‘Sun, Air, and Homes for All’? Soviet Variations on European Experiences of Mass Housing Construction during the First Five-Year Plans


  • Eugenia Konysheva Department of Theology, Culture and Fine Arts, South Urals State University,




The article is focused on a little-studied aspect of Soviet urban planning – the transformations of foreign experience in the sphere of housing construction during the early Five-Year Plans. The aim is to analyze what the content of such experience was and how it was transformed under the Soviet circumstances. First of all, the article considers the experience of the mass housing construction in Weimar Germany, which in the late 1920s – early 1930s was regarded as a benchmark for the Soviet practice. Attention is paid to the organization of the design and construction of mass housing, financial sources, the planning principles and their social, economic, hygienic and aesthetic grounds. The author examines ways of implementation of “healthy” mass housing, based on such components as light, air, sunshine, hygiene and greenery. In the second part of this article the attention is focused on the specifics of the order system, funding and organization of housing construction in the USSR during the period of industrialization. The attempt of introduction of the European experience is considered through the example of residential housing in “socialist cities” of Magnitogorsk, Novokuznetsk, and Orsk, which were designed by E. May, M. Stam, W. Schwagenscheidt, W. Hebebrandt and other foreign architects invited to the Soviet Union. The author identifies direct origins of certain design decisions in the previous practice of European architects and compares the design intent and the result. It is shown that under the circumstances of different housing policy and accentuation of collectivized housing, European architects sought to preserve the functionality of planning projects and sanitation/hygienic priorities, as well as tried to apply methodology of flexible design – taking into account the perspective transformation of dwellings. Through the prism of the activity of foreign architects in the USSR the author compares Soviet and European concepts of mass housing. Primarily, it is noted that the Soviet practice of mass housing design was subdued to “coefficient of efficiency”, which dominated over concepts of functionality and comfort, demonstrating the pivotal difference in the understanding of mass economic housing in the USSR and Weimar Germany.

Author Biography

Eugenia Konysheva, Department of Theology, Culture and Fine Arts, South Urals State University,

Associate Professor


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How to Cite

Konysheva, E. (2016). ‘Sun, Air, and Homes for All’? Soviet Variations on European Experiences of Mass Housing Construction during the First Five-Year Plans. Quaestio Rossica, 4(3), 34–54. https://doi.org/10.15826/qr.2016.3.174



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