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Constructivism was a Russian avant-garde's invention that had its adherents across the whole continent. It came up at same time as the De Stijl and it was based on the idea of the machines as the basic influence. For instance, the movement's artists were greatly influenced by industrial design materials such as the metal sheets and glass which were often used to create some geometric objects. This Russian Constructivism design movement had their roots in the political activities that were taking place in the country. The Russian designers who were post revolutionary realized the need to build and construct the new designs, products and new society. In respect to this, constructivism gave the basic architecture, art and designs during 1920s.
The involved designers and artists were the young Russians who were trying to incorporate fully the modern art and design ideas in their own terms. They tried to portray the designs and art that could have some connections to their proletarian beliefs. These Russians drew the constructivism theory from Dutch Neo Plasticism, German Bauhaus and Russian supremacies. Among all the movements, constructivism was the first one which strictly adopted the non objective subject matter (Minneapolis institute of arts & Ryan D. Pg 8). The movement's work was geometric which often composed through the tools for measuring. The basic shapes and figures such as squares, rectangles and triangles were favored. The designers used the available materials such as plexi-glass, nylon, wood, tins, and wires which they joined together using glues to come up with some figures. Later, the designers started to incorporate some materials such as aluminum, chrome and electronics in making their figures. The main objective of making use of these kinds of materials was to portray the dominance of the machines and machine use in the modern world. They also wanted to portray the triumph of the existing machines over nature in the world.
Factors for the rise of Russian Constructivism design
In the time of the First World War, various designers in Russia were busy exploring the new aesthetics that revealed the various developments of Avant Garde in Germany and Italy and also their indigenous design traditions. Different new forms of designs were evolved which were seen in the Kasimir Malevich Suprematic paintings and the various constructions that were made by Tatlin Vladimir. These suprematic paintings had some shapes that passed a certain messages when applied to theatre settings. The revolution that occurred in the year 1917 provided very significant opportunities to the architects, designers and artists. For instance, they got an opportunity to participate in the economic, political and social changes constructions that were sought by the revolutionaries such as the Bolshevik.
The designers harnessed their various creative talents and capabilities in educating many people and also revolutionize the education of design. In the year 1920, the various opinions about the roles of design in the post-revolutionary Russia immerged. They were especially between the Constructivist avant-garde's factions. One group of artists and designers strongly supported and believed in the individual designer creativity while other designers such as Varvalra Stepanova wanted to come up with more practical and social applications of their design works and also ensure the mass production of the designs (ArtandThis. Web).
Also, constructivism was influenced by futurism and cubism. Similar to the futurists, the constructivists had an admiration on the machines, industrial materials, functionalism and modern technology. These constructivists directed their emphasis to the construction process with the aim of enhancing the natural characteristics of the design/building materials. They then joined the Union of Contemporary Architects who was being influenced by the contemporary architecture and design. They realized that the building of new environments was not only enhanced by technology, but the correct culture of rebuilding right from the start since the history had gone into the new cycle of creativity where the various aspects of the construction styles were of significance and where the new construction styles were determined by the organizational logic and aesthetic simplicity. This enhanced the aesthetic emotions and various transformations that were influenced by the modern machines and technology (ArtandThis. Web).
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Factors for the decline of Russian Constructivism design
The designs that were made by the constructivists suffered faced a lot of problems which led to its decline. For example, the ornamental prints declined. The visions of the artists to capture the zeitgeist in the designs become more complicated and they were gave the artists a lot of difficulties in implementing them. Because of this, the artists were compelled to using the same elements and symbols that were found in the typographical publications and posters. Although the constructivists immerged with various new designs, the public was not impressed because the responsible artists with their experience in dealing with public taste lost the potential of mass productions of the designs. This led to a situation where many designs were not constructed and manufactured at all (Sveta's Quilts).
Also, the communist party which took the leadership started to oppose all the things that were not in its line including some designs. During this time, avant Garde faces a serious attack from the leaders as the communist party never wanted to see any expression of Avant Garde. At this time an artist called Lissitzky was pressurized to work on propaganda, Malevich died while other artists were forced to do different activities that were not in line with constructivism design.
Some involved artists
i. Moisei Iakovlevich Ginzburg
Ginzburg was an architect and a teacher who was a leader of the constructivist group in the Avan Garde architecture. After being limited to get higher education in Russia, he was forced to go abroad he got training in architecture. He graduated in the year 1917 after completing a technical training in Riga Polytechnal Institute. Ginzburg published some critiques of the modern architecture and he emphasized the role of machines. He theorized the machine's capacity to enhance the mechanization of life and facilitate the building of the types that are consistent with the requirements of the working class. In asserting that the revolution engendered the new constructive phases of the architectural development, he produced a veritable constructivism manifesto as the new style of architecture in the new era.
