This was the only private house built in Moscow during the Soviet era. The authorities were so taken with Melnikov’s extraordinary design that they even bailed him out when he ran out of money during construction.
The house comprises two intersecting cylinders, one taller than the other. The cylinder facing the street close to Arbatskaya Metro station, is faced with a wall of glass topped with a roof terrace; the second cylinder contains the architect’s studio and bedroom, designed rather mysteriously as a “sonata for sleep”. These remarkable rooms are 5 metres high and lit by beehive-like hexagonal windows. These are not randomly placed but a part of the complex geometry of the structure of the house, based on 200 hexagonal “modules”, 140 of which are infilled with brick and 60 of which are windows. You could try drawing the grid for yourself, but it might tie by your brain in knots.
Melnikov filled the house with ingenious gadgetry, including speaking tubes, a waste -disposal system and sliding doors that served two openings. The house was partly restored in 1990-1991 and at the end of the century is still lived in by Melnikov’s son. Although decidedly eccentric and not a house that every family would find easy to live in, the Melnikov house is a brave attempt to rethink domesticity and the architecture that frames it. That it has survived intact and longer than the USSR is a fact more remarkable than the design itself.