Horizontal Skyscrapers 1923-1925 by El Lissitzky

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

“We live in the cities born long before us. Cities unfit for the rhythm and needs of today. We cannot shave them off and build from scrap in a day. It is impossible to change their type and structure at once. Moscow belongs to Medievalconcentric type, like Paris and Vienna. Its structure is: Kremlin in the centre, two transport rings and radial streets. The critical points are the crossings between main radial streets and circular boulevards. Here the squares have grown and they need development. And development cannot affect the traffic which is especially dense in these points. Here is the place for central [state] offices. Here the idea of my proposal was born. “ (ASNOVA News, Moscow, 1926. p. 2 – 3).

In 1923–1925 El Lissitzky proposed and developed the idea of HORIZONTAL SKYSCRAPES (Wolkenbügel, “cloud-irons”). A series of eight such structures was intended to mark the major intersections of the Boulevard Ring in Moscow. Each Wolkenbügel was a flat three-story, 180-meter-wide L-shaped slab raised 50 meters above street level. It rested on three pylons (10×16×50 meters each), placed on three different street corners. One pylon extended underground, doubling as the staircase into a proposed subway station; two others provided shelter for ground-level tram stations. Lissitzky argued that as long as humans cannot fly, moving horizontally is natural and moving vertically is not. Thus, where there is not sufficient land for construction, a new plane created in the air at medium altitude should be preferred to an American-style tower. These buildings, according to Lissitzky, also provided superior insulation and ventilation for their inhabitants. Lissitzky, aware of severe mismatch between his ideas and the existing urban landscape, experimented with different configurations of the horizontal surface and height-to-width ratios so that the structure appeared balanced visually (“spatial balance is in the contrast of vertical and horizontal tensions”). The raised platform was shaped in a way that each of its four facets looked distinctly different. Lissitzky, aware of severe mismatch between his ideas and the existing urban landscape, experimented with different configurations of the horizontal surface and height-to-width ratios so that the structure appeared balanced visually (“spatial balance is in the contrast of vertical and horizontal tensions”). The raised platform was shaped in a way that each of its four facets looked distinctly different. Each tower faced the Kremlin with the same facet, providing a pointing arrow to pedestrians on the streets. All eight buildings were planned identically, so Lissitzky proposed color-coding them for easier orientation.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s