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Friday, April 23, 2004
More conservation. Tearing Down Moscow (thanks Yance) is filled with stories of Russia's vanishing heritage, with the tale of the neglected 1932 Narkomfin building especially poignant. Designed by a collective (of course) led by one Moisei Ginzburg, the Narkomfin was a prototype city within a city, an idea later developed by Le Corbusier with the Unite d'Habitation (1952) and, more immediately, in self-contained blocks like the Lawn Road Flats in Hampstead, opened just two years after its Russian precursor. These later ideas were 'socialist lite' in comparison with the all-consuming environment of the Narkomfin, with its creche, roof garden, solarium, library and dry cleaners (in short, everything the aspiring urban yuppy would expect to find in their new riverside lofts).

[An aside, I can't find an online image, but the pod-like structures in the Ginzburg link are remarkably similar to the future London set designed for the 1954 television play of George Orwell's 1984. So here's a poorly acquired image of Future London, taken from Colin Sorenson's excellent book, London on Film (more London locations). I would dearly love this book, Style and Epoch: Moisei Ginzburg, but it's fearfully pricey.]

As we now know, utopian architecture didn't go according to plan, and the building now languishes on the World Monuments Fund list of 100 Most Endangered (they're missing a serious trick with that site - where are the beautiful illustrations of all 100 buildings?). There's also a recent piece in the Guardian on the back of the most recent destructive fire in the city, when the Manezh hall was gutted in March. As a local conservationist observes, 'In Moscow fires often occur at just the right moment.'

Narkomfin also crops up in Yale's extensive Annals of Communism site, under the section Stalinism as a Wy of Life. This huge collection of images and documents of the Soviet experiment turning on itself with savage fury. Narkomfin was shorthand for the People's Commissariat of Finance (who perhaps had a hand in financing the building?), but this chilling letter from 1929 denounces some of the company's employees - as 'wreckers'. A purge would inevitably follow.

Areal, ten years in the life of a Munich suburb photographed by Joachim Brohl (via conscientious, who also provides a link to the amazing high speed photography of Naoya Hatakeyama, last seen in London at the exhibition Speed: Visions of an Accelerated Age at both the Whitechapel and the Photographers' Gallerys in 1998 / an immensely in-depth look at Vermeer’s Portrait of a Girl with a Peal Earring (via portage).

Elsewhere. Gene Sequencer, a flash game that drove me insane. Floats is similar but a bit more fun / Pixies setlist comparison device (via consumptive) / tubetrack, a neat little desktop applet that informs you how soon the next tube train is due at your nearest station. It would make you a bit rushed, though. What I'd like is a kitchen clock that picks up train times from our local station and streams them across its LED display. Now that would be useful.