1928: The Types Study

The Competition had no winners, no prizes. Instead, Moissei Ginzburg put together a team to take what was learned from the submissions and bring it together in a preliminary study of apartment types. He requested approval to work under the aegis of STROYKOM (Building Economics Committee of the U.S.S.R.). Ginzburg wasn’t stupid. STROYKOM’s official support and cover were essential if future testing, implementation and construction were to happen.   

  • Moissei Ginzburg – Head of the Team (SA editor, OSA member, competition participant)
  • Alexander Pasternak (OSA member, competition participant)
  • Vyatcheslav Vladimirov (OSA member, competition participant)
  • Mikhail Bartsch (OSA member, architect)
  • G. Sum-Schik (architect) 

Moscow City Council’s (Mossiviet) standard configuration of two apartments per staircase was the starting point. baseline This apartment configuration improves on the pre-Revolution arrangement and, since it was approved for mass construction, is most likely the outcome of 1925-1926 competition. These  apartments are spatially inefficient and though sturdy, they were expensive to build.  Such apartments still exist in Moscow and are much loved by residents. In the 1920s however, one family would be living in each room. Ginzburg’s team needed to come up with a better way for people to live. 

Their goal was an apartment that could house a single family at the same spatial efficiency as as a room in a shared house. The term volumetric performance better conveys the importance of room heights in this study. The volumetric performance of a particular apartment type is the ratio of total apartment area to the volume of the building. Cubic metres divided by metres gives a number in metres which is the average floor-to-floor height. A perfect building would have a ratio equal to the floor height since it would have no circulation.

Using the average room height as an indicator of efficiency in this way has real meaning since the thing that really matters for resources and people is how much of your building is apartment. The other good thing about this indicator is that you know you’ve gone too far if your average floor-to-floor height turns out to be two metres.

TYPE A: Here’s a 3-person Type A apartment. The baseline apartment already had cross-ventilation and daylight to all rooms but the team managed to reduce the area required for internal circulation, shrank the kitchen and did away with a separate room for the kitchen. Volumetric performance improved 10%. img292 The Type A also has a better ratio of apartment area to building volume. Rooms aren’t square or golden rectangles for aesthetic reasons but because such shapes pack more easily into a compact building footprint, and because their furniture can be arranged to require less circulation space. Another beneficial side-effect is that standardised internal dimensions facilitate construction.

Despite the various improvements of Type A, it still has the fundamental problem of the stairwell taking up proportionally more building volume when the apartments become smaller. This limits the volumetric performance.  

TYPE B: The standard Type B is Type A with some of the apartment volume redistributed in section. The bathroom, kitchen, hallway and table areas have a reduced ceiling height (of 2.55m!) and the volume gained is added to that of the living areas of the apartment above or below.  B-type section through 2 floors This created a lively elevation stairwell elevation as well as some very lively sections. alongsection

Compared to a building containing Type A apartments, the volumetric performance of Type B apartments is 10-15% improved. Type B incorporates the sectional invention of Vorotynzeva and Polyak’s competition proposal.

  • As with the Vorotynzeva and Polyak proposal, the height rift occurs down the middle of the building, restricting planning. It also means increasing the habitable area in one apartment increases the non-habitable area in the apartment vertically paired with it. 
  • Despite the sectional innovation, Type B still suffers from the same fundamental flaw as Type A in that shrinking the apartment area increases the proportion of the building used for stairwells to access it.
  • A further inefficiency is introduced by the larger landings necessary to access apartments facing different directions. This is solved by extending the stairwell to outside the building, necessitating a cantilevered semi-circular landing.
  • The stairwell also complicates things within the apartments, leaving an odd niche that is associated with alternating habitable rooms on every level. This habitable niche cannot be full height on every level  thus contradicting one of the reasons for beginning this avenue of exploration. 

Fewer stairwells linking horizontal corridors must have seemed the way forward. 

TYPE C: These are apartments served by one corridor per floor. The study uses them for comparison and analysis. If the goal is to maximise building volumetric performance then it’s telling that Ginzburg’s team never thought of having apartments on both sides of the corridor as is standard practice today. Lack of opportunities for light and ventilation must have made them reject it immediately. C Here’s a Type C in the form of a Moscow City Council plan. C type TYPE D: These are two-storey apartments served by one corridor. Like the Type C, they were also included in the study as a basis for additional comparisons. D TYPE E: A previous post has already mentioned how the stairwell in the Type E1 single-room apartments functions as an inclined lightwell.

The other Type E apartments share the idea of half a floor of communal space being used to access apartments on the other half of the floor as well as the floors above and below.

  • The fact that one-sixth of the building volume is repurposed as communal areas requires that either dormitory or single-room accommodation to give a density sufficient to necessitate such a volume of communal area.
  • Following on from that, if communal areas were to always use one-sixth of the building volume, then one argument would always be “why not just give everyone an apartment one-sixth larger?” The E is a solution to communal living at a certain density for students or perhaps single workers, but not as a general living arrangement. 

The Type E was not what was wanted.  


  • The Type F is a combination of all of these ideas plus some more. A future post will attempt a conjectural history of the order and degree of contribution of these ideas.
  • The Type F was intended as a transition step between conventional living patterns and communal living. Its 30 sq.m was designed to accommodate a single family within a single dwelling rather than occupying a single room within a shared apartment.

f-type-apartment-building-split-level It’s all about the section. The middle level at the right in the image above is the corridor. From there, you either go up one third of a flight of stairs to the upper apartment, or down two thirds of a flight to the lower apartment. The lower apartment has a sleeping area on the same level but of reduced height beneath the corridor. The upper apartment has a sleeping area up one third of a flight of stairs at a raised level above the corridor. The Type F had a volumetric performance of 4.77 m3/m2 or a floor area of 48 m2.

  • Sleeping areas have a height of approx. 2.4 m and living areas have a height of 3.55 m. This is the result of trying to reduce the volume of building corridor and to redistribute underused volume  of non-habitable rooms and sleeping areas.  


  • The living room has a niche with Kuhonny Element compact kitchen. These kitchens were to have been dismounted with the full dissemination of communism as there’d be no housekeeping. 


  • A larger version included bathrooms.    
  • F planAll living rooms can be on the side of the building having afternoon/evening sun and all sleeping areas on the side of the building having morning sun.


