I recently found a few minutes to work on several interesting shots I have been excited about from back in December. Anyone happening to look at look at the EXIF data on this shot (not many I suspect) would notice that I took it on New Year's Eve, a few hours before the big party. Given that it was getting dark around 4pm at that point, I took the Metro into town, and stopped short of the center, deciding to explore a neighborhood I wasn't exceptionally familiar with, and then walk North to Red Square to see who was out and what had been erected for the big night.
As it turns out, it was a heck of a night for photography, and I took this shot from the Bolshoi Moscow River bridge directly South of the Kremlin. This looks to the South East, down the icy Moscow River, to one of the 7 most famous buildings in Moscow. Dubbed the "Seven Sisters" they are a series of vaguely related in style, but otherwise fairly distinct Stalinist skyscrapers. Apparently, Stalin had decided that Moscow lacked powerful tall buildings, a source of shame for the victors of WWII, so he commissioned his architects to design and build a number of them after the war (1947-53). The designs built on the pre-war concept of the "Palace of the Soviets", the construction of which is perhaps one of the best stories in Moscow history, and what would have been the tallest building in the world at that time (I'll cover the Palace in another post).
Probably the most famous of the completed designs is Moscow State University (MGU), a massive complex that looms down on Moscow from the highest point of a relatively flat city. The buildings were a combination of Russian baroque and Gothic styles, with a fair amount of "Glory to the USSR" thrown in for good measure. The buildings were massively over-engineered Soviet style, with heavy concrete ceilings, masonry infil, and based on 7 meter foundations in some cases, also reportedly making simply awful use of available space, with some indicating 30% of potential volume usable. This weight is what kept the buildings to relatively modest heights, as compared to the towers that had gone up in NYC and Chicago in years prior.
This particular Sister, a residential model, is called the Kotelnicheskaya Embankment Building, is 176m tall, and occupies an excellent spot just down the river from the center of power in Moscow. It has some exceptional sculptures on its various levels, usually glorifying workers, peasants, wheat, and tractor drivers, although I believe due to decay they all have rather significant nets built around them to catch falling arms and heads. Still, these buildings were designed for the elite, and then most were turned into huge communal apartments where several families could be found living in spaces designed for one. Such was life in the USSR, until recently where they are now of course highly sought after luxury apartments for the new Russian elite, with the associated astronomical prices. I've always wanted to live in one of these buildings, and to look out and see a happy peasant girl with her sickle glinting in the sun each morning, perhaps someday that will happen...
More on the Seven: