New book about Birobidzhan
by Ber Boris Kotlerman
(edited by Shmuel Yavin)
80 Years of Jewish Settlement in Birobidzhan
· Milestones in Jewish settlement in Birobidzhan
· Historical background
· The construction of the Jewish space: Immigrant settlements in Birobidzhan
Bauhaus in Birobidzhan and Eretz Israel
· The architectural avant-garde and planning the new city of Birobidzhan
· The city of Birobidzhan: report by Hannes Meyer's city planning team
· Hannes Meyer– architect and teacher, and the Palestine students of Bauhaus
Birobidzhan 80 Years Later...
· Guide to Jewish sites in Birobidzhan
From the stabilization of the new Bolshevik regime in Soviet Russia, Western modernist architects – mostly Germans, but also Americans and others – looked to the first socialist state in the world. They saw in it endless possibilities for modern architecture. In addition to the revolutionary momentum in all areas of life, private land ownership was revoked. In theory, it was possible to build and plan entire cities without limitation. In 1928, Le Corbusier came to the USSR to plan Moscow's Centrosoyuz, headquarters of all Soviet workers councils. Many architects followed Le Corbusier to the USSR as individuals and in groups. The best-known were the groups of Ernst May and Hannes Meyer, head of the Bauhaus design school (then located in Dessau, Germany).
In the summer of 1930, Meyer was fired by Bauhaus as the result of a dispute with Dessau city hall. He traveled to Moscow. In early 1931, Meyer was joined by a number of his former Bauhaus students, including Béla Scheffler, Konrad Püschel, Anton Urban and Philip Tolziner. They called themselves the "Left Column", declined perks granted foreign experts and began to work as Soviet architects. Apparently, in light of his leftist worldview, Meyer could adapt easily to the Soviet regime compared to other foreign experts. He implemented a number of projects in Moscow, Magnitogorsk, Nizhne-Kurinsk and Molotov.
In 1933, Meyer sharply criticized Le Corbusier in the Soviet press, writing "I have recently revisited the classical construction methods and older methods in general, as I am interested in the problem of national expression in socialist architecture." It is likely the interest in classical architecture heralded the advent of "Stalinist Classicism", a common construction style in the Soviet Union from the mid-1930s. The problem of "national expression" concealed Meyer's newest project: planning the "first Jewish socialist city in the world", Birobidzhan.