Far be it from me to endorse anything proposed by the regime of Vladimir Putin, but permit me to embrace the classical judicial complex to be built in St. Petersburg. As the blogger Andrew Cusack points out, the Russian architect Maxim Atayants has won a competition to build a new judicial complex in the old czarist capital, where the state judiciary will relocate from Moscow. Whether the entire complex, illustrated extensively here, gets built, especially with energy prices swooning, the aspiration voiced by Atayants’s victory in the design competition speaks volumes – good news in a country where a lot of bad is going on (invading neighbors, suppressing its own citizens’ rights, etc.).
Discerning readers will have noticed that the formulation of the first sentence above resembles that of the first sentence in my recent post on Xi Jinping’s denunciation of “weird” architecture in China. One need not jump on board the regrettable bandwagon of authoritarian rule to feel a thrill up one’s leg at the notion that the world’s two leading nondemocratic powers are itching to shuck off modernism. Of course, Xi’s remarks and Atayants’s victory do not mean that modernism has been dethroned. Far from it.
Yet more classical architecture is being built on a grand scale in Russia, its former republics, and in China than in America, Europe or other parts of the world. Often the design quality leaves much to be desired, and one wonders, with Jane Jacobs, whether these grand assemblages of classical confections will work any better than the Radiant City type. (We know they will look better, at least.) Still, the rejection of modernism cannot come fast enough, and one wallows with delight at every hint of it, even if a return to tradition proceeds haltingly in its wake.