  • The Type F is, in many ways, the culmination of the entire study. 
  • The Type F is also, in many ways, a perfect object

Learning from the Types Studies

1. Volumetric performance and building depth

The volumetric performance (net building volume/net habitable area of apartment) was compared for buildings containing each type of apartment. A lower quotient meant a more efficient layout. The study is made for a building 10 meters deep, with the X axis representing the apartment floor area as it changes from 10 to 100 sqm. The Y axis is volumetric performance.  4440242943_ee8e1f5c3e_o 22 building depth study by Ginzburg It’s common for architects and builders today to increase the apartment depth in order to minimize corridor length at the rear of the apartments and to maximize the number of habitable rooms at the front of the apartment. This is particularly so if the site has a view to one side but buildings are often laid out perpendicular to a view to allow some view to more apartments rather than have a good side and a bad side. nickols-walk-620 The point of the entire study was to evaluate the volumetric performance of apartment buildings. With today’s apartment getting smaller and smaller, it might be time to re-evaluate such an approach so that living space isn’t unnecessarily squeezed. At present, apartment size is shrinking whilst plans are becoming increasingly deep so that an area of space having one window of a certain size can be marketed as an apartment. Internal circulation space in this apartment that won the recent New York microflat competition amounts to 23.5 of the entire area! It’s an apartment yes, but an inefficient one as the narrow plan uses too much space to get past other spaces. 52556c37dbfa3f0d48000e01._w.480_h.533_s.fit_

2. Respect for Construction

There’s a point of view that the Constructivists were all about  “constructing” the world through formulas and equations. Misfits’ is of the opinion the Constructivists were into construction as part of an integrated building solution. It’s a simpler explanation.

This respect for construction is not some abstract pursuit. Check the construction of this floor and ceiling. 8629285076_dfac64d115_z It would have simplified construction and saved both cost and resources to simply nail the ceiling to the floor joists. However, to reduce sound transmission and improve the lives of the people below, the ceiling is nailed to ceiling joists independently of the floor above. This is a performative improvement that improves quality of life. This cost of two sets of joists is partially offset by overlapping them depthwise to reduce the floor thickness and thus increase internal volume. I’m in awe of how Ginzburg and his team never lose sight of the main objective of volumetric performance

3. Colour

20_03_2 How colour can distort perception was well known but here colour is used to structure the space rather than dissolve it to create the illusion of more space. Colour is used to differentiate internal building elements according to their priority within the structure. User objects are black, and thus conceptually removed from the colour design. They can be anything the user wants, thus freeing the user of the burden to curate their possessions and space into those personal fictions known as “interiors”. Such an attitude is present in traditional Japanese architecture where the colours of the building elements on the inside are the colours of their respective The more personal the object, the more freedom there is. Objects such as cushions can be any colour. It is not important. 6-Asian-Spaces The same attitude occurs in the “golden age” of Danish modernism. It is a useful attitude. Untitled 11


Vertical Farmwash

When we have an architecture that fulfils no shelter need, it’s no surprise we get vertical farm proposals that satisfy no real food requirement.

Vertical farms are not going to look like this. Ever.

Instead, they’ll most likely look like this if they don’t already – sheds providing conditions suitable for plants to grow. Plants being plants, those conditions will be different from how and where we might like to see plants grow.


This next image is taken from “The Living Skyscraper: Farming the Urban Skyline” by Blake Kurasek. Chives, peppers, lettuce, tomatoes, spinach and peas are all good and yummy but the only metric that matters is the nutritional content this structure delivers per cubic meter. If we’re not going to evaluate vertical farms according to that metric, then they’re nothing more than very large window boxes dreamed up by architects to show how visionary they are. vertical-garden-970x970Visionary. I’d forgotten the architect’s name so I bit my tongue and held my nose and googled “Belgian visionary architect”. Got it in one. Please understand I did this not because I believe Vincent Callebaut to be a visionary architect but because I thought that’s what he probably calls himself.

balanced dietBut isn’t Dragonfly just the bees’ knees! For those who want numbers, it has 132 floors and is 600 metres high which is pretty big. Its TWENTY-EIGHT fields FFS will produce fruit, vegetables, grains, meat and dairy. Here we have a nutritionally-balanced press release but unless we’re told its nutritional/calorific performance per cubic metre then it’s all meaningless architect PR. As for the image, “dragonfly” nailed it in one.

o-DRAGONFLY-570Dragonfly can be easily dismissed as media blather but this next proposal is sickeningly overladen with earnestness and, because of that, the more sinister. I get the feeling this proposal cost zero to produce. Interns in the corner probably had to pay their way by generating some “fresh thinking” for the content generator to feed into the media machine.


The concept is to cram as many competition-winning clichés into a proposal as possible. What’s not to like?

  • It’s a vertical farm. (On-trend; socio-enviro-planetarily a good thing)
  • It collects and stores rainwater at the top. (Rain is good. Collecting and storing it is good.)
  • That captured water is allowed to trickle down. (Ingenious use of gravity.)
  • Layers of plants use it. (As Nature intended.)
  • Leftover water finds its way to the fishtank. (We should eat more fish.)
  • It’s built out of bamboo. (Rapidly renewable resource, recyclable as flooring or furniture or whatever you want to make of it; strong if you use it with the intelligence of a Vladimir Shukov [although the vertical members suggest this is not the case here])
  • It’s circular. (Sunlight comes from more than one direction; bamboo likes a circle)
  • It has a vertical wind turbine. (As it must; to power the elevator.)

This proposal maybe has 150 sqm. of growing area  sufficient to keep a west London Italian restaurant in basil for a month. If it were to be fully and continuously cultivated with the right crops it might just provide sufficient calories and nutrition to sustain the life of three adult humans having an average body weight of approx. 70kg.

So, to conclude, whenever you see another concept design for a vertical farm,

  1. Make a quick assumption of its growing area (for you will not be told).
  2. Divide it by 50 sqm. and you’ll get an idea of how many lives it will sustain. 
  3. Make your own decision as to what the concept design was really intended to do.

• • •

One last thing. 

