January 01, 2011

Stalin's Highrises

Anyone who has been inside Moscow State University’s towering Main Building atop Lenin Hills (aka Sparrow Hills) has encountered a strange reality. First, there is the vast, dizzying open spaces of the external landscape. Then, there is the site’s gripping composition of architectural shapes. Next, there is the entrance with its impressive granite columns. Then, when you step inside, there is a narrow corridor, walls painted in unattractive colors, and perilously low ceilings – as if the interior were being crushed by the building’s colossal weight.

“That’s it?” you ask.

This dramatic tonal shift continues as you head to the dormitories: the largest part of the building is comprised of student living space. Here we encounter small, narrow rooms with unbelievably high ceilings, rooms where you literally cannot alter anything: the window can only be opened if the bookcase is in exactly its assigned spot. If you move it, nothing opens.

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