Russian Avant-Garde Architectural Theory

Arkhitektura i Mnimosti [architecture and imaginariness] or the Mystical-Philosophical Basis of Russian "Rationalism"


The focus of this course will be to explore early 20th-c. Russian avant-garde Rationalist architectural theory, the body of artistic and architectural works that it produced, and its origins in a 19th-c. Russian Slavophile intellectual tradition that integrated mystical-religious, philosophical and mathematical ways of thinking. A major contribution of the Russian architectural avant-garde to Western modern architecture has been the incorporation of dynamism, the explicit expression of motion, in architecture. Its primary source was the experiments of the Russian Rationalists, derived from individual and collective attempts to manifest the “imaginary” space of higher consciousness located in non-Euclidean space, in the fourth dimension of time, and to find ways of expressing, if not incorporating, this space in architecture. These experiments may also be described as seeking in architecture the space of the synthesis of rational and non-rational modes of thought, the space where the Slavophile philosophers’ edinstvo (unity, or literally “one-ness”) of technology and spirituality can be made manifest through the art of architecture. Russian avant-garde Rationalist theory, its fundamental tenets derived from nineteenth-century Russian Slavophile philosophy, may be recognized for its potential to inform today’s debates on the relationship of art and science in architecture, particularly in the contemporary domain of virtual space. The material presented in this course also serves as a case study within the larger context of exploring relationships among culture, technology and design thinking.