Konstantin Melnikov
Architecture, 1920-1930

It is ironic
that the style of architecture dominating the capitalist cities of the world owes much of their design influence to revolutionary Russia. The dynamism and utopian ideals of the Russian socialist revolution of 1917 were also evident in the arts through a movement known as 'Contructivism'. It was an art movement, which included all the arts and focused on pure geometric composition and strong dynamic lines.

Konstantin Melnikov born in 1890 was a Russian architect who broke with the Classical tradition of architecture and pioneered revolutionary building designs in the 1920's. These buildings still appear refreshingly modern and contemporary today.

Melnikov's buildings appear to be in motion, spiraling upwards, stepping out of themselves. They are dynamic designs of pure shapes and simplified forms. His works often proposed bold structural process such as cantilevering floors and walkways. He also proposed revolutionary sites for structures such as a multi-level car park perched across a river, on a bridge in Paris.

For this exhibition, design schools around Europe have recreated models of many of Melnikov's buildings. They are displayed in a stunning 'contructivist' backdrop of angled Perspex and revolutionary red walls. The exhibition includes graphic documentary material as well as an excellent video on the life of the architect.

In 1931, Melnikov proposed his 'Green City' concept for a Moscow district. This was a utopian and theoretical plan for a better urban environment, which was designed around the needs of people. His idea centered on the need for quality rehabilitative sleep. Melnikov recognized that humans spend almost a third of their life asleep and saw this time as restorative -- almost miraculous and curative.

Melnikov's Green City was planned around a circle, which was divided into six sectors of forest, collective farmlands, gardens, zoo and children's sectors. Situated in the middle was the 'Institute of for the Transformation of Humankind'. The rise of Stalin meant the fall of utopian reformers. In design, the official preference was for traditional triumphant classical forms.

In 1937, Melnikov was officially dismissed as an architect. His work from a decade in the 1920's remains as one of the most creative and dynamic in architectural history. It was not until 1972 when he was belatedly recognized in his own country and awarded the title of 'Architect of Merit'. Perhaps one of the great understatements of the 20 century.

Gallery Ma through December 21