Stalin used architecture as a political and ideological tool to reflect the modernity, ambition and triumph of the Soviet Union. After crushing avant-garde architecture (as well as other experimental art forms), Stalin sought a new style that would express the image of the Soviet state: the Stalin Empire. It was led by architect Boris Iofan – the remarkable subject of Deyan Sudjicthe biography of Stalin’s Architect: Power and Survival in Moscowshortlisted for the Pushkin House Book Prize 2022.

A gifted designer and a committed communist, Iofan quickly rose to fame as the Soviet Union’s most famous architect. He was instrumental in the development of the new national style, moving from his earlier constructivist conceptions to drawing up designs for the Stalinist Empire. He developed large projects such as the House on the Quay, the official residence of the Soviet elite (a third of whom disappeared from this same house during Stalin’s purges); early sketches for Moscow State University on Sparrow Hills; and the unrealized but iconic Palace of the Soviets, which led to the blasting of the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour. Iofan’s work took him to the Universal Exhibition in Paris in 1937, where his Soviet pavilion faced that of Albert Speer’s Nazis; and in Stalingrad to develop a strategy for rebuilding the desecrated city.

Yet architecture and politics went hand in hand, and Yofan found himself at the center of Soviet political life. His success depended not just on his technical excellence, but on his ability to navigate and survive the treacherous, conspiratorial and murderous situation of the upper echelons of the state. How did Iofan have to sacrifice his integrity and talent to stay alive amid Stalin’s purges?

Rejoin Teacher Deyan Sudjic and Doctor Michal Murawski for a discussion of the architect, an exploration of architecture as an instrument of statecraft, and the personal story of a man who witnessed many of the most pivotal moments in modern history.


About Author

Comments are closed.