“Everything is in a state of flux in this city,” the author Franz Carl Weiskopf reported firm Moscow in 1932. “Where a little church might have stood during your previous visit , a huge workers club is now going up.” In the mid-1920s, the Soviet capital was in the grip of a bulging boom, which had been made possible by the “New Economic Policy” propagated by Lenin. Particularly striking in the urban context at that time were the new building types that were being erected for revolutionary education, public services , recreation , and housing for the “socialist people.” In addition to the buildings for the communes with small housing cells, there were large-scale communal developments like libraries and dining halls, together with central kitchens and large garages, public baths and department stores. One building type in particular was to become the architectural symbol of the new society : the workers’ club.
As an important instrument of the cultural revolution , the club was meant to serve the needs of political , aesthetic , and physical education. The workers’ clubs were built by the unions or by individual industrial works. In Moscow, the club buildings , which are of great significance in the history of architecture , were designed mainly by one architect , Konstantin Melnikov, who had achieved international recognition with his Soviet Pavilion at the World Exposition in Paris in 1925. This glazed building with boldly coloured elements and a timber skeleton frame was like a signal banner of the new age.
In Moscow, Melnikov built five worker’s clubs. In their spatial and volumetric composition, they were strongly different from each other. The Rusakov Club for Municipal Workers completed in 1929, was a masterpiece of functionalism. Located on an arterial road near Sokolniki Park , this building’s exiting form is recognisable from afar. Three prominent balcony-blocks are built like wedges into the symmetrical volume of the building, the main facade of which is in concrete and glass . The courtyard face, in contrast, is in brickwork. The blocks contain three small auditoria for 200 people apiece. Those were to be used either individually or in combination with the halls and stalls area below to form a single large space for 1200 people. As a result of problems with the electro-mechanical movement of the dividing screens , however , the simultaneous use of the halls for different purposes had to be abandoned after only a short time.
As a member of the Soviet avant-garde, Melnikov belonged to the constructivist group, which took the precision of the machine as an architectural model. Selim O. Chan-Magomedov, an expert on the Soviet pioneers, places Melnikov’s work in a different formal category from Expressionism because it was motivated “not by external dynamics but by the explicitness of the structure and not by untroubled statists, but by the inward tensions of the architectural form.” If one sees the club house today, which is still used or cultural and sporting events, one will understand why Melnikov compared his building to a “tensed muscle.”