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Pure Program and Almost No Form.
Notes on the Typical Plan and Ivan Leonidov.

Published in San Rocco Magazine, #7 Indifference (pp. 58-71, 2013). More info here

The typical plan is usually the nth plan of a series of designs for a specific project, like the layout of a high-rise building or the standard floor plan of a suburban housing development: it is a plan stripped of all its qualities and reduced to a calculated relation of discreet elements – an envelope, a technical core and a load-bearing frame.

In 1993 Rem Koolhaas wrote a short article titled “Typical Plan” that passed almost unnoticed among the other more renowned texts in S, M, L, XL (1995).[1] The essay focused on the homogeneity of 20th-century Manhattan office-building plans and their progressive rarefaction due to the evolution of business. From the beginning of the 1900s, in fact, financial capitalism began replacing the disciplinary regime and rigid compartmentalization of industrial mass-production with more aleatory regimes of speculation and flexible accumulation, producing programmes that did not require any particular space but only a quantity of rentable square metres in order to better respond to the variations of the market.

The typical plan should thus be understood as a technology more than a typology, as an apparatus for sheltering human activities in a simple way. It is neutral; it doesn’t acknowledge any difference between good and evil because it just doesn’t care. It welcomes any content whatsoever and works in any context. It neither obstructs nor represses contradictions but simply lets them occur, reconfiguring its internal arrangements according to the influence of its users. In short, it is a zero-degree architecture made up mostly of content. Yet it is precisely this omnivorous indifference that makes it an efficacious tool for real-estate speculation: the more it denies architecture, the better it performs its task of sheltering and the more it increases the value of its surface by blatantly exposing life in all its complexity and leaving its inhabitants free to produce, exchange, circulate and proliferate.

Years before discovering Manhattan, Koolhaas had found the same specific indeterminacy along the Berlin Wall. Once again, this was an architecture whose power resided more in the emptiness and absence it implied rather than in its explicit presence, for it functioned as an act of erasure.[2] The wall ensured the highest flexibility of programme and the least leeway in its architecture by indifferently sequencing different situations of spatial, social, historical or geopolitical character: it was “a script, effortlessly blurring divisions between tragedy, comedy, melodrama”. In a similar way, the typical plan offered another strategy by which to “imagine nothingness”, using the subtle rhythm of its supports and the potential of its flat extension to generate congestion and unforeseeable forms of organization rather than management and control.

Indeed, many of OMA’s first projects owed a lot to this architectural device, a sort of algorithm of Manhattanism in all its variations – “bigness”, “schism”, “lobotomy”, “auto-monument”, etc. Nevertheless, here it will be argued that Koolhaas’s obsession for the typical plan derived not principally from either Manhattan or his meditations on the Berlin Wall, but mainly from the laconic work of Ivan Ilyich Leonidov, whose emblematic 1929 plan for a House of Industry figures, not by chance, in the last passages of Koolhaas’s essay on the typical plan. Leonidov’s typical plan, in fact, embodied the purest demonstration of what Koolhaas wanted to achieve with architecture: “a project that could [be] pure programme and almost no form, [and] that could indifferently coexist with whatever other type of architecture”; he would later claim, “It was a question of opposing the intelligence of Leonidov to the intimidation of Tafuri”.[3]

Koolhaas effectively turned to architecture only in the mid-1960s after he came across the drawings of Leonidov, whose work he approached from a rather unusual perspective, untainted by any theoretical prejudice or building experience yet profoundly affected by his previous experience as a journalist and filmmaker. In Leonidov’s projects, collages and concise texts, Koolhaas unexpectedly encountered the same instruments, tactics and issues he had been exploring in his movies and scripts, the same effort to index the unpredictability of reality via the simplicity of a frame, whether through a text, a screenplay or a plan.

