After a brief introduction, Charles Jencks begins by arguing how Russian Constructivism began, matured and evolved from the 1905 Russian Revolution, through the October Revolution of 1917, and through to the late 1930s. He maintains that Constructivism is the missing link between Cubism and Modernity by pointing to influences and architecture from the movement.
Jencks discusses early twentieth century Russian society, concentrating on causes of the Russian revolution and stressing the role of publications and art. Jencks describes the motifs of Russian Constructivism including primary forms, colors, typography, and imagery . He uses these examples to build his argument that Constructivism leads from early Cubism to the architecture of Le Corbusier.
Jencks talks about the prominence of women in the early Constructivist movement while also describing the theatrical quality of the Revolution. He introduces Tatlin’s Tower as a pivotal work of Constructivism and how this propel’s the movement into alignment with the politics, meanings, and propaganda of post-revolutionary Russia. Jencks continues showing architectural developments and other mediums, such as, photography, theater, film and engineering as a way of explaining the evolution of the ideas and themes behind the movement.
Jencks describes how in the 1920s an emerging group of artists, ASNOVA (Association of New Architects), breaks into the forefront of the Constructivist movement. He breaks down their influence and doctrine through examples of art and architecture. Jencks mentions changes from the birth of the movement through the late 1920s, eventually concentrating on the work of James Stirling and Konstantin Melnikov.
Jencks describes how the Soviets use Constructivism as propaganda as they both evolve through the 1920s. This includes projects that try to re-imagine social housing and government infrastructure. He comments on the Stalinist reassertion of regimented efficiency toward public projects and how Stalin intertwined the movement with politics. He then goes on to discuss how Stalin began to react against the movements and its artists, causing its eventual decline.
Jencks wraps up his lecture on Russian Constructivism by describing the ways Stalin projected the style to other countries outside the USSR, including Mao’s China, and satellite countries in Eastern Europe. He shows examples of the late evolution of the movement including civic architecture, infrastructure, and transportation. Lastly, Jencks describes how the International Style infects Russian architects and degrades the Constructivist aesthetic.
Jencks answers questions about Russian Constructivism. During the session, he describes both Marx’s and Lenin’s desires for a government of social arrangement and the theories they are popular for supporting. He then talks about how those theories matured into Stalinism. Jencks defends his idea of history as “linear pluralities,” and how several movements are feeding and borrowing form Constructivism and the culture of, then, contemporary Russia.