He formulated some functional methods of design through which the problems that faced architecture were solved in rational way. This was done through identifying factors such as recreational and working needs of the people and the most effective means to incorporate them in the decisions. In 1928-1931, he researched on projects that validated the effective method for finding the new building techniques. He revitalized the building industry by coming up with the system of constructing the prefabricated units using the sandwich panels of the local materials which produced in the local industries. Finally, he emerged as a very competent and productive designer and his most important designs included the Kazakh Republic Government House in Almaty.
ii. Alexander Aleksandrovic Vesnin
Alexander was seen as a leading light of the constructivist architecture together with his brothers. He became famous because of his drawings such as the Leningrad Pravda of the year 1924. He was also a theater designer who worked on the workers' festival designs at Lyubobv Popova. He pioneered the exhibition of the constructivists in the year 1921 and he headed the constructivist group together with Ginzburg. Among the buildings that were designed by the Vesnin brothers in 1920s includes the department stores, a club for Tsarist political prisoners and the Moscow's Likachev Works Palace of Culture. Alexander was a vocal supporter of the works of Le Corbuster and he acclaimed his the best among the ones that were constructed in Moscow.
iii. The Stenberg brothers
The two brothers, Vladimir Stenberg and Georgii Stenberg were soviet designers and artists who were born in Moscow but were the citizens of Sweden because their father was a Swede. Firstly, the studied engineering before joining the Stroganov School of applied arts in Moscow. Then, they joined the Svomas studios where they designed some decorations and posters together with other students. Later, the two brothers staged a constructivist exhibition in Moscow which was accompanied by the constructivists manifesto. In 1920s to 1930s, they became full members of the Avant Garde in Moscow. In 1922-1931, they designed some for Alexander Tairov's chamber theater and they became teachers at the Architecture-Construction Institute in Moscow. At time of revolution in Russia, the two brothers were at their prime. In the language of the constructivists, the two brothers assembled some images including the portions of photographs that had been earlier created by other designers. The factors that facilitated the success of these two brothers include their knowledge in theory of films, their graphic design talents, the Malevich Suprematism, constructivism and the Avant Garde Theater. The visual aspects of the two brothers' posters included some elements from the Data photomontage, a sense of movement, a distortion of perspective, an exaggerated scale, and a dynamic use typography which made their work to be imitated by other artists.
Max was born in the year 1908. He was a graphic artist, painter, sculptor, and an industrial designer. He joined Bauhaus where he studied metalwork, stage design, architecture, and painting. In the year 1930, Max opened his studio in Zürich. He spent most of his time in this studio designing various advertisements and he earned his living through designing.
v. Leonidov Ivan
Ivan was a Russian architect, urban planner and teacher. Ivan worked as a casual laborer on the docks of Petrograd from the year 1914 to 1917. Later, he became an apprentice to one of the icon painters in Tver. This painter realized that Ivan had outstanding drawing skills. Ivan started his studies at the free art studios and preceded to Vkhutemas technical workshops in Moscow. While carrying on with his studies under a constructivist architect Aleksandr Vesnin, Ivan shifted his interest from painting to architecture. He participated in many architecture competitions where he produced several designs for the model peasant cottages. He also designed the schemes for block of flats, Belorussian State University buildings, Minsk and different workers' clubs prototypes. Through his diploma project for the moscow' Lenin Institute and Library, Ivan gained an international recognition and his scheme was displayed at the exhibition of contemporary architecture and it was finally published in the architectural journal for the constructivists referred to as Sovremennaya arkhitektura. He envisioned the institute as an assembly of glass curtain-walled buildings. The building's auditorium was in the form of spherical figure that was supported on a single post. The building also had various research institutes and a science theatre fully equipped with a planetarium. In addition, the buildings were fitted with highly advanced telecommunication devices.
vi. Lissitzky El
El was born in the year 1890 in Pochinok in Russia. He was a designer, painter and a typographer. When he was working as a teacher in the revolutionary school at Marc Chagall, he met with Malevich Kazimir whose influence was seen in many of the abstract paintings that happened to be El's main contribution to the constructivism. In the year 1922, El went to Germany where his ideas were transmitted to the west. He returned to Russia in 1925 and started devising some new painting, architecture and photomontage techniques.
vii. Varvara Stepanova
Varvara was one of the leading constructivists in Russia. She was a good costume designer who was recognized through her clothes and textile designs. She was committed to the utilitarian designs that were directed to the economic mass production and social needs. She studied in shool of fine arts in Kazan and then moved to the Stroganoff School of Applied Art. After working with the abstract o savant garde, she became a member of the Institute of Artistic Culture which came up in the year 1920. In 1921, Varvara was actively involved in rthe mass production of the industrial designs where she designed some clothes for utilitarian workers, the patterned sportswear and theatre costumes. An example of this was the costumes for The Death of Tarelkin produced in the year 1922. Also she became a teacher at the Vkhutemas and she made much contributions to the avant garde periodicals which were significant during the time of Russian constructivism. She devoted herself to the production of books and periodical designs with the assistance of her husband Rodchenko. In 1930, they worked together in the production of various photographic albums.