At that time, in fact, Koolhaas was still typesetting and writing for the liberal journal De Haagse Post while being an active member of a group of cineastes known as the Eentweedrieenz, which translates to “1, 2, 3, etc.”[4] This name not only referred to the openness of the group – whose number of members varied according to the project – but also declared a statement of intent about how to make a film: as in a generic catalogue of n elements, without any hierarchy or fixed positions, the group’s members were swapping the roles of actors, directors and cameramen among themselves while shooting, claiming that “the politics of the author are over” and “a movie is a great, mobile entity that is constantly changing positions and functions”.[5]

What truly mattered at that point was the sequence itself, namely, the screenplay – the scaffold of the movie – which was indispensable to structuring the plot, deciding how intervals of time and space were broken down, establishing the direction of events and how to create a montage of the episodes, just like in a generic architectural layout. Of course, screenplays have their own logic and work in a particular way, being composed by both the conventional forms of a written language and, indirectly, the potential forms of a visual language – something which is not literally “there” and might be completed only beyond the script itself by way of a reader’s agency or through the making of the movie. As typical plans, scripts are both precise and approximative, including an intentional emptiness that induces a desire for form, a tendency to become something else.

In this sense, the screenplay always speaks the language of a structure-in-movement, or, as Pasolini described in those years, “a structure endowed with the will to become another structure”,[6] one that engenders new ways of envisioning, organizing and even contesting reality via the imagination of a director and the actor’s performance. For Koolhaas, the openness of a screenplay and the emptiness of a typical plan were one and the same, for the potential of both lays in the living content that filled their frames as well as in the way they both provided the possibility of opposing, refusing or critiquing the scheme itself through their autonomous repetition.

Even as a journalist for De Haagse Post, Koolhaas followed the same logic, trying to minimize his personal involvement in order to arrive at a description of a more poignant reality by literally reporting bare facts, sampling and filtering raw information with abstract detachment, as if he were composing the layout of a page. Indeed, he was largely influenced by the painter Armando and the poet-writer Hans Sleutelaar, who were both editors of the Haagse Post at the time as well as exponents of the Nul-beweging – the Dutch Zero Movement – and who both were connected to the magazine De Nieuwe Stijl, which sought a total poetry of reality through an absolute directness and brevity in the use of language, purified of any stylistic preference and aspiring to the austerity and mechanical objectivity of a tape recorder.

The articles, poems and paintings of the group were mostly composed as neutral arrangements of elements, like the homogeneous series of bolts in Armando’s paintings or Hans Schoonhoven’s obsessive ink line-drawings and white-paper structures. “Zero is first of all a new idea of reality, to which the individualism of the artist is reduced to its minimum”, Schoonhoven wrote in 1964. “[T]he Zero artist only chooses and isolates parts of reality (material as well as the ideas derived from reality) and presents them in the most indifferent way possible. Avoiding the disturbance of personal feelings is fundamental to Zero”.[7]

The threads of journalism, script-writing and architecture finally intertwined in 1966, when Koolhaas was invited to give a lecture on the Eentweedrieenz’s movies at the Technische Universiteit Delft by Gerrit Oorthuys, who, together with Max Risselada, was one of the first architectural historians to study Russian Constructivism in the Netherlands.[8] It was Oorthuys who introduced Koolhaas to Soviet architecture and the work of Ivan Leonidov, which soon became a shared obsession. From 1970 to 1972, Koolhaas repeatedly travelled to Moscow with Oorthuys to collect material for a book while taking courses at the Architectural Association in London and writing screenplays as a hobby.[9]

Leonidov never built anything except a flight of stairs in Kislovodsk. Nevertheless, his white-on-black drawings and the resolute dynamism of his plans were never impossible exercises but always consciously planned steps towards socialism that were consistent with the political stance of the Revolution and minutely calculated for actual construction. Between the New Economic Policy (NEP) and the first five-year plan it was no longer the moment for symbolic objects in space or propagandistic monuments to the masses: architecture had the social task of creating frames, rhythms and institutions for the “new man”, treating his whole life and the entire national territory as unlimited fields of action. There were to be no more isolated settlements, but rather a territory unified by an infrastructure of productive epicentres; no estrangement or pathos, but rather a totally committed architecture that replaced compromises and reformism with a strict rationality and an adherence to class struggle and power relations.

