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Krinskii, Vladimir Fedorovich

(1890–1971), architect, teacher, and a leader of the Rationalist group in Soviet avant-garde architecture. Born into a teacher’s family in Ryazan, Vladimir Krinskii was able to complete his secondary education in Saint Petersburg, thanks to the intercession of a prominent patron, and study at the Art School of the Imperial Society for Support of the Arts. He then enrolled in the Academy of Fine Arts, graduating from its architecture department in 1917.

After a brief stint in Iaroslavl’ working on the city’s reconstruction following the civil war, Krinskii moved to Moscow in 1919 to join the Architecture Office headed by Ivan V. Zholtovskii (1867–1959) within the People’s Commissariat of Education. Concurrently, he participated with the future Rationalist leader Nikolai A. Ladovskii (1881–1941) in the avant-garde experimental center Zhivskul’ptarkh (Commission for the Synthesis of Painting, Sculpture, and Architecture). Rejecting traditional paradigms, the group sought new strategies for architectural expression in abstract forms synthesized from the latest achievements in modern painting and sculpture and enlivened by expressive visual motifs. Shunning regularity and symmetry, Krinskii produced original designs for dynamic volumetric and spatial forms composed of layered interpenetrating planes, conceived to supersede traditional opaque walls.

Zhivskul’ptarkh designs focused on expressing exemplary new building types conceived to embody the new collective spirit; these ranged from the Khram Obshcheniia Naroda (Temple for the Assembly of Peoples) to the so-called dom-kommuna (communal house). Krinskii and his colleagues aimed to transform the traditional image of the city by upending its bourgeois urban fabric with “eruptions” of new revolutionary structures. These structures, in turn, would orient the populace to the new revolutionary ethos and its projected new urban setting. Krinskii drew inspiration for his startling design of a visually fractured concrete skeletal skyscraper (1922–1923) from the revolutionary poetry of Vladimir Mayakovsky, who praised “peddlers of a new faith . . . [who] set off ferro-concrete into the skies.”

In 1920, Krinskii joined Inkhuk (Institute for Artistic Culture), the leading avant-garde art research center in Moscow, where he was active in both its Working Group for Objective Analysis and its Working Group of Architects. His participation in the 1921 “composition vs. construction” debate prompted him to differentiate between technical and artistic construction in asserting the primacy of composition for modern architectural form.

In late 1920, Krinskii joined the architecture faculty at Vkhutemas, the leading Soviet art school in the 1920s. He and fellow Rationalists Ladovsky and Nikolai V. Dokuchayev (1891–1944) launched Obmas (United Studios), where they introduced their pioneering basic design course based on Ladovsky’s psychoanalytical method and Krinskii’s dynamic experiments with spatial form. Upon the creation of the Primary Department, Krinskii introduced his course on “Space,” in which students supplemented graphic studies by building cardboard and plaster models to experiment with dynamic modes of articulating spatial form.

In 1923, Krinskii joined Ladovskii and Dokuchayev to found Asnova (Association of New Architects), a group that drew together like-minded students and colleagues to advance the Rationalists’ project. During this period, Krinskii produced notable competition designs for the Arcos Building in Moscow (1924), the Soviet Pavilion for the 1925 Exposition Internationales des Arts Décoratifs in Paris, the Monument to Christopher Columbus in Santo Domingo (1929), and the Palace of Soviets in Moscow (1931).

Krinskii’s work following the Stalinist reorientation of Soviet architecture in the mid-1930s reverted to obligatory classical paradigms, with his designs of the Komsomol Metro Station (with Aleksei M. Rukhlyadev) and locks on the Moscow–Volga Canal. From 1930 until his death, Krinskii taught at the Moscow Architectural Institute (Markhi), which had succeeded the Vkhutemas and where, during the brief “thaw” under Khrushchev’s regime in the 1960s, he reintroduced his pioneering course on space.

Suggested Reading

Selim Omarovich Khan-Magomedov, “V. F. Krinsky i arkhitekturnoe techenie ratsionalizm,” in Sovetskoe izobrazitel’noe iskusstvo i arkhitektura 60–70-kh godov, ed. Vigdariia Efraimovna Khazanova et al., pp. 214–248 (Moscow, 1979); Selim Omarovich Khan-Magomedov, Pioneers of Soviet Architecture: The Search for New Solutions in the 1920s and 1930s, trans. Alexander Lieven; ed. Catherine Cooke (New York, 1987); Dmitrii L’vovich Melodinskii, Vladimir Fedorovich Krinskii (Moscow, 1998), summary in English; Anatole Senkevitch, Jr., “Aspects of Spatial Form and Perceptual Psychology in the Doctrine of the Rationalist Movement in Soviet Architecture in the 1920s,” Via [Philadelphia] 6 (1983): 78–115.