a new russian architecture vernacular

On Monday, I received the assignment for my second project of the semester. I have been assigned to design a “dwelling” for an unconventional family consisting of two unrelated adults each with a dependent child. To add another spin on the project, I need to incorporate my ethnic heritage, Russian, into the design.

The first thing that came to mind was the magnificent onion domes seen on St. Basil’s Cathedral and other traditional Russian buildings. But this feature was not usually used for residential structures and therefore was not a good representation of Russian residential architecture.

Russian architecture has an interesting story. The country of Russia has a rich history which brought about movements in art, design, and architecture. However, the emergence of the USSR had a vastly different effect on those areas.

Thus, the “mikrorayon,” or microdistrict, was born. Yana Golubeva defines “mikrorayon” in her case study entitled “From Traditional Soviet Microdistricts towards Lively Neighborhoods”:

n. mikrorayon – a basic urban planning unit in the soviet and post-soviet cities; the unit is defined by the arterial roads, no through streets run through the lot only the internal driveways; the buildings within the given plot are usually formed according to the compositional idea; they kind of flow in the space, the borders between the public/private/semi-private are blurred (Golubeva, 2012)

Source from: https://sites.eca.ed.ac.uk/docomomoiscul/files/2014/09/Yasyenyevo-mikrorayon-to-SE-of-metro-2013-7.jpg

Source from: http://kreditvomske.ru/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/wpid-omsk-12-mikrorayon_i_1.jpg

When the “mikrorayon” started to be developed on a large scale in the 1950s, it was for economic and social reasons. The new political system called for social values to represented by the buildings and to offer affordable housing to as many people as possible. Therefore, prefabricated building became a dominant system of urban development in the USSR. This type of design and construction was considerable more economical. The short time to construct such buildings was an important factor in the develop of the mikrorayon. (Hatherley, 2015)

With all of this in consideration, I am both intrigued by the mikrorayon and exasperated by it. Rational thinking and reason went into the development of modern architecture in Russia but it obviously seems to lack identity and true artistic expression.

I then researched a little bit about the traditional Russian country home called an “izba.” An “izba,” based on its Wikipedia entry, is a log-cabin farmhouse. As you will seen in the images below, an izba does boast some ornamental decoration but is generally a simple design.

Source from: http://russiatrek.org/blog/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/vitoslavlitsy-folk-architecture-museum-russia-1.jpg

Source from: http://russiatrek.org/blog/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/vitoslavlitsy-folk-architecture-museum-russia-2.jpg

Source from: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/7/77/Russia-Suzdal-MWAPL-House_of_Poor_Peasant-1.jpg

Source from: http://www.russiainedita.com/images/immaginisiberianlisadventure/Izba%20fiabesca.JPG

For this project, I would really like to blend these two contradictory styles, adding a dash of 2016 and a pinch (or two) of Hannah Vuozzo. Stay tuned.


Golubeva, Y. (2012). From Traditional Soviet Microdistricts towards Lively Neighborhoods [PDF]. 48th ISOCARP.

Hatherley, O. (2015, August 27). How the Soviet Union’s utopian ideals turned into an architectural nightmare. Retrieved February 09, 2016, from http://www.cnn.com/2015/08/27/architecture/communist-architecture-ussr-soviet-union/


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