06 October 2007

Urban development. Mikhail Veller.

Mikhail Veller.
Excerpt from The Last Great Chance.
Translation: mine ©

14. Urban Development

This feature is demonstrated fully and with amazing directness in the appearance of Russian cities.

Russian cities are astonishingly unattractive. They are nondescript. They are not even cities from the point of view of architecture and aesthetic spatial organization. They are simply an accumulation of buildings for the purpose of life and work. These buildings are set in every which way, based on the financial means and the logic of the labor process.

You know, we usually don’t notice this, don’t see it. We were born and live here, grow up and love – “This is our motherland, sonny boy…” You must visit the cities of the world – not brilliant capitals, but rather various cities and towns, in order to ruin your mood because of your destiny. It’s harmful, harmful to allow Russians abroad!...

The best, the most convenient example – Moscow-“the-beautiful”. We are not talking about outskirt, sleeper districts – they are equally faceless and outwardly talent-lacking, pitiful, and cookie-cutter all over Russia. Dwellings for crowds of cheap labor. But – look at the center! Meaningless piling of each and every trend, style, storey, purpose, a complete and utter lack of coordination of the space between the buildings, blocks, alleys, a disorganized alternation of facings, store windows, asphalt, and tiles. Everyone barged in with his structure in any way he could, not giving a damn about the neighbors, with which nothing could be done anyway.

The idea of Moscow as a city is a horde, pile, overcrowding, clutter, apathy towards those who and which are nearby; above all – the desire to rip off and assert one’s own interest, the power of money above any power, chaos as the principle of life.

Take a look at the historic cobble stone of the Red Square – look at the waves, by the means of which the first, most important, grand distance of the Empire marches on! What – is it really impossible to even it out like a table? The utter horror of the VIP box seats – Red Square’s waves. And if this – a continuous sloping pothole – isn’t visible on TV – so to hell with it, let’s leave it as is! – then what else can one expect?...Can the public really respect itself with such a pothole?

So there you have your piss-covered entrances and broken bottles. And thugs.

And until the first faces of the country – yes, just like back in the day, only for real! – come out with actual brooms and participate in subbotniks, while the punks littering all over the city get prosecuted in an orderly fashion…Eh, empty words…

Deliberately flawed reasoning. State’s armored military machinery is no longer capable of participating in Red Square parades, due to the fact that Manezhnaya Square had been thoroughly tunneled by an underground shopping center; the tanks would simply fall through into it. And this underground shopping center largely belongs to (or is it – in part? Or does it rake off plenty?) Moscow mayor Luzhkov, which means that it’s absolutely impossible to challenge this trade, since it’s too profitable.

Private business money is more valuable than the power and pride of the nation.

And this is the nation’s folk? This is whoring trash.

A city, like nothing else, embodies the system-forming instinct of the people. The city is not a pile of houses. It is a system, created out of buildings and the space between them in their congruency and interrelation. The creation of the city as a system is a skill and an independent art form.

The city – is when vertical and horizontal lines of buildings and the space between them in the aggregate are that very totality, which a simple sum, a simple place-conjunction of houses and blocks is not.

The city is intentionality, an organism, a painting and a sculpture per se, self-value.

The only city in the Empire is St. Petersburg. It was built by Italians – the best architects in the world at that time. They knew, and consequently tsars understood – a city is a single whole, its system reflects the nation’s system, its systematic spirit.

Italy, Germany, Spain, France, England, Austria are filled with cities. Russia is not.

And let’s do without arrogance. Pride must be constructive. Negation of one’s own negative traits is the most certain way toward their development and furthermore – toward our very own harm and demise.

An organized space means: we are together, a united community, of one fate, each other’s defenders and helpers, together we are better and stronger rather than alone and apart. It is therefore not surprising that only the citizens of Leningrad were known in the USSR for their goodwill, decency, honesty, pride without arrogance, and an overall embodied blueprint of virtue.


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