Just as the spontaneity of the rioting movements had to be coherently integrated into the logic of the party, so the enthusiasm of the Revolution had to be translated into effective principles and structures to become a proper form-of-life, with its daily efforts and duties (the so-called byt). Reflecting Lenin’s political project, Leonidov’s idea of architecture revolved primarily around the issue of labour and the organization of the workers[10] or, in other words, around how to converge the spontaneity of the working class’s opposition with the strategy of the party. Organization was thus a truly tactical effort that allowed the working class to overcome the capitalist cycle of crisis and development and elaborate ways of undermining its hideous mechanisms of exploitation. After having socialized the means of production, and thereby destroyed the anarchy of private ownership with its class differences, the Soviets tried to dismiss the role of the state, which represented the legalized oppression of one class by another. But such a drastic shift could only have been accomplished by gradually dismantling the true apparatuses of state control and mass coercion – its ubiquitous organs of standing army, police, bureaucracy, clergy, and judicature – in order to undermine the power of the bourgeois class by way of its same means of oppression.

Hence, according to Lenin, after the Revolution a strategically planned transition phase was required to guide the working class to the seizure of political power and to establish the dictatorship of the proletariat, or “a state as the organized proletariat against the ruling class”. The administrative framework of the state machine had to be disassembled into simple tasks of registering, filing and checking, in order to eliminate the ranks of functionaries and redistribute the managerial responsibilities to militant workers who, on the other hand, had to be prepared and provided with the appropriate instruction. For these reasons, in parallel to a national industrialization plan,[11] Lenin strongly endorsed social reforms and cultural facilities such as workers’ clubs, studios, theatres, assembly halls, cinemas, libraries and learning centres. He was convinced that only by means of these new Soviet educational institutions could the working class be prepared to construct and govern the new “Commune” being envisioned.[12]

This vision deeply influenced Leonidov’s first works, beginning with his thesis project at the VKhUTEMAS in 1926 – the Lenin Institute, or the collective scientific centre of the USSR – for which he designed an acentric, cruciform arrangement of a spherical auditorium, a slender library tower and a horizontal slab of laboratories conceived as a strategic communication outpost connected to the centre of Moscow via an aerial tramway and to the whole country by way of a radio station. The sphere and the tower – the future Koolhaasian archetypes of Manhattan’s typical plan – converged here as the two opposed polarities of Lenin’s strategy: technology and programme, politics and praxis, “Soviet power plus electrification”.

Nevertheless, rather than disappearing into a classless society, as Lenin prophesied, the socialist state ended up being inflated beyond measure precisely through the reinforcement of its bureaucratic and managerial class, a policy imposed at the end of 1920s by Stalin to control the nationalization of production and the supervision of economic planning, and to take advantage of the relative ignorance and backwardness of working-class administrators. Thus while capitalism was collapsing, it was not within the expected order of socialism. The betrayal of the Revolution gave birth to another monstrous version of the state, whose economy was still based on the nationalized ownership of the means of production yet totally controlled by a ruling class of managers, technicians and functionaries: it represented a new planned, centralized system of “bureaucratic collectivism”.[13]

Within and against such a managerial revolution, the young Leonidov elaborated his most important proposals as successive acts of a unique counter-project aimed at envisioning new institutions for the workers – above all, the idea of the club as a territorial epicentre focused on enhancing cultural education, political awareness and Soviet organization – while countering traditional petit-bourgeois life-values and destroying the Stalinist systems of coercion.

In this sense, the club for Leonidov was not just another element of the city, but the indispensable collective infrastructure that linked the assembly line of the factory to the household domain:[14] when asked whether the club was a place of leisure or relaxation, Leonidov promptly replied that there was no such a thing as “absolute rest”, for life was a constant stream of activities and labour which acknowledged no difference between production and its reproduction.[15] In his 1928 proposal for a “Club of New Social Type”, Leonidov clustered all sorts of cultural facilities – libraries, lecture rooms, laboratories, botanical gardens, study areas, auditoria and cinemas –in a raised, two-level platform connected to sports facilities, parks and pavilions that culminated in a gigantic parabolic volume hosting a mass assembly hall.

The plan of the club was further developed two years later in his Palace of Culture for the Ploretarsky District, where the earlier project’s platform lost its architectural definition and became a flat portion of territory organized in strips of land with different purposes ranging from education to mass-demonstrations: as in a script, the rigour of the frame ignored the limits of building-objects, defining spatial intervals that simply let life happen. The idea of the typical plan was therefore already implicit in the serial partitioning of the platform and in the squared repetition of plots, which both acted as condensers for activities orbiting around very few fixed technical points. In this sense, OMA’s later proposal for La Villette was nothing but another application of the same principle: taking “the section of the typical skyscraper and put[ting] it on its side” corresponded to horizontally aligning typical plans side by side in order to accumulate “congestion without matter”[16].

