Svobada Factory Club

What better way to express the Soviet vision of Social Condensers, change brought about through architecture, than in the development of workers social clubs for the trade union movement.

 

architect Konstantin Melnikov

 

Between 1926 and 1929 the Soviet trade unions established workers social clubs. Whilst the idea of clusters of people brought together with a common interest or connection was not completely unknown pre-revolution, now the rational for creating them was quite different.

The Soviet Constructivist architect Ivan Leonidov noted in 1928* 

“We need not merely new clubs, but clubsinventions, insofar as these are not clubs for playing whist and dancing the quadrille, but clubs designed for brand new, previously unheard-of human relations, new “Social Condensers” of our time.”

Like so much in the first 10 years of Soviet rule everything had to be evaluated and decided for its appropriateness for achieving the greater goal. 1928, was the year the expression Social Condenser came to public promenance. It was Moisei Ginsburg, architect of the Narkofim building who used it in a speech at the OSA group conference, he announced,

“the principal objective of constructivism…

is the definition of the Social Condenser of the age.”

 

Konstantin Melnikov was a favoured architect for the project. He’d shown his vision in action in his design for the USSR Pavilion for the 1925 International Exhibition of Modern, Industrial and Decorative arts. He was chosen to design the Svoboda ‘freedom’ Factory Club for the Chemists’ Trade Union.

Like so much in the first 10 years of Soviet rule everything had to be evaluated and decided for its appropriateness for achieving the greater goal. The expression Social Condenser was first used in 1928 by Moisei Ginsburg for the OSA group conference,

“the principal objective of constructivism… is the definition of the Social Condenser of the age.”

Building the clubs was one thing, deciding how the clubs would operate and for whom was another thing. Should it be a place for colleagues to relax (bearing in mind that every opportunity to teach the new philosophy had to be utilised), a place to educate the whole family unit, how would the clubs operate.

Sometimes referred to as Maxim Gorky Palace of Culture today the building has a protected status

Images Denis Esakov

* Quote with thanks to Dr Michal Murawsky for Strelka Magazine

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