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The architect storming heaven: why the author of the project of one of the utopias of the twentieth century - the "Tower of Babel" by the Bolsheviks, was in disgrace
The architect storming heaven: why the author of the project of one of the utopias of the twentieth century - the "Tower of Babel" by the Bolsheviks, was in disgrace
The architect storming the heavens

He, Boris Iofan, is a young architect, the son of a doorman from Odessa, and she, Duchess Olga Ruffo, the daughter of a Russian princess and an Italian duke, so different in social status, met, fell in love and never parted again. These two dreamers moved from Italy to the Union in 1924, inspired by the idea of ​​building a new life and full of enthusiasm. In the country of workers and peasants, he was offered grandiose, large-scale projects, which were not even in Europe. But another thing awaited them here - execution lists, in which the name of Boris Iofan fell more than once.

Architect Boris Iofan

In 1923, the chairman of the Council of People's Commissars Alexei Rykov came to Italy for treatment and rest from the Union. Boris and Olga Iofan, who sympathized with the country of the Soviets, and by that time both were already members of the Communist Party of Italy, asked to acquaint him with Italy and organize leisure. Alexei Rykov told Boris Iofan a lot about the Union and, seeing his great interest, offered to return to his homeland, in dire need of architects, promising his support at first. After consulting with his wife, Boris makes a cardinal decision, and the family moves to the Union.

Boris and Olga Iofan Two dreamers - Boris and Olga Iofan

Government House

In 1918, by order of Lenin, the government moved to Moscow. At first, nonresidents were accommodated either in the Kremlin or in the rooms of the best hotels - National, Metropol, which were called the House of Soviets. But since the nomenclature was growing rapidly every year, at the end of the 20s, the issue of housing arose sharply. It was decided to build a huge residential complex for these purposes, and Iofan was instructed to solve this problem as soon as possible. And it so happened that this grandiose project became the only concept of the talented architect that was brought to life.

In 1928 Iofan got down to work. The site for the construction was chosen on Serafimovich Street, and after 4 years the largest unique 10-12-storey giant in Moscow with 500 apartments, with a gloomy gray facade, overwhelming in its power, grew here.

Construction of the Government House

The project was clearly ahead of its time. At a time when Muscovites mostly huddled in communal apartments, cooked on kerosene stoves, all the benefits of civilization were provided here - gas stoves, hot water, elevators, concierges at the entrances, a kitchen factory, kindergartens and gyms, courtyards decorated with lawns, flower beds and fountains. The apartments had everything you need for a comfortable stay - unified bog oak furniture, the same in all apartments, and even dishes. The interior was decorated with frescoes by art restorers invited from the Hermitage. In general, they did not spare money for this project.

The tenants of this house were formed according to special lists. In addition to members of the government, there were enough apartments here for other famous people, whose names were on everyone's lips - famous military leaders, heroes of the Civil War and a lot of intellectuals. Iofan himself and his family moved into one of the apartments. Life in the land of the Soviets was not easy for Olga, but she never complained.At first, she, too, enthusiastically set to work, got a job as a secretary in one of the NKVD divisions. But, unable to withstand the oppressive atmosphere that reigned there, she still chose not to work, but to stay at home.

Government House

(Yuri Trifonov, "House on the Embankment").

But just a few years later, for the inhabitants of this house, paradise turned into hell. During the years of repression, every night a "funnel" drove up to the house, sometimes entire families disappeared overnight, and Alexei Rykov, the patron of Iofan, was arrested. Iofan himself, with his dubious biography of a Jewish intellectual, who has a foreign wife, who is also a princess by birth, has also been put on execution lists more than once.

House on the Embankment today

But, fortunately, this terrible misfortune bypassed their family - Stalin himself deleted him from the lists. In total, about 700 residents of this house were arrested. This is how this notorious "House on the Embankment" stands now, hung with memorial plaques, not allowing to forget about that terrible era.

The architect storming the heavens

Having successfully completed the construction of the Government House, Boris Iofan plunged headlong into an even more ambitious project, unprecedented in scale - the Palace of Soviets, for the construction of which they began to prepare in 1931, blowing up the Cathedral of Christ the Savior for this purpose.