Along the same lines, Leonidov’s proposal for the Tsentrosoyuz Building was the first attempt to transpose the principles of the club to the urban envelope of an office building. Refusing Le Corbusier’s articulation of parts, Leonidov stacked all the administrative, commercial and cultural programmes into a single slab balanced by a low horizontal volume for housing exhibitions. The project essentially consisted of a repetition of typical plans: floors were totally uncluttered and corridors were abolished in order to allow maximum flexibility and the greatest possible number of potential rearrangements, with the main circulation distributed through six paternosters in the hallway[17].

Nevertheless, the logical culmination of Leonidov’s early work was the 1929 typical plan for the House of Industry. Despite hosting one of the most important centres of the Stalinist bureaucracy – the headquarters of the Supreme Soviet of the National Economy of the Russian Republic (VSNkh RSFSR) in Moscow – Leonidov’s design sought to blow apart the official hierarchies and the customary labour divisions, and it eventually drew harsh critique and led to him being accused of exerting a harmful influence upon his students at the new VKhUTEIN.

The plan of the Dom Promyšlennosti was, in fact, not just a plan, for it embodied the whole political and economic project of a Soviet society based on work and collective institutions. In the text accompanying the project, Leonidov claimed that labour should not be conceived as a regrettable necessity, but as the very essence of the human species-being, which demanded a coherent physical and psychological integration of all spheres of life, from domestic rhythms and leisure time to self-valorizing cultural exercises: “in our conditions, every new building is a step in the direction of socialism, and it must respond to the new conditions of work and everyday life. An architect who disregards these conditions is conservative”.

The project yielded a gigantic rectangular scaffold served by a lateral stone wedge that hosted all of the technical paraphernalia, leaving the floor completely empty and permeable as in the factories being built at the same time during the first five-year plan. And it was not a coincidence that the plan, albeit on a different scale, conceptually resembled Leonidov’s proposal for the chemical and metallurgical settlement of Magnitogorsk, which he draughted a few months later. As in the House of Industry, where the employees were assigned five-by-five-metre areas within a bipartite plan of working and resting spaces,[18] in the linear city of Magnitogorsk a series of leisure, recreational and cultural programmes run alongside collective housing units, residential towers and gardens.

Getting rid of the obsolete office layout, with its “enclosed courtyards, no views, small cubicles, too little fresh air, barrack-like corridors”, Leonidov subtly delimited the workspaces in the House of Industry with rows of potted plants, as in an ante litteram Bürolandschaft. Deploying the same strategy, in the plan of Magnitogorsk, he denied the capitalist speculative conglomerations of housing blocks by proposing a linear, twenty-five-kilometre-long settlement in three strips that stretched between the metallurgical complex and the collective farms and that were composed of a series of dwelling units comprising individual cells orbiting around shared spaces.

Architecture cannot produce life; rather it can merely create the opportunities for it to take place. As Bernard Cache has claimed, forms of life only arise from the mutual interaction of living subjects with their surrounding milieux, and architecture can provisionally mediate this relation by providing frames, intervals of space enabling us to dwell and to construct territories across the indeterminate extension of reality. To frame means to delimit a portion of land by means of walls, floors and openings in order to protect an inner life but also to allow its coexistence with what lies beyond them. Since “one never knows how the interval that is marked off by the frame will be filled”,[19] the frame is indifferent to its content yet always reflects and propagates the qualities and the forces that proliferate within its interval in each case.

In this sense, Leonidov’s typical plans never aimed at controlling users or imposing specific functions, operating instead by punctuating and framing portions of territories and thereby creating the conditions for the construction of a collective sphere within and beyond the ruins of the state. His projects were clearly pedagogical, composed through the use of legible grids and modular repetitive structures that were designed not only to instruct and facilitate work but also to ensure the inhabitants a constant consciousness of their own effort and behaviour within the context of broader common goals: the plans and their formal arrangements literally suggested the way in which the inhabitants could potentially make use of them.[20]

In the plan for Magnitogorsk, Leonidov designed houses, office buildings, collective facilities and outdoor compounds according to the same module, because different parts of a unique collective strive for growth and thus follow the same foundational principle of labour. Similarly, in the House of Industry, he juxtaposed cognitive work, physical exercise, leisure activities and household chores on the same horizontal floor, emphasizing both the subjective entrepreneurship of the inhabitants and the fundamental lack of distinction between labour and life.

