Smart Growth Parallels Russian Soviet Planning

By Freedom Advocates Staff
November 3, 2005

“…A new type of living quarters will be developed along the lines of uniting establishments for public use with residential units. This is the trend in many architectural projects represented at the USSR Exhibition of Urban Construction in the spring of 1960…”

Excerpts from The Soviet Review, A Journal of Translations, Volume 2, Number 4, April, 1961. (The Soviet Review’s editors selected the most representative articles published in the Soviet Union in major areas.)  Research credit: Susan O’Donell

This is from an article called “What Will Our Future Cities Look Like?”
By A. Obraztsov

“Some interesting figures were presented at the International Congress of Architects in Moscow. They indicated that humanity would have to build 1.5 times more housing facilities by the end of the century than it had built throughout its entire existence on earth. By the end of the Seven-Year Plan period some 15 million apartment units will have been built in the Soviet Union and of course a corresponding number of schools, kindergartens, motion picture theaters, shops, clubs and other public, cultural and service buildings.

The residential district is one of the chief components of any city or town. If the system of accommodations and services is well planned, the town’s main problem may be considered solved…What are the architects’, engineers’, and builders’ conceptions of new cities?

They will not build streets bordered on both sides by houses, nor will there be any residential houses with inner yards and passages…

It is planned to build houses of several types. There will be hotel-type houses designed for bachelors and families of two. Such houses will be integrated with a public service block. Here residents will be able to have their clothes mended and washed; there will be a small club for rest, dancing, etc. Apartment houses of four to five stories for medium-sized families will be the most frequent type built. And last but not least, there will be houses for large families. These will be two-story cottages.

The USSR Academy of Building Construction and Architecture has worked out a new town building system whose underlying principle is systematic development of all forms of servicing, beginning with the simplest ones located directed on the premises of residential houses or groups of houses and stemming out to public centers designed to service the population of entire districts.

A system where each district is divided into residential compounds–microdistricts–with a population of 6,000 to 10,000 has proved to be best. Each microdistrict will have one school, two combined pre-school children’s establishments (a kindergarten and a nursery), a food shop, a personal service shops, a cafeteria, club, and building maintenance office.

All the residential houses within a microdistrict are to be grouped in smaller compounds with a population of about 2,000 each. Each of these compounds will have its primary servicing post. Delivery services and automatic vending machines will provide the residents with foodstuffs, ready-cooked meals, and semi-prepared food. The residents will be able to relax in the recreation hall, entertain guests and have family affairs and children’s celebrations, and do their own work in the house workshops.

…It will be possible to take care of many chores all at once: to shop, have dinner at the cafeteria, have one’s suit mended or pressed–everything will be right at the house.

Besides being convenient, these public and trade centers are also economically efficient both in construction and operation: due to their compactness they involve less of an outlay for communications, roads and other amenities.

There may also be a possibility of combining several institutions in one building. A common assembly hall, common vestibule and cloak room suggest themselves.

…By applying these new principles for residential district planning and building and by using a multi-stage system of servicing the population we may resolve, to the fullest possible degree, all the contradictions of the contemporary town. Apart from considerable savings in materials and funds in the erection and maintenance of these buildings, savings that may run as high as 20%. Of course the point is not only these savings. More important will be the added comfort, beauty and joy that are to come to each city, town, house and home.”


This is an excerpt from “The Microdistrict and New Living Conditions”
By A. Zhuravlyev and M. Fyodorov

“Old Living Versus New”

“To many people in the West the ideal of a comfortable dwelling is a private house with many rooms. “My home is my castle,” says the Englishman. This is an eloquent expression of private-property psychology, of goals in bourgeois society. The more rooms a house has, the more household functions may be conducted there, the more comfortable does it look in the eyes of its owner. Drawing rooms, ballrooms, children’s rooms, bedrooms, studies, servants’ quarters–such is the approximate description of what is considered the ideal house abroad.

Even in our country some people believe that in the future our individual living quarters will be equally spacious. Those who do think so are greatly mistaken.

No doubt in the future our living quarters will be comfortable, since the development of technology and the general high standard of life in our society will ensure every opportunity for this. But the question arises whether there is any need for such an abundance of rooms in an apartment. After all, not many rooms are required for sleeping, rest and some kind of home occupation during one’s free time. And is there any need to preserve in the future all the household functions which we now have? We do not think so.

How is the problem of future living conditions to be solved? Only by a consistent development of public catering, of cultural and educational services. Large catering establishments, model dining rooms and cafeterias with better food than can be provided at home, various kinds of shops, universal service agencies–all this will replace the home kitchen and do away with petty household chores. Boarding schools, kindergartens and creches will make our life easier in many ways. Thus there will be no need for individual kitchens, storage rooms, servants’ quarters and so on.

…The new trend toward organization of services not only leads to the liberation of women from the drudgery of unproductively spent labor; it also greatly helps to improve the conditions for raising our new generation.

Public education is of special importance in the formation of the man of the future communist society. Under collective methods of upbringing in boarding schools and kindergartens where the children stay all week long except on free days, our children, experiencing the beneficial influence of their coequals, will be brought up from an early age in a spirit of collectivism, receiving at the same time the rudiments of all-sided development of their individual abilities. Extreme individualism and egotism, so frequently characteristic of spoiled children reared in small families, will be eradicated…

A new type of living quarters will be developed along the lines of uniting establishments for public use with residential units. This is the trend in many architectural projects represented at the USSR Exhibition of Urban Construction in the spring of 1960…”

Smart Growth Parallels Russian Soviet Planning

Print Friendly, PDF & Email