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IVAN LEONIDOV
 
 
 
 
  Name Ivan Ilyich Leonidov
     
  Born February 9, 1902
     
  Died November 6, 1959
     
  Nationality Russia
     
  School  
     
  Official website  
     
 
BIOGRAPHY
 

Ivan Leonidov began his formal art studies in the Svomas (free
art studios) in Tyer and continued his education from 1921
until 1927, at the VKhUTEMAS (Russian acronym for Higher
State Art and Technical Studios or workshops) in Moscow. It
was there, in the studio of Aleksandr Vesnin, that his interests
shifted from painting to architecture.

Leonidoy’s diploma project for the Lenin Institute and Li-
brary (1927) captured widespread attention and brought him
public prominence. Featured at the 1927 Exhibition of Contem-
porary Architecture in Moscow, the precocious scheme received
further recognition after its publication in the Constructivists’
architectural journal, Sovremennaia arkhitektura (Contemporary
Architecture).

Leonidoy’s design for the Lenin Institute, situated in the
Lenin Hills near Moscow, envisioned a centrifugal arrangement
of buildings connected to the slender and centrally placed book-
stack tower of the library. An elevated monorail connected the
institute to the city below and communicated with it by using
the best telephone systems of the time. His proposal also in-
cluded a science theater with a planetarium, various laboratories
and offices for the research personnel, and a spherical glass audi-
torium, audaciously supported by an inverted conical structure.

From 1927 to 1930 Leonidoy taught at the VRhUTEMAS
and was one of the editors of Sovremennaia arkhitektura. During
this period he produced unexecuted designs for a variety of
building types: the Sov-Kino Film Production Complex (1927),
the Tsentrosoyuiz Headquarters (1928) in Moscow, and the
Government Center in Alma-Ata (1928), projects for the Chris-
topher Columbus Monument in Santo Domingo (1929), and
the House of Industry in Moscow (1929). His design for Mos-
cow’s extensive Proletarsky district provided a full range of recre-
ational facilities for workers living in a comprehensively planned
environment.

As an active member of the Constructivist Objedinenie so-
vremennykh arkhitektorov (OSA; Society of Contemporary Ar-
chitects), Leonidov’s designs were a species apart. While the
other Constructivists tended to conceive of buildings as dynamic
combinations of functionally and geometrically distinct spaces,
Leonidov isolated the programmatic elements into simplified,
freestanding figures. The Constructivists generally articulated
the structure, and differentiated the cladding of their dynam-
icbuildings. Leonidov, however, preferred to neutralize the sur-
faces of his buildings, creating visual interest by vigorously con-
trasting the scale, geometric form, and orientation of the
buildings themselves.

Leonidov’s notable urban designs include a project for a Pal-
ace of Culture in Moscow and plans for the city of Magnito-
gorsk; both were designed in 1930 but remained unexecuted.
Located in the Urals, a new industrial center was conceived as
a linear city, extending from an industrial core out into the
countryside. It featured a broad residential spine that was placed
between two parallel zones reserved for parks, athletic facilities,
community service buildings, and the main highway. Streets

were placed perpendicular to this highway, and divided the city
into sectors, with each superblock defined by its zoning. The
scheme allowed for linear, incremental growth by the addition
of new sectors as the need arose.

In the early 1930s, Leonidov’s projects became embroiled
in the debate between the “urbanists,” representing traditional
planning ideas, and the “disurbanists,” who were supporters of
new urban paradigms. When the Soviet government began with-
drawing support for modernism, Leonidov's proposals drew in-
creasing criticism. In the official press, “Leonidovism” became
a derogatory term usually applied to projects deemed idealistic,
financially naive, utopian, or formalistic.

Leonidov responded to the critics by submitting a project of
striking originality for a 1934 design competition. The competi-
tion was for the headquarters of the Ministry of Heavy Industry
(Dom Narkomtiazhprom), sited in Red Square, Moscow’s most
important and sensitive site. For this project, Leonidov drew
inspiration from the vernacular buildings of medieval Russia,
and sought to engage the Kremlin, Lenin’s Mausoleum, and
the Church of St. Basil in a compositional dialogue. The new
ministry—a keystone of Stalin’s plans for rebuilding central Mos-
cow-also was intended as a counterpoint to the Palace of the
Soviets (1931), sited to the Kremlin’s southwest. Had these two
projects been built, they would have bracketed the medieval
Kremlin between them, and created a symbolically charged jux-
taposition celebrating Stalin’s regime.

Leonidov’s proposal for the Ministry of Heavy Industry con-
sisted of three skyscrapers, each one asserting its particular iden-
tity through its distinctive form, structure, and materials, Bridges

interconnected the three towers, which rose above an elongated
tribune of stepped terraces, created to better view the parades
in Red Square. The foremost and tallest tower, built from an
exposed skeleton frame, crowned its topmost stories with trusses
and radio antennas, Behind ic stood an elegantly elongated rota-
tional hyperboloid, its surface completely veneered with bricks
of black glass and punctuated by boldly projecting balconies.
‘The third tower, Y-shaped in plan, alternated concave curtain
walls of glass against flat end walls of concrete. North of this
tower, Leonidov placed an auditorium—a multicolored and
modestly scaled rotational hyperboloid—that responded in
modern terms to the neighboring Neoclassical Bolshoi Theatre.

From the mid-1930s to the start of World War II, Leonidov
worked for Moisei Ginzburg, producing various projects for
coastal sites in the Crimea. Of these projects, only the amphithe-
ater and ornamental staircase were built in 1937, for the park
of the Ordzhonikidze Sanatorium in Kisloyodsk. During this
period Leonidov also designed the House for Young Pioneers
(1935), built in Kalinin (Tver).

After World War II, Leonidoy developed his urban and archi-
tectural ideas in a series of sketches titled “City of the Sun,” a
utopian vision that remained unfinished. at his death. As his
work became better known in the 1970s, Leonidov’s significance

in modern architecture became internationally recognized.
K. Paut ZyGas

 
 
 
 
 
TIMELINE
 
Born in Vlasikh, Russia, 9 February 1902. Apprenticed to an
icon painter in Tver, Russia; studied art at the Svomas, Tver;
studied under Aleksandr Vesnin, VKhUTEMAS, Moscow
1921-27. Editor, Sovremennaia arkhitektura 1927-30. Instruc-
tor, VKhUTEMAS 1927-30. Member, Union of Contempo-
rary Architects (OSA). Died in Moscow, 6 November 1959.
 
 
 
 
 
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