  • If this project were a patent, it would be difficult to determine what problem is being solved and the inventive step requiring protection. In any case, it’s not possible to patent a natural process and the water cycle is one of those. (Rain falls – thanks to gravity – and – thanks to gravity again – waters plants before finding its way – thanks to gravity – to the vast and purifying ocean with the little fishies and is evaporated etc.)
  • Notwithstanding, this proposal was submitted to a 2015 architectural competition and awarded a prize. It must therefore embody some way of thinking our new architectural media overlords wish to encourage.
  • First of all, winning a prize in an architectural competition does not mean a project is any good. It is merely recognition of the project’s aspiration to kill off any useful idea before it becomes too entrenched in society and no longer the domain of architects. After all, we do not need (or, increasingly, expect) architects to produce things of use.
  • The easiest way to kill off a good idea is to represent it. To aestheticise an idea is to neuter it, kill it, divert all attention from the good it was once intended to do. 
    1. Functionality came to be represented in inverse proportion to something actually being functional. This principle is alive and well in the field of design. It’s its raison d’etre.
    2. Architecture started going down the same route as soon as a house came to represent a machine for living in yet still be handmade from concrete and stucco.
    3. Architecture became about the feeling of “space” at the precise moment people were at last on the way to being provided with a minimum amount of the stuff.
    4. Architecture became about “the play of light” at exactly the same time problems of quantity of light were being solved by dwelling layout, orientation and glazing area.
    5. Architecture (PJ, specifically) almost immediately aestheticised the social benefits of Modernism into The International Style.
    6. Post-modernism. Taking CJ’s story as the parable he believes it to be, Post-Modernism never replaced Pruitt-Igoe with anything better – it just killed the desire to.
      Here’s Pruitt-Igoe in 2014.
    7. More recently, some commentators pointed out with Jencksian glee that some green roofs weren’t all that green after all, so damning sustainability and its useful attitudes and goals. We became used to this and now no longer care if green roofs aren’t green. More to the point, we no longer care if they are. Mission accomplished. This is the process in action.
    8. We know we’re facing the sinister front-line of architect backlash when we see the phrase “Concept design for …” heralding some lame, award-winning proposal.

We can now add vertical farmwash to greenwash and, thinking back, spacewash and lightwash. This list will grow as fast as misfit architects can come up with socially beneficial ideas challenging the existence of Architecture Inc.


1927: The Competition

1927 was the year of the Weissenhoff Exhibition mainly remembered by history and architecture students for showcasing products by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, Le Corbusier, and Mercedes Benz.


Depending on who you believe, LC’s Maison Citrohan was a compact, low-cost house for three people, a cook and a driver, or an artist, two guests, someone who sleeps next to the kitchen and someone who sleeps next to the car. Oh those crazy artists!


Weissenhof Siedlung Houses 14 and 15 result from LC having to split his original house into two as it was too bourgeois for the competition brief of “a new vision of society through architecture based around the ideals of reducing costs, simplifying housekeeping, and improving living conditions.” [Read more here.] Very curious stairwells. Note the extra person snuck in downstairs.


The exhibition organisers had a hard time trying to get the participating architects to adhere to the guidelines for cost, building regulations and area. The architects tended to treat the exhibition as an opportunity to showcase themselves rather than produce useful solutions in accordance with the exhibition brief and objectives. Oh those crazy architects!

• • •

Meanwhile, in addition to a huge economic problem, the Soviet Union also had a huge housing problem as a result of population influx to cities after the Russian Civil War. Solutions were required and part of the solution was seen as bringing women into the workforce. Childcare was to become a duty of the state and the plan was for cooking and eating to go the same way.

In 1925, the Moscow City Council organised a design competition for communal housing. The brief stated that auxiliary facilities such as common dining halls and kitchens, laundry and recreational facilities were expected to become standard. Despite this progressive brief, entries tended towards the rural.

Entries in a 1925-26 second competition tended towards the palatial.

In 1926, the Soviet architectural journal Sovremennaia Arkhitektura (SA, “Contemporary Architecture”) announced a “Comradely Competition for Communal Housing” and invited architects to design highly efficient and mass-buildable buildings to facilitate communal living. After having been sidelined in the 1925 competition, it was also an attempt to secure a place for architects and architecture in the new society for what’s the point of architects if they don’t, won’t or can’t improve mass housing? There were eight teams.

• • •

1. The Moissei Ginzburg team proposal

This proposal had every unit comprising three dwellings. The largest is on the lower level and is a minimum dwelling for 2-4 persons. On opposite sides of the corridor above are a room for 2 persons and a room for one person. This situation is represented by these three plans.

A-1 plans

These next plans show how the apartment of the lower floor residents could be expanded to appropriate the space of the other two rooms when the economic situation of its occupants improved.

A-1 plans

This proposal is a moderately successful attempt to design for two different realities. However, considering the housing situations it was designed to replace, it is not much of an improvement for the upstairs people to have to use a shared bathroom along the corridor. When the rooms become the one apartment, the “single” room becomes a room with no defined purpose other than perhaps as a guest room or library/study. 

2. The Georgy Wegman team proposal


The inventive step of the proposal of the Wegman team was to have apartments accessed from alternate stair landings at bathroom height, meaning that bathrooms could be stacked down the centre of the plan.

This complex section has the volumetric advantage of eliminating corridors. The “downside” is that living areas are twice the height of the bathrooms. This isn’t a bad thing but it’s prompted by the desire to eliminate inefficient building volume and not by aesthetic reasons. The “minus” of the added volume in the living area must be more than compensated for by the volume gained through complete elimination of the corridor. However, there is inefficiently used half-height enclosed volume at ground level, and semi-enclosed volume is also used to ventilate the bathrooms. These appear as openings on the elevations.  [05/15 Attentive misfits’ reader Daniel put me right. “The void areas behind the bathrooms are the little double-height sections in each room (according to the perspective sketch). The living rooms have a larger double-height section, and the bedrooms a little less-than-bathroom-width one. The openings in the facade are just really deep window openings allowing natural light into the stairwells (the stairwell schematic shows it).] This means bathrooms aren’t naturally ventilated or lit. The narrow voids across the bedrooms now seem strange.  

3. The Alexander Pasternak proposal

Apart from including an elevator, this proposal is unremarkable – perhaps even bad. It is the only other proposal that attempts to fit two situations, this time on alternating floors. The first situation is for six rooms accessed from a stairwell where there is a shared wc.

pasternak 2

The second situation is for two apartments having two and three rooms but the amount of corridor space remains much the same.  

pasternak 3

4. The Vyatcheslav Vladimirov team proposal

This proposal also eliminates the corridor by making full use of stair landings.


In the left plan, four doors open off a landing and it is impossible to make a stair landing do any more than that. Again, the height of bathrooms determines the height of the lower portion of the room, and the height of the living area is the height of two bathrooms. A similar arrangement is used twice at the half-landings.

Corridors have been eliminated and the stair landings are used as efficiently as is possible. Again, double-height spaces result from the reduced volume of bathrooms stacked. As with the previous proposal making use of half landings, there is underused volume at ground level. 

5. The Alexander Nikolsky team proposal

The Nikolsky proposal was submitted without accompanying text. It also has no corridors but no corresponding advantage. If the norm in the U.S.S.R. was two apartments per landing, then it doesn’t make sense to design two landings with two doors leading to the same apartment – unless of course the layout is designed to be divided, and then combined back into a single apartment. Sweet elevations. 

Nikolsky plan

6. The Nina Vorotynzeva and Raissa Polyak proposal

Firstly, the fact two women were invited to participate is noteworthy. The inventiveness of their proposal is also in the section where the kitchen, bathroom and the sleeping areas have reduced heights that, when stacked, are more than the height of the living area. Alternating floors interlock to repeat this advantage. This is shown in the section, but not in the following plan. 