Like Lenin, Leonidov was convinced that the construction of a new socialist city necessarily had to undergo the socialization of the domestic economy and the disposition of shared facilities in order to subvert the bastions of individualism and bureaucratism, to dismantle the family as an economic unit and to emancipate women from their centuries-old slavery. But the strategy of the party was only attainable by beginning with individual “tactics” of subversion in the construction of the everyday life, instilling and promoting forms of publicness within the domestic realm itself and eradicating obsolete cultural values with new collective daily rituals.

Therefore, Leonidov’s “rectangles” – as Koolhaas renamed his plans – were in fact scripts designed to engender new forms-of-life, a series of frames capable of being used, varied, intensified or eventually ignored by the unpredictable will of its inhabitants because of the deliberate indifference of their architecture: an architecture stripped of any quality to allow qualities as such to emerge from its plethora of immeasurable expressions.

Nevertheless, despite its naïve geniality, Koolhaas’s interpretation of the soviet typical plan still remains largely questionable: while in his article he never addresses any of the socialist political intentions, in his deployment of the typical plan he often ends up neutralizing the implicit subversive potential that characterized Leonidov’s plans. Like Lenin’s political project, Leonidov’s architecture could not be simply reproduced or exported for it acted as a strategy: indissolubly related to specific socio-economic conditions and thus valid only in the context of certain power relations and political actors.

On the other hand, if the typical plan rapidly became the most diffused apparatus for any architecture of production, then Koolhaas simply lamented its degeneration to an instrument of capitalist parasitism that “devour[ed] larger and larger sections of historical substance, invading whole centers or exiled to the periphery”, failing to understand it as the most crucial device by which to intervene critically within the Generic City.

Therefore, it is precisely by recovering its working-class nature, and by acknowledging its constituting incompleteness in relation to the precariousness and flexibility of the present labour conditions, that we might be able to reconsider the typical plan today as one of the most crucial battlefields for the organization, defence and emancipation of the general intellect, the highest, and thus most profitable, source of value.


1 Rem Koolhaas, “Typical Plan” [1993], in S, M, L, XL (New York: The Monacelli Press, 1995), 336–50.

2 Rem Koolhaas, “Field Trip A: (A) MEMOIR (First and Last . . . ) The Berlin Wall as Architecture” [1993], in S, M, L, XL, (New York: The Monacelli Press, 1995) 228–31: “In my eyes, the wall also forever severed the connection between importance and mass. As an object the wall was unimpressive, evolving toward a near dematerialization; but that left its power undiminished. In fact, in narrowly architectural terms, the wall was not an object but an erasure, a freshly created absence. For me, it was a first demonstration of the capacity of the void – of nothingness – to ‘function’ with more efficiency, subtlety and flexibility than any object you could imagine in its place. It was a warning that – in architecture – absence would always win in a contest with presence” (emphasis in the original).

3 Quoted in Patrice Goulet, “La deuxième chance de l’architecture moderne . . . entretiens avec Rem Koolhaas”, L’Architecture d’aujourdhui, no. 238 (1985), 2–9; translated from the French by the author.

4 Besides curating a page entitled “People, Animals and Things” – another example of the awkward form of cataloguing that the Eentweedrieenz favoured – Koolhaas was actually working at the very layout of the journal, which was also another form of “typical plan”. In an interview for the Financial Times Koolhaas said, “I was asked to do the layout and, at 23, that’s what I was doing – typesetting, learning that everything you do has an impact somewhere else on the page, reading everything upside down in lead”. The Eentweedrieenz were mainly composed of Rene Daalder and Kees Meyering with the occasional participation of Frans Bromet, Jan de Bont, Pim de la Parra and Robbie Muller, and their movies were recently screened at the OMA/Progress exhibition in London in 2011.

5 The five principles of the Eentweedrieenz were: “1. The film director is a coordinator and not a personality whose will is imposed on the other members of the team; 2. All the creative forces of the crew have to be mobilized and integrated; 3. Actors and cameramen deserve a larger importance; 4. The politics of the author are over [literally dood in de pot]; 5. A film is a great mobile entity with a continuous shift of positions and functions”. Translated by the author. For a detailed discussion of their film manifesto, entitled “1,2,3, Rhapsodie”, see Rein Bloem, “Eentweedrie in de nederlandse film”, Skoop 3, no. 3 (1965), 18–20.

