Potemkin justice for Russia?

Central plaza of proposed judicial complex in St. Petersburg, Russia. (andrewcusack.com)

Central plaza of proposed judicial complex in St. Petersburg, Russia. (andrewcusack.com)

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.



About David Brussat

This blog was begun in 2009 as a feature of the Providence Journal, where I was on the editorial board and wrote a weekly column of architecture criticism for three decades. Architecture Here and There fights the style wars for classical architecture and against modern architecture, no holds barred. History Press asked me to write and in August 2017 published my first book, "Lost Providence." I am now writing my second book. My freelance writing on architecture and other topics addresses issues of design and culture locally and globally. I am a member of the board of the New England chapter of the Institute of Classical Architecture & Art, which bestowed an Arthur Ross Award on me in 2002. I work from Providence, R.I., where I live with my wife Victoria, my son Billy and our cat Gato. If you would like to employ my writing and editing to improve your work, please email me at my consultancy, dbrussat@gmail.com, or call 401.351.0457. Testimonial: "Your work is so wonderful - you now enter my mind and write what I would have written." - Nikos Salingaros, mathematician at the University of Texas, architectural theorist and author of many books.
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1 Response to Potemkin justice for Russia?

  1. Pingback: Russia advances court beauty | Architecture Here and There

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