On the other hand, corridors aren’t shown in the section. Living rooms extend over corridors in one plan yet don’t in the other. 

7. The Ivan Sobolev team proposal

Sobolov axo

These one-and a half storey plans come in 2-, 4- and 6-room variations, each sharing a living room and kitchen on the lower, entry level and a bathroom on the upper level. Plans are logical and clear. However, what happens on the other side of the corridor isn’t shown. If those plans are upside-down versions, then the entry and kitchen become separated from the living room (floor) which is now the space not occupied by bedrooms. Not great. 

8. The Ohl team proposal

section ohl

This proposal also has two full-height floors accessed by internal stairs.

This is the only proposal with individual balconies but those balconies result from too much internal space.

• • •


Combining rooms to form larger apartments was considered in the Ginzburg proposal, and perhaps in the Nikolsky proposal.

Combining rooms, apartments and houses still continues today. A proposal to combine Nos. 1, 2 and 3 Cornwall Terrace, London into a single palace made the news recently.

An example of dividing a dwelling is this proposal for splitting a house when its owners divorced.


Despite these two first-world examples, housing that can appropriate or shed neighbouring volumes is still an under-explored building type.  

Increased ceiling heights may “compensate for” reduced floor area but that is not why they are there. They are the natural result of attempts to minimise building volume by reducing the height of non-habitable rooms and the number of corridors in turn. This occurs in three proposals.

Modern micro-flat proposals such as this next one attempt the same thing but solve the corridor problem by simplifying its construction rather than reducing the amount required.


In the current market, an important variable setting the price of apartments is the floor area but better use of resources and real estate might result from re-integrating the volume of corridors into apartment plans.

Elimination of corridors occurs in the same two proposals

and may also occur in the Ohl proposal as a variant in which one-and-a-half storey apartments are accessed from both levels. In theory, elevators could eliminate the need for corridors but fire escape stairs are still required. Apartment buildings having one apartment per floor do not waste corridor space – even that leading to fire stairs. This is not quite in the spirit of 1920s U.S.S.R. but the same principle of extracting maximum value per unit area still applies.


Communal facilities were encouraged by the directive following the 1925 competition. As it was anticipated that meals would be eaten outside, the kitchens of all proposals were fitted into a single unit about 1.5m long that was hidden when not in use. The main reason for this was to save on space that isn’t used full-time. We’re almost back to where we were in 1927. Hopefully we won’t go down the same wrong path again. 

New York by Gehry, 2014

New York by Gehry, 2014

Minimal areas feature in the majority of proposals, some using a minimum of 9 sqm per person.


New York Department of Housing Preservation & Development recommended an internal area of approx. 300 sqft. for its 2013 adAPT NYC microflat competition. This is equal to the 27 sqm. recommended in the U.S.S.R. in 1927. 

One and a half-storey apartments occur in seven of the eight proposals but only in the Wegman and the Vorotynzeva and Polyak proposals repurpose excess height from non-habitable rooms.

With the Ohl proposal, enclosing the balconies and removing the floor of one and the soffit of the other will give you the sectional configuration used by Le Corbusier in various Unités 1949-onwards. Both the Ohl proposal and the classic Ud’H plan have the same flaw of the double-height space formed by removing a ceiling being preferable to the one formed by removing a floor. Another flaw they share is that despite the cross ventilation, bathrooms and kitchens are located where there is least of it.  


If doubIe height spaces result from repurposing underused space elsewhere to arrive at overall efficiencies in building volume, then so be it. Otherwise, they are are a waste of space. 

 • • • 

One thing I noticed when trying to decipher these sometimes diabolical plans and sections was how drawing conventions have changed. Having no section lines doesn’t help.

  • In the Wegman proposal for example, try to use only the following information to work out how the bridge intersects the top floor.
  • This schematic section drawing for the Vorotyntseva and Polyak proposal appears to be a combined section showing all floor levels. I’m still unable to reconcile it with the plans.


[05/14 “The schematic section drawing is showing the stairwells at the the ends of the building. The living rooms of the end units have a little extra space (see the perspective sketch just under the schematic). Each flight of stairs ends in a little landing that either has a short hall connecting to the exterior corridor, a blind landing whose wall is the the little bit of extra space that the end-units have, or a little balcony overlooking the short hall leading to the corridor.”]

I can’t help thinking these architects did not need section lines because it was obvious to them where the section was taken. I suspect they had a stronger connection between the conceiving of space and the communicating of it than we currently have. I fear that relying on 3D visualisations to interpret spatial proposals has made us lazy, and that our/my spatial ability is atrophying. Daniel’s observations seem to be proving my point. This is ungood. 

Have something in common.

The Things Architects Do #9: The Dating Game

There’s a lot of lonely architects out there, beginning and ending their days alone. Nobody knows they exist. They look at their weekly calendars and see complete elevations of windows for lunches unlunched, meetings unmeetinged. They never set their mobile phones to silent.

Many businesses have sprung up to help solve this problem and team up lonely architects with their fantasy clients.


As with any dating site, the only ones who make any money out of it are those that run them.


Lonely architects upload photos of how they want to be seen, and hope someone will fancy them. Comments are invited. Typical comments are “Beautiful!” or occasionally, “Ugly!” ArchDaily users have to filter so they can head straight for Houses if that’s their thing or to Public Buildings if they’re into that. If looks aren’t that important, they can head straight to Articles where they might meet someone equally desperate to have those long conversations.

 • • •

There’s many traps for clients in this dating business. Despite wanting their love, some architects are only in it for the short term. Some are only in it for the money.


For some, it’s all about being in control.


Equally, there are also traps for architects. Some clients just want to be seen with a piece of architect candy.


Sometimes both sides simply can’t admit they need each other.


• • •

Speaking of neediness, this past week, DEZEEN has been harassing me to vote for them so they can win a Webby award. I don’t actually care and can’t help but wonder what their state of mind must be if they feel I ought to.


In passing, Dezeen’s watches are spin-off merchandise. As with chairs, it’s easy to design dubious value into a watch. Watch mechanisms and designers are cheap, watches have a high design to volume ratio, don’t take much space to store, require little packaging, and postage or delivery costs are low. They’re the ideal internet earner.


The trouble with websites is that they attract all the wrong sort of people. You never know who’s looking. What architects are really looking for is somebody like themselves. The competition circuit is the speed dating of the architectural world. Your project gets put in front of real people. Possibly even for a minute.

• • •

Currently in my inbox is an invitation to participate in the INSIDE awards. Pass.


