The Charnel-House

BAUHAUS vs. CONSTRUCTIVISM: A comparison between Walter Gropius 1922 proposal for the Chicago Tribune and the Vesnins’ 1923 proposal for the Palace of Labor in Moscow.

There is a curious comparison between the Vesnins’ palace and Walter Gropius’ project of a building for the Chicago Tribune, which was also completed in 1923, and which — in the laconic simplicity of the same framework of horizontal and vertical lines — in fact has close parallels with the palace.

But these two almost simultaneous projects, which arrived at a single system of external partition as the function of a single construction, clearly highlight the difference between the tasks confronting each other.  At a time when Gropius’ Chicago Tribune, a brilliantly executed, radically constructed object designed with a new simplicity, has for its inner content the typical American conception of the “Business House,” the Vesnins’ “palace” originates from a new social conception of the organism of a building, so establishing a fundamental characteristic of constructivism.

Although the Vesnins’ next work — the joint-stock company ARCOS building — is on the surface completely unlike the Chicago Tribune building, it comes far closer to it in its essence for the simple reason that by dint of the peculiarities of the job and the site, it represents the typical planned conception of comparable banks, and reduces all the revolutionary achievements of the authors to a mere external design.

Moisei Ginzburg, “Results and Prospects” (Sovremennaia arkhitektura, 1927).

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