6 In the same year, in fact, Pier Paolo Pasolini wrote his important essay “The Screenplay as a ‘Structure That Wants to Become Another Structure’”, in which he remarked upon the particular autonomy of the film script as a consequence of its twofold nature: one one level, it referred to the written signs, and on the other, to the visual sign, or kineme, a form-in-movement, a form-in-process, that was not dissimilar from a real revolutionary will: “That an individual, as author, reacts to a system by constructing another one, seems to me simple and natural in the same way in which men, as authors of history, react to a social structure by building another through revolution, that is, [react] to the will to transform the structure . . . I am speaking of a ‘revolutionary will,’ both in the author as creator of an individual stylistic system that contradicts the grammatical and literary-jargon system in force, and in men as subverters of political systems.” See Pier Paolo Pasolini, “The Screenplay as a ‘Structure That Wants to Become Another Structure’”, in Heretical Empiricism (Washington, D.C.: New Academia Publishing, 2005; English translation of the Italian Empirismo Eretico, 1972). Koolhaas’s interest in the screenplay is traceable all the way back to one of his first published manifestoes, “Een Delftsblauwe Toekomst”, Skoop 3, no. 1 (May 1965), 14–21.

7 The Nul-beweging mainly included the painters Jan Schoonhoven, Armando, Jan Henderikse, Herman de Vries and Henk Peeters, who constituted the Dutch “extension” of the German Zero Movement founded at the end of the 1950s by Heinz Mack and Otto Piene and based in Düsseldorf. They cooperated internationally with the Nouveau Réalisme movement in France and the Azimuth group in Italy. See J. J. Schoonhoven, “Zero”, and Armando and Hans Sleutelaar, “aanwijzingen voor de pers (Nos. 1–5)” (Instructions for the Press, Nos. 1–5), in De Nieuwe Stijl, Deel 1: Werk van de Internationale Avant-Garde (Amsterdam: De Bezige Bij, [1965]), 118–23, 137; see also the longer version published in Sjoerd van Faassen and Hans Sleutelaar, eds., De Nieuwe Stijl, 1959–1966 (Amsterdam: Busy Bee, 1989), 21–22: “Facts are more interesting than comments and conjectures ... Traditional criticism makes no sense. Information instead is necessary: not through opinions, but through facts.” For a complete account of the work of Koolhaas as a journalist and film director, see Bart Lootsma “Le Film a l’envers: Les années 60 de Rem Koolhaas”, Le Visiteur 7 (2001), 90–111.

8 Rem Koolhaas, “A Brief History of OMA: Prologue”, Content (Cologne: Taschen, 2003), 44: “In 1966 I first heard of a brief moment of time – the Constructivists in the Soviet Union, 1923 – where the most intimate details of daily life became the legitimate subject of the architect’s imagination. I could not resist my late participation – to think of architecture not as a form, but as organization, to influence the way lives are lived, an ultimate form of script writing”. In a moment of the students’ struggle and the internal reorganization of the educational apparatus, Oorthuys and Risselada curated an important exhibition on Soviet architecture in 1969 (USSR 1917–1933: Architectuur en Stedebouw) at the Technische Universiteit Delft, which was received positively and was later brought to the IAUS in New York by Kenneth Frampton in the summer of 1971. In those years they established strong connections with Moscow and, via some colleagues at Prague University, they managed to get close not only to Rodchenko’s family but also to Ivan Leonidov’s widow and son.

9 Gerrit Oorthuys in a personal conversation with the author, Amsterdam, 24 April 2013. Their collaboration resulted in Koolhaas’s first extended article on architecture published in Oppositions in 1974, and in a retrospective at the IAUS in 1977 entitled Ivan Leonidov: A Russian Visionary Architect 1902–1959. See Rem Koolhaas and Gerrit Oorthuys, “Leonidov’s Dom Narkomtjazjprom Project”, Oppositions, no. 2 (January 1974), 95–103.