What’s this? BREAKING NEWS!! Reduced-rate early bird rate of US$660 to enter for INSIDE ends this Friday. After that, it’s $698. Better hurry!

earlyl 2

A few days ago was a notification from Architectural Review to make sure to submit my project for their annual house awards.

AR house

Prizes are:

  • The chance to donate £50,000 worth of content
  • The chance to be in an online video
  • The opportunity to have your building analysed in both print and online versions of AR.

• • •

And what’s this now? A quick reminder from WAF before I even get to write about them “Reduced-rate early bird rate of US$660 to enter for INSIDE ends this Friday”.


This next reads like a scam preying on the needy and vulnerable.

Untitled Untitled 2

WAF’s earlybird rate is US$880 went up to US$930 yesterday. Here’s the full price list.

early b ird

These are the people who will want to see how sincere you are. Seriously?

• • •

It’s common knowledge that some of internet’s biggest businesses don’t generate any of their own content. And that the search engines and social media sites cream advertising revenue off user-provided content. I don’t see that much difference here. No architectural website needs 70,000,000 page views per month.

It’s obviously not about architects swapping useful information on how to make buildings better as there’s simply not that much new information OF WORTH that the world of architecture can process, let alone apply, every month.

On the planktonic level however, these sites and competitions must function as advertising in the traditional sense with architects emailing each website mention to their entire client base as if it were equivalent to giving signed monographs as indicators of accomplishment or whatever meaning is assigned by senders and receivers respectively. And good luck to them.

• • •

Meanwhile, the pressure to hook up continues without interruption or mercy. New competitions raise new hopes the next one is going to work.

• • •

misfits’ advice for lonely architects

 Happy ending!
the end


The Constructivists

The Constructivists are poorly understood. Constructivist art is often thought of as Russian Futurism and Constructivist architecture is often thought of as Russian Modernism. There is a kernel of truth in this.


Mosei Ginzburg – that’s him in front of the middle lady in white – he wrote the manifesto of Constructivist architecture in 1924. He did study architecture in Italy where he met The Futurists. He did generally agree with their stance – apart from their total rejection of history. He did most likely read Le Corbusier’s Vers une Architecture when parts of it were published in L’Esprit Nouveau. He did design the 1926 Gosstrakh Apartments that are said to be the first application in Russia of Corbusier’s Five Points.


  1. Pilotis
  2. Free plan.
  3. Free facade.
  4. Horizontal windows.
  5. Roof garden.

It might have been better to say “the first application of one of Corbusier’s five points” but I’m sure Russians enjoyed rooftops Before Corbusier.


What I see are load bearing external walls and in those walls I see windows that are no larger than they need to be. I see those windows have secondary glazing – we are in Moscow. I see a plan with a structural core and minimal circulation that has natural daylight and ventilation. It’s little wonder the Constructivists are poorly understood.

1920-1930 The VKhUTEMAS was the Russian state art and technical school. It was where Constructivist art began. Instructors included

The Bauhaus and the VKhUTEMAS existed over the same period. Their objectives, course content, activities and methods were largely similar. Both eventually closed for much the same reasons, the VKhUTEMAS in 1930 and the Bauhaus in 1933. In its first year, the Bauhaus had 150 students, the VKhUTEMAS 2,000.

A 1927 Vkhutemas chair from Tatlin's studio at the Vkhutemas

A 1927 Vkhutemas chair from Tatlin’s studio at the Vkhutemas

Constructivist art  was “constructed” out of diverse graphic elements, text and shapes. It rejected the idea of autonomous art in favour of art for social purposes.


In practice it was a tool and in spirit a metaphor for building a new society. It was only a matter of time before it translated into the construction of buildings. Vladimir Tatlin’s 1919-1920 Monument to the Third International was powerfully symbolic of the aspirations but was, alas, unbuildable. Over the years it has existed as models at varying scales but most recently as this artificially distressed CGI.


1922 Alexander and Victor Vesnin (The Vesnin brothers) are credited with turning Constructivist art into Constructivist Architecture emphasising functionality and modern construction techniques.

It was Alexander’s knowledge of engineering and construction management that made it possible. HE MADE IT WORK! The first the public saw of Constructivist Architecture was the Vesnins’ 1923 entry for the Palace of Labour competition.


1922-1925 were good years for the Vesnin brothers in terms of winning competitions.


1925 Alexander Vesnin and Mosei Ginzburg founded of the OSA Group (Organisation of Contemporary Architects).


The group’s journal was SA (Sovremmennaia Arkhitektura or Contemporary Architecture). Here’s three issues. 1 2 3  Magazines like this were how architectural thought travelled back then.


Le Corbusier’s Vers une Architecture had been published in 1923, although some people had already read some of its chapters in L’Esprit Nouveau. Mosei Ginzburg was almost certainly one of those people.

Style and Epoch

Ginzburg’s 1924 book Style and Epoch is said to have similarities to Le Corbusier’s Vers une architecture despite it being the manifesto of Constructivist Architecture and its concerns for technology, engineering and socialist social engineering. One curious difference is that the English version of Vers une Architecture was out within three years. It took sixty for the first English translation of Style and Epoch to appear. When it did in 1984, Kenneth Frampton wrote the foreword.

Frampton quotes the translator as saying the differences between the two books are as revealing as their similarities. Both books are concerned with the aesthetic potential of machines, but whereas Le Corbusier chooses the luxury liner, Ginzburg chooses the “perform-well-or-die” battleship and submarine. Where Le Corbusier chooses the luxury automobile, Ginzburg chooses the locomotive. Le Corbusier and Ginzburg both look at the same thing and see something different. These are more than just differences of interest.

These are some of the first signs of the Style vs. Performance split architecture has never recovered from. In hindsight we can see that, in 1924, Le Corbusier was focussing on the rich and a socially ornamental architecture and Ginzburg was focussing on the ordinary people and a socially useful architecture. The biggest difference in the two approaches to architecture is that Ginzburg’s idea of constructivist architecture as not being a style but a method of building buildings.


Constructivism was the opposite of L’Ésprit Nouveau and, incidentally, the opposite of Deconstructionism. Constructivism was about constructing buildings. Deconstructionism was about creating a false narrative for how a building shape came about.

Mosei Ginzburg is best known for his 1929 Narkomfin Building in Moscow. It’s been under maintained for the past 30 years. Occupying prime real estate between properties owned by the US embassy hasn’t helped.


Here’s it’s counterpart, the 1930 Doma Oblsoviet building we first met in Getting Some Rays.

street map

It’s in a city where, for three months of the year the average maximum day temperature is above freezing and the average minimum night temperature below freezing. Cyclic freezing and thawing can make water split rock.


Doma Oblsoviet is looking pretty good for 85.


