Brutalism is harsh, rough, geometric, and the single most discordant architectural movement, calling to mind massive concrete spaceships – and nobody did it better than the Soviets. Some people say that these stark structures, which were popular in communist countries, are too cold to be beautiful. Yet, they often manage to be both sculptural and unapologetically functional at once.
Here are 10 of the Soviet Unions’ most iconic buildings of Brutalism:
1. Palace of Ceremonies (Wedding Palace), 1984
The Palace of Rituals or the Wedding Palace in Tbilisi, completed in 1984, is a masterpiece of Victor Djorbenadze. Like the cemetery complex, the wedding palace intended to bring life milestones in line with secular Soviet dogma while still making concessions to the public taste for ritual. Djorbenadze proposed a grand wedding palace design that incorporated elements such as frescoes, a bell tower, soaring interior spaces. The structure, drawing on influences as distinct as 1920s expressionism and medieval Georgian church architecture, met with mixed critical reviews.
2. Makedonium – Ilinden Monument, 1974
(Kruševo, North Macedonia)
The Makedonium, built-in 1974, is the symbol of statehood and an expression of freedom for the Macedonian people. The structure, located on land spread over 16 hectares, is designed by architects Jordan Grabulovski and IskraGrabulovski. Looking over the town of Krusevo, the Makedonium appears as a heart valve with ten enormous stained-glass skylights erecting out of its circular base. The visual appearance of the monument complex starts with broken chains, continues with a crypt and a bright mosaic of ceramic material, and ends with the unique building.
3. Druzhba Holiday Center Hall, 1984
This space-age building overlooking the Black, designed by famous Soviet architect Igor Vasilevsky, was built in 1986. The artistic concept draws heavily from science fiction depictions of futuristic cities, as well as the Soviet architectural tendencies to maximize public space in a space-age style. On the outside, the building appears harsh and blocky, but on the inside, it houses a circular spa that is open, light, and airy. The unique spaceship design allows for private balconies and amazing views from most of the rooms, with the center of the building containing social amenities like a saltwater pool, a cinema, and cafes.
4. The Bank of Georgia, 1970
The headquarters of the Bank of Georgia is an 18-story building on the outskirts of Georgia’s capital city of Tbilisi, completed in 1975. Initially, it housed the Ministry of Highway Construction of the Georgian SSR. The building, by architect George Chakhava, is notable for its unusual design, which resembles piled bricks and follows the architectural concept of the Space City Method, which is centered around the idea to allow foliage to grow in all spaces around and below a building. The structure consists of a grid of interlocking parts, with three parts, one oriented at an east-west axis, and two on a north-south axis.
5. The House of Soviets, 1970
Located in the center of Kaliningrad, The House of Soviets is a Russian brutalist building designed by architect Yulian L. Shvartsbreim. Built on the Königsberg Castle, which got drastically destroyed after the Second World War, The House of Soviets is a symbolic building for the city. Although the construction commenced in 1970, the building was abandoned mid-construction, leaving it unfinished. However, its inhabitants recognize it as the most momentous urban landmark in their city. The structure is usually referred to as ‘the face of the robot’ since its peculiar shape implores images of a robot buried up to its neck, only showing its face.
6. The Faculty of Architecture Building, Belarusian National Technical University, 1983
Completed in 1983, The Faculty of Architecture Building of the Belarusian State Technical University, or as some might call it Building #15, the ship or the airplane, located in Minsk, has been designed by the architects I. Yesman and V. Anikin. Back then, the architects did not take into account the will of the officials and tried to create a memorable image of the building, which would have represented Soviet Monumentalism. It is one of the most recognizable structures in the city as well as the country despite not being executed to a full degree.
7. Russian State Scientific Center for Robotics and Technical
(Saint Petersburg, Russia)
Completed in 1987, the Russian State Scientific Center for Robotics and Technical Cybernetics, in St. Petersburg, is one of the most famous buildings of the Soviet space architecture. Like most of Russia’s space travel-related architecture, the design of the building intends to communicate Soviet dominance in the exploration of outer space. A concertina-edged tower, also called the White Tulip that stands at the center of the complex, is a result of the above-stated ideology.
8. Het Poplakov Cafe, 1976
The Het Poplavok Cafe, built-in 1976, is located in Ukraine. Designed by architect Oscar GrigorievichHavkin, the structure appears to be a flying saucer that has remained static and earthbound for decades. The visual is a result of the structure hovering over a waterbody, leading to a perfectly doubled reflection.
9. Founders of the Bulgarian State Monument, 1981
Built-in 1981, Krum Damyanov and Ivan Slavov designed the memorial, commemorating the 1300 anniversary of the Bulgarian Empire. Perched on the heights of the town of Shumen, this massive monument, rising almost 1,500 feet above the sea level, is visible from as far as 18 miles away. The sculptors of the Founders of the Bulgarian State Monument gave kings and heroes the appearance of towering giants of stone, echoes of the past forever frozen in concrete. The menacing figures lurk in high corners of a geometric building with towering walls, reached by climbing a stern concrete staircase.
10. Fyodor Dostoevsky Theater of Dramatic Art, 1983
Designed in 1983 by Vladimir Somov, one of the Soviet Union’s eccentric, rising architects, the Theater was established to bring the dramatic arts to the people. Constructed over several years, the completion of the building coincided with the period of perestroika within the Soviet Union, effectively obscuring the facts of the building’s creation. With Escher-esque hallways and rooms within rooms, the theatre is a marvel that very few outsiders know about, even as it continues to function as an arts hall to this day.