Magnitogorsk-Proposal for a New Town

Ural Mountains 1930

68 Until 1929, Leonidov had not been involved in the planning of new settlements, or even in the design of housing. By this date, the ideological architectural debate in these areas had become dominated by the controversy between "urbanists" and "de-urbanists." As a result of this polarization, the housing projects of the period came to be formulated in increasingly extreme terms. The urbanists proposed gigantic urban blocks; each one housing a thousand or more inhabitants. This super-collectivized comhinats were to be equipped with such facilities as nurseries, gymnasia, sports halls, and even with cafeterias where the food was to have been distributed on conveyor belts. Due to the number and density of the populations to be housed, the overriding concern of efficiency led to communal blocks where the quality of life was completely overshadowed by economic considerations; Sahsovitch's project for super-collectivization organized daily life along military lines, where even minutes were rationed out according to a daily timetable, as if time itself had become a rare commodity. Such arrangements frequently presupposed a level of urban sophistication which was totally absent in the actual inhabitants.

The extreme de-urbanist a1teruative was to be a continuous ribbon of individual cubicles running through the virgin countryside, served at regular intervals by a chain of social amenities .. This linear system was assumed to magically dissolve existing cities wherever it encountered them. While the dehumanizing size of the first solution was totally unacceptable, the sub-density and extreme dispersal of the second would have obviously condemned its inhabitants to a level of isolation which was utterly anti-social.

"The problem of the socialist settlement, and especially that of the commune house, has not yet been solved. The standard house-communes, architectural copies of old prototypes such as hotels or barracks, cannot respond to the new organization of society." (Doma-Kommunu, Moscow, 1931.)

When Leonidov established criteria for the Leningrad student commune, he insisted that the prime aim was "first, a new social concept, and second, its translation into architecture. "

1 Magnitogorsk proposol for a new town. Ural Mountains, 1930. Ivan Leonidov. Propaganda poster: "For Soviet Power dirigible construction. "

In Magnitogorsk, the population of the commune was to be subdivided into smaller groups. Each communal house was designed to house sixteen people, while groups of eight such houses made a neighborhood of 128 people. There were to be individual rooms in which to sleep, work, and relax, and com, munal areas for hygiene, leisure and eating. In the immediately surrounding parkscape, the following amenities would also be provided: nurseries, a kindergarten, a central club for cultural activities, a cinema, a meeting hall/auditorium, and fields for physical exercise and for mass demonstrations.

Leonidov was also to project intriguing alternatives for the organization of the standard neighborhood five-by-five square block. In some cases the five-by-five sector would become the site for two thirteen-storey towers using the same cruciform plan and section as the low-rise two-storey communal dwellings. With each tower, accomodating 96 peopie, the total population per sector was 192_ Each sector was provided with its own boating/swimmingpoo! which was trally located in the twin tower solution and asymmetrically situated in the low-rise pattern.

The settlement of sectors were also designed for gradual occupation; and Leonidov shows a version in which the sector is still partly given over to horticulture.

The following aims were sought in this organization:

1. The arrangement of a group living in such a way as to avoid enforced socialization and excessive densities which would inhibit the spontaneity of daily life;

2. to establish a close relationship between architecture and nature thereby abolishing private lots and gardens;

3. to provide a maximum freedom for living arrangements and for interpersonal relationships;

4. to create a state of resilience (elan de vie) through the planned organization of a given territory.

15 Magnitogorsk. Plan. Central band composed of alternating low and

• •••••• ~, ""-i"", bordered '" """,.


6 Magnitogorsk. Detail of Model. View from above.

7 Magnitogorsk. Alternating system of residential low-rise and high-rise /ruildings. Perspective detail.

8 Magnitogorsk. Sector of plan showing its division into five separate zones. The first two zones are devoted to parkscape; the next two to sports facilities, including playcourts and boating pool. The final zone is given over to horticulture. Also, plans and elevations of standard building types are shown.


10,11 Ma .

gnttogorsk s«

. t e plans.






.~ .. --.


16 Magnitogorsk. Prototypical twostorey residence. Elevation.

17 Magnitogorsk. Prototypical residential interior. Perspective.

14 Magnitogorsk. Prototypical twostorey residence. Ground floor partitioned into eight individual cells, terrace, winter garden, sports facilities, etc.

15 Magnitogorsk. Prototypical twostorey residence. Section showing stairs.


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