1924–1930 was a great time to be an architect. Right or wrong, people had opinions, believed in things. There were Ginzburg and the Vesnins on the Constructivist front with the OSA group.

Nikolai Ladovsky led a rival group called ASNOVA (Union of Rationalist Architects). They were rivals because they thought things like this.

  • Architecture is an art of handling space. Space is used by all kinds of art, but only architecture enables us to read the fabric of space correctly.[5] Architects’ material is space, not stone. Sculptural shape in architecture is subordinate to space. Graphic arts are subordinate to both space and sculptural shape.[6]
  • Structural engineering belongs to architecture inasmuch as structure defines space. Engineers are here to obtain maximum output from minimal material inputs. Their approach has nothing common with art; it may satisfy the architect only by accident.[5] … Exterior facade should not barely reflect the inner contents, but have a value of its own.[7]

Ladovsky believed the architect must first conceive of a spatial composition as volumes and only when that has been done, transfer the formed composition to paper. His objective was to develop new methods and means of artistic expression. This doesn’t sound very rational. This photograph of Ladovsky is titled Students perform the task on the subject “Space”. It doesn’t look to me like the students are getting it.


Студенты выполняют задание по дисциплине «Пространство»


P. Smolenskaia’s 1928 diploma project (from Nikolai Ladovsky’s VKhUTEMAS studio)

Between these two schools of thought is a functional formalism best represented by Golosov who leaned towards ASNOVA rationalism

as did Melnikov,

and El Lissitsky, who leaned towards OSA Constructivism.


El Lissitsky’s Wolkenbugel – a student favourite

Another rival group was VOPRA led by Arkady Mordvinov.

VOPRA were against the technology, engineering and socialist social engineering and anything else the Constructivists stood for and, at the same time, against the abstract formalism ASNOVA promoted. They wanted a conservative monumentalism constructed from modern materials. VOPRA was used by the state against free-minded modernist architects and to consolidate the profession under tight state control. It worked. All three groups were forced to disband in April 1932 to form an All-Union Association of Architects. The winning entry for the Palace of the Soviets competition showed which way the wind was blowing in 1932.

Gelfreikh, Iofan and Shchuko

Gelfreikh, Iofan and Shchuko

It’s interesting to see how the Vesnins’ entry was a gigantic Villa Savoye whilst Corbusier’s has contrivedly expressive structure. They clearly didn’t speak each other’s language. It didn’t matter. The 1934 competition for the Ministry of Heavy Industry showed how the future was going to be.

• • •  85 years later  • • •

High-tech has a large and largely unacknowledged debt to Constructivism.


Keno Tange’s office also has some explaining to do.


Zaha Hadid’s early work drew strongly from the Suprematist – the apolitical – strand of VKhUTEMAS art, Malevich’s architektons in particular.


Shorn of political content, Constructivist means could be used to Deconstructionist ends.


None of this is a surprise. It is all part of the same historical plundering that occurs in music and fashion as high-turnover consumerism meets short-term memories.  What’s more interesting is that historical memory of The Constructivists changes along the mood of the era. For many decades, the Constructivists weren’t mentioned at all. An historian or a lecturer could segue quickly from Frank Lloyd Wright’s 1923 Imperial Hotel to LC’s 1927 Villa Savoye to MvdR’s 1929 Barcelona Pavilion and skip The Constructivists entirely. Any link between 1920’s art and architecture in Europe could be described using either this pair of images, too close together in time

or this pair, too far apart. Five years was a long time in the 1920s.

A slightly more expansive history book would use either an Image of the Vesnin brothers’ 1924 proposal for the Leningradskaya Pravda newspaper offices or Konstantin Melnikov’s 1925 Paris pavilion to summarise Constructivist architecture in a single distancing graphic.

Later, contemporary photographs of Ilya Melnikov’s shapey 1927 Rusakov Workers Club came to be used, making Constructivism a little more real on the internet.


These days we like our Constructivism served up as Ivan Leonidov. His graphics allow us to admire the visuals from a comfortable distance like we did with San’Elia, and then walk away.

For all its annoying flaws, William J.R. Curtis’ Modern Architecture Since 1900 is probably the best overview of 20th century architecture in English we have. Curtis devotes his entire chapter 12 to “Architecture and Revolution in Russia” – and then proceeds to tell us about Le Corbusier in Russia (in yellow). On p210 is a description of LC’s 1927 Centrosoyus project. Curtis describes its double-glazed façade as if it were a new thing for the world instead of just being a new thing for Le Corbusier. This is one of those annoying flaws I was referring to.

On page 214, the Palace of the Soviets competition gives Curtis the opportunity to tell us

“[LC’s] entry must ranked as one of his masterpieces. The two auditoriums were arranged o the same axis and were direct sculptural expressions of the acoustically optimised forms of the interior profiles.”

If true, that would place LC in the ASNOVA camp with its use of performance criteria to generate expressive form. Expressive form seems to be what Curtis likes, as he ends his bit on LC with,

“Once again Le Corbusier demonstrated his ability to probe the underlying meaning of a social programme and to translate this into aesthetic forms.”

Sandwiched between the yellow bits is the following praise for Ivan Leonidov. Please read the bit in green. I can’t bear to type it. It’s not about Leonidov at all. It’s about Curtis.


Leonidov was a star pupil at the VKhUTEMAS and his 1927 Lenin Institute of Librarianship was his diploma project. This is the only instance I know of where a student project has been incorporated into somebody’s history of architecture. Why would this be? I expect it’s because this project gives Curtis the opportunity to describe it in terms of the sculptural qualities, symbolism and expression he’s so keen to find and feed as insights to the contemporary consumers of architectural imagery whom, for their part, are all too keen to consume it. Instead of his history being an antidote to the current state of architecture, it’s clearly suffering from the same sickness.


• • •

Vast thanks to Victor, misfits’ man-in-Russia, for suggesting this post and contributing to its content in many ways, but also for pointing out various factual and naming errors, as well as mis-spellings and the occasional grammatical error.

Cherry Blossom Season

And so, as Japan’s 2015 cherry blossom viewing (花見) season draws to a close , it’s time to reflect upon what these flowers have come to mean to us. 

A cherry blossom is the flower of any of several trees of genus Prunus, particularly the Japanese Cherry, Prunus serrulata, which is called sakura after the Japanese (桜; さくら). Currently it is widely distributed, especially in the temperate zone of the Northern Hemisphere such as: Europe, West Siberia, China, Japan, United States, etc. (ref.)

Cherry blossoms are getting to be widely distributed in the virtual world as well. Here’s four renders of W57th Street, courtesy of BIG/Glessner Group. “Yikes – they’ve got the joint surrounded!” 1297114794-w57-image-by-big-10-1000x625 img_glessnerA_06-2 cherry West-57th-Street-by-BIG-ARCHISCENE-net-06 Glessner and BIG have history. Here’s their 2009 VIL School With Cherry Blossom.