10 Ivan Leonidov interview, “Klub novogo sotsial’nogo tipa” (Project for a Club of a New Social Type), Sovremmenaja Arkhitektura, no. 3 (1929), 105–11: “(SA): ‘How is one to account for your use of identical forms for different functions, except by formalist aesthetic considerations?’ (L): ‘The question indicates that the questioner is primarily interested in the external form, in tasting rather than in organizing. Such a question is appropriate where one is concerned with idealistic architecture ‘as art’, whereas we are concerned with form as a product of the organization and functional interdependence of workers’ activities and structural factors. It is not the form one should consider and criticize, but the methods of cultural organization.’”

11 Already in 1920, strongly supported by Lenin, the State Commission for the Electrification of Russia (GOELRO) elaborated the first large-scale master plan to devise the localization of the main power plants, industrial poles and infrastructural distribution of electric energy across the whole national territory. All of the underground resources and the geological characteristics of the soil were considered as the strategic platform for any further economic and political advancement and, a year later, the State Planning Commission (GOSPLAN) deepened the territorial organization by defining economical regions and administrative provinces in relation to the productive specialization and contribution of each local compartment through the identification of the main routes, the industrial and logistical nodes and the points from which to extract material resources.

12 Vladimir Lenin, State and Revolution (1917), chap. III, section 2; but see also Antonio Negri, Trentatré lezioni su Lenin (Rome: Manifestolibri, 2004).

13This is what Bruno Rizzi claimed in 1939 in a self-published pamphlet entitled “The Bureaucratisation of the World”, which Guy Debord defined one of the most influential yet unknown books of the century, and which James Burnham largely reprised in his renowned work The Managerial Revolution (1941).

14 Leonidov interview, “Klub novogo sotsial’nogo tipa”, 105–111; also quoted in Andrei Gozak and Andrei Leonidov, Ivan Leonidov: The Complete Works (London: Academy Editions, 1988), 61: “[I]n order to involve those strata of workers who are not so far being properly served”, he claimed, “it is essential that cultural work should not be confined within the framework of the clubs, but be developed within the enterprises themselves, the workshops, workers’ barracks and hostels, and workers’ settlements”.

15 Ibid., 65: “Whatever a person does he gets tired. But one gets relative rest from one kind of work by engaging in another (one can rest from ‘physical’ work by engaging in ‘mental’ work). A person’s working day, cultural development and leisure can only be organised by taking the processes of work as a starting point.”

16 Rem Koolhaas and Bredan McGetrick, “Patent Office”, Content (Cologne: Taschen, 2003), 73; see also Rem Koolhaas and Bruce Mau, “Congestion Without Matter”, in S, M, L, XL (New York: The Monacelli Press, 1998), 921.

17 “And from an ideological point of view, whilst planning solutions can lead to a culture of pure architecturalism, these spatial solutions, when functionally fully validated, keep the work firmly directed on the task, forcing attention away from the properties and specifics of space as such, and onto the properties and specifics of those social, domestic and working processes for which the space is being organized.” Excerpt from F. Ialovkin’s article in Ivan Leonidov’s “Dom Centrosojuza” (Tsentrosoyuz), Sovremmenaja arkhitectura, no. 2 (1929), 43–45, 47.

18Ivan Leonidov, “Dom Promyšlennosti” (House of Industry), Sovremmenaja Arkhitektura, no. 4 (1930), 1–2; quoted in P.A. Aleksandrov and S. Khan-Magomedov, Ivan Leonidov (Milan: Franco Angeli, 1975), 86–90: “On one side of these working areas there is a zone for relaxation and recreation, structured by sofas for lying down; there is also a library, spaces for meals served from below, showers, a swimming pool, walking and running tracks and spaces for receiving guests. There is every opportunity for regular half-hour and ten-minute breaks, for exercise, a shower, to eat, etc.” Translation from Italian by the author.

19 Bernard Cache, Earth Moves: The Furnishing of Territories (Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 1995), 22–30.

20 This is a motif that Leonidov would investigate in his last projects, from the Greater Artek Pioneer Camp (1937) – where the landscape itself was conceived as a geographical atlas for teaching the students the morphology of the world – to his visionary drawings for the City of Sun (1947–59) – which were inspired by the homonymous novel by Tommaso Campanella in which knowledge was disseminated through the parks, passages and architectures of a commonly built environment.