Stalin’s Architect

The Rise and Fall of Boris Iofan
Christinenstrasse 18a, 10119 Berlin
Mon–Fri 2–7 pm, Sat 1–5 pm

This exhibition is dedicated to the work of one of the most important Soviet architects, Boris Iofan (1891–1976). 2021 marked the 130th anniversary of his birth.

Iofan was born in Odessa, in the Russian Empire, studied in Rome and became an Italian architect. A communist, he returned to his homeland after Mussolini came to power. He immediately sought out and found proximity to the Soviet government. Iofan made a name for himself with his Neoclassical and then his Constructivist projects, most notably the Government House in Moscow and the Barvikha Sanatorium, near the capital. From the early 30s, he easily switched from the Constructivist back to the Neoclassical codes, as if understanding the unspoken wishes of both Stalin and his entourage.

His proximity to Joseph Stalin made him the “court architect”. Iofan not only brought his own architecture to life during those years; he also implemented the dictator’s architectural visions. Some of these visions were realised in the Soviet pavilions at the 1937 World’s Fairs in Paris and 1939 in New York. However, some other visions never made it beyond Iofan’s drawings. The architect’s most important work was the design for the gigantic but never built Palace of the Soviets, a skyscraper in the centre of Moscow intended to impress both Soviet citizens and people from all over the world; indeed, they were to be overwhelmed by the sight. Stalin personally expressed the idea of topping the building off with a gigantic statue of Lenin.

In 1947 Iofan fell out of favour; after Stalin’s death, he carried on designing and building, though now in Neo-constructivist and International Modernist style, as if continuing his experiments from the second half of the 1920s. The architect believed in communist ideas until the end of his life, and in building the Palace of the Soviets, which he continued to redesign throughout those years, changing its form and style.

The exhibition mostly presents previously unseen original drawings and sketches from the Museum for Architectural Drawing’s collection.