That same cherry tree went on to have further adventures in America . seeing double

London also has its fair share of cherry trees, most recently those associated with Rafael Viñoly’s 20 Fenchurch Street death-ray generator. bbc-car-2

It’s risky enough on the ground but radioactive cherry blossoms in the Sky Garden up top are a sinister infra-pink.

Eternal spring beats grim realities. We know we’re being cheated, but more on this later. maxresdefault

Here’s some cherry blossoms from a virtual Italy. No vertical forest is complete without a cherry blossom farm.


Render for Bosco Verticale

Just as a side-note, before and during cherry blossom viewing season, Japanese people often make polite conversation about the stage of cherry blossoming they most prefer viewing. It’s taken as an succinct indicator of character type whether one prefers 1) the fresh beauty of barely blossoming and full of promise, 2) the splendrous beauty of promises fulfilled, or 3) the fading memory of promises fulfilled. There’s added kudos for appreciating those sexually charged moments between 1) and 2) or the varying degrees of inevitable pathos between 2 and 3), and yet more kudos for articulating the appreciation of some tertiary stage even more fleeting. But Japanese will be Japanese, aestheticising everything. For us in cherry blossom render land, it’s always full-on.

But cherry blossoms in Arizona – really? This next image has the contrivedly balanced colour palette of a Chinese poster. It may not be accidental.

poster_baby30 copy

This one’s from homedesigning.com.

You’ll remember this turgid scene from The Third And The Seventh. Or maybe not. roman2

Sensing demand, CGI specialists share their triumphs and notes on how to best render cherry blossom trees. This is Tech Plaza Changsha (claimed to be) “for Austrian architectural company COOP HIMMELB(L)AU in 2013″.


Here’s one from Snøhetta for, it seems, a new kitchen for a French laundry in California.

Snøhetta and friends MIR are responsible for this next. It has a dreamy, surreal whimsy.

Not unlike a Chagall. But overall less gloomy. And with more pink.


Heatherwick (“Best of Class”) Studio isn’t beyond adding the odd cherry blossom which seems to be the eleventh of Bombay Gin’s famous botanicals!

It seems unfair to call this next building a “roadside café” but that’s what inhabitat did. These images are unique in that the cherry blossom trees are real. Imagine that!Mirrors-Cherry-Blossom-Cafe-Bandesign-Japan-2

* * *

On the zero–to-ten scale of EVERYTHING THAT’S WRONG IN THE WORLD it’s not that important but have you noticed ArchDaily doesn’t make any distinction between photographs and visualisations?. It’s all “photographs” to them. This is not right. The architectural marketplace has been slow to adapt to online selling but is now beginning to fully embrace it like anyone else with product to shift, hoping to convert likes into sales. In ignoring the distinction between reality and image, ArchDaily are going with the flow. In blurring that distinction, they’re really just lowering standards of content and therefore facilitating the flow of imagery from producers to consumers and, in the grand scheme of things, maintaining their advertising revenue.


I don’t know how this advance of the cherry blossom trees is going to end but I have a bad feeling. Like Macbeth and the forest.

In one last attempt to work out what this all means, I avoid the haiku poets’ poet, Bashō, and instead consult poet-for-the-people, Issa Kobayashi (1763-1828). He wrote about 20,000 haiku. Which is quite a lot. Even though none is very long.

And what did I learn? Inconclusive conclusions, but there is a trend. In haiku, cherry blossoms often indicate an ethereal beauty or the transitory nature of existence. Or both. Or something else.

末世末代でもさくらさくら哉 (masse matsudai demo sakura sakura kana)

the world is corrupt, approaching the end of days … but cherry blossoms!

[ how easily we are distracted from what desperately needs putting right ]

米袋空しくなれど桜哉 (kome-bukuro munashiku naredo sakura kana)

I know my rice sack is empty but just look at those cherry blossoms!

[ people stupidly prefer pleasure to nourishment ]

大かたは泥にひつつく桜哉 (ôkata wa doro ni hittsuku sakura kana)

most of them end up trodden over in the mud … those cherry blossoms

[ we choose to not see the bigger picture ]

神風や魔所も和らぐ山ざくら (kamikaze ya madoko mo yawaragu yama-zakura)

their divine wind makes an evil place less evil mountain cherry blossoms

[ renders of shit buildings look better with a few cherry trees ]


It’s Not Rocket Science #12: Getting Some Rays


Socrates disapproved of that new craze for writing things down. He thought people who used reed pens and papyrus to write things down no longer made any effort to remember.


Despite Socrates’ misgivings, Plato did manage to remember a thing or two in The Republic.


Xenophon was another furtive note-taker. He recalls Socrates describing the perfect house.

  1. oriented towards the south to take in the sun,
  2. an overhang to block the summer but allow it in winter, and
  3. a sloping roof to protect from prevailing cold winds from the north.


“It is pleasant to have one’s house cool in summer and warm in winter, is it not?” and this proposition also having obtained assent, “Now, supposing a house to have a southern aspect, sunshine during winter will steal in under the verandah, but in summer, when the sun traverses a path right over our heads, the roof will afford an agreeable shade, will it not? If, then, such an arrangement is desirable, the southern side of a house should be built higher to catch the rays of the winter sun, and the northern side lower to prevent the cold winds finding ingress; in a word, it is reasonable to suppose that the pleasantest and most beautiful dwelling place will be one in which the owner can at all seasons of the year find the pleasantest retreat, and stow away his goods with the greatest security.”

Thanks to Alex in Copenhagen for sending me that quote and prompting this post on receiving sufficient daylight. Thanks also to Dennis Holloway for the above image plus additional insights as he’s already written the brief history of solar design I thought I was going to. He notes that when Socrates was making the above statements circa 400BC, there was a shortage of firewood in Greece. It seems a human trait to talk about saving energy only when there looks like being less of it around.


The firewood shortage can’t have ended because Greek houses came to be oriented with their courtyards to the south. As did courtyards in many other times and places.

We may think a sunny courtyard a pleasant place for lunch al fresco but, back then, a sunny courtyard would function better as a place for drying foodstuffs and preserve them as an early form of food security. For shelter however, a courtyard on the south side means less obstruction to low-angle sunlight hitting the windows and walls of the living spaces. The invention of courtyards was a good idea that made things better.

In early 20th century Europe, things weren’t getting better. The commodity with the largest shortage was space. The housing density was so high courtyards became light wells only without much light. (These next few images are from Karel Teige’s The Minimum Dwelling.)

