Photograph courtesy Blue Crow Media
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A new walking map of Moscow highlights the city’s early Soviet architecture.

Photograph courtesy Blue Crow Media

Tour the Decaying Beauty of Soviet Moscow With This New Map

A new walking map highlights the endangered structures built for a socialist utopia in the 1920s.

Some remarkable buildings were built in the early years of the Soviet Union, guided by dreams of a socialist utopia. These structures were inspired by cubism and other modern art movements, and they featured steel, glass, and other modern materials.

This construction began in the early 20th century, when the nation was emerging from centuries of tsarist rule.“If you can attempt to imagine this era, Russia had no money whatsoever, but it’s full of hope and aspiration and talented people who weren’t able to achieve anything before,” says Derek Lamberton, the founder of Blue Crow Media, an independent publisher based in London that has just released a map of Moscow’s architectural highlights from this period.

The new map highlights more than 50 examples of so-called constructivist architecture, which thrived in Russia during the 1920s and early 1930s. A short description in English and Russian accompanies a photo of each building.

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The NKPS building, built in 1934, housed the Ministry of Railroads.

Many of the buildings served socialist purposes, hosting workers clubs or communal kitchens, for example. But in contrast to the dreary brutalist concrete-block buildings of the later Soviet era, the constructivist buildings were bold and futuristic. “They were pretty outrageous,” Lamberton says. (Lamberton worked at National Geographic for two years in the mid-2000s).

The constructivist map of Moscow is the third architecture map from Blue Crow. The first two highlighted the concrete-dominated brutalist architecture and graceful art deco buildings of London, respectively. When those maps found a niche audience, Lamberton says he knew he wanted to do Moscow next. He studied Russian in college and has a masters degree in Russian art and literature. “This was finally the opportunity to do something with my degree,” he says.

To make the maps, Lamberton he teamed up with two muscovites working to preserve the city’s architectural heritage: Natalia Melikova of The Constructivist Project and Nikolai Vassiliev of Docomomo Russia. Melikova also took the photos for the map.

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Photos and descriptions of more than 50 constructivist buildings appear on the back of the map.

Hundreds of constructivist buildings remain in Moscow today, but many of them are in danger of demolition or deterioration through neglect. “The city is not interested in the preservation of these buildings,” Lamberton says. “It doesn’t fit in with how Moscow sees itself right now.” Lamberton and his collaborators hope the new map will help draw attention to the issue, but it will have to pass review with the state cartographic agency before it can be distributed in Russia.

Meanwhile, Blue Crow has more architecture maps in the works, including a brutalist map of Washington, D.C., due out in October, and a map of 20th-century architecture in Berlin, due in November.