"... Architect is the man who deals with human affairs... He must be an artist?
"... Architect is the man who deals with human affairs... He must be an artist and poet, and at the same time a knowledgeable engineer"... These are words of the great architect of the 20th century Le Corbusier. These words can be applied in full measure to the outstanding Soviet architect Konstantin Melnikov.
The man is 75 years old today, but his working study resembles a room of a student architect. Ideas both imposing and breathtaking come into being here, ideas that are ahead of the times...
This man's destiny is amazing, unusual, just as everything is amazing that came from his hands. To be ahead of the times is his calling.
His works first appeared at the beginning of this country. At that time human thought lunged forward so far that the planet could not catch up with it. That was the time of giants who were designing in earnest a city of the sun. The revolution gave impetus to Russian architecture and produced a number of brilliant men: the Vesnen Brothers, Golosov, Leonidov, Tatlin... These people challenged the petty middle-class sections...
The place of Melnikov was a special one. A farmer's son, he graduated in 1914 from the Moscow school of painting, sculpture and architecture. He studied under Valentin Serov and Korovin. Later he finished the department of architecture. His student works already stirred the imagination. They are small in size yet they condensed the spirit of skyscrapers, they carried the scale of the times of giants...
In 1922 Melnikov worked on an order from Paris for a bridge with a car park over it. Yet this design could not be translated into reality--they started building such structures in Europe only much later.
At the first agricultural exhibition in Moscow everyone's attention was drawn to the Shag Pavillion. This was an unusually shaped but convenient structure. Console protrusions were used in it for the first time in the world to become the most perfect kind of device today. The pavillion was designed by Melnikov.
When the Soviet pavillion was built at the World's Fair in Paris they started talking about him around the world. It was not easy at that time to compete with Europe or America but the first Soviet wonder was this small pavillion built of wood and light.
The ideas of the 1920s were at variance with the practical life of that time.
Konstantin Melnikov still lives in this round house of two cylinders cut into one another. For him this house was a testing ground to carry out architectural experiments. The house is striking from outside and amazing inside. Light comes in from every direction. It floods the round room from the cell windows. The world talked of the "golden bedroom" in a round house.
Melnikov stood in one row with the greatest architects of the world--Corbusier, Wright, Miswander Roe...
Soviet architecture of the 1920s and '30s set the pace for the entire world. It was considered the most progressive, bold and original... The art of Melnikov is always social in everything--for good reason his club houses and apartment houses in Moscow are considered a model of constructivism. There are 14 of them, and all are different, although each one has something unique really Melnikov-like.
They were a shot in broad daylight. The crowded streets of the 20s were intruded into with houses of streamlined shapes of the 60s.
The work of Konstantin Melnikov is amazing in its scale and scope. He was interested in everything. He offered designs of a theater auditorium with a revolving hall, three stages, He created living, breathing architecture.
The dynamics of its shapes was keynoted for a warm impulse: a structure seemed to open in space. It defeated space, yet did not break it down. 40 years ago Konstantin Melnikov made the blueprints of rebuilding the Arbat square in Moscow, in a light, easy-going, amazingly wonderful and simple way.
He created designs of big administrative buildings, whose roominess and nobility are next to their fantastic radiance.
His rhythm is subordinate to geometrism: there are soft arcs along the facade. He places an apartment house at a corner, although there is no corner to eliminate yards and shadows.
Melnikov produced movement even in static architecture. His design of a monument to Columbus which he cut for a contest in Santo Domingo amazed the judges. The monument was a revolving one in a new development.
Many designs of Konstantin Melnikov were left on paper, but what he has done is part of the treasure-house of modern architecture. When the veteran architect stops the work and leafs through the albums that contain everything he has done, he sees the cities of the sun, his fantastic designs of radiant and light-weight buildings. He believes that they are still to be built as the problems he advanced have not been made matters of the past yet. Breaking the steady order of the time, he has proved to be ahead of it.
Round the corner of a little Arbat bystreet in Moscow the architecture of the 1920s lives and can be turned with use into architecture of tomorrow... Konstantin Melnikov's motto is this: "Creation is something when one can say it is mine". His works are the best proof of this motto.