Svoboda Factory Club

A listed memorial avant-garde building in Moscow, Russia, designed by Konstantin Melnikov in 1927 and completed in 1929

Vyatskaya Street facade
pinterest button

 It is located at 41A, Vyatskaya Street, in Savyolovsky District.

Evolution of design

Upon his return from Paris in 1925 and completion of Bakhmetevsky Bus Garage, Melnikov enjoyed a rush of commissions from trade unions, who launched a nationwide campaign to build workers' clubs in 1926.

After negotiations with the Communal Workers Unions, who accepted his concept for Rusakov Workers' Club and rejected his Zuev Workers' Club (awarded to Ilya Golosov), Melnikov was employed by the Chemists' Union who planned to build one large (Svoboda Factory) and one small (Frunze Factory) club.

The larger project was set in a remote working-class neighborhood north-west from Savyolovsky Rail Terminal, not far from Melnikov's birthplace at Hay Lodge (Соломенная Сторожка).

Vyatskaya Street facade
pinterest button Vyatskaya Street facade NVO, CC BY-SA 2.5

Initial concept for Svoboda Club was a flat elliptical tube raised above ground floor pilotis.

The main hall inside the tube could be used as a single arena, or partitioned into two independent halls (500 seats each). Each end of the tube terminated in a cubical block housing stage mechanisms and smaller halls.

Facade stairs - fire escape from the theater hall
pinterest button Facade stairs — fire escape from the theater hall NVO, CC BY-SA 2.5

A perfectly symmetrical structure was visually centered with two curvilinear staircases connecting the raised main hall to the ground.

These were actually fire escapes, never intended for regular use: building code required very wide internal evacuation stairs, and Melnikov bypassed the code by adding exterior escape stairs

Architecture

In the age of total steel rationing, the tubular concept was immediately blocked. Melnikov had to minimize the use of steel to the bare minimum (main span girders). Thus, the tube was replaced with a conventional rectangular masonry block; the staircase was built straight, not curved.

Svoboda Club in northern Moscow was Melnikov's tribute to the land of his childhood
pinterest button Svoboda Club in northern Moscow was Melnikov's tribute to the land of his childhood NVO, CC BY-SA 2.5

In fact, the only curvilinear element is the central rostrum column, balancing left and right halves of the structure. They are not identical: north side end block is considerably higher than the opposite one; central rostrum hides this discrepancy. Melnikov also had to omit the swimming pool that he planned for the basement level.

Inside, the main hall is quite close to the original concept: the ceiling, formed by angled roofing, indeed looks like a flat tube.

Preservation

As of March, 2007, Svoboda Club is in quite good exterior condition. The building is painted to its original white-red color scheme.

Melnikov's original color scheme of recently restored Svoboda Club
pinterest button Melnikov's original color scheme of recently restored Svoboda Club NVO, CC BY-SA 2.5

The only difference with 1920s photographs is the lack of color accent around end block windows (originally, there was a third color — a paler shade of red). However, the street has been widened considerably; trees, lawns and pedestrian walkways of the 1920s were replaced with street asphalt.

Useful Information

Svoboda Factory Club
Russian: Клуб фабрики "Свобода")
lit. Chemists Trade Union Club
Russian: Клуб Химиков
also known as Maxim Gorky Palace of Culture
Russian: Дворец культуры имени Горького

Admission

free

Contacts

41A Vyatskaya Street, Moscow