Here’s a new building in Madrid 1930. It has one staircase and one elevator for 1,500 people. Five out of six apartments have no windows other than across those 3m gaps. Spatially, what’s happened is that the floor of the corridors has been partially removed to create lightwells. Grim.


This next building was also built in 1930. It tries to get the light right, as well as space. This was a constant theme of certain architects in Europe and Russia.

Untitled 3

And not just there, in LA there was Richard Neutra’s Lovell House completed in 1927 just prior to the practical completion of Le Corbusier’s sunlight providing machine in Poissy.  Misfits’ man-on-the-spot in Brussels, Karel Teige, reports on the goings-on at the Third CIAM Conference with the them of “Low-, medium- or high-rise dwellings”.

Untitled 4

Untitled 5

(Modernism had barely begun and Walter Gropius was shifting its emphasis away from its core goals of the quantitative provision of space and light and towards his version of “social and psychological” fulfilment. This makes Gropius the first Post Modernist.)

Untitled 7

Untitled 9

Untitled 10

Untitled 11

Richard Neutra moved to America in 1923. Neutral was a man who saw the bigger picture and did not become a refugee like Gropius, a collaborator like Le Corbusier or,  like Mies van der Rohe, both.


In 1920, three years after joining what was to become the Nazi party, Hitler organised its biggest ever meeting of 2,000 people. Hitler Youth was a reality in 1922, the SS in 1923. Time to leave.

I do like Teige’s summary of the 3rd CIAM and can’t help noticing how true it still is.

Untitled 12

Despite the jostling at the 1930 CIAM, daylight moved higher up the architectural agenda and some architects worked to ensure people had a certain amount of light where they lived. It didn’t take long for them to arrive at building solutions that provided people with sufficient light and space.

Untitled 13 Untitled 14 Untitled 15

Gropius did do some work on the heights and spacings of buildings but only to make a case for the higher buildings we wanted to design. The consistent sun altitude of 30° meant all his alternatives were equal in terms of sunlight.

Untitled 16

More useful was the work Hannes Meyer did for a trade school in Bernau, near Berlin. This is starting to look familiar.

Meyer Sunlight

In another post I’ve mentioned this next image which seems to be the calculations to go with a  diagram such as the one above. I don’t know of anyone else who was concerned about things like this in 1926, before CIAM and the official architectural agenda.


Here’s another light-inspired design from the 1920s. This is one of Mosei Ginzburg’s designs for communal housing. It features multiple staircases that function as inclined light wells. Here’s the principle.

E-1 a

Here’s how it worked.

These inclined light wells direct sunlight to places that would otherwise not receive any. Moreover, the cascading staircases connect everybody to the communal floors in a way that makes everyone feel directly connected all the time. These staircases are doing two important things that elevators can’t. Compared to the earlier Spanish example that partially subtracts  floors yet gives back nothing, this building makes the communal rooms additionally function as corridors and the stairs additionally function as lightwells. This is a good example of a nutritious building that does the shelter thing well. Intelligence was applied to produce new benefits from simple and uncomplicated technologies.

This new recognition of the importance of sunlight in buildings was responsible for regulations to ensure minimum quantities of sunlight depending on the type of building. The goal was to achieve a minimum quantitative standard using a minimum of resources and it was generally successful in the eastern European countries and Russia. Let’s go to Yekaterinburg where, in midwinter, it’s daylight for seven hours 9 til 4.


Misfits’ man-in-Yekaterinburg, Victor, supplied me with the following information on the Sanytarnye Pravila i Normy (Sanitary Regulations and Norms) issued by the Russian Health Ministry. Here’s some extracts relating to sunlight in apartments. (СанПиН 2.2.1_2.1.1.1076-01)

SanPiN 2.2.1/ The following have to be met by at least one room in the apartment.

  • north of 58° N – at least 2.5 hours a day between 22nd of April and 22nd of August
  • 58°N – 48°N – at least 2 hours a day between 22nd of March and 22nd of September
  • south of 48°N – at least 1.5 hours a day between 22nd of February and 22nd of October.

SanPiN 3.1 Insolation requirements must be met by at least 1 room of 1 to 3-room apartments, and at least 2 rooms of 4 or more-room apartments.

SanPiN 3.3 Interrupted insolation is acceptable but if the span of any period of interruption is over 1 hour, the summary insolation must be increased by 0.5 hours.

I like how balconies and overhangs are factored in.

Here’s an article highlighting the current state of those Russian San-Pin regulations. The gist is that such strict control over the quantity of sunlight is no longer needed for the purpose of preventing tuberculosis. The author asks, “Why is it that only one of the rooms should have sunlight, and then only in summer?”  The author notes that quantity of sunlight is no longer a health issue but an issue of quality that does not need to be enforced by health regulations. Even in googletranslish the meaning is clear.


Insolation has long ceased to be sanitary requirements, becoming a qualitative characteristic property. A qualitative characteristics should not be regulated SanPin and technical regulations, it is not a security setting. In fact, the degree of illumination apartments only affects its price – if it is dark, it is a reason to ask for a big discount on the sale. And normalized insolation in buildings under construction does not make sense: if the developer wants to make due to the higher density, it will inevitably lose in the price of real estate. So it’s just a matter of agreement the seller and buyer, the issue price and quality, there is still a question of honesty of the seller and buyer awareness of what he buys.

This is true, but housing undersupply also tends to make landlords adopt a “take it or leave it” approach, giving potential residents little or no power to negotiate lower prices. Undersupply also results in extreme buildings such as the Spanish example or Kowloon’s walled city (mentioned on ArchDaily in 2013) that was only demolished in 1994. Greg Girard‘s site has some excellent photographs of what architects now know as slum porn.

The market approach however, is generally what we have. The reason why ratings systems such as LEED include standards for building daylighting is to change the way buildings are built yes but also to increase the value of buildings.

  1. It’s not about the people because the standards relating to daylight provision can be satisfied just as easily by making the rooms smaller.
  2. And it’s not about the planet because those standards can be satisfied equally well by expensive means or inexpensive means.

Expensive vanity buildings built for no great purpose seem to regularly achieve LEED Platinum. At first it seems ironic that a building should become more “green” the more money that’s thrown at them but, if the objective of building rating systems is to increase building value, then a high rating accurately indicates a high-value building. It all depends on one’s definition of value.

There’s no incentive to use inexpensive materials and resources or simple and readily available technologies. The danger here is that people might lose the incentive to provide quantitative light through inexpensive means. Why make the effort if the system is against you? Instead, they might choose to satisfy requirements using whatever means are most cost-efficient, despite their cost. People might even stop trying to achieve the quantitative supply of light and instead work towards achieving “qualitative” supply of light because it adds more value. If that happens, we will be heading for another dark age.


a non-compliant habitable room