The Seven Sisters of Moscow

27 Apr

After WWII Stalin hesitated on commencing building of the great Palace of the Soviets. Included in his thinking was the idea that having won the war, the Soviet Union was now a superpower and must appear as one. It not only was destined to define the future, as the world of the future would be a communist one, a worker’s paradise, but it must be as inspiring and grand as any western capitalist city.

However, Moscow had no skyscrapers. It’s hard to appear grand and modern without skyscrapers. Indeed his very words were: ” “We won the war … foreigners will come to Moscow, walk around, and there’s no skyscrapers. If they compare Moscow to capitalist cities, it’s a moral blow to us”.”

So instead of continuing the Palace of the Soviets, Stalin decided to build 8 skyscrapers across Moscow. He would use a new breed of soviet architects to turn Moscow into the city of the future.

Post WWII Russia was in enormous need of housing and infrastructure. However Stalin wanted to make statements to the world and thus resources were diverted in order to complete this massive project.

Stalinist communism is full of nothing if not incredibly grandiose ideas that were utterly botched (or just plain unacheivable) along the way. However, the skycraper project was not one of them. Seven of the eight were actually completed and are indeed impressive and excellent feats of  architecture in their way. The 1950s were a golden period of the Soviet Union. Everyone believed in the future, the communist way of the life seemed to working and thriving and resources and production appeared to not only be pouring out but consistantly increasing with a scientific steadiness that was mathematically certain to overtake American production in some time just over a decade or so.

In this climate the seven sisters rose and towered over Moscow, announcing the slogan “We Can!” across the city, albeit while most of the city’s residents lived hungry and impoverished in a cramped communal apartments.

KGB chief Lavrenty Beria was the supervisor of construction and it’s rumored that there are spying devices installed in many rooms across the buildings. Construction was carried out by a whole bunch of German prisoners of war as well as Gulag prisoners.

The architects catered to Stalin’s tastes. He loved gothic and he LOVED spires. Every building HAD to have a spire. One must also recollect, that back in the 30s Stalin had killed and imprisoned most of the more creative and avante garde of the new communists in an effort to purge his country of anyone potentially unloyal. So if you were one of the new breed of architects who were… alive and creative, throwing in a few spires and massive gothic touches to cater to the boss was definitely a good idea.

“Trademarks of the Stalinist style of architecture embodied in these buildings are the obvious wedding cake structure that pulls the eye toward the central, massive spire, and the patriotic decorations and mouldings. Critics generally agree that the Stalinist period dates from the 1933 Palace of the Soviets competition to 1955 when Khrushchev disbanded the Architects Union. Super-buildings for a super people, the buildings also utilised new building techniques of building with steel frames with concrete walls upon a concrete slab, which allowed for their massive size.”

moscow state university

Hotel Ukraina (now Radisson Royal Hotel)

Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Leningradskaya Hote (now the Hilton Moscow Leningradskaya Hote)

Kotelnicheskaya Embankment Building

Kudrinskaya Square Building

Red Gates Administrative Building

The entire (near medieval) district of  Zaryadye was demolished to make way for the 8th sister, but it never materialized. This is the design for it:

The unbuilt 8th sister: Zaryadye Administrative Building

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Posted by on April 27, 2012 in Uncategorized


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