Monday, August 24, 2009

The funniest story about the garden city is the building of Gorky. Supposed to be the model socialist city to crown Stalin's Five Year Plan, construction was contracted out to "the premier industrial builder in America, the Austin Company of Cleveland, Ohio." Rejecting Soviet architects' Futurist blueprints as unworkable, but baffled at how to accommodate Communists, the Austin Company simply drew up a garden city along American lines.

Incidentally, Stalin's Five Year Plan was practically run by the "foremost American architect of the first half of the 20th century," Albert Kahn, also known as the "builder of Detroit" and "Henry Ford's architect."

Also incidentally - Magnitogorsk, intended to be the Soviet's largest steelworks and indeed one of the grandest in the world, was planned by none other than Weimar German architects (members of Ernst May's "Red Brigade," a leftist faction of Bauhaus) and American engineers who together lived ensconced in a verdant suburb outside Magnitogorsk called "the American City." The suburb had been copied from an American architectural catalogue, and Magnitogorsk itself was based on the model of Gary, Indiana. At night, in the "American City," jazz escaped from the manors and drifted away with the wind on the barren steppes.