of Vicenza in the Venetian countryside and build a country house. This house, later known as ‘La Rotonda’, was to be one of Palladio’s best-known legacies to the architectural world.
The site selected was a hilltop just outside the city of Vicenza. Unlike some other Palladian villas, the building was not designed from the start to accommodate a working farm. This sophisticated building was designed for a site which was, in modern terminology, “suburban”. Palladio classed the building as a “palazzo” rather than a villa.
The design is for a completely symmetrical building having a square plan with four facades, each of which has a projecting portico. The whole is contained within an imaginary circle which touches each corner of the building and centres of the porticos. The name La Rotonda refers to the central circular hall with its dome. To describe the villa, as a whole, as a ‘rotonda’ is technically incorrect, as the building is not circular but rather the intersection of a square with a cross. Each portico has steps leading up, and opens via a small cabinet or corridor to the circular domed central hall. This and all other rooms were proportioned with mathematical precision according to Palladio’s own rules of architecture.
The interior design of the Villa was to be as wonderful, if not more so, than the exterior. Alessandro and Giovanni Battista Maganza and Anselmo Canera were commissioned to paint frescoes in the principal salons.
Among the four principal salons on the piano nobile are the West Salon (also called the Holy Room, because of the religious nature of its frescoes and ceiling), and the East Salon, which contains an allegorical life story of the first owner Paolo Almerico, his many admirable qualities portrayed in fresco.
The highlight of the interior is the central, circular hall, surrounded by a balcony and covered by the domed ceiling; it soars the full height of the main house up to the cupola, with walls decorated in trompe l’oeil. Abundant frescoes create an atmosphere that is more reminiscent of a cathedral than the principal salon of a country house.
From the porticos, wonderful views of the surrounding countryside can be seen; this is no coincidence as the Villa was designed to be in perfect harmony with the landscape. This was in complete contrast to such buildings as Villa Farnese of just 16 years earlier. Thus, while the house appears to be completely symmetrical, it actually has certain deviations, designed to allow each facade to complement the surrounding landscape and topography. Hence there are variations in the facades, in the width of steps, retaining walls, etc. In this way, the symmetry of the architecture allows for the asymmetry of the landscape, and creates a seemingly symmetrical whole. The landscape is a panoramic vision of trees and meadows and woods, with the distant Vicenza on the horizon.
Neoclassical architecture is an architectural style produced by the neoclassical movement that began in the mid-18th century. In its purest form, it is a style principally derived from the architecture of classical antiquity, the Vitruvian principles, and the work of the Italian architect Andrea Palladio.
Neoclassical architecture emphasizes the wall rather than chiaroscuro and maintains separate identities to each of its parts. The style is manifested both in its details as a reaction against the Rococo style of naturalistic ornament, and in its architectural formula as an outgrowth of some classicising features of Late Baroque. Neoclassical architecture is still designed today, but may be labelled New Classical Architecture for contemporary buildings.
Neoclassical, or “new” classical, architecture describes buildings that are inspired by the classical architecture of ancient Greece and Rome. If you look closely at a Neoclassical building you may see echoes of the Parthenon in Athens or the Pantheon in Rome.
Neoclassical buildings have many (although not necessarily all) of these features:
Characteristic of the neoclassical architecture
- Symmetrical shape
- Tall columns that rise the full height of the building
- Triangular pediment
- Domed roof
High neoclassicism was an international movement. Though neoclassical architecture employed the same classical vocabulary as Late Baroque architecture, it tended to emphasize its planar qualities, rather than sculptural volumes. Projections and recessions and their effects of light and shade were more flat; sculptural bas-reliefs were flatter and tended to be enframed in friezes, tablets or panels.
Neoclassical buildings can be divided into three main types. A temple style building features a design based on an ancient temple, while a Palladian building is based on Palladio’s style of villa construction. The third type is the classical block building, described later in this section.
Temple style buildings were uncommon during the Renaissance; architects of that period focused mainly on applying classical elements to churches and modern buildings (e.g. palazzos, villas). Temple style architecture exploded during the Neoclassical age. Many temple style buildings feature a peristyle (a continuous line of columns around a building), which is rarely found in Renaissance architecture.
The most famous temple style buildings of the Neoclassical age may be the Panthéon and the British Museum (London, by Robert Smirke). The former is Roman-based (modelled after the Pantheon in Rome), while the latter is Greek-based.
Palladian architecture is derived from the villas of Andrea Palladio, the greatest architect of the Late Renaissance. Palladio, like famous artists generally, was followed by many successors who absorbed and worked in his style; these ranged from unoriginal imitators to artistic geniuses, the latter of whom applied old ideas in brilliant new ways. Interestingly, Palladio’s greatest successors emerged primarily in England.
Robert Adam is the most famous Neoclassical architect to work in the Palladian style, the most famous of all Palladian buildings are two American civic buildings, the White House and United States Capitol. Both were constructed over long periods under various architects.
Some of the buildings in the above gallery feature a balustrade (a railing with vertical supports) along the edge of the roof. (The vertical supports within a balustrade are known as “balusters” or “spindles”.) The balustrade is a common classical method of crowning a building that has a flat/low-lying roof.
A classical block building features a vast rectangular (or square) plan, with a flat (or low-lying) roof and an exterior rich in classical detail. The exterior is divided into multiple levels, each of which features a repeated classical pattern, often a series of arches and/or columns. The overall impression of such a building is an enormous, classically-decorated rectangular block.
UNITED STATES CAPITOL BUILDING
The United States Capitol, often called the Capitol Building or Capitol Hill, is the seat of the United States Congress, the legislative branch of the U.S. federal government. It sits atop Capitol Hill, at the eastern end of the National Mall in Washington, D.C.
Contrary to a popular myth, D.C. building height laws have never referred to the height of the Capitol building, which rises to 289 feet (88 m).
The Capitol Grounds cover approximately 274 acres (1.11 km²), with the grounds proper consisting mostly of lawns, walkways, streets, drives, and planting areas. Several monumental sculptures used to be located on the east facade and lawn of the Capitol including The Rescue and George Washington. The current grounds were designed by noted American landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted, who planned the expansion and landscaping performed from 1874 to 1892. In 1875, as one of his first recommendations
The Capitol’s building is marked by its central dome above a rotunda in the central section of the structure (which also includes, the older original smaller center flanked by the two original (designed 1793, occupied 1800) smaller two wings (inner north) and inner south) containing the two original smaller meeting chambers for the Senate and the House of Representatives (between 1800 and late 1850s) and then flanked by two further extended (newer) wings, one also for each chamber of the larger, more populous Congress: the new north wing is the Senate chamber and the new south wing is the House of Representatives chamber.
On the ground floor is an area known as the Crypt. It was intended to be the burial place of George Washington, with a ringed balustrade at the center of the Rotunda above looking down to his tomb.
The Hall of Columns is located on the House side of the Capitol, home to twenty-eight fluted columns and statues from the National Statuary Hall Collection. In the basement of the Capitol building in a utility room are two marble bathtubs, which are all that remain of the once elaborate Senate baths. These baths were a spa-like facility designed for members of Congress and their guests before many buildings in the city had modern plumbing. The facilities included several bathtubs, a barbershop, and a massage parlor.