Some important constructivist design/works
The most of the constructivists work was in the form of designs which included architecture, textile and set designs and various industrial designs. The famous building designs by the constructivists include the Lenin's Mausoleum which was designed by Shchusev and the Barkhin's Izvestia buuilding. Also, the examples of the constructivists paintings include the space force construction by Popova, monument of the third international by Tatlin, the painterly architectonic by Popova, the white circle by Rodchenko and the study of grobetrotter in time by Lissitzky (Tatlin Vladimir)
Examples of movements that came before and after constructivism
One of the movements that existed before constructivism is Deutscher Werkbund (1907-1933). This was a craftsmen movement that inspired the good designs and the craftsmanship for the mass production of architectural designs. It was founded in Munich in Germany in the year 1907 and was composed of different artists and the designers who designed commercial, household and industrial products. These people also practiced some architecture. The movement's leaders, Hermann Muthesius and the various architects were influenced by William Morris who was the leader of the craft movements and the English arts in the 19th century. William made a proporsal for the industrial crafts to be revived as a collaboration comprising of various craftsmen and designers (Daphne - A Palomar College Web Server). Later, Muthesius and Vav de Velde implemented and expanded the ideas of William Morris by including the products that were machine made. The movement was later divided into two factions.
The first faction was lead by Mathesius and it advocated for the increased use of machines to enhance standard design and mass production of goods. The second faction was headed by Velde and it advocated for the maintenance of the value of the individual expressions of the artists. The ideas of Muthesius were adopted by the Werkbend movement in the year 1914. The movement's influence was enhanced by the industrial art exhibition and architecture which was held in Cologne in 1914. The exhibited buildings included the concrete, steel and glass architecture. The activities of this movement were affected by the first word war but it later continued operating with an exhibition in Stuggaet in 1927. A large number of the involved architects followed the ideas that were given by Muthesius and they practiced high degree of material and design standardization which made the movement to construct the housing units on a large scale. Werkbund movement was terminated in the year 1933 in the rise of Nazi rule and it was revived after the Second World War.
The second example is futurism which existed from 1909 to 1914. (Daphne - A Palomar College Web Server). This movement came into existence with the emergence of a manifesto published by the poet Filippo Marinetti on the front page of the year 1909,the issue of Le Figaro. It was the very first manifesto where Filippo put together all the main principles of the Futurists. Filippo and other paople espoused a love of technology, speed and violence. The movement of futurism was presented as a modernist movement that could recognize and celebrate technology in the future times. Among the things that represented the technological future are the cars, aero planes, and the industrialized urban. These also represented the technological triumph of the human beings over nature.
Some of these futurism movement ideas such as the use of machines were later taken up by the Dadaist, cubists and constructivists. The futurist movement received an inspiration from the development of Cubism which enabled it to go beyond its original techniques and advancements. The futurists were well skilled and they could effectively practice in many fields such as painting, interior designs, ceramics, architecture, theater and graphic design. The futurists were very successful and they influenced many modern design movements which in turn directed a great influence in the field of graphic design. For instance, the futurists' writings, aesthetic characteristics and philosophies were very influential to the designers (Home : Design Is History).
Another movement that existed before the constructivism is the neoclassical movement which occurred in the 18th centuries in America. This was a movement where the people copied the styles that took them as inspirations and they used Rome as a reference point. At the time when the colonial age was coming to an end, architecture that was based in the ancient Rome started to emerge in America. This shift coincided with the revolution in America and caused the neoclassical style to become identified with some political values in the country. This movement made the major styles for architecture in America at the time when president Washington and Thomas Jefferson gave a thought in architecture and they both directed a lot of resources to the planning and restructuring of the American's capital. Examples of the neoclassical styles that were used in America were the rectilinear Georgian style, the curvilinear mode which was adopted in the form of Federal style, the arched Palladian windows and the decorative columns which were the architecture's fundamental style elements (Joe Fernandez).
The effectiveness and functionality of design
The recognition and development of the design and the designer's roles in the society has resulted into the switch from craft based to more developed and professionalized practices. This significant change can be realized in revolution of industries. Design has enhanced the material development and technologies that have overcome the old craftsman processes. Through the design and introduction of machines, the mass production has been realized and the human beings have been given the authority and ability to control and shape their environment.
The development and introduction of machinery through design was the only way of meeting the demands of the larger percentage of the population in Russia and the entire world. After the First World War, design developed its meaning as the society looked towards the industrial development and production to the post war recovery way. Design led to the reduced costs of production hence facilitating the start of consumerism which is the first effect of design in any ideal society. The Bauhaus school was started during constructivism with the objective of bridging the reality between the arts and industry. It specialized in the field of design and it acted as an appropriate platform on which the different disciplines' experiments were explored. It therefore played an important role of identifying and promoting the role of design and its relationship to science in the society.
The design is a skill that can be developed by anybody, a philosophy that can be taught and it is rewarding as it enhances the various inventions that facilitates human lives. It leads to mass production of production of the goods that are critical to human lives and it gives human beings the ability of controlling nature and his/her immediate environs.
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