Moscow’s Narkomfin building: Soviet blueprint for collective living – a history of cities in 50 buildings, day 29

[From The Guardian]

n the shadow of one of Stalin’s Seven Sisters skyscrapers in Moscow’s Presnensky District, an unkempt park gives way to a trio of yellowing buildings in varying states of decay. The crumbling concrete and overgrown wall-garden don’t give much away, but this is the product of the utopian dreams of a young Soviet state – a six-storey blueprint for communal living, known as the Narkomfin building.

Designed by architects Moisei Ginzburg and Ignaty Milinis in 1928, the building represents an important chapter in Moscow’s development – as both a physical city and an ideological state. Built to house the employees of the Narodnyo Kommissariat Finansov (Commissariat of Finance), Narkomfin was a laboratory for social and architectural experimentation to transform the byt (everyday life) of the ideal socialist citizen.

In the years following the 1917 Russian revolution, living conditions in the newly established Soviet Union left much to be desired. Newcomers moving from the countryside with the promise of a new life arrived in an overcrowded and underdeveloped Moscow with very little infrastructure or housing. Architects were tasked with developing a solution for the housing shortage – and a framework to support the changing face of Russian society.

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