Look Back in Anger (Hotel Sovietskaya)

The Hotel Sovietskaya in Petersburg, as seen from 8th Red Army Street. Photo by the Russian Reader

The architects who designed the Hotel Sovietskaya (Levinson, Gankevich, Pribulsky, Panfilov, 1963-1965) on Lermontovsky Prospect in Leningrad-Petersburg are literally the only people in the city’s architectural history to have shown they had the slightest clue about how to design and situate a modern high-rise in a quite peculiar, “touchy” built environment.

And yet I have never heard anyone say a kind word about the building. Maybe I hang out with the wrong people, but I think the Hotel Sovietskaya is cool, stylish, and just the ticket.

Since no one learned any lessons from the Hotel Sovietskaya, however, the city’s reigning mafia of anarchitects and catastrophists have blithely sashayed from one soul-destroying monstrosity to the next, turning some parts of the city into unlivable aesthetic disaster zones.

People complain about these buildings, too, of course. So far as I know, however, the prevailing opinion is that the only decent new buildings in the inner city are imitations of pre-revolutionary buildings.

When proposed abstractly, that sounds like a plausible albeit boring approach to a thorny problem and a surly, anti-modernist public, but in reality local architects are as helpless when it comes to emulating neoclassicism, baroque, eclecticism, and art deco as they are all thumbs when the flavor of the day is constructivism and all other forms of modernism, early and late.

If you don’t believe me, go have a look at the dreadful “neoconstructivist” block of flats one of the city’s big-name nincompoops plopped down right next to Erich Mendelsohn’s now-denuded and orphaned Red Banner Factory power station, which has been given a “eurorenovation”-style makeover by way of subjugating it to the reigning architectural regime and local public opinion’s retro-tsarist disdain for modernism. ||| TRR, 6 November 2018

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