Cathedral of Christ the Savior in its last summer of 1931. The photo was taken from the roof of the House on the Embankment

Boris Iofan won the competition for the construction of the Palace in a highly competitive environment. The palace, which is a multi-tiered structure reminiscent of the Babylonian iconic ziggurat tower, was supposed to surpass all buildings in the world in height. According to the original plan, its height was 215 meters, and there was no talk of a statue of the leader either. But at that time in the field of architecture there was an unspoken competition between the leaders of the two powers - Stalin and Hitler.

View from Volkhonka Street. Behind the fence - the construction site of the Palace of Soviets, across the river - House on the embankment

The grandiose plans for the reconstruction of Moscow clearly interfered with Hitler's restful sleep. And when plans for the construction of the Palace reached the Fuehrer, he commissioned his architect Alfred Speer to build an even higher domed building in Berlin. Stalin, learning about this, summoned Iofan:. Iofan was very upset with this decision - it turned out that his Palace was turning into just a pedestal for a statue. But he did not dare to argue with Stalin.

Blown up Cathedral of Christ the Savior

The height of the Palace was increased to 420 meters, the tower was to be crowned with a statue of Lenin 80 meters high. To give an idea of ​​the scale of this structure, let's say that each of its fingers was the size of a two-story house. In the "head" of the leader, the size of the Column Hall of the House of Unions, it was planned to place a huge library. Many architects considered such a project to be unrealizable in principle. In 1940, the installation of the frame began.

Construction of the Palace of Soviets Part of the frame of the Palace of Soviets

But the grandiose construction of the century that had begun was interrupted by the war. The installed frame made of special super-strong steel of the DS brand (Palace of the Soviets) was dismantled and anti-tank hedgehogs were made of it. And after the war, they did not return to construction any more, because there were many other, more pressing problems. As a result, the most important brainchild of the architect Iofan - a fantastic palace of 100 floors - remained unrealized.

Forgotten symbol of communism - the Palace of Soviets

The success of Iofan's Soviet pavilions at World Exhibitions

At that time, Iofan was working on several other projects. At the World Exhibition in Paris in 1937, two pavilions facing each other were awarded gold medals - the Soviet one, which amazed the whole world with its power, and the German. The Fuehrer was very annoyed when he found out about this.

USSR pavilion in Paris 1937

Yes, besides, the creator of the Soviet pavilion was not at all Aryan Iofan. By the way, the wonderful idea to install on the pavilion, as on a pedestal, the paired sculpture "Worker and Collective Farm Woman", which Vera Mukhina brought to life, also belonged to Iofan. The design of this pavilion is undoubtedly one of Iofan's finest creations.

Hitler oversees the preparations for the exhibition

Another pavilion at the 1939 World's Fair in New York was recognized as a real masterpiece.

USSR pavilion in New York 1939

Move MSU

After the war, other skyscrapers, more modest in size, ascended over Moscow.And, it would seem, the next project of the famous architect - the construction of a high-rise on Vorobyovy Gory, was to become his swan song. But he didn't …

Main building of Moscow State University

Iofan, who prepared the project, literally a few days before its approval was suspended from work and the construction of the largest Stalinist skyscraper was entrusted to L.V. Rudnev. And Rudnev with a group of architects, taking as a basis the already comprehensively worked out project of Iofan, and moving the building 800 meters, received the Stalin Prize. At the same time, the name of Iofan did not even appear in the list of authors. It is believed that the reason for this was the intransigence of the architect. According to the idea, the building was to be crowned with a statue of Mukhina “Lomonosov”, and it should have stood on the very edge of a cliff on the banks of the Moskva River.

Forgotten symbol of communism

Stalin insisted that instead of the statue of Lomonosov, there should be a star on the top, as on all other skyscrapers. Iofan gave in reluctantly. But he categorically disagreed with the decision of experts to move the high-rise several hundred meters from the cliff and insisted on his own. This led to the sad result - he was dismissed. And not only from this project. Since then, the creation of large-scale projects, because of which, in fact, he came to the USSR, he was no longer entrusted.

Iofan was very worried about this, Olga too, although she tried not to show her appearance and supported her husband in every possible way. She died 15 years earlier than him, and after death, more than 10 traces of the transferred microinfarctions were found on her heart. And Boris Iofan died in 1976, at the age of 85, in Barvikha, which was also designed by him.

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